One of the things I enjoy about YouTube is that anyone can play. You don’t have to have a special service or monthly package to be able to use and try the tools that other creators are using. While equipment varies, when it comes to actually posting your video and writing the description, the field seems fairly level. (That doesn’t mean you will get the same exposure or fare the same in the algorithm. But you have access to the same tools – hashtags, keywords, #shorts, and, now, chapters.)
Podcasting will always be my first love, and having dabbled in making a few videos recently, there are very clear differences between them. Although I love, love, love the idea of vlogging at YouTube and doing walkthroughs of things like ink swatching, pen filling, Notion database creation, and even “talking about creative life” while drawing, I know that I’m probably more suited for the podcast world.
However, while posting a podcast technically “only” takes a mic and a server to upload to, it’s actually a bit more complicated than that. There are lots and lots of ins and outs for software, websites, and hosting services for your audio files. You may have visited a podcast’s site and used super cool “players” in the browser, for example. They can be very nice, but they typically are related to some (non-free) package or other. The ability to have a player that makes use of timestamps, too, is not something you can always manage when producing a podcast for free.
But when YouTube started adding chapters to videos, it was immediately accessible to everyone.
Timestamps allow you to jump to a certain/specific spot in a video. That’s handy. I like them because the list of timestamps lets me see what’s coming in a video. It’s a micro outline of the video. If someone is reviewing something, I can use the timestamps to see what brands or products are included, for instance, and jump ahead if I want to. If it’s a top 10 or top 20 or random Q&A video, a good set of timestamps can be really helpful to let you know what’s coming and to enable you to jump around.
Everyone can add them, and I immediately started trying to add them to my videos. Even though I thought I was doing them correctly, a small error made them not work. I poked around and saw lots of other people having trouble, too.
I sorted out what I was doing wrong. It was small. Very small.
But, maybe you have the same problem. So, here’s a simple overview for adding timestamps to your YouTube video.
In your video description, you want to create a list that shows the “time” (the minutes:seconds location in the video) for certain sections (“chapters”) of your video. It’s basically a small set of bookmarks that allow each access to the segments of your video.
Each timestamp takes the form of: xx:xx Label
04:25 This is the subject
When you read how to set these up, you will see that you need to mark the start — the 00:00 (or 0:00) point of your video. You do! But you also need a label. That’s the step I overlooked. Whatever tutorial I watched led me to add the 00:00, but I didn’t add a label. I was leaving that blank:
As a result, my timestamps were not showing up. Some sources say that you should use 0:00 (and x:xx) for videos under a certain length. I went in and updated my timestamps to 0:00 instead of 00:00, and they still didn’t show up.
I kept digging, and I finally realized that by not labeling the “start,” they were not working. A simple fix:
And then they showed up (see the small divided line highlighted below?):
It’s that easy.
(Note: even if you don’t have a label at 00:00, the timestamp links in your descriptions will show up. You just won’t see the chapter markers on the video timeline itself. When you get the timestamps entered correctly, you’ll see them reflected on the timeline.)