Wednesday, January 25, 2017

Use Timestamps to make your YouTube Videos Better

When it comes to making a video engaging, most everyone will agree that shorter is better than longer. Like it or not, most of us have short attention spans and a long list of things we need to do.

However, sometimes videos are simply not going to be short. For example:
  • I do periodic video webinars that are one hour long each. The reason for the length is so I can provide a thorough, detailed exploration of a topic, rather than just a quick overview. I also provide certificates of attendance for educators to turn into their schools, and one-hour increments work well for that purpose. You can access all my recorded webinars here: Eric's webinars
  • I also host monthly Google User Group meetings as a video Hangout On Air. These recordings end up being about two hours long because we are covering all the new updates from Google over the last month, and questions participants have, and a load of practical ideas and resources for using G Suite in schools. You can see the most recent video here: What's New in Google - January 2017 and all of the past videos here: Google User Group Playlist
So in an age of instant messages, snapchats, and short tweets, how can I possibly expect someone to watch a two hour video?

Well, I don't. Instead I use YouTube timestamps, a simple, but often overlooked, feature in YouTube to help people see a list of all the topics in the video and jump to just the parts they want. See below for how easy and helpful it is to add timestamps to your YouTube videos.

Making YouTube Timestamps

When you upload a video to YouTube there are several options you can fill out including the title, description, tags, custom thumbnail, category, recording date, and more. However, it turns out that the description option allows you to enter more than just regular text. In the description box you can enter timestamps, which your users can click on to jump directly to that spot in your video.

Here's how to do it:
  • Upload your video as usual, and fill in all the normal options.
  • Next play your video and find the spots you want people to be able to jump to. These may be spots where you introduce a new topic or move to the next step or start a new section.

Tech Tip: If your video is long, there are lots of shortcuts you can use to move through it quickly to find the spots you are looking for. Some of these shortcuts include:
  • Space or k = pause and restart video
  • Right arrow = jump ahead 5 seconds
  • Left arrow = move back 5 seconds
  • j = move back 10 seconds
  • l = jump forward 10 seconds
  • > (greater than) = increase speed of video (you can listen much faster than you can talk)
  • < (less than) = decrease speed of video
When processing my 2-hour Google user meetings, I play the video at double speed, and use the arrow keys to jump forward even quicker to the next topic. For a more detailed list of YouTube shortcuts see: 26 YouTube shortcuts everyone should know

Now that you have found a spot you want to add a timestamp for, do the following:
  • Take note of the time.
  • Type it the time into the description box in the format hour:minute:seconds such as 0:05:27 for 5 minutes and 27 seconds into the video.
  • Leave a space after the time, and now type in a short description for that timestamp. An example may look like this:
1:50:36 - Build a Snowman with Google Slides
  • Repeat this process for the rest of your video, adding each timestamp and description to the description box.
  • When all done, save your changes.
Now when a user views your video on YouTube, they can click the "Show More" link in the description box to see the full description, and can click on any of the timestamps to jump directly to that spot in the video.

As an example, check out the video from my January 2017 Google User Meeting.


As much as possible we certainly want to make our videos short and to the point. But if a video needs to be longer, we can still help our users navigate through to find what is important to them. This can help your students jump right to the spot in the lesson they need to see again, or allow your staff member to find the portion of the PD training that applies to them.

Post by Eric Curts. Bring me to your school, organization, or conference with over 50 PD sessions to choose from. Connect with me on Twitter at and on Google+ at


  1. This is a very timely post for me! Thank you for the useful information.

  2. Thanks for this eric, it's an awesome way to organize and make accessible sections of a tutorial. You are my NUMERO UNO EdTech resource and have been since I began this journey 5 years ago when you helped me set up our domain. You rock!

  3. Wonderful. I've been wanting to jigsaw videos for my students, and this would be a great feature for me to use on my YouTube videos. Click and watch. Easy!

    Thank you!


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  5. Brilliant. I've been needing to jigsaw recordings for my understudies, and this would be an incredible element for me to use on my YouTube recordings. Snap and watch. Simple!
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