YouTube testing timestamp jump links in its search results

YouTube is parsing timestamp lists from video descriptions and displaying them as jump links in search results, potentially creating a new search optimization tactic.

Google Search has supported jump links for quite some time in their search results. They’re typically created from bookmark links that are used in a table of contents. For example, Coywolf’s WordPress Site Speed Optimization Guide has a table of contents that utilizes bookmark links to jump a visitor to a particular section within the guide. Aside from the usability aspect of it, it also creates rich results in the SERPs.

Jump link rich result
Example of jump link in a rich result on Google

Ryne Hager reported in Android Police that YouTube is also starting to test video bookmarks in their search results. Video bookmarks are similar to HTML bookmarks, but instead of linking to an ID on a page, they link to timestamps in a video.

Video Bookmark
Example of Timestamp Bookmark from Android Police

It appears that YouTube is doing this by parsing video descriptions that have included a list of timestamps, which is a common practice among YouTubers that create long videos. From the examples I was able to find on YouTube, the lists include links with timestamps as the anchor text and a very brief description of the timestamp. The link and description can be in either order, but they need to be on the same line together.

Timestamp Links
The two ways to format timestamp links in YouTube descriptions

While this feature may be a convenience to visitors searching YouTube, Matt Southern raised concern in his Search Engine Journal article about timestamps in YouTube. He said that it could be argued that Google is taking viewing time away from videos by inviting users to skip to specific parts. But he also countered his assertion by saying the video creators are inviting users to do the same by publishing timestamps in their own video descriptions.

Perhaps the most interesting part of this test is what it might mean for YouTube and Google search optimization. Google currently displays search results with jump links that best match relevant queries. The same may be true with the timestamp descriptions. If it is, it means YouTubers will have another tactic to increase visibility in YouTube’s search results. It’s also possible this tactic might spill over into Google’s search results as Google continues to replace publishers’ sites with its own YouTube videos.

Updated June 18, 2019 at 6:30 pm CST

Gianluca Fiorelli and Cindy Krum pointed out on Twitter that Google Search already returns video results based on timestamps. They’re using what Krum calls Fraggles, which are a combination of fragments plus handles. Unlike the jump links being used in the previous example, the fraggle being used in Google Search doesn’t have timestamp links in its YouTube description. That means Google is using a different type of analysis to determine the suggested clip.

Timestamp Google Result
Example of YouTube timestamps being used in Google Search

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Jon Henshaw

Jon is the founder of Coywolf and the EIC and the primary author reporting for Coywolf News. He is an industry veteran with over 25 years of digital marketing and internet technologies experience. Follow @[email protected]