How to Make the Most of Video Timestamp Results in Google Search

Google was first spotted testing a video timestamp feature for YouTube videos within the Google app in June 2019.

Several months later, we then saw similar appearing, but this time being visible in mobile search results in general (instead of just via the Google app).

The day after this discovery, Google made an official announcement that users would start to see these types of results more frequently on mobile.

Within this announcement, Google referred to the feature as “Key Moments”, in reference to taking the user to an important part of a clip.

But it wasn’t until October 2019 that I first started seeing the feature appear in a full rollout.

This was also confirmed by Glenn Gabe, who had been tracking its launch.

Now that we’ve got the timeline out of the way, let’s dive into the feature.

I did some research and discovered some cool examples. Here’s what I found.

An Example of the Key Moments Feature in Action

Three crucial aspects that are needed for this feature to work. It:

  • Needs to be a YouTube video.
  • Will only appear on mobile.
  • Has to be a part of a Video Carousel.

This criteria is basically how the feature becomes eligible currently, but this will most likely broaden over time (e.g. videos not just on YouTube).

The part where the feature only appears on mobile will likely continue to be that way.

I would be surprised to see this rollout being available on desktop also.

Here’s an example of the feature in action, with a comparison of how it looks on desktop:

The query used here is [link building with google sheets] and was uploaded by Ahrefs.

On desktop they rank #1, with the video carousel sitting at the top of search results for the query.

Because Ahrefs has added a timestamp summary to the description of their video, it has allowed this feature to be triggered on mobile.

There are likely other factors at play here, such as the video having some existing popularity.

But the fact that it’s on YouTube, ranks #1 in the carousel, and has timestamps in the description – this was enough to get the feature.

When I refer to “timestamps in the description”, that’s literally all it means.

All it takes is manual insertion of the timestamp summary into the YouTube video description.

All this involves is finding the section in a video that you’re wanting to timestamp (example: 0:38), add to the description, then create a title for it (example: “Find link prospects with contact details”).

So when someone clicks on the timestamp feature from Google for a specific section, they jump straight to that part of the video.

They can also just review the sections to decide whether the clip is suitable for their needs.

Now that we’ve got the basics out of the way, let’s move on to investigating some of the other examples.

Other Weird & Wonderful Key Moment Examples

One of the more interesting ones I came across involved a video featured snippet and the timestamp feature.

The example I found was a video that was over-indexing within search.

The clip is now getting considerable real estate in search results due to the new timestamps being enabled.

The first clip takes you to a single spot, whereas the other takes you to multiple:

The “Suggested Clip” feature has been around for some time now. So there’s nothing new there.

The new feature is really just a variation of this with more options (and pushed further down the results page).

For this example, we can see that the timestamps have been added in a different format compared to what we’ve seen previously:

I found this to be consistent across my research.

The heading or structure for how the timestamps were added didn’t seem to matter too much. Just as long as they were useful and made sense.

Something else to note is how this feature can show differently depending on the type that Google decides to show in search results.

For instance, type #1 has the standard featured video, along with the timestamp design. Whereas type #2 has a smaller video with a slightly different design.

When I was testing out a bunch of queries, I found that type #1 was displaying when searching in Australia and type #2 was appearing in the U.S.

This may have been related to standard testing, rather than anything specific to those locations.

The variations between the two different types of timestamps remind me a lot of what Google does with the How-to SERP treatment.

Does Key Moments Work Alongside a Featured Snippet (That Isn’t a Video)?

Yes, it sure does.

As long as the video carousel is a SERP feature for the page, and your video ranks first in the carousel, then you’re eligible.

Here’s what this looks like in action:

This is a specific query to trigger this result, but I found there to be few videos in the wild that had timestamps added to their descriptions.

There are a lot more interesting examples out there, but let’s cap it at the above for this post.

I’m looking forward to testing out this feature more for my clients who use video heavily.

Update: New ‘Key Moments’ Research

Since originally publishing this post (on November 5, 2019), I’ve done some testing with my own clients and also with Aleyda Solis.

There were some interesting findings at the time.

For my own clients, I found that the timestamps really need to be uploaded to a video that has good engagement signals.

It couldn’t just be added to anything.

For instance, I added the timestamps to a video with 50 views. Nothing ever happened to that video.

I then tried it with a video with 1M+ views.

The result wasn’t instantaneous.

It ended up taking a few weeks for the timestamp treatment to be reflected in Search.

For Solis’s Crawling Mondays YouTube Channel, it took almost 2 months for the timestamps to appear on Google for her videos.

Interestingly, although the timestamps were added to a few videos, it only started appearing for one video at first. A lot of the others then quickly followed.

This then makes me think that the feature is enabled Channel-wide (rather than for just a specific video) – similar to how review rich snippets might work.

Final Thoughts

To be eligible for this feature, there’s a bunch of different criteria that have to be met.

As a quick recap, here are the important considerations:

  • Your videos need to be specifically published on YouTube.
  • A video carousel needs to be a SERP feature on Google for the query.
  • Your video needs to rank #1 in the video carousel. Update: I’m now seeing them appear in all sorts of areas and so does Valentin Pletzer.
  • Useful timestamps need to be added to the video description.
  • The video should be of high quality and have the ability to attract views.

If the criteria above were to be met, then you’re in a favorable position to make the most of Key Moments within Google’s search results.

If you publish videos regularly on YouTube, then this is a great way to integrate your strategy with Google Search to receive more exposure.

It’s incredibly easy and fast to do, so get those timestamps added to your YouTube video descriptions right away.

Something else to keep in mind is about how YouTube may use these timestamps beyond Google Search. Glenn Gabe shared this article with me about a new feature.

The feature shows a similar treatment of Key Moments on Google Search, but on the YouTube videos themselves. Video Chapters are something to look out for in the future.

Have you tried out this feature yet? Be sure to ping me on Twitter with any findings or questions.

More Resources:

Image Credits

Featured Image: Created by author, April 2020
All screenshots taken by author, October 2019