What Youtube’s NEW Chapters Update Means for Creators

Youtube is the second largest search engine in the world and they are about to make some big changes to youtube video timestamps and chapters that will change the game when it comes to youtube search.

Youtube is now going to use its AI technology and algorithm to, not only make automatic chapters and timestamps but also have these chapters rank in youtube search on their own. So what does this mean for creators? This means that creators are going to have to focus more on search engine optimization to give their content a better chance at ranking in search. If you want to see how this update will affect the youtube content creation process, then keep reading.

How Does YouTube SEO Work?

To understand how these changes might affect you, you need to first have a better understanding of Youtube SEO in general.

Youtube SEO is basically how videos are able to rank in search. So that when a user types in their search result, they will get the video that is most optimized AND most relevant for that keyword.

Youtube Search Example

What is a Keyword?

A keyword is a word – or oddly enough- a group of words that describes your content.

So when someone searches “how to grow on youtube”, that whole phrase has now become a keyword meaning if you want your video to show up when they search this, you need to incorporate those words in your content.

On youtube (and before the new channel updates) there were 3 ways to do this:

  • write the keywords in your title
  • have the keyword naturally appear in your description box
  • have the keyword as a tag

In doing this, you give your video a better chance to show up in search.

There are free tools like Tubebuddy and VidIQ that are great at helping creators find target keywords that are good for their content.

Both of these tools have free and upgraded versions. I used the free version of Tubebuddy for months before upgrading and it worked great for my keyword research.

You can even get a free trial of any of the upgraded Tubebuddy versions here to test them out.

However, there is 1 important thing to keep in mind when it comes to Youtube SEO:

  • Channel Authority – This is fully based on how much youtube trusts your channel, how big your channel is, and how many keywords you rank for in a certain space

A channel that is bigger and has been around longer, has a much higher chance of being put on top in Youtube search. HOWEVER, this does not mean that it is impossible to rank if your channel is smaller.

If you look at the picture below, you will see that I managed to rank 2nd for a keyword when I only had about 50 subscribers and very few views.

how to do seo for a gaming channel
ranking for your keywords

If you optimize your videos enough, you will have just as big of a shot as any other channel BUT you will most likely have to put in more work than the big guys.

But now that you understand more about how SEO works, let’s get into how this is going to change things

What is Happening to Youtube’s New Chapters?

Youtube introduced chapters and timestamps onto the platform in 2020. Chapters break up your videos into sections with a heading so that the viewer will be able to see how your video is sectioned and even skip ahead to the section that they want to watch if they want to.

All you have to do to make the chapters show up is add timestamps to your description box ( as shown below):

Adding timestamps to your youtube video
Adding timestamps to your youtube video

However, you may have noticed on your desktop and mobile browser (if you have an updated version of the youtube app) that you can now see timestamps on certain videos kind of pop up for you.

They even have thumbnails and everything all nice and neat for the viewers.

How youtube chapters show up on Google search
How youtube chapters show up on Google search

This is a new function that Youtube has been working on to make it easier for the viewer to find what they need.

A few weeks ago, Youtube added a function that now marks these timestamps for you automatically. They call them automatic chapters.

If you go into your youtube studio and into the details of any video that you have uploaded, you will see that you can now check the box: automatic chapters.

How automatic chapters are activated in youtube studio
How automatic chapters are activated in youtube studio

Here you can allow youtube to make chapters automatically for you if that video is eligible. What they mean by “eligible” is not yet disclosed. I have tried them on my last two videos and no chapters were made whatsoever.

But since this is a work in progress, I imagine it will be better in the future.

For now, you are still able to make your own chapters with timestamps that will override the automatic chapters if they do happen to be activated.

But there is a big change coming to the platform that might affect how you decide to go about things.

According to Engaget and Youtube’s blog, chapters will be able to rank in search so that the viewer can get a snippet of the content and get exactly what they need.

Whether they are automatic or manually done doesn’t matter.

The important thing is that they must be there.

So how will this affect the user experience?

This will make it easier for viewers to get exactly what they came for without having to dig through your description to find the timestamps.

Eventually, this will lead to a better user experience in general.

How will this affect creators?

For most creators, although we want to put our viewers first, this will be a new challenge that we will have to overcome.

If you have a bigger channel then maybe you will still be able to get away with not making chapters at all. But if you are new on the platform and want to have the best shot to show up more in search, then 2 things will have to happen:

  1. You will actually have to make the chapters ( no more slacking)
  2. You are going to have to optimize your chapter titles to give your videos a better chance at ranking.

Meaning chapters may become a necessity for smaller channels, depending on how well the viewers respond to the new user experience.

To be able to optimize your title chapters, you are going to have to use SEO.

That is right. Like it or not, SEO is back to bite you in the butt.

This is just my theory but at this point, I’m 99.999% sure that this is where we are headed.

I had a feeling when we first started with chapters that these chapters would someday work like blog subheadings and this is exactly what is happening now.

macbook air on grey wooden table
Photo by Caio on

Google owns Youtube and in Google SEO, subheadings need to be optimized as well. Youtube video chapters are basically subheadings for your videos.

So it makes sense that Google would want to have an algorithm for optimization that works well for both their platforms.

Simply put, gone are the days where you can just upload a video and expect it to go viral. Youtube is pushing its creators to be more and more conscious of the effects that optimization has on their content.

Since I blog, I already know how this is going to play out but it may be a learning curve for newbies. I have a full article about SEO for Beginners that you can read to get your foot in the water.

I also have a bunch of videos about youtube SEO and optimization on my Youtube channel that you can check out. 

As of now, we do not know when this is going to be in full effect or how this is going to affect things like CTR and audience retention so I guess we’ll just have to trust that youtube knows what they are doing.

But one question remains…

How is Youtube Going to Make Automatic Chapters?

I actually talked about this a little in my SEO for Gamers video, but youtube’s algorithm doesn’t just read your titles and descriptions; it fully transcribes your entire video with automatic CC ( Closed Captions)

example of automatic CC on youtube
example of automatic CC on youtube

This is how they will “read” your videos to come up with these automatic chapters

The algorithm pays attention to what you say in your videos which is why I always say, make sure you always say your keywords in your videos and make them sound as natural as possible.

The Closed Caption technology on Youtube is so good, you may not even need to invest in making subtitles for your videos.

Youtube is already able to gather all the information that they need to make this happen.


the fact that Youtube is now able to do automatic CC and chapters without us having to help them out means their AI is powerful. This also further proves that scripting will start to play a bigger and bigger role in making content on youtube, at least for smaller channels to get their foot in the door.

I decided to script all of my videos and the process has allowed me to really layout where I place my keywords, how I say them, and when I say them.

It is important that content creators now, more than ever, start to make intentional and data-driven decisions with their content instead of just putting together a video and hoping that the Youtube algorithm will mysteriously pick it up.