Interested in optimizing your audio assets? This post is for you.
Optimizing podcasts and audio assets for search is a relatively new effort, and now it has even more focus from Google in relation to surfacing podcast landing pages and episodes in search.
[Editor’s note: This is a long post, so if we’ve created a .pdf of it here that you can grab and print if that’s easier for you.]
This is what Google is now doing with audio content:
I started paying attention to the trend when Google’s podcasting team announced:
“Our team’s mission is to help double the amount of podcast listening in the world over the next couple of years”
-Google Podcasts Product Manager Zack Reneau-Wedeen.
Now Google is integrating and surfacing podcast content into Google Search and Google Assistant. They look like this:
Keep in mind that you might not see these ranking opportunities if you’re relying on just your SEO tool. Here’s that same result from Ahrefs (where it doesn’t show the podcast carousel):
Those results on an Android device automatically load the Podcast app, which lets users play those podcasts directly in the Assistant (if you’re on your phone) or directly online via a Google podcast landing page.
You can currently search for a particular person + podcast and find the podcast episodes where they have been interviewed:
Google has also filed a patent related to how audio content ranks in its podcast app. These patents indicate that Google is using its understanding of topics and subtopics (the topic layer) and is applying them to a variety of audio content.
Google particularly mentions the following when it comes to selecting and ranking audio content in its podcast app:
- Inclusion of evergreen content relevant to a listener, or exclusion of news content if that content is no longer fresh
- Inclusion of episodes if they do not need to be listened to as a part of a series.
- Whether the content is related to categories or topics that are of interest to a particular user
Google Human Raters are focused on evaluating the following: General popularity
- Good audio quality
- Associated with particularly accurate keywords or categories
- Any other suitable manner
Google’s future with audio content:
If Google starts presenting audio files back to users as a result of voice queries, there’s even more opportunity. Gartner Research predicted that nearly a third of all web browsing would be voice-activated by 2020.
According to Google Podcasts Product Manager Zack Reneau-Wedeen, in the future, Google will have the ability to “transcribe the podcast and use that to understand more details about the podcast, including when they are discussing different topics in the episode.”
Future growth of podcast listening
One-third of US adults listen to a podcast a month. That’s more people consuming podcasts than are on some of the major social media networks. Here’s the latest data (June 2019) on social media usage in the US by network:
It’s also an engaged audience, as 80% of people will listen to an entire podcast episode or most of it.
What does this mean for you as a marketer?
That means that there are steps today that you should take to integrate online audio into your overall marketing plan.
Marketers should also be prepared for Google surfacing particular content from within the episode to answer a searcher’s question. This is going to require a different method of crafting your audio content.
Think about the user experience if a user was dropped into the middle of a podcast based on them looking for information on a topic. Would they get enough context from that starting point? Are you structuring your interviews in a way that would support that user’s behavior?
In case you think this is science fiction, Google currently does something like this with their celebrity video answers in search, where Google is surfacing video selfies from celebs answering frequently answered questions.
So how do you get started optimizing your podcasts for search?
Here are our top 18 SEO tips to do “Audio SEO and to get your podcast surfaced in Google search:
1. Figure out your target audience
Google personalized content in 2020 to the user’s location and previous search history as well as to their searcher’s journey, so it’s critical to be smart about your target audience when launching any marketing initiative – including an audio one.
You do that by creating personas. You should start with who you think your target audience is, and interview them. Conduct customer discovery interviews and develop personas. Map out based on your audience who your competition is, and take a cue from Google when they talk about ranking in search and ask yourself this question:
“How are you better than what is already ranking”. Here’s John Mueller focusing on the “secret to ranking:
2. Pick a great name and logo for your podcast
What does it take for your podcast to be found on iTunes and Google Play?
It’s all in the title and the podcast logo:
What this means is that, while you want to have a title for your podcast which is compelling and interesting, you shouldn’t have a title that is so obscure or non-intuitive that it doesn’t explain in clear language what your podcast is about. It should also be a name that isn’t taken. Make sure to include your most important keywords in the title of your podcast. Once your show is well established, you can use the subtitles for this purpose.
You should also create a logo that works on a small screen.
Here’s an example of how small the logos are on an Android phone in Google podcast:
3. Figure out your format
Metafilter founder Matt Haughey, who has put in hundreds of hours on podcasting, recommends that your show involve two or three hosts.
Here’s a sample outline to consider, via Voices.com:
Show intro (who you are, what you’re going to talk about): 30-60 seconds
Intro music (repeat for each show so listeners identify the jingle with your show): 30-60 seconds
Topic 1: 3 minutes
Topic 2: 3 minutes
Interlude (music or break): 30 seconds
Topic 3: 3 minutes
Topic 4: 3 minutes
Closing remarks (thank the audience, thank guests, talk about the next show): 2 minutes
Closing music (suggest same as Intro music jingle): 2 minutes
Buffer has also broken down the ideal length and frequency for your podcasting:
4. Have a dedicated landing page for your overall podcast
Your podcast needs a dedicated homepage that describes what the podcast is about and that meets Google requirements and webmaster guidelines which include:
- Googlebot needs to get to your homepage and RSS feed.
- The podcast must have a dedicated homepage with the elements described below. The homepage must have a <link> pointing to your RSS feed.
- The homepage, the RSS feed, and any non-blocked audio files must be exposed to Googlebot; that is, they must not require a login, and must not be protected by robots.txt or <noindex> tags.
- You might also want to check to see if your show is easy to find with voice commands.
Here are some great examples of podcast homepage landing pages:
The Beerist homepage has all of the elements that Google mentions as well in a different format:
5. Choose a keyword or topic for each episode
Picking a keyword or topic for each episode strategically is also important. Google reads the text of each episode – the title and description and will surface them when a podcast listener is looking for information on a particular topic where your podcast episode is the answer. See the screenshot below when I look for “Facebook messenger changes”.
So when labeling the episode and (even before recording) creating interview questions for your guests consider the following:
- Is the theme of each podcast episode clear?
- Do you have a clear question and answer format that Google could read and understand?
- For your guest interview questions, think about how this episode could help your target audience:
- Solve a problem
- Provide actionable insights
And make sure to include those in your guest questions.
6. Create great titles for your podcast episodes
Google is also starting to surface content from audio into Google Assistant and search, so think about entities when you label your podcast episode titles and descriptions.
Currently, the podcast titles are a bit cryptic and are not optimized for SEO or entities.
Here’s what makes a good podcast title:
- Descriptive: Clearly explain what the episode will cover.
- Front-loaded: Put the most important words at the front.
- Short: Think about the cut-off point on smartphone screens.
- Benefit-driven: Tell the user why they should listen, and what they’re going to get from the episode.
- Compelling: Write headlines that demand to be clicked.
- Keyword-focused: Try to use the keywords in the title (but don’t go crazy).
- Unique: Make sure each episode is different and relevant.
Ideally, when it comes down to the nuts and bolts of the interview, the interviewee’s name is important, so you should probably create something like:
Interview with [name] how she convinced one client to blog up their website and start over
7. Set up an optimized page or blog post for each episode
Each episode should have its own page (URL) with the following:
- Well structured with HTML markup (H2 and H3s) and have a link to the audio transcript as well as links to useful tips and tools mentioned during the podcast episode. It should have an optimized URL, title and meta description. The on-page copy should mention any topics that you want to appear for (this includes your overall topic, the interviewee and any brands mentioned during the episode).
- Episode length
- Date published
- Show notes/transcript with timestamps
- Key takeaways
- Resources (here’s where you mention those brands again that where mentioned on the podcast)
- Create a call to action on each podcast page making it easy to subscribe to the podcast.
- Structured data markup – (Google’s requirements)
You should optimize the meta description of each podcast episode landing page to match the subject of that particular podcast (within character limits), and the main podcast page should also have an optimized meta description.
Here are some examples of an ideal episode landing page:
And this one from Dan Shure’s podcast Evolving SEO:
8. Include audio transcripts on each episode page:
It’s important to add transcript files with timestamps to the episode podcast pages. If you are included in the Google Podcast directory, there’s a chance that Google will transcribe the podcast for you and add timestamps automatically, but it’s best if you can control the timestamps. The impact? Well, when This American Life (TAL) transcribed their entire audio archive and posted the transcripts online, they found that 6.26% of all unique visitors who came from search traffic landed on a transcript page.
The Marketing School podcast does a great job with time-stamped transcripts:
9. Embed an audio player on each podcast page
I’ve seen quite a few payer options here. There’s the audio player that comes with Libsyn, which looks like this:
You can also customize it in various ways.
If you’re interested in upgrading the look of your podcast player, you can use options like https://smartpodcastplayer.com/.
Ultimately you should allow visitors to your episode landing page to easily play your podcast audio files.
10. Allow for easy social sharing on each podcast page
When a new listener discovers your podcast you want to make it easy for them to share with their social networks. This is standard best practice for landing pages/blog posts in general, but with new podcast players like Swoot (which allows you to discover podcasts your friends like) and considering that word of mouth is the #1 way new listeners discover podcasts, encouraging (and making it easy) for your listeners to share with their friends is even more important.
11. Use images on your episode landing pages
You probably already know that the human brain processes image 60,000 times faster than text, and that means visitors will see the image and colors you use on your landing page BEFORE the text. In fact, there’s a great infographic here about how powerful imagery is:
If you have a photo of your guest, that’s an obvious add as well as maybe the cover of their book they are promoting (if relevant) or a visual related to a resource they are sharing.
12. Ensure that your website has a fast page load speed
Page load speed is a mobile ranking factor, and many of your audience will be engaging with your podcast via their phone, so a fast page load speed is critical. You can test (and get suggestions for improving) with a variety of tools including:
- Google Lighthouse
- Page Speed Insights
- WebPageTest — where you can stack your page speed up against your competitors, or change phone models and locations.
- Google Analytics Page Timings report.
13. Optimize your RSS feed
Just when you thought RSS feeds were dead!
It turns out that an RSS feed is what syndicates your podcast on iTunes, Google Play Music, and all the other podcasting platforms, it’s also what people are actually subscribing to when they subscribe to your podcast. When (or if) you update your show’s title or description, it gets pushed out to all of those platforms via your RSS feed. And as an FYI, changes can take up to 24 hours for any of those fields to update across the various platforms.
The best way to have SEO control over your podcast is by creating your RSS feed using the one that Libsyn provides you or the feed you get from the PowerPress plugin for WordPress (a free plugin). Here are Google’s RSS feed requirements, ultimately the feed needs to include at least one episode and the following tags:
<itunes:author> or <googleplay:author>
<itunes:email> or <googleplay:email>
When publishing new episodes to ensure that they get propagated as quickly as possible, you can submit the episode URL here. That RSS should be submitted to Google’s podcast directory via the link here and to Bing Webmaster Tools. Your feed needs to conform to RSS 2.o specifications and has to have at least one episode and links to your dedicated podcast landing page.
It’s OK if your podcasts RSS feed is not on your site and is on a podcast feed generator, but you might link to it from your podcast homepage.
14. Use structured data on your podcast pages
You should also use the OnDemand Event Schema.org Markup on each podcast page:
15. Test everything
Listen to your audio files and subscribe to your RSS feed so that you are aware of what your listeners are experiencing.
16. Submit your podcast to Google, Apple, and other podcast platforms
Beyond submitting to iTunes, you should manually submit the podcast to Google. Using Google’s Webmaster Tools is also recommended: this way, Google can inform you if there are any errors in your website’s markup for podcast content, and you can submit your RSS feeds via Google Webmaster Tools as well.
Once you’ve been accepted you will be findable via Google Podcast Player, Google Assistant and Google search. To check to see if you’re listed, you can use the Google Podcast’s Direct Link generator.
Note that it can take a few days for both platforms to show your podcast after you’ve submitted it
17. Promote your podcast
Here’s a list of the recommended ways to promote a podcast. Ultimately it comes down to knowing where your target audience is, and getting it promoted there.
Here are some ideas:
Optimize your Itunes presence
Nieman Lab claims “70 percent of podcast listening happens through iTunes or the native iOS Podcasts app, “ and Scott Britton says, “Listens on SoundCloud and YouTube are pretty insignificant compared to iTunes.”
So the title of your podcast and more importantly, the logo for your podcast is really important. (See the first section where I talk about how to optimize your podcast logo).
Be a guest on other podcasts
When you are a guest on other podcasts, you are given an opportunity to share your expertise as well as mention where listeners can find you – which turns into links to your podcast website and your corporate website along with your social media handles. Also, by being a guest on other podcasts you can get a feel for how other podcast hosts handle getting their guests prepped and comfortable with the process and what questions they ask.
Answer questions on Quora, Reddit, Slack
This is a standard content marketing technique, but it works for podcasts too. You should lurk in online communities where your target audience is, and answer these type of questions with a link back to your podcast:
And used tracked UTM links to see if this tactic generates more traffic than others.
There are few directories out there where you can list your podcast. Here are the big ones:
- Podcast Addict
- Podcast subreddit
- PodcastLand (your podcast is automatically listed here if it’s in iTunes)
- Bello Collective
- Podcast Republic
- Bello Collective
- Podcast Republic
- Podcast Addict
- PodcastLand also a featured podcast of the month, which is chosen by user votes.
- ListenNotes – a search engine for podcasts
As a bonus, this link has a list of sites that accept podcast submissions. Some are video only, some RSS feeds, some accept all submissions and others are more niches or specific in their entries. Take a look!
Have your guests promote
Just like being a guest on someone else’s podcasts helps you plug your new podcast, your guest is a valuable source of promotion.
Especially a brand new podcast would benefit from interviewing well-known guests that already have online audiences to whom they can pitch the episode. And you can make it easy for them by sending them an email on the day their podcast goes live that includes:
- Quotes from their interview
- Images from their quotes/Audiograms
- Pre Written tweets and status updates
Buffer even has an email template you can copy and use for your guests.
Reach out to anyone else or other brands mentioned in the episode
Anyone else mentioned during the interview, whether it’s a brand or an individual should get a “shout out” from your podcast handle.
Once you figure out a good way to reach the individuals, you can ping them on Twitter after the episode launches. For a brand or company, LinkedIn might work best to find a marketing person who might share the tweet once the episode is live.
Find your communities’ social media “hangouts”
For your audience, it could be a Slack group. Or a listserv, or a public forum. Figure out where they go to find resources to help them solve problems and see if you can promote it there. For instance, I’m on a very active Progressive listserv that would be the perfect spot if you’re looking to reach left-leaning organizations. Conversely, SEO professionals tend to be more active on Twitter and Slack. You need to find your audience and reach them where they are. Especially since word of mouth is the #1 way that new listeners find podcasts.
Podcaster Dan Shure (Experts on the Wire) has found great success on LinkedIn:
“I think LinkedIn is performing well because every time someone even ‘likes’ or comments your LinkedIn post – this actually is a ‘share’ because they show up in their connections feeds. When I look at the stats for who has seen my LinkedIn post – it’s mostly 2nd and 3rd-degree connections. Often in the hundreds or thousands.”
And when you do share to social media, keep in mind that video and images usually perform better with those various algorithms. Here are some ideas around how to add visuals to your podcast:
- Share images: Create quote images and share those with a link back to your podcast.
- Share videos: Convert the audio to a YouTube video
- Share soundbites or create an Audiogram – which converts the audio into an engaging video that you can then share online.
Here’s an example of what that soundbite looks like:
And here’s an Audiogram:
In some languages, the version of the English phrase "make a decision" is "take a decision."http://www.quickanddirtytips.com/education/grammar/take-decision-make-decision
Posted by Grammar Girl on Tuesday, January 9, 2018
Amplify your Distribution with YouTube
Many podcasters distribute their podcast to YouTube or record them as a video and then release both the audio and video. I particularly like how this video blogger labels his YouTube descriptions.
But if you just want to turn your audio asset into video, here’s how Buffer turned their audio clips into YouTube videos:
- Use a tool like Screenflow to build a video version of your podcast.
- Include a quick thumbnail either of your show’s logo or of your guest (or both)
- Label and annotate the video, add end cards, etc. All of that YouTube SEO best practice stuff
Subscription count is used in ranking factors for both iTunes and Google Podcast App, so asking for that subscription during your podcast episode is critical. Subscribers will get notified when you launch new episodes
Reviews are essential for ranking in both the Apple and Google app stores, so asking for them at the end of each episode is essential.
One of the most significant factors in being visible on the charts in iTunes (and getting into their new & noteworthy section) is the following:
The rate in which the podcast collects downloads, subscribers, and positive reviews in the first eight weeks.
To get more ideas about how to get reviews in that kind of speed, I’d encourage you to read how Jason Zook’s podcast created a plan to hit the New and Noteworthy section of iTunes.
Plan for launch day
Getting reviews quickly is why a launch plan or throwing a launch day party could really help.
- Throw a real party on launch day, either in-person or virtually via Facebook Live. Create a landing page for the launch party where they can sign up for the party or spread the word about the party.
- Run giveaways connected to subscribing to the show and leaving reviews. Make the reviewers submit a link of their review to you to enter the giveaway. Provide a prize that will encourage them to take a photo and share it to social media. If you don’t have the budget for swag, you can offer:
- A mention in the show notes
- A shoutout at the end of the show
- A 5-minute guest spot on the podcast
- Publish two weeks of podcast-themed blog content. This post is an example!
- Switch out the email signatures on your personal email and your team’s support emails
For inspiration, here are examples of some local DC podcast launch parties:
Buffer did a giveaway for the launch of their podcast.
Chris Winfield of the Deconstructing Success podcast ran a review giveaway right when his show launched. He offered over $1,200 in prizes to people for going to iTunes, leaving a review of his show, and then sending him an email with their review.
If possible, try to build your audience BEFORE launch day. That’s an email list or a social media outreach list. (See the launch party notes above).
You should also plan for releasing at least 3 episodes (ideally 5) on launch day to get your listener hooked and get that subscription.
“I actually received negative reviews from people who had listened to the first episode and were upset that there was only one.” – Pat Flynn, the founder of Smart Passive Income.
Promote each episode on your social media handles
Ideally, you would create unique graphics for each of your episodes (maybe pull quotes) and share them with your handles (Facebook, Twitter) and pin them to your profiles. New episodes should be teased 24 hours ahead of time. You can also blog or do a podcast about your podcast launch experience as another way to get in front of new listeners (and to help others interested in podcasting).
Create a community to encourage repeat podcast listeners
To ensure that you have repeat podcast listeners it makes sense to create a community where they can discuss the podcast and have one-on-one engagement with you. For example, The Motley Fool podcast has a private Facebook community, and you could also have a dedicated Twitter handle. I’ve also seen private Slack groups where podcast listeners can engage more in the podcast content.
Support your podcast with paid media
Running ads on Facebook targeting your ideal listener might make sense, as well as retargeting from your website visitors. Most podcasters who are starting out have small budgets, and considering that most podcast listeners find podcasts through word of mouth (or by a mention of a new podcast during a podcast episode they are currently listening to), I think paid promotion should be the last item on your list.
Optimize your audio assets today!
Surfacing the answer within audio content (whether in a podcast or a video) is clearly something that Google is getting good at – directing the user to the part of the audio that answers their question directly. Marketers should focus on including audio content as a part of their content strategy as they look to format their overall content for Fraggles – snippets of content that Google can surface and rank to answer users’ questions.
New to Fraggles and how to integrate them into your writing strategy? Sign up for my FREE webinar on the topic.