Everyone talks about your search-engine optimization (SEO) with every platform on the web. But does SEO really matter if you host a podcast instead of blogging?
This topic was suggested by Joshua C. Liston: “Does keyword-loading your show title/author field etc (SEO) really work long term?”
Challenging the Podcasting Assumptions
This is a special miniseries to challenge the ideas podcasters have accepted as truth for years. Some will stand up against the challenge while others crumble, and some will reveal new options you may have never considered.
- Are you really a “podcaster” and should you really be podcasting? – TAP182
- Does your podcast NEED interaction or an email list? – TAP181
- Is iTunes really THE place for podcasts? Do you NEED a mobile app? – TAP180
- Does SEO really matter in podcasting? – TAP179
- Do you REALLY need to edit your podcasts? What about authenticity? – TAP178
- Do you REALLY need audio/visual branding or promos for your podcast? – TAP177
- Should you launch your podcast with Episode 0? Does iTunes New and Noteworthy REALLY matter? – TAP176
- Are episode numbers REALLY necessary? – TAP175
- Does audio/video quality ACTUALLY matter? Is a dynamic mic REALLY the best? – TAP174
- Do you REALLY need passion? Is consistency THAT important? – TAP173
What is search-engine optimization (SEO)?
Simply put, SEO is about organizing written content so it will show up in searches.
Don't think of SEO as only a Google thing. There are several search engines you can consider leveraging for your podcast.
The core strategy of SEO is writing quality content that uses relevant keywords your potential audience would enter to find the stuff they want.
Search-engine algorithms are frequently tweaked and updated. These focus on improving search results by recognizing high-quality content, diminishing shady practices, and better indexing relevant and related content. Generally, search engines are becoming more human-like in how they prioritize content.
Here's the quick tip on killer SEO: write what humans will want, not what machines will want.
How can SEO help your podcast?
Optimizing your content for search engines is about making it easy for people to find. Showing up in relevant searches is a big way to grow your podcast audience. Each piece of content you produce can help or harm your “ranking” to searches.
Let's take a basic example: a tennis podcast. Not only would you want potential subscribers to find you by searching for
tennis podcast, but you also want them to find you from your specific content. This could be “how to improve your game,” “tennis news,” “tennis gear reviews,” and more.
If you have content that shows up in these and other relevant searches, then you'll increase your reputation, which can pay off in far more ways than simply having more podcast subscribers.
Good SEO practices in podcasting
We could spend hours talking about the best SEO strategies, and I have an upcoming webinar and training resource all about SEO for podcasters.
Here are some great ways to implement or improve your SEO for podcasting.
1. Write great titles
Titles are the most important text in SEO. Google, YouTube, iTunes, and every search engine will prioritize the title more than other text. Humans also use titles to decide whether the content interests them. Titles are also commonly used in social-network shares.
Consider three similar titles.
- “John Smith shares 10 tips for being awesome”—The most prominent information is “John Smith” because it is front-loaded (see #2). This is great if you have well-known guests.
- “10 ways to be awesome, with John Smith”—This still includes the name, but now the focus is on the highly-sharable “10 ways …” part.
- “How can you be more awesome?”—Dropping both the name and the shareable title, this focuses on what people may actually enter into search engines.
You can get more advanced with SEO plugins that allow you to change your
tag so search engines and many social tools will see a different title than what you display on the blog post. For example, I simply strip the episode abbreviation (” – TAP179″) from my SEO titles.
2. Front-load content
“Front-loading” is where you put the most important, most interesting, most concise information first in titles, excerpts, and content. Look at any news article for great examples of this. Usually, you get the major parts of the story just from the first sentence. The more you read, the more details you get.
Look at your titles, written content, and recorded content and find where the most important stuff is. Move this stuff forward as much as possible. Podcast consumes will be quick to fall off if the content isn't interesting. Do you really want them to leave having only heard about your current weather?
3. Use images
Regardless of whether you podcast in audio or video, your show notes on your website should have at least one relevant image. (You have a website with great show notes, right?) Not only does this make your content more shareable on networks like Pinterest, Facebook, and even Twitter (if you use Twitter Cards).
For SEO, images give you two valuable opportunities to use more keywords or strengthen your usage.
- File name—Change the names of your images to match your content. For example,
how-to-be-awesome.jpgis better than
image20452a.jpg. For WordPress, Media File Renamer and Media Rename are two free plugins that can rename your images after you upload them.
alttag—HTML code for inserting images offers an additional tag to make your images accessible to the visually impaired. If your images don't have
alttags, then a screen reader will say, “image” for every image you use. To make your site more friendly for humans, you should describe the image in the
alttag. For example, “John Smith, the most-awesome person ever.” WordPress and most other content-management systems allow you to set the
alttext when you embed or edit your image.
If you apply both of these techniques, your HTML would look like,
<img src="images/how-to-be-awesome.jpg" alt="John Smith, the most-awesome person ever" />.
4. Make great content
Remember that search engines are becoming increasingly human-like. So whatever content you write should be high quality and not contain a lot of pointless “fluff.”
Popular searches do not yet search inside audio and video content, but there are some available (even Google had one for a while). Prepare for that day by making great content now and writing high-quality show notes for the text engines and humans.
5. Optimize your site and media for speed
Caching plugins like W3 Total Cache and WP Super Cache can help you speed up your sites. But you can also do simple things yourself, like removing unnecessary plugins, reducing the number of sidebar widgets, and shrinking your images or not using so many.
Your media speed won't matter as much because of the nature of podcast consumption. But it's still important to not push out more than your average audience can handle with their bandwidth. You may think you sound better at 384 kbps, but that's just wasting storage space, bandwidth, and the time it takes to download or stream the larger file. HD can also be a culprit if your video content doesn't have to be in full 720p or 1080p. (I release my video episodes at 640 × 360, but publish the full HD on YouTube.)
Bad SEO practices in podcasting
SEO can be a shady business. There are many self-proclaimed experts who will advocate risky practices or ways to “hack” the system in order to appear higher in search results. Be careful with any of these because they're often the first victims of search-engine updates. They also don't matter much to humans.
Here are some of the SEO practices to avoid.
Don't try so hard to use your target keywords that your titles end up being unfriendly and spammy. For example, my popular episode “The best podcast hosting options” includes some great keywords and it now ranks very well for relevant searches. But I could have tried too hard and named it, “Best hosting servers for podcasts, bloggers, YouTubers, vloggers, video podcasters, audio podcasting, to grow your audience and make money by monetizing your podcast.”
Yes, I went over the top on that example to make the point. Some stuff in that example are redundant, some is completely irrelevant.
Also don't stuff your show notes or descriptions/excerpts.
Podcast hosting options can be confusing. But the best podcast hosting will work for audio podcasting, video podcasting, and even YouTuber vloggers. Learn these best podcast hosting options so you'll have the best hosting for your podcast.
2. Abusing the fields
iTunes currently displays your title, artist, and description for your podcast. Some podcasters will apply shady practices of replacing their artist name with their subtitle or stuffing their title with guest names. These fields are not designed for that. While it may look cute on one platform and in one context, it becomes impractical and annoying in other contexts.
It's fine to put a keyword with your name, like “Daniel J. Lewis, podcasting coach.” But don't get crazy!
3. Scarce or no show notes
Write more than a sentence of show notes. Include any lists, links, media, or resources you mention in your podcast. I recommend more than a mere bullet-point list of raw items. Learn how to write better show notes.
4. Spam/cross-posting for “backlinks”
“Backlinks” are links to previous content from other sources. Search engines see these as validating the authority of a particular post, but these engines are also getting good at detecting fake backlinks. The best way to get quality backlinks is to write great content and encourage and empower others to share it.
Conclusion: remember SEO, but focus on great content
Yes, search-engine optimization (SEO) is important for bringing in new listeners. It's not “If you build it, they will come.” SEO is about, “If you build what other people want and are looking for in a way that makes you findable, they will come.”
Your best SEO technique will be to focus on making high quality content that is easy for humans to consume—even if by reading instead of watching or listening. Think about what makes things easier for you (headlines, images, titles, concise paragraphs, etc.) and that can be a good starting point.
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