Regardless of whether you use WordPress or a different blogging platform or content-management system, how you title your blog posts and, by extension, your podcast episodes greatly affects your searchability and even your usability.
These steps will assume that you are using WordPress and heavily rely on permalinks (called “friendly URLs” and similar in other systems). Whether I say “blog post” or “podcast title,” I am referring to essentially the same thing.
1. Full episode titles
Imagine you downloaded a podcast episode called “Episode 5.” Does that tell you anything about the general or specific theme of the episode or the topics covered within it? No! It only tells you that it is an episode and what number it is. Instead, include a full title.
Titles can be relevant, like “Shownotes URLs for Search-Engine Optimization” for this episode, or they can be fun and spark curiosity, like those of the Ramen Noodle™ and other light-hearted podcasts. If yours is a more formal podcast covering specific topics, consider a title that reflects this.
The title is the first thing people will see about that episode and will influence how they prioritize their listening to your episode. Thus, “Important Announcement” (as I'll reuse later) also tells your listeners nothing about the episode. Why not include the announcement in the title?
2. Front-load the titles
I have seen podcasts follow the format, “My Totally Awesome Podcast, SPECIAL EPISODE 5: Important Announcement.” Although it may be okay to speak this format within your podcast, it is not good in writing for a couple reasons.
Displays poorly and hinders usability
Nearly all portable digital audio players don't have enough screen space to display a full episode title, so they probably scroll it. When I have episodes titled as above, then my device will probably dim the screen before it gets to telling me even the episode number, let alone the episode's title. The same goes for computer displays, such as the columns in iTunes, where it may be cut off.
Search engines read content very much the same way that newspapers are written: headline first, first paragraph, subsequent headings. Having an episode title as above means that Google and other search engines will see “My Totally Awesome Podcast” more prevalent than “Important Announcement.”
Instead, move the title to the front
Front-loading titles means moving the important stuff to the front. Like newspaper articles in which the first paragraph is a summary of the article to follow. Treat your titles and blog posts like that.
I get emails from mystery shopping places that use a format similar to the above episode title for their subject lines. The problem is I have to always open the email (or just delete it) before I even know what kind of shop is available to perform.
You could list your episode title as, “Important Announcement (My Totally Awesome Podcast, Episode 5),” which is nicely front-loaded (of course, make the title more relevant), but that presents another problem, which we will solve next.
3. Abbreviations and episode numbers
Sometimes abbreviations are good, many times they are not. However, I think they would be preferred in podcast titles when you need to communicate which podcast it is and the episode number. Instead of “My Totally Awesome Podcast, Episode 5,” try “MTAP005: ….”
This provides chronological sorting for devices that may not properly sort your episodes (my iPod frequently does that) and it tells your listeners which show and episode number it is without taking up a lot of space to do so.
4. Include important, relevant keywords
Let's pretend your podcast was acquired by Google and turned into their official podcast. “Important Announcement” fails miserably at conveying the important announcement. Instead, write a title that is relavent but also try to write it with good keywords.
If you review a movie in your episode, don't write “Review of a Cool Movie,” but put the keywords (in this case, the movie's title) in there and maybe even some other relevant keywords, “TRON: Legacy (2010) movie review.” Front-loaded, relevant, and keyword-filled!
5. Let URLs use the title
In WordPress, make sure permalinks are enabled by going into your administration area, click Settings, and then Permalinks. I like the format /%category%/%postname%/ but you can choose your own. The most important part is %postname%. (Other systems like Drupal or Joomla may call these “friendly URLs.)
Don't try to change your URLs to meaningless numbers, like simply “5,” but let your content system name the URLs based on the title. Look at this post, the URL is https://theaudacitytopodcast.com/tap021-shownotes-urls-for-search-engine-optimization-seo/. I didn't have to come up with that because I let WordPress name it according to the post title, and I have my permalinks set to /%category%/%postname%/.
This is very much a search-engine optimization (SEO) issue, because engines like Google like to see relevant information in the URL. If your post has a relevant, keyword-rich title, then your URLs will, too, if you let them.
6. Don’t stuff the title
But don't go crazy! The title is a title, not a description. “Google Acquired Us for Their Official Podcast” is much better than, “We Were Bought by Google for Lots of Money and Now They Plan to Have Us Continue As Their Official Podcast About Long Podcast Titles”—fail!
Also don't try to stuff keywords in the title, just in hopes of tickling the search engines. This looks weird and will seem meaningless to your listeners.
7. Use categories
If you use my suggested permalink structure, /%category%/%postname%/, then I highly recommend that you use categories wisely. Try not to have a single post in multiple categories, but make them relevant to the content they contain. On Noodle.mx, I chose to give each podcast its own category. The positive consequence of this is that the podcast title is always in the shownotes URLs.
Conclusion: it's about usability
Keep your listeners in mind and make things easy for them! Search engines are mimicking people's brains, so be more personal than mechanical.
Audacity tip: the scrollwheel
Most of us have a mouse with a scrollwheel. Sure, you know that moving that wheel up and down will scroll up and down, but Audacity provides some more ways to use the scrollwheel that can greatly improve how you use Audacity.
- Hold down Ctrl (Windows) or Cmd (OS X) while moving the scrollwheel and you'll zoom in and out when you scroll up and down, respectively.
- Hold down Shift while moving the scrollwheel to horizontally scroll in your audio. Up to go left (or back), down to go right (or forward). Although this is programmed as the same unchangeable shortcut in both Windows and OS X editions of Audacity, it only works in Windows at this time. Eventually, it will work in OS X (you can see it in the mouse commands under Preferences), but for now, Windows users keep this prize.
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I'm available for one-on-one consulting to help you launch or improve your podcast.
Find more podcasts about technology on the Tech Podcasts Network.
This post may contain links to products or services with which I have an affiliate relationship. I may receive commissions or bonuses from your actions on such links