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How to optimize your podcast for SEO

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Three Whiskey on the power of podcasting and how it can be used to humanize your brand

Until recently, podcasts and other types of audio content were not seen as direct SEO assets. Podcasting was more for extending reach, promoting expertise and networking with others in the industry.

Things changed in 2019 when Google announced that podcasts would be indexed, meaning they’d begin to appear in search results. Prior to this, Google had been talking about making podcasts searchable for many years, but it wasn’t until advancements in AI and natural language processing made it possible to pinpoint verbalized keywords within podcasts and rank them accordingly that this became a real possibility.

As this feature continues to evolve, and podcasts continue to enjoy a post-lockdown surge in popularity, it makes sense that marketers will want to do everything they can to ensure their content does well in the SERPs.

Throughout 2020, 18% of us listened to podcasts each week, which is double the number who listened in 2018. According to figures from Acast, we now listen to almost 60m hours of podcasts per week, which is over twice what we did two years ago and seventeen times what we did in 2015. Podcasts are on the rise, and marketers need to know to optimize them for a new audience and in a new context.

Whether you already have a podcast or are interested in starting one, these eight steps will help your episodes gain the visibility they need.

1. Finding the right platform – research where your audience is

Before anything else, you need to research who (and where) your audience is. This information is vital at every stage of the podcast marketing journey, so be as thorough as you can.

Identify your demographic and find out which platform they tend to interact with for their podcast content. Whether it’s Spotify, iTunes, Captivate or any other, being in the right place for the right people is half the battle.

2. Have a relevant theme or topic

A podcast might be structured more like a casual conversation, but it still needs to have a theme or topic.

Start with your audience data and go from there. It will be easier for Google to understand the content of your podcast and how to index it if you define a clear topic based on your audience’s preferences and expectations. Moreover, a clear theme also helps your listeners understand your main focus without getting lost in the conversation.

3. Create a site for your podcast

You don’t necessarily need a website to start your own podcast, but it can really benefit your SEO. A site makes it easier for search engines to discover your episodes and increase traffic to them. You can also use it to build an email list to grow your most loyal listeners.

On a site, you can create blog content to go alongside the release of your podcasts. These blogs can be optimized just like any other blog content, linking from one episode to another, adding related posts and keeping your audience engaged.

4. Adding keywords to your episodes

The number one keyword in your podcast is its title, so make sure you choose the most appropriate. It will most likely determine whether or not your potential audience choose to engage with it, so it should always be clear and descriptive while also taking into account the limitation of characters.

Aside from that, keywords should be included throughout the podcast where possible. The aim is to choose terms that have a high search volume and low competition. You can get inspiration from keyword tools like Google Keyword Planner.

5. Include the transcript

Although Google has better NLP capabilities now, they’re not yet perfect. That’s why a transcription of your episode can help search engines to understand your podcast in more detail. With the right focus on keywords, content structure and key topics, it can greatly improve the discoverability of your podcast.

A transcription can also make your podcast more accessible to people, giving a clear, readable guide of everything that was covered in the episode.

Podcast transcription can be time-consuming, but if you’re serious about building your audience and improving SEO, it’s definitely worth the effort. Luckily, there are plenty of tools that can be used to transcribe your sound files. Just make sure to go through them and edit out all the ‘ums’ and pauses. This is also where you’ll have an opportunity to add in more keywords if needed – even ones that weren’t included in the audio.

6. Include metadata

Metadata is an essential space for providing additional details about your podcast. It explains what the episode is about, both for your visitors and for the algorithm.

Tags are similarly useful for SEO, allowing people to discover the podcast by looking for specific categories or genres. You can add several tags, but just make sure they’re relevant to your content. To do this, think carefully about your potential audience and what they’ll be searching for to discover your podcast.

7. Link to your podcast on social media

A good indication of your podcast’s success is the number of shares and comments it gets on social media.

As with all other areas of marketing, your social media strategy should be informed by data around your topic and target audience. For example, it’s been shown that podcasts are most popular among millennials. This affects where (and how) you promote your content.

Once you’ve shared your content in the right places, create tracking links to find your best performing channels and feed back any information into the optimization process.

8. Ask for reviews

Social media isn’t the only way to reap the benefits of social proof and boost your podcast’s success. Reviews direct new audiences to your content, while also notifying search engines of the most successful pieces of content. Google values reviews very highly, especially when they’re from respected third-party sites.

So encourage your listeners to leave a review if they enjoyed your podcast. Start with your most loyal fans and make the process as simple, fast and straightforward as possible for them.

The fact that Google is improving its algorithm to pay more attention to podcast SEO indicates that this is a content type that’s expected to continue growing.

Podcasting has always been a fantastic way to humanize your brand, showcase expertise and build relationships; but with more SEO capabilities in 2021, its potential as a content form is expanding.

Stephanie Man is SEO analyst at Three Whiskey.

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