Podcast SEO is Hard. Is It Worth The Effort?
It’s hard enough to make a podcast that sounds great and appeals to your audience. Getting your episodes to show up on a web search isn’t just harder. It’s probably antithetical to how you create content today.
You’re not special, podcaster. When it comes to solid search engine optimization techniques, neither you nor your episodes are special. You -- just like me -- are subject to the same SEO best practices, rules, and guidelines that every other piece of content on the web is subject to.
In the eyes of search engines, podcast content is just web content. And there are no special rules for podcast search engine optimization. I’ve ran large teams of smart web marketers. We’ve provided SEO services for some really interesting web-based content. And I can assure you that Google (and other search engines) evaluate the web pages we podcasters make for our episodes the same way they see every other page. It doesn't matter that we’re making audio content or have an RSS feed. The same rules apply to us.
The Disconnect Between Podcast SEO & Podcast Production
Unfortunately, following solid SEO best practices for posting podcast episodes might require a very different approach to podcast production and content creation than what you’re doing for your podcast today.
Here's a typical podcast creation workflow:
- Pick a topic for your episode that you want to talk about that you also think would resonate with your audience.
- Find a guest and/or find relevant portions of your own expertise that you can draw from.
- Record and produce an episode. I’m lumping a lot into this step, I know. Scripts, notes, opening bits… and then there’s the work required to edit and produce an episode. Do all of that.
- Write up some “show notes” (have I mentioned how much I hate that term?) that describe the contents of your produced audio file.
- Publish to your media host, which probably auto-posts to the web. Somewhere.
And you know what? Your core audience is going to love that. They’re going to get that new episode, and they’re going to love it. Well done.
But no one other than your core audience is going to find it.
Optimizing Podcast Pages For Searchers
The hastily-assembled “show notes” on your website (or worse, on the site your media hosting company autogenerates for you) is probably not going to rank when searching for the topic or contents of that episode.
And even if it does somehow happen to rank, it's probably not going to be on the first page of the results. Most people never go past the first page of results returned by a search engine. When is the last time you went to the second page? Most people are much more likely to refine their query and try to get better results on the first page.
In order to give your content -- your on-site content -- the greatest chance of earning a meaningful ranking in search engines like Google, you need to take a completely different approach to your content creation process. And you’re probably not going to like it. But here we are.
1. Topics Drool, Keywords Rule
In the future, search engines will know the intent of your content and match it to the intent of searchers. But we don’t live in that future world just yet, so we still have to rely on keywords. Once you have a topic in mind, you refine that topic by doing research on the words and phrases used by people on search engines, plus analyze the current “competing” results that are already ranking for those phrases. Yes, that means using specialized tools that cost money.
2. Agonize Over Your Episode Title
Yes, before you’ve created the episode. Before you’ve recorded a word. Before you’ve written a script. You have to try lots and lots of titles -- using the info gleaned from your keyword research -- and craft a compelling -- that means click-worthy -- title. Again, this means using software to help you analyze each of the titles you come up with. Don’t leave it to your best guess.
3. Lock-In Your Angle For The Episode
With the keyword and the title of the episode now crystal clear, you probably have a good idea of how you’ll approach the topic on the episode. But please make sure there’s a match between what you plan on saying in the episode and what’s written in the title you agonized over. Google is good at detecting mismatches and will devalue your content if you don’t deliver on the promises made in your titles. Click-baiting is fine so long as the click pays off for the clicker.
4. Now You Can Record and Produce
This is the part you know how to do. Now you’re just doing it with a good roadmap that’s materializing from the first three steps. Please don’t forget them when you pull down the mic or are working through your edits.
5. Write 2,000 Words
Far too many podcasters write a summarizing paragraph, maybe throw in a couple of links, add a line that says “To get the rest of the information, please listen to the episode!”, and then post the episode, leaving the hard work to their chosen media hosting provider.
That's not good enough.
If you want your episode page to have a chance at ranking for the keyword that started this whole process, you have to write a lot of words. No, 500 probably isn’t enough. Shoot for 2,000. And no, your podcast media hosting company isn’t where those 2,000 words go. They go on your webpage. Eventually. Keep going.
6. Optimize Those 2,000 Words
Now that you’ve pushed out the bulk of the words, it’s time to refine them . No, you don’t have to (and honestly should not) repeat your chosen keyword over and over and over again in those 2,000 words. If something looks spammy to you, it’s a safe bet that Google also thinks is spammy.
But you do have to check to make sure that your words stay on point, matching the angle, reinforcing the title, and relevant to the keyword chosen as the focal point.
7. Pretty Up Your Page With Pictures
No, you're not done quite yet. Next is when you add in visual elements that make the webpage you’re creating really compelling. “Visuals element on a podcast episode page?”, you may be wondering. The goal of this exercise is to get this podcast’s episode page to rank, and visual elements help make the page more attractive to searchers, the data show.
8. Organize The Structure Of The Page
Similar to the prior point, your next step is spending time breaking up those 2,000 words with headings and subheadings. That makes the page more scannable, with the bonus of increasing the accessibility score of your page, which Google also likes. Keep that keyword in mind as you do this crucial step. Not all text on a page is considered equal.
9. Rewrite Everything, If Necessary
If not re-write, then certainly evaluate all of your words for “readability”. You’re smart, so you want to make sure you're not talking over your audiences’ heads. Conversely, you also want to make sure you’re not writing below their comprehension level. There are plenty of tools that can help you with this. But they won’t rewrite problem passages for you, sadly. That’s on you.
10. Now You Can Publish
Wow. The 10th step is publishing. TENTH! And that’s not even counting the myriad steps and processes in the recording and editing step which I condensed into one. But here we are. And you’re still not done.
11. Syndicate For Success
You spent all that time getting a great page live on your website. If you really want to win at this, you need to re-publish (syndicate) it on other sites. Medium is an obvious choice. Maybe your Google My Business page is another. There are plenty more. Just make sure they use canonical links that point back to the webpage you worked so hard on.
And now do it all over again with the next episode. Fun, no? No. Probably not.
Don’t Forget SEO Fundamentals
Everything I just said assumes you’ve done all of the pre-work required on your website so you can see if your efforts are paying off. That means using tools like Google Search Console, Google Analytics, or maybe even Google Tag Manager. You have to be able to analyze search engine and website performance to make sure any of this stuff is actually working. Don’t guess or assume when the data is right there for you to actually see.
All of this also assumes your website’s site architecture is conducive to getting good rankings. Do you have full control over the way your titles and descriptions appear on search engines pages? Are all of your pages crawlable and linked together nicely? Most modern CMS’ take care of all of that, but not all themes or site designs respect basic SEO 101 stuff that was built in from the start.
Getting podcast episode pages to rank highly in search engines is hard work. It takes energy and effort at every single stage of the process I just outlined for you. Honestly, this will take you hours of work. Per episode.
So back to my opening question: Is it worth it?
That's a question you have to answer for yourself.
“Where Are The Links, Evo?”
I’m purposely not linking to any specific tools in this article. In fact, I tried hard to not mention many by name. That’s because I don’t want this page to be seen as a “how to” post. There are plenty of those out there. If you really want to dive deep into SEO for podcasting, then check out what my friends at Polymash have to say on the topic. They have the links you are looking for.
Reach Out To Just One Podcaster
I know this is getting long in the tooth, but please do me a favor. Find a podcaster who you know of that doesn't already listen to this show and tell them about it, please? It's great that you're retweeting my stuff and mentioning my show in various Facebook post comments. But those pale in comparison to you sending a personal note to one single person. It carries much, much more weight when you individually reach out to someone and tell them why they should listen to Podcast Pontifications.
Send Me Your Pandemic Tales!
Tomorrow I’ll bring you some more stories of working podcasters like yourself who are making it through this pandemic. Yes, I still want your stories. Please record a minute or two on how the Coronavirus has impacted your podcasting routine. Put it up on Dropbox (or whatever) and send the link to me at Evo@podcastlaunch.pro.
I shall be back tomorrow with yet another Podcast Pontifications.