Just picture for a moment what it must look like to be at the top of the heap. When someone goes to a search engine, a podcast app, or a podcast directory, types in a phrase, and your show shows right up on top. Wouldn't that be great?
Perhaps you do a podcast that features foreign affairs correspondents and suddenly you find your show listed number one for “foreign affairs podcast”. Or maybe you interview bartenders around the world on your show and you find yourself in the number one spot for “cocktail podcasts”. That must feel great, right?
And it does! Over the years, I’ve been fortunate enough to have some of my content (or my clients’ content) ranked number one for a highly desirable term. It’s great to see traffic come flooding in, For a while. For an all-too-short amount of time. A short amount of time that is continues to shrink.
Getting to the top of the list is hard. Staying there is even harder.
The algorithms that dictate what number one means, either for a search engine or in-app, are constantly changing. Those algorithms are influenced by lots of factors. But two of the most important factors are freshness of content and authority. Both of those (and more) help you get to the top. But are you ready to produce the kind of content that keeps ringing both of those bells?
This topic came up during a conversation with my friend Alban Brooke from Buzzsprout Saturday night at Podfest Multimedia Expo in Orlando. Alban is always good with questions that seem simple but really make you think before answering, like “If you could swap positions with anybody in the world, who would it be?”. I forget the actual phrasing of the question regarding search terms, but it left me scratching my head as I thought about my own show.
And likely because of my tenure in the digital marketing world, my thoughts immediately turned to the reality of keeping that position and how that might change my show. And your show.
If you’ve read this far hoping to learn some easy-to-implement SEO hacks for reaching number one on Google, Apple Podcasts, or wherever, you’re going to be disappointed. However, you may still glean some insight as to what it takes to stay there.
Perhaps even more importantly, it might cause you to question whether or not your quest to have your podcast rank number one is even worth it.
You're not probably going to rank on the word “podcast” no matter what you do. In fact, you’re probably not going to rank number one for your category of podcast. You might, however, rank high for more specific terms, Podcasts for private clinicians or something along the lines of scuba diving in the Maldives podcast, by way of example.
To sustain that ranking for your podcast, you have to keep producing content about that thing. Whatever actions you took that paid off with the reward of being number one, you have to keep doing that. A lot. You cannot “get it and forget it” or you’ll quickly find your show no longer in that number one spot.
That might have serious ramifications for the type of show you want and the content of the episodes you produce. To maintain your number one ranking, you’ll have to forget about true independence. Sure, you can always produce whatever the heck you feel like. If you feel like producing an episode that’s nowhere near the term you ranked number one for. But that’s going to negatively impact your number one ranking.
To stay number one, you have to continue to push out content that is about the thing you are number one for. You have to make it obvious to the algorithms as well as the human beings the algorithms are trying to emulate that your show has the freshest content with the highest authority among every other piece of digital content competing for that phrase.
Are you willing to stay laser-focused on your content so that your show is and always will be about one thing? Are you willing to axe the clever little segments, avoid off-topic diatribes, break out the nine different topics you want to talk about into their own episodes, and possibly switch to a daily or multiple-times-per-day format? Are you willing to cut out anything that doesn’t contribute to your number one standing, changing your show so drastically to maintain that ranking?
Maybe you don't. There is no one right way to make a successful podcast. There are many successful podcasts out there that don't rank number one for anything other than their name.
Even if you aren’t focused on number one due to the restrictions that might make on your independence, you probably should at least examine the content you’re currently producing. Are you focused enough? Are you doing unimportant things that reduce the focus of your episodes? Are you producing enough content, podcast episodes and non-audio content? Do you spend more time planning and strategizing your episodes?
Can you think about content generation in a whole new way? Because that's what it takes to maintain a top ranking. You have to stay focused on keeping that by doing things that influence ranking algorithms today and tomorrow.
Getting to the top of the list is hard. Keeping your podcast there is even harder.
Here’s your daily challenge: Ask one of your podcasting compadres what they think your show should rank for. Even if they don’t listen to your show (here’s a good way to get them to do that), just ask them what they think your show should rank for. And return the favor, were you tell them what you think their show should rank for. I’m fairly confident that you’ll both be thinking of rather different things.
And by all means, tell them the question was sparked by this episode of Podcast Pontifications. I'd like to have another listener. :)
And if you have an opinion on what this show should rank for, drop me an email at firstname.lastname@example.org.
I shall be back tomorrow with yet another Podcast Pontifications.
Podcast Pontifications is written and narrated by Evo Terra. He’s on a mission to make podcasting better. Allie Press proofed the copy, corrected the transcript, and edited the video. Podcast Pontifications is a production of Simpler Media.