7 Podcast SEO Tips

Moran Brayer • February 27, 2020
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The podcast industry is positively skyrocketing. It was recently reported that 40% of Americans aged 54 or younger listen to podcasts on a monthly basis, and that number is on the rise. People love podcasts, to say the least, and they listen to them pretty much everywhere.

I imagine that if you’re reading this, you either own a podcast that you want to promote, or you’re helping someone who does. And what better way to promote a podcast than SEO? In this article, we’ll discuss the basics of promoting your podcast organically. Disclaimer: You will need basic understanding of SEO to successfully navigate this article.

What is SEO in the Context of Podcasts? 

SEO is the art of increasing visibility of an online asset in search engines. Meaning, not just in Google but in search engines overall. Google is, of course, the “mother of dragons” when it comes to search engines, but in the case of podcasts, the following engines are almost equally important:

The good news is that for the most part, search engines tend to operate in more or less the same manner, so by optimizing for one you are actually covering all the rest. Still, it’s important that we distinguish here between in-app search engines (Apple Podcasts, Spotify, etc.)  and web search engines, like Google or Bing.

Finally, we will refer to Podcast SEO as PODEO, which is a widely-used buzzword in this context. If you’ve never heard the term PODEO before, well, it’s better late than never! (Ahem, this might be because we only just invented it, but we hope you’ll help us spread the word. It’s such a fun word, ain’t it? Just rolls right off the tongue…Try it: P.O.D.E.O.)

Before You Start – Don’t Forget Keyword Research

The starting point of any reasonable SEO campaign is keyword research, and PODEO is no different. The thing is, there is no keyword research tool that delivers search volumes from iTunes or Google Podcasts, so you will have to rely on the tools you already know and love. Now we’ve got that out of the way, let’s get right into the tech side of PODEO:

7 SEO Best Practice Tips for Podcasts

1. Include main keywords in your podcast title (name)

If you are considering recording a podcast and are just at the research stage, then hooray for you! It’s not too late to include the specific keywords you want to promote in the name of your future podcast. And yes, we know, this can be a bit tacky… but it also helps tremendously in promoting your podcast. We strongly suggest that you use the most valuable keyword/s in the title (name) of your podcast.

Having said that, not all podcasts should include the keywords in their name. A good rule of thumb is this: the more topical your podcast, the more effective it will be to include the topic in the name. For example (no offense here fellas), if you have an Astronomy podcast, naming it “Astronomy Cast” will probably give it higher visibility in search engines than “Travelers in the Night”. 

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Tips for naming your podcast:

Though podcast <title>s can be as long as 255 characters, we suggest keeping it short, simple and sweet.

  • The most popular title length is 16 characters.
  • Do not stuff keywords – yeah, it’s tempting, we know (especially for WYSIWYG type search engines where it’s quite easy to rank for terms in your title). But take our word for it: it’s only a matter of time before someone at Apple or Google will take action against it. Do this instead:
  • Include the main, most searched keyword/s in the <title>.
  • If you are a brand, consider adding the brand name.
  • Remember that long titles truncate…

2. Have a dedicated website and domain for your podcast

Having a podcast domain-name and website is fundamental to successful PODEO. It’s not a must and you can do without it, but it just won’t be the same… and you will probably lose a lot of organic traffic/listeners. You should think of it as having an online business that only operates from within a Facebook page – it’s doable, but it’s not exactly professional.

In a scenario where you don’t have a dedicated site, you leave your podcast to the graces of Apple, Spotify and co. It’s not the end of the world but you will encounter limitations. For example, without your own website, you wouldn’t be able to: 

  • Upload transcripts to episodes
  • Mark your content up using structured data
  • Drop a cookie or create remarketing lists of your podie visitors
  • Plus, if you want to submit your podcast to Google Podcasts, it must have a homepage that clearly describes what it’s about. 

3. Optimize your podcast metadata

In order to submit your podcast to the leading podcast providers, you’ll need a compliant RSS 2.0 feed. The requirements between the different podcast aggregators vary, but the basics remain pretty much the same. Here are the requirements from Google and Apple.

Metadata for podcasts reside within those XML feeds. The most important ones for PODEO are:

Podcast Level:

<title> – Check out our tips for podcast naming above.

<description> – The description of your podcast is probably the most important PODEO asset when it comes to app-based search engines. This is the place to include the main priority keywords you want to rank for:

  • The first 3 lines are super crucial –  use it to describe the value proposition for potential listeners.
  • Be crystal clear on what your podcast is about and avoid vague descriptions. It’s not cool or helpful and – much more than that – it’s annoying. 
  • Search engines crawl your description + you have a 4000-character limit = you can probably fit all your keywords in 1000 characters or so…

<category> – Keep in mind that Google has less categories (16 to be exact) and more general ones than Apple.

<image> – The main podcast image is worth 1000 keywords. It’s the one thing that will catch the eye of potential listeners when they are in podcast-discovery mode. You will need a minimum 1400 x 1400 pixel image, including the name and/or brand name. Be sure your image looks great in thumbnail size.

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<link> – Links back to the podcast homepage

Episode Level:

<title> – Use episodes main keywords in the title.

<description> – You have 4000 characters, knock yourself out… but keep it professional and avoid spammy descriptions.

<image> – Most podcasts do not have a dedicated image for each episode, which is a shame… but you can use this to your advantage. A great image with a catchy overlay text can do magic to an episode CTR. PLUS: if your podcast is episodic and not serial you really should consider creating a dedicated image for each episode.

4. Choose your hosting provider wisely

There are many podcast hosting providers out there, which makes the decision a bit tricky. Here are the most important things to keep in mind (besides the cost, of course) when choosing a hosting provider:

  • Partnerships with major league podcasts aggregators (Apple, Spotify)
  • RSS feed control and compliance
  • Analytics/stats
  • Ad integration

5. Create a dedicated page or post for each episode

I’m assuming here that you have a website for your podcast and that you are using one of the popular CMSs out there to manage it, say WordPress?!? If that is indeed the case, you should give a thought to doing the following:

First, you will need to create a dedicated post for each episode that goes live. Within this post, you should of course upload the episode image (be sure to optimize your image filename, title and alt text), have the <title> ,<h1>, and meta description for that post in place. To do all that, you will have to know all about on-page SEO

Why should you have a dedicated post for each podcast episode?

Back in August 2019, Google announced that when a user searches for a podcast on a certain topic, they will now show playable episodes in the Search results. Heck, they even have a patent for this.

Bearing that in mind, the following 3 optimizations will help your episodes conquer the SERP:

1. Tags and categories

Add tags for each episode and divide all episodes into semantic chunks. This helps users and search engines alike to understand what the episode is about. And it’s actually pretty easy to implement. 

2. Transcripts

There were claims made that the Google podcast app has been transcribing podcasts automatically. And that the app can return results based on transcribed text from an episode. But these rumors have not been approved by the Google podcast team. Transcribing episodes has two benefits:

  • It makes your podcast accessible to hearing-impaired people.
  • It helps search engines understand what the episode is about so it can return this result better in relation to a query.
3. Schema markup

Last, but certainly not least, you should mark your episode with a PodcastEpisode schema. It’s still a pending term, so if you insist on not being an early adopter, use the AudioObject schema instead. Either way, this gives a powerful signal to the search engine crawler that there is a piece of audio to be found on this page.

6. Upload your podcast episodes to YouTube

You are probably asking yourself what on earth does YouTube have to do with podcasts? Well, the short answer is nothing!  But then again, YouTube is the second-largest search engine in the world, and the second-largest social media platform.

In addition, YouTube has mega exposure in SERPs. In fact, back in 2015, videos appeared for 55% of Google searches, of which 82% are from YouTube. Sorry for the ancient stat, but it certainly points out the trend.

All you need to do is open a YouTube channel for your podcast. You probably already have all the creative content you need, so that shouldn’t be an obstacle. You should then upload your episodes as videos to the channel. It works great if you create a video with an image and sound, just like this YouTube version of Serial. There are just way too many online convertors to help you convert your MP3 file to a video with an image, so no excuses!  

7. Get featured in “Best {Keyword} Podcasts” articles 

Everyone loves a good “Best of” listicle, from “Best banana slicers” to “Top mustache grooming tips”. “Best of” listicles are always a good read – plus, they’re very helpful. In fact, you are reading one right now!

“Best of” listicles are a great way to promote your podcast. Why? First, because it’s not too hard to get featured on one. Second, listicles tend to rank pretty high on Google, so there is a good chance it will help you win some referral traffic.

All you need to do is search for: “best {your podcast topic} podcasts” and go over all the listicles. You can then contact the authors via social media, and ask politely to be featured on their listicle. If you want to add a small incentive, you can suggest a link from your podcast site to the listicle.

So there you have it – 7 tips to boost your podcast SEO, or PODEO. So get moving and get your podcast ranking higher today!