As of June, there were more than 30 million podcast episodes in iTunes. Until recently, podcasts – and other forms of audio content – were not seen as direct SEO assets. Podcasting was more of a way to get your name out there, promote expertise, and network with others in the industry. Google has talked about making audio searchable several times over the past few years. Back in May, Google announced at I/O 2019 that podcasts will soon be indexed. Since the announcement, we’ve started to see podcasts trickle into the organic search results. YouTube clips have been a part of the organic SERPs for a while now. And it seems podcasts are gearing up to take on a bigger role in 2020 and beyond! So how can you prepare?
Let’s dive in.
Google Now Shows Podcasts in SERPs: Why?
Podcasting really kicked into high gear around the end of 2004. Now that Google is slowly starting to display podcasts, the big question is: Why did it take 15 years? While there are few sure answers when it comes to Google’s algorithms, a logical hypothesis would point to the advancements in AI and natural language processing. Google has offered a speech-to-text feature as part of the Google Cloud Platform for a couple of years now – which has since undergone a fair share of upgrades. It appears that Google is gaining a strong ability to pinpoint verbalized keywords within podcasts/videos to rank it accordingly. As the service continues to evolve, it makes sense that we will see more podcasts infiltrate the SERPs – in a good way!
How Exactly Will Podcasts Be Displayed?
Just like how videos have their own slider, podcasts will get a similar treatment. Additionally, users will be able to listen to the podcast without having to navigate to a new page. Thanks to NLP, we can also expect that Google will skip to certain timestamps within a podcast to satisfy voice queries. This is largely due to the fact that many people listen to podcasts when they are on the go; a feature that skips to the most relevant part is huge for the user experience.
Making Your Podcast SEO-Friendly
Whether you already have a podcast going or are interested in starting one, knowing how to make your episodes SEO-friendly is going to be a factor in how you gain visibility. So how do you do it?
1. Know the Trends
Just like a blog post or any other form of written content, you are going to need a knowledge of the trending keywords and topics to build your installments around. Let’s say we are trying to find a good SEO-related topic for a podcast this very second. Given the top two results on the News tab, “Dark Mode for Websites” or “SEO Audits” might be good ones to cover. Or, we could talk about Travel SEO. These could be our jumping-off points to conduct keyword research. Now, once we have a list of keywords we want our podcast to rank for, we can develop the outline or list of questions to naturally work them in. For the sake of the example, let’s say we’re going to run a podcast on the best techniques for conducting website audits.
2. Develop a Podcast Voice
To reiterate, Google’s NLP capabilities are getting better at picking out verbalized keywords. However, mumbling or not speaking clearly will make life harder for the AI bots. That said, you – or your podcast host – needs to have a strong podcast (or radio) voice to ensure Google can interpret as many of the keywords and phrases within the conversation as possible. If you’re just starting out (or an introvert like me) it will probably take a little bit to get comfortable speaking into a mic. The key is to speak from the gut, not from the throat. Sit up straight while you talk and do your best to project. If you’ve ever taken any singing lessons, this is where it will pay off!
Ultimately, a killer podcast voice combined with interesting topics is what keeps people coming back!
3. Importance of Transcriptions
Transcribing your podcasts can be a tedious task – depending on how long your episodes are. There are plenty of tools out there that will transcribe your sound files. However, you will more than likely need to go through it and edit out the “ums” and the “uhs” to make the text more readable. Additionally, this is where you can go in and add keywords if need be! Given the demonstration from Google I/O, it seems as though transcriptions will be the primary method of picking out parts of an episode to match a search query. Sifting through and cleaning up all the text generated from your sound files can take a while, but doing so can be the catalyst to help your podcast rank – at least at this point in time.
3. Create Chapters
Splitting up your podcast into chapters is a fantastic way to make life easy for your listeners. They allow users to skip to the area most pertinent to what they’re looking for – without having to listen to the whole audio file. Additionally, having a table of contents is a great way to incorporate keywords onto the page. The chapter format can help you plan the framework of your podcast episodes before you record them. As you publish it, the episode will appear to users (and search engines) as much more organized. Now, while there isn’t hard evidence to prove that podcast chapters are your ticket to getting excellent rankings, in terms of SEO – this is a good rule to live by: If you make content easily accessible for users, the search engines will (ideally) reward you for it! Creating chapters will more than likely involve you listening to the sound file and marking down the exact time (hour: minute: second) that a subtopic comes up. If your podcasts follow an interview format, creating each chapter at the exact time you start asking a question is the way to go!
4. Do a Write-Up
If your podcast episodes primarily live on your website, publishing a write up for each podcast should be a no-brainer! Not only does this provide a great deal of readable text on your podcast’s page, it gives listeners a good idea of what to expect before they hit play! Similar to how you would write any other piece of content on your website, be sure you include the keywords organically. Just because the page is technically for a podcast, you still need to follow the same contextual rules with written content. But if you do a write-up, do you need to transcribe the podcast? Yes. The write up should mainly be seen as a summary of your podcast – with a few actionable points. The transcription is the nitty-gritty detail that helps Google understand where your main points are within the audio to properly serve to users. Being as how podcasts in the SERPs are still new, and we don’t know the exact extent to how well Google deciphers audio, the more text you can supplement, the better!