Before you start your first episode, you need to understand Google. Google dominates the internet search market, accounting for nearly 89% of all web searches. If you want your podcast recording to be discovered, you need to write for Google using podcast SEO.
Related: Did you know Podcave has a real-time SEO Analyzer? Check it out!
Google is built around a “first user” experience. They want everyone to easily get answers and/or information they need the first time they ever use it. Google assumes that users are looking for basic information or looking to have a question answered, so it crawls and scrapes and tries to match keywords with content that it thinks will help. The more you can include powerful keywords in your writing, the more you can write so that Google will determine that you’re providing helpful content. Since Google wants to hit a home run with the first-time user, they look for content loaded with the words that match the user’s inquiry. That starts with your focus keywords or phrase.
For Podcast SEO and Why It’s Important. The more you execute using these best practices, the more you improve your odds of pulling in new ears.
Keywords and Phrases
Once you understand the approach Google takes, then you can start to think about how this applies to your content. You aren’t thinking about the people that already regularly listen to your podcast. You’re thinking about that person searching for something on Google. You need to identify the things within your content that lend themselves to a Google search and you need to identify the ways in which your content reflects and reinforces those things.
Once you do that, your keywords should become clear. The next step is to make sure these keywords and phrases are being used frequently and correctly across all episode titles, descriptions and metadata.
Your Episode Title
Your fans already use your show. You are NOT writing titles for them. You‘re writing titles to reach people that have no idea your show exists. We want to grow your audience, not merely to let people already consuming your show know what the episode is about.
Google weighs your show title the most when determining if your content will help someone searching for your keywords. These titles are presented as H1 headers to Google’s bots, signifying it’s the most prominent information.
It’s easy to assume that those fields you fill out when uploading and publishing a new episode should be targeted towards your existing audience. After all, they need to know what the latest episode of their favorite podcast is all about, right? Sure, but, in doing so, you miss the largest, most cost-effective opportunity that you have to grow your audience. For Podcast SEO you’d nail both.
Keep these things in mind from your first episode:
Never write cute or clever episode titles that are vague and not searchable. If you ignore this, you’ve already shot yourself in the foot. For example, if your primary episode keyword is ‘gun control’, your episode title shouldn’t be “Let’s Figure This Out.” Useless. The Google algorithm can’t read between the lines.
Instead, create readable, to-the-point episode titles that describe the podcast ideas presented in the episode. Use the keywords in the title. Make them short, sweet, and descriptive. Writing a descriptive episode title is one of the most important steps in creating a podcast.
Never include names of hosts, the name of the show, the date of the show, or use the title to promote bits or storylines within your show (unless they are SEO-friendly). There’s no need to list something trivial like the podcast recording equipment used in a title. Waste of real estate. Google can’t do anything with that. Google’s search engines already take metadata like a website’s title and post author into account for search rankings. Instead of using redundant information, describe the content of the podcast recording.
Take note of the most opportunistic keywords that you touch on within your show and find ways to work them into your title. Your title should focus on one or two high-level topics covered while recording a podcast. Use those keywords from the podcast script format to find the highest-traffic search terms using a keyword recommendation tool like WordStream.
Front-load the title with those keywords, then work your way back. (ex: if you use the keyword “Comic-con 2020 details” in the title, make that the first word. “Comic-Con 2020: everything you need to know”. Google’s search ranking titles are called meta title tags and are limited to 60 characters. Some formats include the website name in that count. The end of that title may very well get cut off by Google, so start with the big keyword and work your way back.
Google your keywords and see which content ranks. Google likes things that either answer or ask a question because that’s how and why people use it. It ranks the various angles of each keyword by popularity. When you google your keywords, you’ll see what ranks and that should, most of the time, inform how you construct and skew your title. “Comic-Con: when is it, who will be there, how much does it cost?” Be sure to try different variations on each keyword you search. The terms “podcast recording,” “podcast production,” “recording a podcast,” and “podcast recording” all sound similar, but each has its own search traffic. Optimize your content for the higher-ranking search terms.
Your Episode Description/Show Notes
The first two lines are crucial.
Google weighs these second (behind “title”) when determining whether your content will help someone searching for your keywords.
The most important line in the episode description is the first line. The second line is also extremely important. Google provides those two lines under the title in a search. It displays between 120-158 characters, up to 920 pixels in those two lines. You have exactly that much space to describe the podcast script format and ideas for the podcast in that episode.
Google expects a user to read the title, then those two lines, so they evaluate them to determine whether your content will really be of help. The user will also read those two lines along with the title and determine whether your content will help them get the information they seek.
As with the title, try to avoid empty language that means nothing. If the first line in your description is: “Happy Friday!”, you’ve blown it. If the first or second-line revolves around a different topic than the keywords in your title, you’ve blown it. If those lines are about characters on your show, you’ve blown it.
You need to provide detailed show notes with timestamps, but not in the first two lines of your show description. These first two lines form your Google meta description. This meta description should succinctly summarize the topic of podcast production.
After the first two lines
Detail the timeline of events within the episode in the order in which they appear within the show. You can bullet-point them, write them as a paragraph, number them.
Provide timestamps contained by parentheses for each item. You need this for SEO, you need this for YouTube transfer, and, allegedly coming very soon, Google will use these timestamps and create markers that will enable cueing up the audio within the episode to that segment. Like the title and first two lines of your podcast recording’s description, front-loading timestamps with keywords increases your potential exposure to new audiences. Crucial.
Each event item within the episode description should include powerful keywords. Be opportunistic. If you mention a celebrity, a hashtag, a trending topic, a movie, a band, a city–include those keywords within the show description. Google’s bots can’t “hear” the audio of your podcast–yet. This description is your chance to gather fans of all the individual topics you’re covering. Nobody will know you’re producing a podcast about Cardi B unless you use her name in the description.
Link those things liberally. If you use a hashtag, link to the ‘twitter.com/hashtag/keyword’ website. Google the hashtag and that link should be the first thing that ranks. Tie it to your episode notes. If you mention a movie star, link to the IMDB page or Wikipedia page–whichever ranks highest when you search for it in Google. Do this for all your keywords within your episode notes. If you reference a news story or an article-link it.
Spell keywords correctly. There’s a massive difference between “Comic-Con” and “comiccon” or “comicon”. If you reference an actor and you misspell his or her name, you’ve blown it. Any proper or branded name needs to be spelled exactly. General terms are more nuanced. Some search terms like “Cyber attack” may have more search traffic than the correct spellings of “cyberattack” or “cyber-attack.” Keep this in mind when using common terms. Spelling matters. Be disciplined. Take the time to do this correctly.
Related: Did you know Podcave has a real-time SEO Analyzer? Check it out!
When uploading and filling out fields, be sure to fill out the “summary” and “tags” fields under “optional episode metadata” completely and correctly. Use the most searchable keywords. Use hashtags. Spell things correctly. Do not skip these steps. You may not think you need them now, but you likely will down the road. For instance, repurpose.io, the podcast content repurposing software we use will take the information keyed into these fields and populate them into YouTube. If you want to make your show available on YouTube down the line, your back-end SEO work will have already been done.
Some Final Thoughts
Recording a podcast isn’t easy. Your time is valuable and you’re spending money to record, produce and distribute it. Give it a chance to be found and heard. Marketing is a vital part of producing a podcast. It’s how you get listeners. It’s how you build a fanbase and a community.
Unless you have an advertising budget, following SEO best practices when writing episode titles, descriptions, and metadata is the only marketing opportunity you have. You can grow your show by widening the number of platforms your shows can be found and by making your shows more searchable. It’s why you need to follow these guidelines, it’s why you need a website, it’s why you need a proper social media strategy. We don’t have to like it or agree with it, but these are the rules by which we must play. Podcave can help you, but you should take this direction and apply it. Give yourself a chance to be successful!!