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Podcast SEO? 11 Ways to Improve Your Ranking

Which SEO principles apply to podcasts?

When, where and how often should podcast episodes be released?

How can listener reviews and ratings help a show rank higher in podcast search results?

Here, we share the 11 key tactics that we’ve used to help make The Digital Marketing Podcast a top 10 business podcast on iTunes.

1. Podcast search engine optimization

Show titles are of paramount importance to making podcasts findable. Titles should match popular search queries (AKA keywords) that people are searching for as closely as possible to have the best possible chance of matching and, therefore, ranking.

The best way to do this is to make titles both accurate and literal. For example, we named our podcast  The Digital Marketing Podcast - no prizes for guessing what it’s about.

This applies to episodes too. Give each one a title and description that clearly tells users what they will get out of listening to it.

Keyword research is essential for discovering these popular search terms. Use a keyword research tool like  Google Trends,  Keyword Sh***** or  Answer The Public to find keywords relating to your content that you can use in your show title. You should generally aim to use keywords with high search volume, as these will have the highest potential visibility in podcast search results (but be wary - they may also have higher competition).

However, not every podcast needs to have a literal name. You may find that the best keywords have already been taken by other podcasters, or you may simply decide that you want to be more creative with your podcast name.

If you fall into one of these two camps, this makes it especially important for episode titles and descriptions to be accurate and optimised, especially when you first launch.

2. Ask for ratings and reviews

Reviews and ratings are a key ranking factor used in podcast search algorithms, including iTunes/Apple podcasts.

By increasing the quantity and improving the sentiment of your listener reviews, your podcast’s visibility can be dramatically improved.

The simplest way to encourage reviews and ratings is to request them from listeners during your podcast episodes. A good place to include a callout is in the sign-off for each episode, for example:

“You’ve been listening to [PODCAST NAME].

If you haven’t already, please give us a quick review and rating on iTunes, and don’t forget you can follow us on Facebook and Twitter.

See you next week, same time, same place.”

Most listeners understand and tolerate requests like these, especially when they come at the end of an episode they have enjoyed listening to.

This is a very basic approach to requesting reviews. Some podcasters go much further, using tactics such as:

  • Request reviews and ratings at both the start and the end of each episode;
  • Explain the process of how to review. Some listeners might never have left a podcast review before, so spell it out step-by-step;
  • Offer incentives, e.g. a gift for the first three people to leave a review;
  • Give shout outs to people who leave reviews;
  • Create a short link on your own domain that redirects to the iTunes review page, e.g. www.podcastname.co/reviews

One podcaster has even built his entire show around reviews of his podcast. At the point of writing this article he already has 27 episodes. Check out Podcast Reviews Reviews Podcast

No doubt these tactics will suit the listeners of some podcasts better than others, and there will always be some level of trade-off between drawing in more reviews and putting off certain listeners.

Managing Podcast Reviews

When implementing new tactics, it is important to measure any positive or negative effects by looking for spikes in new reviews and lost subscribers after an episode is released.

If you have ever tried to monitor reviews in iTunes/Apple podcasts you are most likely only able to see the reviews left in the iTunes store of the country you are currently in and logged in-to. To see reviews from other countries you must view other stores. Instead, you can monitor reviews using a service like  My Podcast Reviews, which lets users “See and share all your podcast’s reviews from every country”.

Top tip – at the bottom right of your iTunes store view you should see a small round country flag – click on it to change views.

Whether you use a free tool or a subscription-based option, monitoring will help you find out how successful your efforts to get more reviews have been.

3. Promoting podcasts on social media

Social media can help build awareness, drive traffic and boost a podcast’s visibility on normal search engines.  There are lots of ways to promote a podcast via social, including:

  • Making a dedicated profile for the podcast;
  • Promoting the podcast via a related business profile;
  • Recording podcast episodes on Facebook Live (not suitable for shows that generally need editing);
  • Boosting visibility with sponsored (paid) posts;
  • Creating groups for the podcast’s listeners/subscribers;
  • Using a dedicated hashtag to build awareness and make it easy for listeners to find and interact with posts.

As reported by  Music Oomph, podcast listeners are more likely to follow companies and brands on social media.

4. Monitor episode performance in Apple Podcasts Connect

As is true of any digital marketing activity, ongoing measurement is crucial to understanding the ways podcasts are succeeding, as well as the things that need to be improved upon to help them grow.

Podcasts Connect is Apple’s tool for podcast creators to manage and submit their shows to iTunes. It comes with an analytics functionality, which tells you things like how many unique devices have listened to a show or episode, the average time spent listening per device, and the total amount of time people have spent listening. The data can be viewed by specific days, months, or custom date ranges going back up to 90 days.

While a good starting point for beginners, most podcasters move on to require more in-depth analysis. Third party analytics tools such as  Chartable and  Podtrac can really help you to drill down into the finer details.

5. Encourage listeners to subscribe

Subscribers are more valuable than one-off listeners in terms of interaction (plays, engagement, brand loyalty and podcast rankings). Therefore the more subscribers your podcast has, the better.

As is the case with reviews and ratings, the best way to encourage subscriptions is to routinely ask listeners to subscribe during your episodes. The tactics for doing this include mentioning subscriptions in your sign-off, explaining how to subscribe, and so on.

A good way to incentivise subscription is to offer subscribers early access to your episodes. Just be sure to make listeners aware you are doing this.

6. Create great content

‘How to create great podcast content’ is a whole subject within itself. There are lots of ways to succeed, and these may differ based on your brand, audience, subject matter and hosting style.

A good pointer for most podcasts is to take care when optimizing your show notes and script, as these will define your ability to serve listeners’ interest and deliver your content well. We suggest editing your notes using SEMrush SEO Writing Assistant, a free Google Docs extension that can help optimize your content with keywords, edit out overly complex sentences and words, and adjust ease-of-comprehension to your audience. This will help keep your content tight, topical and tailored.

Another good piece of advice is to keep your intros short. Opinions on the ideal intro length vary throughout the industry, but most podcasters seem to aim for around 30-seconds. In our experience less is more! You want enough time to get your point across and hook listeners into the episode but spend too long doing that and you may get dropped.

Keep intro music to a minimum – it’s rarely the reason people listen!

7. Get your show listed in as many directories as possible

One of the most popular ways people find podcasts is by searching in online directories. There are lots of these, which means podcasters will need to list their shows on multiple directories if they are to reach the widest audience they can. Specialist Podcast hosting companies will help make this easy.

We use  Libsyn for all our podcasts and they are excellent for making distribution a cinch, but if you want to host somewhere else and put in the hard work, here’s a list of recommended directories to upload your podcast to:

8. Make a webpage or site for the show

Some people looking for podcasts via search engines like Google or Bing will be more inclined to click through to a dedicated website than to a media player like iTunes. So, to maximise the traffic, plays and subscribers you get via organic search, you’ll need to give your show a website of its own.  Most dedicated podcast hosting companies will provide you with a dedicated podcast show website.

If you already have a website for your business, you might want to incorporate your podcast as a landing page on that site. Alternatively, create a simple, dedicated website offering quick and easy access to your episodes via an embedded player.

9. Publish regularly

By releasing podcast episodes at regular intervals – daily, weekly, fortnightly or monthly at an expected time – it’s possible to make listening to the show a part of people’s routine.

This helps keep listeners loyal and is therefore crucial to growing a podcast’s audience and profile. Regular episodes encourage habitual listening, and habitual listening makes every new listener you acquire more valuable to the growth of your podcast.

We tend to find once-per-week is the right interval to keep our listeners engaged. In 2017, when we upped our episode frequency from fortnightly to weekly, our play count did this:

Graph showing podcast download analytics

The price you pay for publishing more frequently is increased workload, and podcasters do need to be careful to avoid overcommitting – otherwise there’s a risk of episode production being rushed, leading to a decline in quality.

That said, recording more frequently will likely help your team get better and more efficient at what they do. So, while producing more episodes means more work, it might mean improved productivity too.

10. Get influencers involved

Inviting guests to feature on your podcast can benefit both the marketing of a podcast and the podcast content itself. The obvious marketing benefit is that featuring a guest can give the podcast visibility with that person’s audience. By interviewing authoritative people from relevant walks of life, you can expose your show to new listeners who might end up subscribing and listening regularly.

However, most influencers won’t just appear on any old podcast. In fact, podcast creators should prepare a thorough offer to sweeten the deal for potential interviewees. This might include:

  • Listenership figures (or if you don’t have many listeners yet, a projection of your future listenership based on a marketing plan for the podcast);
  • The opportunity to promote new ventures in the episode, such as books, websites, blogs, their own podcast, etc.;
  • A thorough brief. Knowing the bare bones of the interview in advance helps interviewees to shine;
  • High production values. Make your interviews something your guests can be proud of – because not only will this reflect well on your show, it will also encourage guests to share the episode with their audience.

The key benefit you’ll gain through rolling out the red carpet for influencers is access to their audience, who may become new listeners.

Interviews can also make for great podcast content. Some shows, such as the entrepreneurship podcast, Mixergy, feature a different guest on every episode. Others, like our own Digital Marketing Podcast, have some episodes with guests and some without. In our opinion, mixing things up like this helps keep the format fresh while preserving the show’s identity.

11. Listen widely

Given the fact podcast search visibility is based largely on play count and listener reactions, anything that makes your podcast better could potentially improve its search rankings.

One of the best things you can do to get your podcast ranking higher is to take inspiration from as many quality podcasters as you can. That could mean listening to anything from the whimsical Stuff You Should Know, to the fascinating, gritty true-life stories of S-Town and Serial, to the brilliant analysis of tech developments you’ll find on Exponent.

If a podcast has earned a high profile, lots of listeners and plenty of good reviews, it probably has something to teach you.

We hope this round up of techniques will help you to grow your audience and reach more ears across the pod-o-sphere. You can find out more in our new book, Podcasting Marketing Strategy.

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