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August 21, 2007

Podcast & Audio Search Optimization

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Okay, fun people, it’s time for this morning’s Podcast & Audio Search Optimization panel with moderator Detlev Johnson and speakers Daron Babin (WebmasterRadio), Amanda Watlington (Searching for Profit) and Rick Klau (Google). You ready?

Detlev starts things off saying that, through the years, audio has been very difficult for the search engines to index and make accessible to users. HTML is simple but trying to decipher what is in an audio file is difficult. There are some speech recognition software programs out there, but even those aren’t very good.

To be fair, he also adds that audio files themselves can be marked up with things the search engines could use to return relevant audio search but for the most part, search marketers have failed to do that. Bad, search marketers, bad. Detlev says that now is the time to start doing that.

First up is Daron Babin.

Is anyone out there listening to podcasts? Daron says you better believe it. They’re listening in droves. There are a lot of people listening. If you’re creating compelling content you’re going to find that people are going to listen. Basically, I think what he’s trying to tell us is that people are listening to podcasts. :)

Before you jump into podcasting, here are some things to consider before you decide if this is a good investment for you:

  • Production time – It’s costly. Don’t think it’s not. It’s human manpower.
  • Cost of Production
  • Equipment (recording, compression)
  • Encoding is a pain in the proverbial…
  • Analytics – Whose come close?
  • Bandwidth

People are listening (I think Daron gets a cookie each time he says that) so make sure the content is compelling. Don’t ramble into a microphone. You need to talk about real specifics. Listeners do not want to know your dietary strengths or weaknesses. They don’t need to know about the dog needing to be neutered. They want to be educated or entertained. Engage listeners but get to the content. That’s why they are there.

Prepare for growth. Think about the expenses you’ll incur when you go popular. Daron recommends securing a sound host or Content Delivery Network and working a deal. He says that without someone who can handle load, distribution will be an issue and there will be unhappy users. Unhappy users aren’t users for long.

You must establish a complete understanding with your host or DND what type of reporting you’ll be able to see.

Transcribe everything. It’s the equity in your organic fortuitous display of originality. Originality with passion = downloads.

To optimize content, look at how you write and deploy your text for your media files. Ensure proper on-the-page criteria, as no engine can complain about finding new, original, and very relevant content. Give thought to categories before you create the content. Optimize your ID3 tags.

Get to your numbers. As a podcaster with prospects for investors, advertising dollars and the potential to drive feed revenue, you should make every effort to make sure your analytics is as dead on as possible. He recommends using Feedburner and using their system to quickly go in and optimize your feed and get an idea of your number.
Break up large media files into targeted, small bites.

There are a lot of people exploring podcasting. The people in this room are not on the bleeding edge (drat). If you want to make a dent against any of the big boys, then you have to get out there and think smart now. Optimize for what you’re building.

Next is Amanda Watlington.

Why should marketers podcast?

  • Creates direct communication channel with prospects and customers.
  • Extends reach through emotional connection with target market.
  • Adds new media outlets to extend reach. Podcasts offer marketers audiences unavailable via regulated broadcast radio.
    • Use short sponsorships to integrate advertising for broad-based content.
  • Facilitates marketing communications.
  • Humanize relations with the public.

The negatives of podcasting: Podcasting requires a level of transparency (that’s a negative?). The content is less formal with shorter turnaround than traditional communications. There are less controls and ownership. It requires an ongoing commitment and content development. There’s a loss of control associated with distribution and use.

There is an absolutely compelling reason for search marketers to start podcasting – Universal Search. Google is working podcasts into its main index. Your results in the SERP should lead to a targeted, keyword-rich landing page.

Questions to ask yourself before you begin podcasting:

  • Is it going to be a one of or a podshow with multiple episodes?
  • What is going to be the name of your show?
    • Make sure the show name is not already in use.
  • Show name and episodes names.
    • Each will need its own Title and Description.
    • Carefully write your titles and descriptions for your show and episode before you launch
  • To transcribe or just abstract the show contents.
  • Develop a keyword list for the show and determine how you will brand it – by the host or the show name.
  • Write the audio tag information carefully in advance.
  • Get album art ready.
  • Review iTunes categories to find the right fit.
  • Be prepared to edit the audio tags yourself for each episode.
    • Download and test tag editors .
  • Build your infrastructure in advance of creating the audio so that you can rapidly mount your show.

ID3 tags are metadata for MP3, 4, WMA, etc. The maximum tag size is 256 megabytes and maximum frame size is 16 megabytes. There are 39 predefined frames including copyright, content type, dates, and content information, and space for files such as pictures. They can also carry lyrics and the complete transcription of text.

The fields that you MUST optimize for are the title, the album (name of your podcast), the artist (not of the host), the year, the track, genre and comments.

When you optimize the sound file give it a unique name. Try using a shortened name + a date or episode number. This is important for users and for directories.

Optimize your Web pages. If you’re pushing it into a blog have a separate feed for your podcast. Be prepared to have a separate page for every episode. Amanda says she looks at them as tickets in the search engine lottery. Make sure the page has subscription information.

Also optimize your landing pages. Use a separate landing page for audio content to limit the possibility of broken links. Include a play for those who want to listen online. Include an abstract. Use basic search engine optimization methodologies.

Create and validate your feeds. Use Podifer, Feedburner, etc. Once created, submit your feeds. Track and monitor submissions. Amanda users a spreadsheet to keep track of where she’s submitted her podcasts.

Promote online audio beyond the search engines.

  • In summary, five types
  • Optimize the audio file
  • Building landing pages
  • Build accurate, effective RSS feeds
  • Submit and promote broadly
  • Watch the space

Last up is Rich Klau.

Rich works with Feedburner, which in case you don’t remember was acquired by Google in June.

The podcast aggregator market is changing quickly. Web-based aggregators are capturing a lot of market share. Social networks are also becoming a place to consume and distribute podcasts. Like Amanda said, Meta data is essential for discovery.

Consumption of podcasts feeds happens over a dizzying array of applications. He looked at just one podcast that runs through Feedburner and the top four services consuming this podcast were iTunes, Google Reader, My Yahoo! and Miro, which make up 75 percent of the audience. The rest of the share is amazingly fragmented. People are using many, many different aggregators. As a marketer you have to know what services users are using to find your content.

Syndication is embedded everywhere. Directories drive a lot of attention to podcasts. Publishers who do podcasts typically have Web sites. Don’t think of them as separate products.

Podcasts on social network: Last week NPR launched a Facebook application that allows users to embed the NPR player onto their FB page. It’s exposing people to podcasts who didn’t know what they were before.

Avoid exposing code and using acronyms. People don’t know what it means and it’s scary. Present simple pages that make your content easily digestible. Add iTunes/Meida RSS extensions. If you are using iTunes, read Apple’s technical specifications. It will tell you important things like paying attention to the feed metadata, not abusing keywords (they’ll only pay attention to the first 12), properly categorizing your podcasts and using the iTunes summary tag.

Submit your podcast to all services and directories. Enable "pingshot" to ensure timely content updates. Ping Yaho, iTunes, Odeo, Bloglines, etc. Enable Feedburner’s Awareness API (eh, I don’t know about that last one).

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