BACK TO BASICS: Merging Podcasting and Search Engine Optimization

by Lisa Barone, July 31, 2007

You’ve heard about podcasting. It’s the cousin of the blog, Google
and have both found ways to incorporate podcasts into their
SERPs, and it’s being touted at all the search industry conferences and
on the search marketing blogs as the medium to pay attention to. But
what does podcasting really entail and can you really make it search
engine friendly?

At its most basic core, a podcast is a blog in audio form. The
difference with podcasting is that content creators are able to connect
with users on a very basic level by engaging in conversations through
voice. It’s real discussion captured in an audio file. The files are
then uploaded onto the Web and made available through an RSS feed so
that users armed with an iPod or some other media device can download it
and listen to the MP3 at their leisure offline.

How Will Podcasting Help My Company?

There are plenty of reasons to experiment with podcasting as a new
marketing channel for your company. It allows you to extend the reach of
your brand, helps you to foster a more intimate relationship with your
audience, and can increase your search engine visibility. For those
Internet marketers having a difficult time connecting with or creating
an emotional bond with users, podcasting could be a way to accomplish

Another benefit of podcasting is that it’s flexible. Unlike with
blogs, search marketers aren’t forced to commit themselves to a weekly
radio show in order to work podcasts into a search engine optimization
campaign. Podcasts work just as well as a standalone communication as
they do at fostering an ongoing conversation or dialogue. Use podcasts
to generate buzz around a new product launch, for man-on-the-street
interviews during trade shows, or to announce special events.

Okay, So How Do I Create A Podcast?

Just like with any other marketing technique, the first step in podcasting is to determine your objectives.

  • What do you want your podcast to accomplish?
  • Who is your target audience?
  • What other podcasts is your audience listening to?
  • What styles do they prefer?
  • What format will you use?
  • Are you going to be producing a few standalone podcasts or are you going to create a weekly or biweekly radio show?

Answering these questions will help you to map out what your show is
going to be about and how time-intensive it’s going to be. Obviously, if
you’re going to dedicate yourself to a weekly podcast you should make
sure you have an abundance of material to discuss and that you’re
targeting a subject you are genuinely passionate about. You can’t “fake
it” in podcasting. People can hear your voice; they’ll know if you’re
not being genuine. Being passionate about your topic is the only way
you’ll ever be credible.

The good news for Internet marketers is that the startup costs
associated with podcasting are low. All that’s needed to get started is
a microphone, some voice-editing software and a site to upload your
content to. During July’s WordCamp 2007, PodPress creator Dan
Kuykendall commented that his entire podcasting setup cost him
approximately $200 — $100 each for a microphone and a good soundcard.
As for the software, both WordPress and Audacity offer free programs to
help wannabe podcasters get started.

That’s not to say that podcasting is easy. As with most things, your
podcast will live and die on your content. And because people can
actually hear you, it’s not about just having the content; it’s also
about delivering it.

If you’ve listened to a fair share of podcasts you’ve probably
noticed something – most of them are terrible. This is no reflection of
podcasting as a medium, it’s simply because very few people are doing
podcasting correctly. Most newbie podcasters are committing one of two
fatal mistakes: Either they just start rambling with no topic in mind or
they’re so set on their topic that they come off robotic and kill any
chance of fostering a real discussion.

You want your podcast to sound natural. It should be topic-focused
but loose enough that people don’t feel like you’re reading off of a
script. Keep it friendly, but do know what you’re going to say.
Hesitation and long silences are killer in an auditory medium.

If you are going to make your podcasting a regular thing, try and
stick to a consistent posting schedule. Let people know when they can
expect new content from you. You want them to become attached.

Making Your Podcast Readily Available

Once created, you’ll have to upload your podcast to the Web in order to
make it available for download. Whether you want to upload it directly
onto your site or use one of the many hosting sites is your choice. We
typically recommend hosting the podcast off site because if and when
your podcast becomes successful (which, after all, is the point.) you’ll
likely exceed your bandwidth pretty quickly. If you’re just starting
out, WordPress and Audacity will both host your podcasts for free. Once
you gain a bigger following, however, you may want switch over to a
fee-based company.

The most important part in podcast optimization is to construct
proper ID3 tags. ID3 tags hold the metadata that will appear in a user’s
media player once the file is downloaded. While there are more than 35
pre-defined fields, the most essential metadata to include is the title
(name of your show), the album (name of your podcast), article (name of
the host), the date the show was created, the track or episode number,
the genre, and comment information. There are no strict guidelines
regarding what should be placed within the comment section, but it’s
typically reserved for information such as your URL, a transcript,
contact info or info regarding when your audience can expect your next

If the idea of creating a feed sounds a bit tricky, feel free to use a
feed validator tool to help you. There are plenty of hosting companies
that offer full podcasting packages to help you get started. Some
trusted companies are Feed For All, Jitbit, Podifier, and FeedBurner.
Or, if you’re uploading your podcasts using WordPress, there’s a great
podcast plug-in created by Dan Kuykendall called PodPress that makes tagging audio files completely painless.

One of the mistakes newbie podcasters make is that they promote multiple feeds for their podcast. It’s okay to have
more than feed; in fact, you’ll probably need more than one feed, but
you should only be promoting one. It’s confusing for users when your
content is out there all over the place. Promoting only one feed makes
it easy for users and the search engines to locate your content.

Podcasts should be Keyword-rich

When you’re optimizing your podcasts remember that just like when
optimizing a Web page, you never want to miss a chance to use keywords
when appropriate. The success of your podcast will be directly tied to
how “findable” it is.

  • File Names: Your file names should be optimized using a date +
    truncated episode title format. For example, if the title of your July
    31, 2007 podcast is “Lessons in Podcasting”, you may want to name it
    something like “lsnspdcsting73107.mp3”.
  • Podcast Titles: Research what terms users are most likely to query
    when searching for the subject matter discussed in your content. Use
    relevant keywords and phrases whenever possible.
  • Create podcast transcripts: Creating a transcript of your podcast
    gives you a valuable opportunity to add more keyword-rich content to
    your site. This will help your site to be seen as a subject matter
    expert on that topic, and it will also aid users in finding your
  • Create Unique Landing Pages: When you’re creating a podcast as part
    of a regular show, we typically recommend creating separate landing
    pages both for the show itself and each episode. Using distinct landing
    pages does several things. It helps limit the amount of broken links, it
    allows your main landing page to act as a site map for all of your
    podcasts, and it gives you more room to use important keywords to
    describe the content of your podcast. The more keyword-rich content you
    use, the easier it will be for users and the search engines to find you.

Another landing page tip: Make subscription info easy to
find and include an online media player for the users who prefer to
listen to your podcasts straight from your site.

The last part of podcast optimization is promotion. Podcasts are
valuable resources so don’t be afraid to tell those in your community
and influential niche bloggers what you’re doing. Use your own company
Web site or blog to promote your podcasting efforts, and submit your
feed to the various podcasting directories out there, such as, FeedBurner, Podcast Alley, Yahoo! Podcast and others. If
you’re using a podcasting hosting service, many times they’ll
automatically submit your podcast for you so make sure you check to see
what your package includes.

Podcasts have received a lot of attention because they’re low cost to
set up and they’re easily indexed by the search engines. But they won’t
be indexed if you’re not optimizing them correctly. As ever, it is
worth the time to do it right.

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