Should search marketers include audio (podcast) optimization in their tactical toolkits

Amanda Watlington answers my questions about optimizing podcasts

Why should we be thinking about using audio and podcasts?

Universal search and the inclusion of audio and video content into the main search pages is an opportunity for marketers to expand and use a powerful highly personal medium. That being said; however, marketers should not just include audio just to have audio, but should look for appropriate opportunities to include audio into their online marketing.

What kind of content could a company produce in audio?

The beauty of audio is that it is highly adaptable. What to include in audio content is a challenge of the imagination. It is very easy to lapse into the trap that the audio content must look like a radio show. This may not the best use of audio for the business. For example, consider all of the options for use of audio that a museum or historical site might have. The offering might include information for planning a visit to museum, specialized audio content promoting a current show or visiting collection or information on new additions to the collection, regular interviews with curators with an educational spin, and any number of downloadable personalized tours. These are not necessarily radio shows, but they are valuable audio content.

For publicly-held businesses, any of the information presented to the public on the business’ performance is of interest to listeners who are time-challenged and may want to listen to the information on their own time, not just when the conference call is held. The site owner may want to make sure that all of this information can be found via search.

Magazines and content sites can make use of audio by having their authors read their articles into podcasts. Here is an example of a podcast that I recorded of an article that I wrote on universal search for the UK publication InCirculation. This audio expands the searchable footprint for the article and offers potential readers the advantage of being able to listen to the article not just have to read it. As you see, the uses are quite varied.

Is it difficult and/or expensive to produce audio content?

Developing audio content requires careful planning and execution, but it does not have to be expensive. The audio file for the InCirculation article required that I sit down with my audio recorder and create the audio file. This meant finding a quiet place, having my introduction pre-scripted and then reading the article into my portable recorder. I personally do not use my computer to record. The fan in the computer adds noise that I do not want. I use a digital recorder. It can hardly get simpler. When I first started working with audio, I used the telephone for audio blogging via HipCast

It is important to focus on the content. Expensive and elaborate production will not dress up weak content. On the other hand, I have listened to poor quality recordings where you could hear microphones being moved and participants shuffling papers and found it very distracting. Professional sounding, clear audio is very important. The focus should be on getting the message across.

Do you have to use text with the audio content so it can be found?

Making audio content sing in search is really a matter of understanding both the users and the search engines. The more information provided to the user and the search engine, the more likely the user is to both find the audio and listen to it. I strongly urge would-be podcasters to make a number of decisions before launching any audio efforts. These include deciding whether they are developing a podshow with the potential of multiple episodes or a single unique podcast. If it is a show, the show should have its own page so that it can be SEO’d and then each episode should have a page of text for it, an episode landing page. This allows the SEO to highlight the unique content of each episode. This gives a broader footprint and one that lets users find the show either by its name of by the content. In my presentation at SES NewYork, I will be highlighting a number of the other decisions that should be made to ensure that listeners can find the podcast.

Are show notes just a ‘nice to have’ or are they essential for SEO?

They are integral part of the SEO. They are not just nice to have. How extensive the show notes are is a matter of personal choice. The show notes let the site owner promote the audio on the page. Show notes can range from a brief abstract to a complete transcription. A transcription of the audio file can also be placed in the audio file itself via the ID3 tags.

Where do the tags go?

The tags are part of the audio file. They are pre-pended to the audio itself and must be added with an audio tag editor. There are number of ID3 tag editors available, some for free. The audio should be tagged during the editing process. I will be going into quite a lot of detail on tagging the audio file during my presentation.

For a total newbie, what is the 123 of audio optimization?

Here is the 123 of audio optimization.
* Create the sound file
* Edit the ID3 tags during the sound editing process (this can either be done by the audio editor or later with a tag editor)
* Create or update the show page to reflect the new audio file
* Create a landing page for the audio file. This means including a player for the audio.
* Promote the audio.

Please elaborate on promoting and distributing audio content?

Assuming that you have content that is interesting and that users find it on a search engine – this is the goal isn’t it? – a listener will want to read your summary, the abstract, then be enticed to listen to the audio directly from their computer or download it for future listening. This is just one scenario, a desirable one, but not the only scenario.

The real goal of most podshows is to have the listener subscribe to the show and download the episodes on a regular basis. RSS is the medium for this distribution. Not only does it let you notify subscribers to your feed that you have a new episode, but the RSS feed is also the medium for notifying podcast directories and search engines about new episodes.

The session at SES New York will cover a lot more on the why and how of audio search optimization, including using RSS to increase reach.

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