Podcast SEO 101: Everything a Marketer Needs to Know

Last updated on: 
September 22, 2021
Alison Osborne
Director of Growth Marketing at CoHost

Introduction to Podcast SEO

SEO stands for search engine optimization, which Moz describes as “the practice of increasing both the quality and quantity of website traffic, as well as exposure to your brand, through non-paid (also known as organic) search engine results.” 

Whether you’re a seasoned SEO expert or new to the game, knowing where and how to boost your podcast’s SEO is a powerful marketing tool. The SEO that we’re going to be exploring throughout this article comes back to increasing visibility on search engines vs. within actual podcast listening apps. 

But with that being said, increasing your awareness and reach outside of listening apps will overall assist in boosting your SEO within the apps since you’ll have more traffic, listeners, and discoverability

So without further ado, let’s get into 10 tips for boosting your podcast’s SEO. 

1. Keywords 

Similar to researching and planning keywords for your website, blog, or other marketing materials, you’ll want to conduct keyword research for not only your podcast as a whole but each individual episode. 

Keyword research helps you to understand the volume of search that specific terms or phrases receive globally, or in specific geographic locations. It also gives you insight into what audiences are searching for and how they are searching for it. 

Identifying valuable and relevant keywords for your podcast is important since it will assist in increasing your visibility, traffic, and the likelihood of your show coming up as a search result for your target audience in search engines like Google, Bing, etc. 

Head vs. Long-Tail Keywords

When selecting keywords, you want to create a library that contains both “head keywords” and “long-tail keywords”. Head keywords are much more broad, usually with an extremely high search volume. Long-tail keywords are longer, usually more specific phrases that don’t have as high of a search volume. 

We know what you’re probably thinking, why wouldn’t I just use head keywords if they have the highest volume? There are multiple reasons why you don’t want to just use head keywords in your strategy, two main reasons are that:

  1. They’re more broad: Your podcast episode will be given to audiences that maybe aren’t in your exact target market.
  2. They’re competitive: The higher the search volume usually means the higher the competition. This means that you probably have a lot of other companies/podcasters trying to receive high rankings for that same keyword. 

Having a mix of both broad, high-volume keywords as well as niche, specific keywords creates a balanced strategy

Keywords are at the heart of your podcast SEO strategy. As we dive into the rest of this guide, you’ll notice that keywords are crucial for every aspect of your SEO tactics. 

Keyword resources: 

  1. Google’s Keyword Planner 
  2. Wordstream’s Free Keyword Tool
  3. Moz’s Keyword Explorer 
  4. MozBar 
  5. HubSpot’s Keyword Research

2. Podcast Title 

Your podcast title is the overarching title of your show. Selecting your podcast title can be a daunting task but with the right strategy and creativity in mind, you’ll select the perfect name. 

There are a few tips we have for selecting your podcast title:

  • Make it short, catchy, and easy to remember.
  • Have it be relevant to your content topics (again, this makes it easier to remember).
  • Avoid intricate and unique spelling since it hurts your SEO more than helps it. For example, naming your podcast “Podkasting with Kendra” and swapping out the “c” with a “k” since your name starts with a “k” as well. When people are searching for podcasts or even typing out your name, it’ll be easy for them to mistakenly put “Podcasting with Kendra” since that’s how they know how to spell it. This can give space for competitors who spell “podcasting” correctly to rank higher than you or make it difficult for audiences to find you. 
  • Get creative with it! Although there is some strategy behind your podcast title, you still want to have a creative name that you’re proud of.

And finally, try to add a relevant and valuable keyword to your title. For example, I did a quick search in Google for “digital marketing podcast” and here are my results: 

google results for digital marketing podcast

As you can see, only one podcast out of nine of them doesn’t contain the word “marketing” in the title. Every other podcast has some variation of the keyword “marketing” whether it’s “digital marketing” “online marketing” or just “marketing.” 

Changing Your Podcast Title 

If over time you realize that you’d like to change your title or adapt it in some way, you’re more than able to do so. But we will caution you, there is quite a bit of work that goes into that. 

You’d want to start by making a list of everywhere (and we mean everywhere) that your podcast title would’ve been mentioned. This can be on your website, PR, guest posting, etc., and then you’d have to go back and update all of those pages/reach out to other pages to update your name for you. 

You would also need to notify your audience that the title is changing so when they search for your show or have a new episode added to their feed, they’re not confused and unsubscribe from your show. Notify your audience through whatever channels you have access to such as within your actual podcast, social media, newsletters, on your website, etc. 

3. Podcast Description

Your podcast description is the biography for your overall show. This description is what will show up on Spotify, Apple, and all other listening platforms when someone searches for your podcast. 

Again, we want to consider keywords when it comes to your podcast description. To avoid keyword stuffing (adding too many keywords to your content to the point that it’s actually more negative than positive for SEO), select around 2 keywords to use in your description. These keywords should be relevant to the overarching theme of your podcast vs. individual episodes. 

For example, within the same search of “digital marketing podcast,” if I scrolled down the page further to different results, I also had an embed of the Perpetual Traffic podcast: 

Perpetual Traffic on Google results

You can see that Perpetual Traffic doesn’t have “digital marketing,” “online marketing” or even any version of “marketing” in the title. But let’s look at their description:

“Perpetual Traffic is a weekly podcast produced by DigitalMarketer and hosted by Ralph Burns (Tier 11) and Amanda Powell (DigitalMarketer) The duo shares cutting-edge strategies on acquiring leads and sales for your business through paid traffic. Paid traffic is the act of putting your product, service, or message in front of your target audience… it’s the act of acquiring customers online while also building goodwill, and is the lifeline of any business. So, whether you’re a media buying expert or you’ve yet to create your first Facebook or Instagram ad, you’ll discover actionable strategies that can be applied today. Perpetual Traffic combines the paid traffic strategies developed at DigitalMarketer with the real-life agency experience of Tier 11.”

The podcast is powered by the company, DigitalMarketer and because of this, it’s mentioned throughout the description three times. And also has other keywords related to digital marketing such as “paid traffic,” “target audience,” social platforms, etc. This is a good example of how keywords in your description can also boost your search visibility even if the keywords don’t live in your title. 

Changing Your Podcast Description

Unlike changing your podcast title, changing your podcast description is much easier. All you have to do is change your podcast description within your hosting platform which will automatically update your description on all listening platforms. If your description does live elsewhere such as social media channels, your website, any PR or guest posting, you can request to have the description changed there too.  

4. Episode Titles 

Not to be confused with your podcast title, but episode titles are the titles for each specific episode that you publish. 

The main focus of episode titles is to entice the listener to tune in, but that doesn’t mean we can’t also take an SEO lens to our titles. 

Let’s look at Marketing School - Digital Marketing and Online Marketing Tips, hosted by Eric Siu and digital marketing superstar, Neil Patel. Their episode titles break down exactly what the listener is going to be learning throughout the 4-6 minutes that they’re turning in for: 

“How to Write Quick, Effective Cold Emails That Convert” 

“The Pros and Cons of Batching Content” 

“How to Use SEO to Figure Out Customer Needs” 

This podcast is targeting digital marketing professionals, and their content reflects that. It’s quick, descriptive, and to the point. Listeners know what they’re going to get. But now let’s also look at where you can consider the content to be keyword-focused as well. I’ve bolded potential keywords and italicized phrases: 

“How to Write Quick, Effective Cold Emails That Convert” 

“The Pros and Cons of Batching Content” 

How to Use SEO to Figure Out Customer Needs” 

In addition, every single episode title could also be considered a key phrase on its own, meaning that digital marketers might be searching for this information anyway. 

I did another search (in Google’s incognito mode) of “how to use SEO to figure out customer needs,” which is a pretty popular topic. 

screen shot of Google search results

Of the first four results, two of them were Neil and Eric’s podcast episode. If you scroll down more, you’ll also come across Neil’s blog which is another bonus!

5. Episode Description 

Next up, we’re looking at episode descriptions, again, not to be confused with podcast descriptions. Episode descriptions are the individual descriptions for each episode that you publish. 

The goal of the episode description is to help entice the listener to tune in along with your episode title as well as provide some more insights into what they may learn or hear about. But since they have the opportunity to have more characters/content, they’re also a great place for SEO. 

Let’s look at the episode descriptions for Marketing School: 

“How to Write Quick, Effective Cold Emails That Convert” 

In episode #1840, we give you top tips for writing cold emails that convert. Cold emails are a numbers game but you can still hook more people than you do now if you follow our advice. By using brief text that contains no-brainer offers and uses the formatting we recommend, you will see your conversions skyrocket.

“The Pros and Cons of Batching Content” 

In episode #1839, we talk about the pros and cons of batching content. While it is sometimes difficult to stay on top of trends as they happen with the content batching model, we still recommend this method overall. Tune in and hear how to find the sweet spot of batching content so you can enjoy the pros without the cons.

“How to Use SEO to Figure Out Customer Needs” 

In episode #1837, Neil and Eric talk about ways to use SEO to find out what your customers want. From looking at the most searched questions to using Google autocomplete, there are so many ways to tap into people's minds. Tune in to hear it all.

Overall, I like how the descriptions are short, informative, and straightforward since as we discussed, that’s best for the audience they’re targeting. But with that being said, I also think they could’ve added more keywords to their descriptions since these live on all listening apps, on websites, social media, newsletters, and more. 

Let’s dissect “How to Use SEO to Figure Out Customer Needs.” Below I’ve bolded keywords and highlighted phrases. 

In episode #1837, Neil and Eric talk about ways to use SEO to find out what your customers want. From looking at the most searched questions to using Google autocomplete, there are so many ways to tap into people's minds. Tune in to hear it all.

Although we don’t know their SEO strategy and maybe this description does achieve their desired goals, here’s a version that we edited to be more effective for SEO purposes: 

In episode #1837, Neil and Eric discuss how to use SEO to discover what your customer needs actually are. We cover everything in an SEO strategy for customers from looking at the most searched questions to using Google autocomplete, there are so many ways to tap into people's minds through the power of search engine optimization. Tune in to hear it all.

With our example, the seed keyword is SEO and we have also added SEO strategy as well as search engine optimization in addition to the original descriptions keywords. 

6. Shownotes 

Shownotes are where you can find more information about the podcast or the episode that you listened to. Shownotes can include: 

  1. Timestamps of important conversations or questions;
  2. Resources referenced throughout the episode (i.e. books, blogs, videos, articles, etc.); 
  3. People mentioned throughout the episode;
  4. Advertisers mentioned throughout the episode; 
  5. Contact information for you and your guest(s); 
  6. CTA 

You want your shownotes to be skimmable and easy to read, a.k.a. no huge blocks of text. In addition to keywords, some ways that you may optimize your shownotes are: 

  1. Adding headers;
  2. Adding font variations, i.e. bolding, underlining, italicizing your text; 
  3. Adding links; 
  4. Adding multiple paragraphs to make it easy to read. 

Let’s look at the master of shownotes, Tim Ferriss. Tim Ferriss has some of the most extensive shownotes I’ve ever seen. You even have to sign up to Ferriss’ newsletter to get access to his shownotes because they’re such a value-add to the listener. Luckily, I’ve already given my email and can share some screenshots from his content. 

Let’s dive into them:

Tim Ferriss shownotes screengrab

They start off with the header “Selected Links from the Episode” and then share Dr. Andrew Huberman’s contact information, followed by a long list of links either referenced in the episode or ones that Ferriss has decided would be useful to the listener. 

Next up we have the header “Shownotes” that dives into the timestamps from the episode: 

Tim Ferriss shownotes screengrab

Once you’re done scrolling through the timestamps, you reach “People Mentioned”: 

Tim Ferriss shownotes screengrab

And finally, you’re met with more recommended episodes to tune in to, a bio of the podcast, as well as a comment field to interact with the content further. 

Again, as we’ve said, these shownotes are extensive. As a podcaster, you don’t need to mirror Ferriss’s strategy but it's good guidance for how you can really use the full power of these notes. Even consider the added keywords of people’s names and resources that are linked on Ferriss’s website! 

7. Transcriptions 

If you’re unsure of what transcriptions are, they’re written out formats of your podcast (word for word). Not only do they make your podcast more accessible, such as with individuals who are hard of hearing, but they’re also effective for boosting SEO since they provide an opportunity for:

  1. More keywords
  2. SEO-centric formatting
  3. If on your website, more web pages
  4. Additional content pieces for promotion

Normally, you’ll see podcasters sharing transcriptions on their website. Referring back to Tim Ferriss, he has a section on his website dedicated to all episode transcriptions. Although it’s best practice to link the correct transcription to the podcast episode, having them all in one area of the website can also be beneficial to the listener or reader. 

Since your transcriptions are written words of your podcast, it’s likely that you already touch on keywords that you’d want to be ranking for as you speak. But in addition, you can also add headers throughout the transcription to make it easier to read and also improve SEO. 

Luckily, there are plenty of transcription softwares that exist so you don’t need to sit down and spend hours writing out your content. Some of our favorites are: 

8. Blog 

If you’re already knowledgeable about SEO, you’ll know that blog writing is key. Blogs are a high-value avenue for boosting your website's SEO and increasing brand awareness. So why not write blogs for your podcast? 

Depending on the time that you have to commit for blog writing, we suggest writing an article to accompany every podcast episode you publish. The articles can be a deep dive into one of the topics you discussed, an overview of the episode, or an extension of what was discussed in the podcast. Once completed, publish the blogs on your website and link them to the podcast episode’s page so users can easily move throughout your site. 

Axway’s Transform it Forward is a great example of turning podcast episodes into blogs to then use as a content marketing tool. Their Digital Transformation Blog features articles that break down large topics covered in the episode, plus quotes from the actual podcast to entice readers to listen to the show. 

Some best practices for SEO-focused blogs: 

  1. 750-1000 words is preferred
  2. Make sure to add headers, sub-headers, etc. 
  3. Adding font variations, i.e. bolding, underlining, italicizing your text
  4. Add keywords throughout your copy and headers (but don’t go overboard). If images are added, add alt-tags 
  5. Create meta titles and descriptions that have your keywords included in them 
  6. Ensure that your URL also has your keyword 
  7. Make it easy for users to flow from one article to the next article or podcast episode

Blogs are another promotional tool for you and your podcast as well to either engage existing listeners or attract new ones. Make sure to share your blogs across social media, on newsletters, within your own network, etc.  

9. Social Media 

I’m going to assume that many of you are either experienced or aware of social media platforms. Social media is yet another channel for you to take advantage of to boost SEO, grow awareness, and gain traffic for your podcast and brand

Some podcasters will use personal or company social media channels but another option is to create accounts for just your podcast. Both options are effective but if you’re going to be making a separate account for just the podcast, evaluate whether or not you truly have the time to dedicate to creating, sharing, and engaging with content. 

Whether you’re using company, personal, or podcast-specific social media accounts, share all the content you’ve created. This includes podcast episodes, transcriptions, blogs, PR, etc. Sharing this content can encourage word of mouth marketing, still one of the best ways to attain new podcast listeners, but sadly, one of the most difficult to achieve/cultivate. 

Some podcast social media accounts that we love: 

  1. How I Built This 
  2. Betches SUP
  3. Casefile 
  4. Commerce Chefs 
  5. The Daily Show 

10. PR 

And lastly, let’s talk about PR. As many marketers know, PR is of utmost importance when it comes to a well-rounded and effective SEO strategy. PR drives word of mouth marketing, increased awareness, credibility, and backlinks to your podcast, to name a few benefits. 

There are numerous ways you can go about PR, some are paid and some are organic so at the end of the day it really comes down to your budget. 

Organic PR

Organic PR involves researching and exploring different blogs, magazines, and podcasts to either be featured on or to contribute to. 

Whatever your area of expertise (preferably what you discuss in your podcast), make a list of relevant platforms that you would like to contribute to. But ensure that you’re realistic with your list, don’t go putting Forbes on your list and expect them to happily write a feature on you unless you’re already a celebrity or a Fortune 500 company. 

Once you’ve made your list, do some research on how to connect and build relationships with the decision makers within the company. This can be through reaching out to them to chat on LinkedIn or other social media accounts, going through your personal network and seeing if you have a distant connection with them, or maybe doing a cold-outreach via email. 

Whatever the avenue is, try to come off as authentic as possible. It’s always best practice to offer something of value in return. This can be a feature on your podcast, a backlink in an article, or whatever you think would be most fitting for that prospect. 

Paid PR

Now paid PR can get pretty pricey but it’s the easiest avenue for you to possibly get a link on those publications like Forbes or Fast Company (or whatever publication is relevant for your podcast content). 

PR agencies work with you to figure out the desirable publications for you to pitch articles or links to and then from there, they take the reins and work to develop content to go in those publications. 

With this avenue, you sometimes have less authority over what links get added, what the anchor text is, and whether they’re follow or no-follow links. But with that being said, you’re getting you and your show featured in publications with (typically) an incredibly high domain authority and wide reach. 

Whichever approach you choose whether organic or paid, just be sure to then take that content and share it across your channels as well. This would include social media, newsletters, websites, and you can even give a shoutout to it within your podcast and link it in your shownotes!

Alison Osborne
Director of Growth Marketing at CoHost

A passionate storyteller, Ali is Quill’s Director of Growth Marketing, previously the co-founder and CMO of the branded podcast agency, Origins Media Haus (acquired by Quill). She excels in merging creativity with data in order to successfully build and grow a brand.

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