So, you started making a podcast, and now you want people to find it. Easy, right? The truth is, growing your podcast isn’t always easy, even when you’re doing all the right things in regards to social promotion and word-of-mouth marketing.
One way to grow your audience is via SEO, which stands for Search Engine Optimization. The idea of focusing on SEO is to have your content appear in relevant search topics. For example, if you have a fitness podcast, you want people searching for fitness podcasts on Google and Apple Podcasts to find and subscribe to your show.
Unless you've worked in digital marketing, the details of SEO can seem complicated. There are dozens of factors that can impact your search rankings, and experimentation is key to success. In this guide, we'll explain the basics of SEO and give you a list of strategies you can implement to give your podcast its best shot at ranking well in different search engines.
Need a quick primer before diving in? Check out our podcasting home page for everything you need to start your podcast.
What is SEO for Podcasts?
As you read above, SEO stands for Search Engine Optimization. When you optimize for search, it means you’re following best practices that make it more likely for your podcast to rank well in various search engines. Google is the most popular search engine, but others relevant to podcasts include Apple Podcasts, Spotify and Podbean, to name a few.
SEO is a lot different than other forms of marketing. The most visible forms of marketing, like social media, are referred to as “push marketing.” That means you’re actively trying to push people to listen to your podcast. Think of it as employing a carnival barker to draw people into a show.
The other type of marketing is “pull marketing,” which is when your marketing organically draws listeners into your podcast. You can think of that as people actively looking up entertainment for the weekend and finding a carnival show in an events listing.
Most brands and podcasts use a mix of push and pull marketing, and so should you. SEO is something you should do in addition to running social media and actively getting the word out about your podcast.
But there’s something magical about people who find your podcast via search engines—intent. When someone sees a tweet about your podcast they might not be in the mood at that moment to listen. However, if someone searches for “true crime podcasts” and your podcast pops up, it’s clear that they’re looking for something to listen to right now.
Understanding what SEO is and why it’s important is the first step in getting your podcast to rank on important search engines. The next step is learning the accepted rules of SEO that will give your podcast its best chance for search engine success.
Basic Podcast SEO: Keywords and Titles
Arguably, the most important parts of podcast SEO are keywords, titles and show notes. In order to rank well on Google and other search engines, you need to pick a relevant keyword and incorporate it into your episode titles, podcast description, show notes and webpage.
Keywords are also known as search queries—what you type into search engines to find what you’re looking for. Examples include “fitness podcasts,” “podcasts about keto” and “wellness podcasts.” When you’re focusing on SEO, you want to incorporate keywords into your content. But first, you need to know what keywords matter.
In the above example from the free-to-use Google Ads Keyword Planner, we searched for three keywords (seen under “keywords you provided”) to check their metrics and to get examples of similar keywords (“keyword ideas”). Here we see a few different metrics, including:
- Average monthly searches (also known as volume): The average number of times that search term is put into Google each month
- Competition (also known as keyword difficulty): How hard it is to rank for a specific keyword
- Bid information: The average cost-per-click for those who run ads targeting those keywords
Choosing keywords for your episodes
We won’t get too far into keyword strategy here—it’s a big field that can’t be covered in a single blog post—but the keyword information here is a great starting point. Look for keywords related to your podcast that have a high monthly search volume and a low competition rate to start out.
For example, above we put “fitness podcast,” “wellness podcast” and “workout podcast” into Keyword Planner. Some of the suggested keywords that Google recommended include:
- health and fitness podcasts
- wellbeing podcasts
- fitness motivation podcast
- weight loss motivation podcast
- exercise podcast
- podcasts to listen to while working out
These are all terms to consider adding to your podcast description, episode titles and more.
We also encourage you to look at “long tail” keywords, which are extensions of your primary keywords that typically have lower search volume, because those are often much easier to rank for. Examples include:
- vegan fitness podcast
- muscle building fitness podcast
- fitness podcast for women
- natural wellness podcast
- weight training fitness podcast
- misconceptions about fitness podcast
The deeper you dive into related keywords, the more ideas you’ll find for future episode topics, guests or promotional angles.
For example, the fact that “health and fitness podcasts” is plural indicates that folks are searching for a list of podcasts. This means there could be opportunities to try to get your podcast added to roundups of other similar podcasts.
For future podcast episodes, you could look at keywords like “vegan fitness podcast” and do a series of episodes about incorporating a vegan diet into your wellness routine. “Misconceptions about fitness” could be a single episode or a series where you tackle misconceptions about healthy eating and working out.
Writing episode titles
Always be sure to put the primary keyword that you want to rank for in your episode titles. Instead of generic titles like “Episode 46,” look to see which high-volume keywords are most relevant to the topic of a particular episode.
For example, if your podcast episode is about vegan workout rituals, type “vegan workout” into your keyword search tool and see what recommendations pop up. “Vegan workout” itself has a solid volume, but it’s very competitive. However, “vegan exercise plan” has significant volume and lower competition. In that case, you might incorporate that phrase into an episode title, such as “How to Craft a Vegan Exercise Plan.”
Writing podcast show notes
Most podcast listeners will never read your show notes in-depth, as they’re often just looking for a link or a quick description of the episode. But, just because most people only browse your show notes doesn’t mean they’re not important for SEO.
When researching keywords for your podcast title, take any keywords that don’t make the cut, and pepper them into your show notes as you can. Make sure the copy still feels natural and not forced, as Google and other search engines will penalize what they call “keyword stuffing” which can harm your show’s overall SEO.
Podcast Distribution SEO: Feeds and Metadata
Different types of content, like videos and blog posts, have different ways to boost their SEO, because their format isn’t the same. For podcasts, a few of those include optimizing your RSS feed, metadata and distribution for those keywords we talked about earlier.
The good news is that all three of those things are related. Your RSS feed is automatically generated either from your podcast hosting platform (like Podbean) or through WordPress (via a plugin).
Your RSS feed will have overall settings which will include metadata on:
- Your podcast title
- Your podcast subtitle
- Your podcast description/summary
- The author of your podcast
- Contact email address
- Explicit content warnings
- Type of podcast (episodic or serial)
You’ll also add RSS data to each podcast episode, including:
- Episode title
- Episode description
- Episode art
- Episode number
- Episode type (e.g., full, trailer, bonus)
- Explicit content warnings
- Episode permalink URL
Your RSS feed is also how you distribute your podcast to Apple Podcasts, Google Play, Spotify and more. Most podcast hosting platforms will give you instructions on how to upload to each of the major podcast directories, and it’s absolutely essential that you upload your podcast wherever you can. All the SEO in the world won’t help potential listeners find you if your podcast doesn’t exist where they’re searching.
Advanced Podcast SEO: Websites and Videos
Once you master the basics of SEO for your podcast, you might want to try out more advanced techniques to boost your overall visibility and search rankings. That might include publishing video versions of your podcast, getting a dedicated website and transcribing your podcast.
Get a website for your podcast
If you host your podcast on a platform like Podbean, you’ll get a custom landing page for your podcast with a list of episodes and their descriptions. That’s a great starting point, but as your podcast grows, you’ll probably want to consider getting a dedicated website.
Building a website for your podcast presents even more opportunities to create content that can rank well on Google and other search engines. With your own website, you’ll have more control over SEO plugins (like Yoast) that can grade your content and help you optimize your keywords.
Today, there are more tools than ever that make building a website easy and affordable. Wordpress.org is a popular website option, and you can even host your podcast RSS feed through it. Plus, Wordpress has thousands of free and paid plugins and themes so you can customize your site’s design and performance to fit within any budget or set of needs.
We recommend you create a post on your website for every podcast episode. Approach the post titles and content with the same care you use to craft episode titles. With your own website, you can expand show notes into full-fledged episode descriptions, complete with relevant links, embedded audio and videos, and even transcriptions (which are easy to do with a tool like Descript), all of which can boost your site’s SEO.
Record video podcasts
If you used search engines in their early days, you’ve probably noticed that search results pages have changed. What was once a list of websites now has featured snippets, lists of similar questions (called “People Also Ask” on Google) and recommended video content. These special sections are often referred to as SERP (Search Engine Results Page) features and typically get placed above the traditional website listings.
Creating a video version of your podcast can help your episodes rank in that crucial top area. Most podcast hosting platforms will publish the audio version of your podcast to an associated YouTube profile automatically. You could also consider filming your podcast sessions in-person or via remote podcasting software like Zencastr.
Video versions of your podcast can open you up to a new audience and boost the SEO of your podcast overall.
YouTube comes with its own host of SEO recommendations as well. One of the biggest players in the search success of your video is the care you put into your video descriptions. That includes adding time stamps and chapters to your descriptions, which can give an extra boost to your video podcast’s ranking potential.
There are dozens of factors Google and other search engines consider when determining the ranking of podcasts and websites. But the biggest one might be backlinks, which are links from other sites that point to yours.
The way Google sees it, if a lot of other sites link to yours, then your site has legitimacy and deserves to rank higher for relevant keywords. Building a big backlink portfolio is a top priority for people who want their website to consistently rank toward the top of Google results.
But it’s one thing to say “get a lot of links” and another to actually convince people to link back to your website. Here are a few techniques you could use to build your backlink portfolio:
- Be a guest on other podcasts and ask them to link back to your podcast
- Position yourself as a subject matter expert for a site like HARO that pairs journalists with experts who can provide insight for their articles
- Write guest blogs and columns for websites related to your podcast
- Feature guests on your podcast and ask them to mention the episode on their press pages
How many times have you heard someone say “Please rate and review this podcast?” Almost every podcast host calls out requests for reviews during their episodes, and for good reason—podcasts with a lot of reviews are more likely to be prioritized in podcast search and browse features.
But how do you get people to review your podcast? Asking outright is a great start, but it’s not the most compelling way to get listeners involved. Instead, try something more engaging in your request.
For example, you could read reviews during the podcast, which might encourage listeners to leave their own reviews so they can hear their name during an episode. Some podcasts tell their listeners that they’re more likely to cover requested topics if the request was made in a review. Get creative, but don’t encourage listeners to leave positive reviews in exchange for money or contest entries, as it might be considered a bribe and could be against terms of service.
Ready to start podcasting? Check out our guide on how to start a podcast!