Podcast SEO and Facebook Marketing Mistakes

Traditional SEO matters for your podcast, now more than ever. Podcast SEO based marketing is also more of an opportunity, now more than ever. As is marketing your podcast using Facebook, provided you are willing to spend just a little bit of money. 

The reason I feel this is true is because the sheer number of available podcasts has been rapidly climbing. According to Variety, iTunes alone now has 500,000 active podcasts from which to choose.

And podcast Facebook marketing and SEO tactics that worked in 2017 are getting harder, with Facebook changing their algorithm and the the way content is featured in users feed.

The rise of so many podcasts is great for listeners but less so for podcasters who want to grow their shows.

So, unless your show is currently in the new and noteworthy section of iTunes, then getting listeners to discover your podcast needs to happen outside of iTunes.

This is why I often write about people being overly focused on iTunes statistics, instead of on growing their podcast email subscriber list and SEO optimization of their show notes to increase their organic traffic and Google rank.

In this post, I want to outline

  1. some common podcast SEO and podcast Facebook marketing mistakes we frequently see, and
  2. ways to avoid them in the first place. 

1

Podcast SEO Mistake: Weak Episode Titles, not based on SEO Research

What I often see:

Ad-hoc episode titles that indicate a lack of podcast SEO research and content strategy

I see episode titles consist of only the guest name, or the date of the episode, or even just of the episode number. And sometimes episode titles are just plain "gimmicky" - meaning a clever phrase or mysterious title that does not indicate what the episode is about at all.

I also see show notes pages that are SEO optimized, yet the episode titles does not contain any primary SEO keyword.


Why is it important to avoid weak episode titles?

iTunes and Google make your episodes searchable, and the episode title drives this. Make sure you take advantage of this. 

Do you want to grow your show? Then you need to approach your podcast as a content strategy. It means your show notes are the vehicle for Google and iTunes to make your episodes discoverable.

  • Weak episode titles fail to take advantage of the way iTunes and Google index your show.
  • Inbound content strategy means designing "content with a purpose". And the purpose means designing episode titles to achieve a goal. The goal is to get more people to discover and subscribe to your show. So, what should your episode titles look like to achieve this goal?
  • It's a User Experience (UX) issue - your listeners will benefit from clearer episode titles 
iTunes search is weak on individual episodes. And weak episode titles hurt you on iTunes as well as Google

While episodes are included in search results,  what you search for needs to be in the title of the episode. 

  • If I want to search for an episode about "bike maintenance", and the term "bike maintenance" appears in the description of the episode but not in the title, then I will never discover that episode or the associated podcast.
  • In fact, discoverability is regressing: A few years ago iTunes allowed podcasters to add keywords to their episodes to make them easier to find. This feature has since been removed. 


What to do instead?

Learn a little about SEO. Create a content calendar or plan based on doing some keyword research. Then form your episode titles around these.

The short version of improving your titles goes like this: 

  • Be listener focused - skip the gimmicks and make the episode title descriptive of what is actually being discussed
  • Be outcome oriented -  your audience cares about your show far less than you do. But what they DO care about is what's in it for them, what they will get out of listening, what it will help them do, in short what outcome they can expect. Including an outcome in your episode titles will attract more clicks in search results, both on iTunes and Google.  
  • Learn to research SEO keywords - basically terms that people search for a lot, but keywords that are not too competitive for your site. I use a tool called KWFinder, which has a freemium model so you can get started for free. And be sure to include your researched keyword in the episode title.
  • Learn to write great episode headlines - basically headlines that are SEO optimized, yet indicate the content of your episode. And are click-worthy - which is NOT the same thing as click bait.

The slightly longer version:

  • Write down 7-20 versions of your planned episode titles - do this every time, and I can almost guarantee that the quality and click-worthiness of your episode titles will improve. We use a tool called CoSchedule Headline Analyzer to craft our episode titles.
  • For extra credit, plan ahead. If your show allows it, plan for content themes. This can enable you to implement a powerful SEO ranking technique called "cornerstone content", where several related episodes share links to one primary episode about the theme. We have consistently used this to SEO boost blog posts and episodes onto page one of Google search results.  
    • For examples of this, search for "podcast content strategy" - polymash shows up on page one, or google "customer experience podcast" - our client Customer Bliss shows up on page one, or "appreciative inquiry" - our client Positivity Strategist is on page one, or "podcast SEO course".
  • Learn a bit about SEO - think of it as an investment that will pay dividends for years to come. I offer a rudimentary free SEO course for podcasters, take advantage of this 5 day email course, or learn the basics of SEO elsewhere. This course covers how to research and create great episode titles in detail.
  • DIY or Done For You? If the concept of doing this yourself makes your eyes glaze over, invest in some help to make your show grow.


How difficult is this to implement?

IMHO, on a scale of 1-10, how much time & skills are required, and how big is the benefit?

7
Time
6
Skills
8
Benefit

2

Podcast SEO Mistake: Thin Content

What I often see:

Super short episode show notes with no value other than to be a placeholder for the podcast embedded player

After all the effort goes into planning, recording and publishing each episode, creating comprehensive show notes may seem like a pain. And this is exactly what some people's show notes look like - the avoidance of that pain. 

  • I often see podcast episode posts that consist of only the episode title, description and embed code.


Why is it important to avoid thin content?

Thin content can hurt your site's rank, and your episodes will never be easily found on Google

Ever since Google updated their algorithm to Panda, the focus has been on identifying "quality content". For Google, the term "quality" means providing the best content for someone conducting a search. A really short article or episode post is unlikely the best, highest quality content for any search term a user might have entered. Especially if Google can serve up someone else's 1,500 word article on the same subject.

  • Quality over quantity - you no longer need "a lot of content" for your site rank to increase. Nor do you need to publish content frequently, those days are over.
  • In fact, the opposite is now true: The presence of lots of thin content can dilute and lower your sites overall rank. And even though you may not be flagged for any specific "thin content penalty" or manual action by Google, you do want your episodes to be discovered. This is the real reason you want to act on this.


What to do instead?

Adapt the MVN Model: Minimum Viable Show Notes

Don't waste your time on creating mediocre show notes if you want to benefit from organic search. My view on this is providing value to listeners and visitors who found you through search results or referrals from other sites.

  • Some ideas for MVN: 700 words plus, an overview of concepts discussed, key insights from the episode, resources or downloadable PDFs from your guests and a lead-magnet or incentive to join your podcast email list. 
  • Use the Yoast plugin to help identify "thin content" - For SEO beginners, the plugin acts as an SEO coach on the bottom of each show notes page, and will warn of any basic SEO issues. Yoast recommends a length of at least 300 words minimum. And it also provides a "readability score". However, in my experience this is not enough to ever rank on page one of Google.
  • Consider adding a semi-automated transcript. Transcripts no longer have to be expensive, nor do they take long to generate. We've been testing a very affordable and highly accurate platform called Temi. It is an automated transcription service that provides fantastic results and great accuracy.
    • Temi does not handle strong accents well, so it may not be a good fit for everyone, but on podcast episodes that feature decent audio quality and well spoken English, the results have been amazingly accurate.
    • A nice new feature of the Temi platform is the ability to selectively highlight and export only selected parts of the overall transcript.
    • The benefit is that what's being talked about in each episode becomes actually indexed by Google. We've successfully used Temi transcripts to form the basis of SEO optimized show notes. No show notes posts including a transcript would likely result in "thin content".  
    • There is a free trial, so do yourself a favor and try this podcast SEO technique for at least one episode.
  • Include a lead magnet on your episode pages - Lead magnets are value-add incentives your visitors can download in exchange for an email address. 
    • For example, you could create a PDF summarizing the best insights from your first 25 (or whatever number) episodes. 
  • Do something about your existing thin content - it goes without saying that going forward I'd recommend making sure your show notes won't be considered "thin content". However, you may have lots of older episodes on your site like this already. In that case, consider going back and removing these from your site map, configuring each post to "noindex nofollow" or fixing them with better content.


How difficult is this to implement?

On a scale of 1-10, how much time & skills are required, and how big is the benefit?

8
Time
4
Skills
9
Benefit

3

Podcast SEO Mistake: Building a single podcast show page featuring a list of all episodes

What I often see:

I see podcasts being launched where the website and show notes are an afterthought. 

I recently helped a huge corporate client launch a podcast. Even though they spent plenty of time and money on creating and launching the show, their internal budget to update their corporate website was trimmed. So they decided to to create a single page for their podcast, with a simple list of all episodes.  

Most podcasters realize that their show needs to have its own podcast home page at least.

But then, perhaps to get their show launched quickly, they skip creating individual pages for each episode. And their podcast home consists of a single page they add on to over time. Such a single page often feature a list of all episodes, with podcast player widgets embedded. 

On the surface, this may seem user-friendly and efficient.


Why is a single podcast homepage less than ideal?

Not creating individual, episode level, show notes pages is a huge missed SEO opportunity.

  • A single page can only be SEO optimized for one, maybe two key phrases.
  • A single page can only have one page-title, and this controls how Google indexes and displays such a page in the search results. In effect, this time-saver prevents Google from indexing your episodes.
  • This makes it unlikely that any individual episode would ever rank or be discoverable. Basically, this is going back to the lack of episode level discovery that iTunes suffers from.
  • It also makes it impossible to have an interwoven link strategy, and SEO cornerstone content cannot be built based on a single page.


What to do instead?

Create an episode level show notes post for each episode, and a home page with a "podcast category" filtered post grid. 

After all the time and effort it takes to plan and create each episode, it seems almost silly not to spend the extra bit of time. Then design your podcast homepage to display these posts in a grid or list. Here's how:

  • Most modern WordPress themes allow you to create and assign a "podcast" category to assign these show notes posts to.
  • Then create a "podcast home page" that features an article grid, filtered on the "podcast" category.
  • If you want to try an easy way to do this based on "templates", check out Thrive Architect, in my opinion, the best visual page builder. This easy to learn system includes ready-made templates for podcast home pages.
  • Related issue and solution: Make sure to treat your podcast home page like a landing page, with a call to action above the fold. Read more about the effectiveness of that approach here.
  • Question: If time and budget allows, should you create an entirely separate site for your podcast - instead of just a podcast page on your existing site? A: yes, but if you already have a successful site, make it a subdomain (like podcastname.mysite.com) of your main site. This way, from an SEO perspective, your existing domain authority will trickle over to the new show.
  • What are some good ways to design your podcast home page?  We have a great video walkthrough post about the highly converting "Upside Down Podcast Website Design Pattern

How difficult is this to implement?

IMHO, on a scale of 1-10, how much time & skills are required, and how big is the benefit?

8
Time
3
Skills
10
Benefit

4

Podcast SEO Mistake: Forgetting or under-estimating the value of internal and external links

What I often see:

Show notes that have no links to anywhere. Or feature rudimentary links only to their guest's content

I see episode show notes that appear very complete and helpful at first glance. They can include a transcript, and even time stamps, are long enough to provide an overview or even a way to comprehend the entire episode at a glance.

For interview style shows I even see external links to the guest's home page, social media profiles or other content, and this is great and your guest surely appreciates the links.

But often what is missing are internal links. Links to other related episodes or blog posts on similar topics. Links that will allow a visitor, who is presumably already interested in your show's topic or the theme of the current episode, to discover other related content on your site. 


Why are links important?

Google thinks links are important. And Google's AI is improving in the way it uses links to index your site and understand what it is about. 

When people talk about "link building", they often mean incoming links to your show notes. And yes, these are most important, but internal link structure is also important, and is one of the things we see underutilized.

Having the right amount of links (vs. none) indicates more authoritative content to Google.  

Providing logical and interesting links as part of your show notes can also help increase the time on site and scroll time.

I've seen post increase in page rank by 20% after internal link structure was created.


What to do instead?

Create an internal link structure to related episodes, blog posts and pages on your site, in addition to external links 

Here's how:

  • Find related episodes with the same category or tag, and create links to them in your show notes.
  • Periodically, go back and revisit older episodes, and update these with links to newer episodes. I have seen this make a difference in SERP position. 
  • If you use the Yoast SEO premium plugin, it will actually present you with suggestions of previous articles to link to. Not a must have, but a nice time saving feature - however it is entirely possible to do this manually. 

How difficult is this to implement?

IMHO, on a scale of 1-10, how much time & skills are required, and how big is the benefit?

2
Time
2
Skills
5
Benefit

5

Podcast Facebook Marketing Mistake: Sharing like it's 2017, and avoiding paid ads

What I often see:

People avoid paid Facebook ads and publish their episodes on Facebook using Hoot-Suite, Buffer and other automated tools

The fact that iTunes is not a great vehicle for marketing your show is not news. So most launch and podcast marketing strategies of the past few years relied on Social Media, especially Facebook.

  • People post their episodes on Facebook, and rely on social organic reach and their followers and friends sharing their episodes.
  • In some cases, people don't even publish show notes on their site, they post on Facebook using direct links to iTunes or Stitcher. (In another post I write about why this is a terrible Facebook podcast marketing strategy)
  • Any launch contests or campaigns to promote their show are run only once, when their show has just launched


Recent Facebook algorithm changes have made it hard to reach new audiences.

This is true especially for brands or businesses with Facebook pages, whom these changes impact the most. For podcasters, organic reach of new episodes in Facebook feeds has suffered as a result. Adweek writes that

"The days of organic reach are definitely over. Businesses have to invest in ads on Facebook to get their content in front of their audiences."

However, there is some good news: This situation has created organic SEO and Facebook marketing opportunities

  • Paid ads on Facebook are more effective than before because the news feed is less crowded with organic business page results.


What to do instead?

Don't spend a lot of money. But spend some.

Learn about paid ads on Facebook, and allocate a tiny budget to get your feet wet. The hardest part is getting started. 

  • An easy way to start is to "boost" an episode post. If you have never done it before, it will at least walk you through the steps of setting up a Facebook paid ads account.
    • Pro Tip: Make sure you have great episode level artwork to promote on Facebook. Take it to the next level by using video of some kind as the Facebook "creative" content to promote your episodes. Check out Lumen5 for an easy / affordable way to design compelling videos with minimal effort.  
  • Keep your initial cost low - even if you only spend the amount of a cup of coffee per day, the insights gained will be valuable. You can compare how one episode fares vs another, in terms of engagement and clicks. And you can gain insights into what your audience responds to the most.
  • Make sure your site and episode pages are set up for conversion - meaning that your podcast page prominently offers Facebook visitors the option to subscribe to your show by email. This way you are not only attracting a new audience, but also "converting" them. For me, email subscribers are more valuable than anonymous listeners on iTunes.
  • Pro Tip #1: Add a Facebook Pixel  - adding a Facebook pixel to your site before you start will allow you to build custom Facebook audiences in the future. Facebook "remembers" people who have visited your site from one of your "boosted" or "sponsored" episodes. So when you launch a new season, or are running a podcast growth contest or promotion for your show, you can re-target this audience and increase the effectiveness of your ads.
  • Pro Tip #2: Run a campaign. Once you are familiar with Facebook marketing basics, run a campaign to promote your show. You can setup a contest, or drive Facebook traffic to your lead-magnet suggested earlier in this post. See how many additional subscribers you can get to opt in to your podcast email notifications.


How difficult is this to implement?

IMHO, on a scale of 1-10, how much time & skills are required, and how big is the benefit?

5
Time
8
Skills
9
Benefit


Conclusion - don't rely on iTunes or Facebook alone

Discoverability of podcasts on iTunes is at a record low. This is not just caused by iTunes, and it's opaque search features, but by too many podcasts on the platform. And Facebook may be a good platform to promote your show, but you have to "pay to play" 

  • Traditional podcast SEO and podcast Facebook marketing using paid ads has become a viable alternative for many podcasters in creating new reach. This approach can not only increase your listener base, but also increase your email list.

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Last updated on September 8th, 2018