Podcast and Audio Search Optimization

Apr 10, 2007 - 12:31 pm 1 by

Moderated by Chris Sherman, Executive Editor of Search Engine Land, as well as one of the conference organizers.

OK this is a monster post so bear with me.

Leading off with Amanda Wattlington of Searching For Profit. Provides five major reasons to Podcast. (thanks Amanda for giving me your slides prior to your presentation :) ) : First, it creates direct communication channel with prospects and customers. Secondly, it extends reach through emotional connection with target market. Thirdly, it adds new media outlets to extend reach. Podcasts offer marketers audiences unavailable via regulated broadcast radio. Use short sponsorships to integrate advertising for broad-based content. Fourthly, it facilitates marketing communications with target audiences. Extend awareness of knowledge, expertise and approach. Forges relationships. Finally, it humanizes relations with the public. Provide the public with a more approachable means to relate to your organization.

Benefits: Engage consumers by creating a dialogue. Easily indexed by search engines. Augments site content. Little-No Cost Media – Easily distributed (RSS). Humanizes organization. Extends reach of message. Choose topics selectively.

Challenges: Requires level of transparency. Measurability can be limited. Content is less formal with shorter turnaround than traditional communications. Less control and ownership. Requires on-going commitment and content development. Set editorial guidelines for content. Loss of control of distribution and use. Company vs. public information. She provides a list of things that are “podcast-worthy.” Includes educational content, news, oral history, commentary, tours, music, ads, and literature.

Before You Get Started: Decide if you are doing a one-off standalone podcast or a podshow. Don’t finalize the name of your show until you make sure the show name is not already in use. Podshow names are not as easy to check as domain names. Changing the name is difficult once you have an audience. Decide on Showname and episode name – Each will need its own Title and Description. Carefully write your Titles and Description for your show and episode. Develop a keyword list for the show and determine how you will brand it – by the host, the show name or (else). Write the audio tag information carefully in advance. Get album art ready – even for non-musical shows. Review iTunes categories to look for the right fit. Be prepared to edit the audio tags yourself for each episode – download a tag editor. Build your infrastructure in advance of creating the audio so that you can rapidly mount your show.

Describes podcasting as a four-step process: 1. Optimize ID3 Tags. 2. Create Web page. 3. create and validate feeds. 4. Submit and regularly monitor distribution. Step 1 is optimizing the sound (ID3 tags: ID3 = Metadata for MP3, 4,WMA, AAC or Ogg Vorbis audio files. ID3v1 = Appended to the end of the audio file. ID3v2 = Appended to the start of the audio file, highly flexible format. Maximum tag size is 256 megabytes and maximum frame size is 16 megabytes. 39 pre-defined frames including – copyright, content type, dates, and content information, and space for files such as pictures. Can also carry lyrics and complete transcriptions of text. Look up tables for locating information in the file. Comment frame is user-defined. ID3v2 editors abound – originally designed to assist users in cataloging and organizing music collections. All of the data in the ID3 tag is able to be parsed.

In addition, use: Title – Name of the show and date (mm/dd/yy) or an episode name. Album – Name of your podcast. Artist – Your name or the host. Year – The year podcast is released. Track – Episode number. Genre – Podcast or Other. Comments – URL, a transcript or abstract and who or how to contact for more information.

Optimize the File Name: Make sure that you use a unique name. Use a shortened name + date or episode number. For example: pdmktg032707.mp3 could be the name for a show called Podcast Marketing, first released on March 27, 2007. Or, pdmktg03.mp3 could be the file name for the third episode of the show. This is important for users and for directories.

Optimize Your Landing Pages: Use a separate landing page for audio content to limit possibility of broken links. Have a page for the podshow with links to it for the episodes. Provide information on the show’s schedule to attract subscribers and how to subscribe. Create a separate pages for each episode. Optimize the landing page for the show. Provide subscription information on every landing page. Include a player for those who want to listen online. Include with the player the length and size of each audio file. Include an abstract or a transcription of each episode. Use multiple feeds if you provide multiple formats. Optimize – SEO “scrub and rub” every page.

Amanda then suggest some services to create and validate feeds, including Webmaster Podcaster, Feed For All, Jitbit, Podifier, and FeedBurner. The list some places to submit, including FeedBurner, Podfeed.net, Singing Fish, iPoderX, podnova, Podcast Alley, and Yahoo! Podcasts and others.

5 Tactics to Promote Online Audio Beyond Search Engines: Use the power of the content – interviews and topical subjects draw listeners. Use PR and word-of-mouth techniques. Embed links to audio in online press releases distributed by newswires. Use marketing communications to drive listeners. Make URL/name memorable and easy to spell. Feature links on your website to boost awareness of your podcast. Blog about your content and link to audio.

Amanda then speaks briefly to monetizing, and gives examples of enablers such as FeedBurner, Podomatic, Podbridge, Podcastpickle.com, Podzinger and some others. Lastly, she gives 5 Secrets for SEO Success for Your Podcasts: Optimize the audio file. Build landing pages for your show AND Each episode. Build accurate, effective RSS files. Submit and promote broadly, and watch for changes.

Next: Daron Babin from WebmasterRadio.FM. Will talk about “Is it worth it?” Factors like production time, cost of production, equipment, encoding (can be a pain), analytics (who has come close?) and bandwidth. When listeners come, they want it to be nice and “clean,” otherwise they may not come back.

Speaks at length about the importance of minding bandwidth. “One rogue blogger” can send traffic off the charts. Users want to be entertained and engaged…don’t write about your dog being neutered (to the wrong audience). Keep the person’s attention is an even greater job. They are listening if you are compelling. They want to be both educated and entertained. Prepare for the growth. He recommends securing a sound or content delivery network. They currently use Akamai. Live streaming is an issue with them, but for delivering volume they are great. Latency doesn’t become an issue with these networks, people don‘t email saying its taking forever to download. Be prepared to pay a premium for these services…it is not cheap. Establish up front what it is going to cost. It will cost an ungodly sum of money if not properly negotiated at onset.

Also determine what kind of analytics will be provided. You can use some to “marry with log files” and get a very accurate picture what is going. This is very important because when you look to monetize podcasts, people are going to want to know this.

Transcribe everything! In optimizing audio files with spoken word, you can get great traction. In terms of optimizing ID3 files, like Amanda said can be a problem, he challenges you to “do it dynamically!” Remember that originality + passion = downloads. Be passionate and don’t pull punches. People want to hear the passion, this is what engages people and leads to downloads. Goes into some methodologies for optimizing. He urges that you look at how to write and employ text for media files. (he gets a laugh when he describes a “dark side” technique of employing content is particular fonts…)

If summaries are not thorough and you are not transcribing, you are doing yourself a disservice. Take the time, and the results will follow. He suggest checking with Amazon that has a product which helps with this. He isn’t sure of the name but it is fairly affordable ($10 for every 20 minutes or so) and it is a quick turnaround. Look at geo-targeting to deliver ads for the podcasts. There are whole new avenues of monetization coming in the realm of dynamic podcast delivery options.

Rick Klau, from FeedBurner. He is not here to pitch services, since most of their stuff is free. He will look at some stats into what is working and what isn’t.. Things to remember: not everyone uses iTunes. This fundamentally changes in how you look at your audience if you remember this. Metadata is essential for discovery. The subscription process sucks. Some people don’t even care about this. His wife refuses to do the RSS feed because she just “goes to the web site.” Laughs when he explains that this is funny because of his job and he can’t even get his wife to use the feeds to properly subscribe. (Funny I have the same problem – I can’t get my wife to blog about her passion for Children’s Ministries, so I can monetize that). Get your feeds out there. “Ping, ping, ping…”

In Q1 2007, over 100K podcast feeds managed. In aggregate, they are tracking more than 5M subscribers, up from 50K in Q1 2005. When he says this, the actual audience is likely to be over 10M, but this cannot be determined. The stats are important to understand. If larger audience is goal, then optimize for that. If targeting is goal then optimize for that.

He describes one particular feature called “uncommon uses.” The common ones are Tunes, etc. Increasingly, however, they are seeing access from domains that are only requesting one particular feed. This leads to the need to further analyze why this is happening, in order to gain greater insight into the needs of the audience. You have to understand the scope. This is almost secondary SEO, because you have to optimize to make sure that those audience have easy visibility.

Consumption is happening everywhere. He picked on podcast and listed literally 100’s of applications that are consuming the podcasts. For example Tevo just one place to make sure that you podcast is easily subscribable for the listeners. Directories are a very important driver of pod cast consumption as well. Many are in themselves “SEO honeypots.” They are static archives which are frequently updated. If not in directories, you are losing the potential visibility within the major search engines. They are likely to rank higher for your show name or category than you are, so make sure content is properly formatted and rich in description in order to be prominently listed.

Republishing is also critical (to the freshness factor, I am assuming). Making the content consumable in the way the audience wants is again critical. Just seeing a link to iTunes isn’t necessarily enough. He explained to (his son I think he said) about how you can actually engage iTunes for something other than 99 cent songs. He was amazed. Many people have never bothered to even find out what a podcast is. Do not assume that people understand what the podcast is. Do not assume that a link to iTunes will automatically translate to the visitor as being a way to download or subscribe to the podcast.

Step 1: create the feed. Format the page in something understandable. Talks about how different current browsers assuming they know how to present content better than the way it is archived. Suggests using Yahoo! Media RSS which provides the ability to present additional metadata. Using show notes: make the files look interesting! A small part of him dies every time he sees ugly show notes. Remember this gets indexed by search engines. Describes a friend who had a problem with “John Elway Dodge” and now owns that term with a six part podcast. (Chris Sherman mentioned after that John Elway had changed the name of his dealership, and this may have been why).

Remember to submit and “ping.” Submit to all services and directories available. Enable “PingShot” to ensure timely content updates. Remember this is a good way to use popularity. “Cool kids get cooler.” Directories love popularity contests.. Ensure “Auto Discovery” is enabled. This ensures that bots know where the feed lives. There is no limit to how many feeds you can advertise. He designs his to include all relevant feeds. By doing this, just like user agent subscriber-focused servers, you are enabling applications to no be in the position to consume the feeds.

Note: This is live coverage of SES NYC 2007. Please forgive any spelling or grammatical errors that slipped by n the interest of speed.


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