Latest week’s Pacific Content released a five-part interview series featuring Zack Reneau-Wedeen, the product manager of Google Podcasts. They have discussed the initiatives taken to make audio a level playing field to other content formats like text, videos, and images. Their plan is to double the audiences who listen to a podcast over the next couple of years, and believe that the following three objectives will help them achieve this goal:
- Making podcasts show up more prominently in Google Search results.
- Making podcast listening experience seamless across different devices and contexts – Google Assistant and Android being the main drivers here.
- Having better interpretation technology like translations, AI to text or scrubbing to more accurately return a user’s result from within a podcast segment.
In the post, we summarize this five-part series and outline how to boost your podcast audience using audio SEO.
1. Focusing on audio SEO beyond Android
When you currently search for a podcast on your Android app, you will typically see the different types of episodes to directly listen to along with the subscription options and native play buttons.
In the first and second series of the interview, Zack goes on to say that much of the experience still looks very app-like and it’s hard to access Google Play, given that there’s no existing player supporting these podcasts on Android.
So, like articles, images, and videos, the first step towards having your podcasts appear in search is through optimizing your podcasts metadata and including structured data on the embedded page (beyond Android) for topics or people that your podcast covers. The same holds true for sports, movies, TV shows or virtually anything else.
Beyond this, the third part of the series highlights that there is a recommendation system aspect (like YouTube) Google is offering using Google Assistant and the Google App Feed which can result in relying less on podcast networks for distribution.
Once you think you are ahead of the curve, Zack then challenges you to look at other content formats that can be considered as a podcast because this will ultimately lead to better content compatibility.
“On the creation side, as people get smarter about making content that works in different scenarios, maybe there will be more short-form content or segmented content. Also, this getting more into the future, but when a podcast could be an answer to a question, then it becomes an interesting problem to think about how to design audio content that can work as an answer. There’s a lot of opportunity for video here as well, and Google has actually started exploring this with celebrity video answers in Search.”
It’s obvious to state the fact that over optimizing or trying to game the system won’t give you an advantage in audio SEO.
2. Making your podcast compatible and seamless across multiple devices (device interoperability)
In the fourth part of the series, Google acknowledges that everyone listens to podcasts in different contexts such as network connectivity, user interface, device, location, and activity at that period of time.
Google has been working on the tech side of making podcast listening seamlessly across different contexts (device interoperability) using two methods: 1) Google Assistant and Google Search, using voice command, to help personalize the recommendations based on listening history and personal interests. This can be a powerful tool in capturing audiences at the ‘right place at the right time’.
2) Connecting Google Home and Android phones together to encourage more content consumption and preventing disruption of the listening experience, similar to the Netflix. Zack says, “Having phones and browsers and smart speakers able to ‘hand off’ to each other makes it easier to listen to more audio content more often, makes it easier for average people to have great first podcast listening experiences, and eliminates some of the frustrating user experiences that plague podcast listening today because of the lack of “device interoperability”.”
Achieving the two is something that requires further development of the hardware and search infrastructure to encourage low barrier points of technological adoption.
The fourth series article concludes by encouraging readers to develop their own content strategy, by creatively coming up with common scenarios a target audience user would take when consuming podcast contents.
Given the variable differences between iPhone and Android users (and its untapped potential); Pacific Content recommends to also factor this as part of your podcast content strategy.
3. Looking ahead to new podcast capabilities
After looking at what works today and is in progress, the series concludes with looking at what’s to come for evolving your podcast strategy.
According to Google Podcasts Product Manager Zack Reneau-Wedeen, in the future, Google will have the ability to “transcribe the podcast and use that to understand more details about the podcast, including when they are discussing different topics in the episode”.
Translating the podcast will include language translation using AI and direct hardware, and text scrubbing (or frame previews using AI to text technology to create transcriptions) just like how you see when scrolling forward on YouTube videos.
Particularly with text scrubbing, it will provide publishers with the ability to further optimize their RSS feeds so that Google end users can use voice command to pick up and return to specific segments of a podcast showing up for their query.
Speech recognition errors, the evolution of AI and complimentary production services to support Google surface hardware i.e. Google Assist are all long-term focus areas which Zack and his team are optimistically working on. The actualization of automating the translated podcasts and contextualized podcast searches is what he believes will help audio search reach its full potential and help reach his goal of doubling podcast audiences.
What should podcasters ask themselves when developing their podcast strategy?
To conclude, consider the following to best develop your podcast strategy with SEO in mind:
- Does my website follow Google’s official guidelines for podcasts?
- What will it mean for podcast producers to have their content appear in Google search results?
- Are smart speakers a growth opportunity for podcasters?
- Is your show easy to find with voice commands?
- How might Android users be different from iOS users? How are they similar?
- With more Android podcast listeners, what new types of content will be in demand? (Think about how Serial led to the True Crime genre boom.)
- Given Android’s global and diverse market share, how can podcasters think more broadly and globally about their formats and content?
We thank Pacific Content for their excellent coverage of this area and hope this will help you get ahead of the curve with your podcast audience development efforts.
Have you already started working on your podcast SEO strategy? Do you have any plan to start? What are your thoughts on how it will evolve moving forward? Leave your comments below.