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How Do SEO and Podcasting Get Along?
confused.jpgMarshall Sponder over at Web Metric Guru has a post about optimizing podcasts for search engines. Marshall has some tidbits that he picked up at SESNY06 and while most of them make sense, the lingo needs a little work and one of them has me scratching my head.

Promote only one feed

BINGO! Love this one...

I know that we haven't discussed the feed/subscription/podcatching topic yet on Biz Podcasting, but moving your feed around is a recipe for low listener numbers. Listeners aren't going to chase you around the web. Push your feed through Feedburner and only EVER publish that Feedburner feed. If you do this, then you can move your original feed from provider to provider transparently without losing or confusing your listeners.

Build correct and valid feeds
Validate your feeds with feed validator tools," said Watlington. "Remember that iTunes does not redistribute. So you must build a separate feed for iTunes. I like to promote doing 3 separate feeds: a 2.0 feed, a media feed, and an iTunes feed.
This is the first headscratcher. In fact, I'm pretty sure this is dead wrong, but I'm open to corrections.

There's no need to build 3 feeds. Push your feed through Feedburner. Doing so will allow Feedburner's 'SmartFeed' feature to sense what flavour of feed the listener is requesting and serve it up to them. Further, there's nothing non-compliant about iTunes tags. Non-standard, yes; but non-compliant, no.

Check out my iTunes-tag-riddled OGG feed
here and then see how it validates perfectly with Feed Validator.(and that's the raw feed without any Feedburner love thrown in)

Include a transcript or summary
Whether or not it is a transcript or a summary will depend on the podcast's time span. "If you're giving just a little short tip, that's one thing," said Watlington. "Typically, a summary is all you need for your landing page, a nicely optimized page that covers the podcast's high points."
In podcasting terms, a show "summary" is generally referred to as "show notes". Each podcast should must have its own blog or website. The show site not only acts as an anchor point for listeners to find and subscribe to the show, it also provides the all important words that search engines need to drive traffic to your site. While the principal is correct, walking into a room of podcasters and using the words "summary or transcript" will pretty much light up the red-blinking sirens that the speaker is out of his or her element.


Having cleared up some of these points, I would be remiss if I didn't state that I agree with the overall tone of the points above. I think that too few podcasters think about the basics of web SEO because hey - this is audio, right? But until search engines start indexing audio, the web site is all there is to draw traffic and attention should be paid to optimizing the site to facilitate that.

This is great conversation, though. As podcasting rises, more businesses are paying attention to it and we all need to strive to find some common ground and help each other figure out what we're doing.

5 Comments/Trackbacks

Hi Jon,

Yes, Podcasting is pretty interesting to me. I monitor IBM's podcasts, especially those from the Investor Relations group which are ....IBM and The Future Of...series.

I'm not a producer of Podcasts though...but I see their practical value and people have asked me things like...Why aren't my Podcasts showing up in ITunes? Or how can we measure how many subscribers are downloading our Podcasts?

I'm able to provide most of the answers and FeedBurner is probably the best thing out there right now to monitor feeds and I've been working to get it adopted internally.

For my clients outside IBM, those who have feeds should also think about doing Podcasts ... the problem is many of those people are not yet used to the idea of what a Podcast is and how it should be done, let alone how to promote it or optimize it.

The Podcast Optmization session at SES was great and I'll be covering Webmasterworld in Boston next month and will pass on whatever I pick up from that conference.

Hi Marshall,

Thanks for stopping by.

Feedburner has certainly come into its own these days. It was useful before, but now with podcasters screaming for stats, FB has really become a critical podcast tool.

Having said that, there are inherent limitations to counting subscribers via RSS. A Feedburner count is simply a 'tick' indicating that someone requested the feed today. I suspect there's some magic in there that prevents the same person from being counted every time their RSS reader checks for new content every 10 minutes during the day, but still - it's just a tick in the box. Typical subscriber numbers are higher during the week and lower on the weekends and even from day to day during the week there can be large variances. It all depends on how many people have their readers on. Feedburner stats give a good 'feel' for subscriber numbers, but nothing concrete.

Another issue to be aware of with feed stats is that many listeners don't use podcatchers to grab their shows. My show almost never has better than a 40% subscription rate with 60% or better of my listeners downloading the show directly from the show blog. If my Feedburner stats show 400 listeners, that's 600 downloads that aren't being counted. That's a massive discrepancy. I've done some anecdotal research and it appears that a more typical spread of subscribers to direct downloads is 50/50 or even 60/40. I come from a Linux podcast background and podcatchers for Linux are just starting to mature now. I think that's what contributes to my particular show's high direct download rate.

Far and away the most spectacular podcast statistic system I've seen to date is Liberated Syndication's system (http://www.libsyn.com). They count every single download regardless of how or where it was from, subscribers, metric averages, highs and lows, and it's all wrapped up in a sexy Flash interface. They've spent the better part of a year (or perhaps more) developing what they call the "LES" (Libsyn Estimated Subscribers). This process goes to absolutely insane lengths to normalize the download numbers by making smart guesses about listener behaviour from behind firewalls, with and without podcatchers, and show history. Since we're using the stateless http protocol here, no stats are going to be perfect, but Libsyn's system is pretty darn close. Of course, you have to host your podcast with Libsyn to get their stats, but with unlimited bandwidth and 100MB of *monthly* disk space starting at $5/month - that's not too arduous.

As with all new tech though, worlds collide and it takes a while for everyone to figure out what the other is talking about. Many (most?) podcasters aren't from the web world and therefore have little idea about SEO-type processes. Likewise, SEO experts are having to learn how to optimize the content that isn't on the page. It's one thing to optimize a page that contains all the information you want to get across, but quite another to optimize a media link that has no inherent data to read.

Fascinating stuff :)

» Know More Media: A Class Act. from Jon Watson's Tales from the Motherboard
I came home from work today to a big old box sitting on the chair on my front porch. I lurves getting packages! I had no idea what it was since I wasn't expecting anything. Turns out it's my welcome package from Know More Media (I just started writing the [Read More]

Thanks WaltDe :)

Jonathan Ross is dubbed "risque" by Ofcom but not in breach of rules over an interview with David Cameron...

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