Sundar Pichai, the CEO of Google announced during the 2019 Google I/O Developer Conference that the search engine giant will start adding podcasts to its search results. This news provides a big opportunity for not only the podcasting industry but also for marketers, content creators as well as SEO professionals. The announcement is part of a multifaceted approach to solving some of the ongoing issues with podcasting and has been in the making for over a year.

Google’s History in Investing in Podcasting

 In 2018, in a series of blog posts, Google announced its podcasts ambitions by explaining how it is making audio a first-class content citizen. Zach Reneau-Wedeen, the company’s head of product for podcasts, wrote about Google’s ambitious goals in doubling the podcast audience globally and also its intentions of integrating podcasts throughout Google products.

Three huge initiatives were also rolled out besides the blog posts that were aimed at helping to solve three podcasting problems; attracting new content creators, attracting new listeners and generating better discoverability. These initiatives were; creating a dedicated Google Podcast app, surfacing podcast content in search results and also establishing a partnership with PRX specifically for the Google Podcast creator program.

The dedicated Google Podcast app can potentially grow the number of podcast listeners by millions. While most smartphones are Android, Apple’s iTunes provide a great number of podcast downloads.  While observing the Android/iOS imbalance extension to members of the podcast industry, Reneau-Wedeen expressed his shock over this fact. Because of this, adding a preinstalled dedicated podcast app on Android phones will help in converting Android users into podcast listeners.

Additionally, the PRX partnership with Google will help bring in new as well as underrepresented voices to podcasting through providing mentorship and seed funding to amateur podcasters.

Overview of Google’s Podcast Update

Usually, the first thing an SEO professional looks out for is what data Google is crawling. For years, Google used to index podcast names and maybe the show description which to SEO it is the equivalent of looking at the blog post title only.

However, early this year, Google’s podcast app took a big step and started transcribing all podcast content.  This is huge because it allows for not only a big improvement in the data but also in the quality of search. This way, Google will be looking at what podcasts are about and also each episode’s contents.

The Effect of Google’s Addition of Podcast to SEO Strategy

Google search results’ first page has limited space with regards to SEO. According to Aja Frost, the SEO strategist for HubSpot, the addition of podcasts will definitely impact SEO. He compared search to a zero-sum game whereby since the SERP has a set amount of space, it means that every new search feature in the SERP translates to less space for the traditional blue inks. 

As Google adds podcast content to its search results, the ones set to benefit immediately are podcasters who have years of podcast content especially with clear titles and search-friendly topics. The next ones to benefit will be those that have invested heavily on developing podcast content that is intended to be found by search engines. Podcast will now start to apply the same strategies that marketers use to optimize their images, videos, and websites and so on.

However, the big task will be how producers and marketing professionals are going to make podcast content that works for both the listeners and the search engines. This is because podcasts are not like videos or texts, so what makes a podcast good is not the same as what makes an article successful.

How Search will Change the Contents on Podcasts

It appears that the podcast industry feels that there are no drawbacks in adding audio content to search. However, the industry might be in for a rude awakening.

While marketing real estate for businesses, search is actually one of the most important aspects. Seeing as search is a zero-sum game, it means businesses will have to fight for it. This will translate to a lot of companies employing SEO teams to methodically target keyword-rich areas as well as develop podcasts appropriately. To make the best of search, astute search-focused podcasters will end up challenging the norms of the medium.

Some of the changes that podcast formats will likely see include; podcast episode and show titles alignment to keywords, significantly shorter episodes so as to increase ranking opportunities, each episode having hosts that will be giving long intros stuffed with keywords as well as episode and show descriptions that have semi-subtle keyword stuffing.

Google’s move is set to be a huge boost for amateur podcasters, however, as companies, agencies, production houses and platforms develop their own podcast SEO strategies; they will push out middle-class podcasters in the long run. But the good news is, soon, the word of mouth recommendations and the Top 100 lists will not be the only ways to discover podcasts.

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