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Why You Should Optimize Your Podcast For Voice Search (and How To Do It)

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For an industry that relies entirely on using our voices, we don’t talk very much about voice search.

Since the dawn of the smart speaker (around 2014), voice search has had a big impact on how people find information online. 

A decade ago, you would never dream of shouting “Hey Google, play me that Blindboy podcast episode about the colonial history of pumpkin spiced lattes” and it actually working.

But nowadays, it does work. And the technology is getting smarter all the time.

So, while you might have a solid SEO strategy for your podcast, have you optimized it for voice search? Because that requires a different approach.

Let’s take a look at why voice search is so essential to podcasting and how you can optimize your SEO strategy to support it.

Why Voice Search Is Important in Podcasting 

As podcasters, our audiences are audiophiles, so it makes a lot of sense to try and make your episodes searchable by voice command.

But often, it’s an area of podcast discovery that we forget about. We’ll spend a lot of time trying to make our podcasts visible on search engines for relevant queries, but when was the last time you tried to find your podcast using Siri? 

You might think that voice search isn’t a big deal, but back in 2019, Google said voice search accounted for 20% of all searches. That number is likely to be even higher now.

Here are just a few reasons why voice search is important in podcasting:

Voice search is already the norm for many

Using voice command is already so normal to Generation Alpha listeners (under 13s). In fact, this generation has been searching the internet before they can even read or write.

Let that sink in for a moment.

Voice search isn’t a fad, it’s the norm to this generation (and many Gen Z listeners, too), and it will become more ubiquitous as Gen Alpha grow up. The sooner you optimize your podcast for voice search, the more visible your podcast will be to this growing and largely untapped listener demographic.

AI assistants like OpenAI’s ChatGPT have really sophisticated voice search functions. Many are predicting that these kinds of AI tools will eventually overtake search engines as the go-to method for finding information online.

When this shift happens, listeners will be casually asking bots to recommend podcasts in a very conversational way, not using simple search keywords like ‘nutrition podcast arthritis’ like they do now.

Smart speaker ownership has grown massively

Edison’s infinite dial report showed smart speaker ownership has grown in the US from just 7% in 2017 to 36% in 2023. That equates to over 100 million people owning smart speakers in the US alone.

But it’s not just smart speakers that people use for voice search, either. We use our smartphones, our Apple watches, and Carplay to listen to podcasts too. And as we continue in this era of ease and convenience, we’re only going to use voice commands more.

People listen to podcasts on the go

One of the biggest draws of listening to podcasts is that – unlike with reading or watching TV – you can multi-task while listening.

Listeners clearly want to be entertained on the go. A recent YouGov survey showed the three most popular times to listen to podcasts are when working out (29%), on a daily commute (42%) or when doing housework (49%).

Another study showed as much as 49% of regular podcast listeners listen while driving. 

If you’re out on a run or driving to work and an episode you’re listening to ends, searching for the next one manually is a major inconvenience – even dangerous (and, in some cases, illegal).

So now you’ve got the lowdown on why optimizing your podcast for voice search is vital in podcasting… how do you actually do it?

Here are some tactics to get you started.

Solve problems in your episode titles

Solving problems with your content is a great SEO strategy, whether we’re talking about voice search or not. But it’s even more effective to think in terms of problem solving for voice search because that’s the way people use voice command.

For example, if you’re using a smart speaker to find a podcast episode about Chandler from Friends dying, you’re going to something like “Find me a podcast about how Matthew Perry died” (SEO keyword in bold), not “find podcast Matthew Perry death” as you would probably do if you were typing into Google. 

Voice search is (unsurprisingly) a lot more conversational than regular search. And the great thing is, it’s a much nicer way to optimize for SEO than trying to weave in those unnatural-sounding keywords.

So, do your research to find out what sort of niche problems or questions a relevant audience would have. Then, you can create episode titles and descriptions that make it clear your podcast is providing answers to those queries.

Be very strategic with your SEO keywords

Just like all SEO strategies, you want to do your keyword research when optimizing for voice. But with voice search, there are a few extra things you need to consider that you don’t normally need to think about with regular SEO.

For example, is there a word or term in your title that’s hard to pronounce (or decipher)? Could an AI assistant misunderstand it or not know what the searcher is saying?

Recently, Lindsay here at The Podcast Host told me about a challenge she ran into with her podcast, ‘Jarnsaxa Rising’:

“Jarnsaxa” is a Norwegian word that means “iron blade” and it’s the name of a Jotun giantess in Norse mythology. When we’ve done trailer swaps in the past, people hear the title but don’t see it written so when they try to look it up they find knitting podcasts, i.e., “yarn”+ “socks.” But, when the podcast first started showing up on Apple Podcast charts, it charted in countries in Spanish speaking countries where a “j” is pronounced as a “ya” sound.”

Lindsay, creator of Jarnsaxa Rising

So it’s worth thinking about these kinds of words and if you can provide alternative keywords that might make it easier for listeners to say and voice-controlled devices to understand.

Don’t skimp on episode data

When you’re about to publish a podcast episode, you might think you can skip the odd bit of episode data. Do people really read your show notes? Is a guest bio all that important? 

But this doesn’t mean you can skimp on your descriptions, host and guest bios, categories, and tags. This is all data that will help search engines decide that your podcast is relevant. 

Show notes don’t just make your podcasts more accessible, but discoverable too. Your show notes are the perfect opportunity to weave in all the essential SEO keywords that help voice searchers find your podcast content. 

And don’t forget to actually mention your keywords during your show, too. If you’re including AI-generated transcripts on your episode web pages (more on that later) then this creates another opportunity for your keywords to appear on the page – it’s not just about written content.

Keep titles and descriptions clear and concise

Similarly, it’s a good idea to avoid clever-sounding episode titles and anything too verbose in your podcast metadata.

Puns might sound cute, but they’re not going to help you grow your podcast organically. Made-up words you came up with? A strong no.

If you’re someone who enjoys playing with language and this is part of your identity as a podcaster, don’t change that. But your podcast titles and descriptions aren’t the place for it.

Again, just think about how people would search. Using obscure, made-up words or long, complicated phrasing will not make your podcast appear anywhere.

Create a web page for every episode

A lot of podcast websites will host multiple episodes on a single web page, or create a web page per season. Practically, this makes sense, but when you think about it, it isn’t so good for discoverability.

Creating a dedicated web page for each episode gives you the opportunity to leave lots of signposts that tell a user, “This is the podcast page you’re looking for”. On each individual web page, you’ll have your title, description, show notes and even a full transcript to increase your on-page SEO keywords and give people the info they’re looking for. Having multiple episodes on one page means you miss out on that opportunity.

And, if you’re worried you don’t have the time to create content for these pages, that’s where AI tools like chatGPT are a podcaster’s best friend.

Mobile optimize your podcast website 

As I touched on earlier in this article, voice search isn’t limited to smart speaker activity. People also use devices like smartphones, smartwatches and hands-free carplay devices for voice search a lot too.

So, if your podcast website isn’t mobile-optimised, this will have a pretty big impact on your voice search SEO. Things like page speed and design matter a lot for mobile optimization. You can test how well-optimized your podcast website is for mobile using Google Search Console or click the button on this Google page.

Optimise for all search engines 

It’s not surprising that to many people, Google = SEO. Google is huge. But that’s like saying Facebook = social media.

The reality is, Google is just one of many search engines out there, and which smart speaker device a listener is using will determine which search engine is being used.

For example, Siri (Apple) uses Google, Alexa uses Bing. When was the last time you ran a search to see how your podcast is ranking on Bing? It’s also worth noting that ChatGPT’s new integration, Browse with Bing, means it’s likely this search engine will be used a lot more in future. But regardless, you want to make sure your podcast is optimized for all search engines, not just Google.

Like anything SEO-related, optimizing your podcast for voice search isn’t a quick win. But clearly, it’s crucial that podcasters keep voice search in mind when thinking about visibility and discoverability.

Voice search isn’t going anywhere, so the sooner you optimize your content for these kinds of searches, the quicker you can capitalize on it.

Have you optimized your podcast for voice search yet? How is it going for you? Pop into our IndiePod Community and let us know!

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