Podcasts' biggest problem — how hard they can be to discover — may be a thing of the past, thanks to the new Google Podcast app. With Google Search and Google Assistant integration baked in, the Google Podcast app has far better add-ons than any rival service can offer.
26 percent of Americans listened to a podcast within the past month, according to 2018 data from Infinite Dial. That's a solid number — monthly podcast listenership in the U.S. has grown 73 percent from its 2014 numbers. Apple alone has seen a total of 50 billion downloads and streams — but that growth has slowed in recent years. So, it's a good thing the world's biggest search engine is here to help.
Google has just unveiled its plans to beat Apple at its own game, and it isn't being coy about it, either: As Google Podcasts product manager, Zack Reneau-Wedeen, puts it, “Our team’s mission is to help double the amount of podcast listening in the world over the next couple years.”
Here are the biggest takeaways the industry should glean from Google's new podcast app and integration — and how you can make sure your own podcast doesn't miss out on any of that 200 percent growth that Google's aiming for.
How Google Podcast Can Help Your Podcast
If you have a podcast, you're now a lot more accessible to the more than two trillion searches Google fields each year, thanks to these two big game-changers:
Seamless Listening Across Devices
For podcast lovers, there's one big takeaway from this news: They'll be able to listen to their podcasts across all devices and locations, thanks to Google Assistant. They'll be able to listen to a few minutes of a podcast on their Android phone, then walk across the house and ask their Google Home to keep playing that same episode, from the same spot.
The term for it is “device interoperability,” Reneau-Wedeen explained in the Pacific Content article that broke the news, and it will continue rolling out across all Google devices and browsers this year.
More Podcasts in Search Results
Better yet, Google's native results now include podcasts within the types of content that they'll funnel searches towards.
When listeners find a podcast in a Chrome browser on their phone, they're presented with a selection of episodes that can be played within their browser, alongside a prompt to “add a Podcast shortcut to your homescreen“. If the user taps this latter suggestion, they'll see the Podcast app icon appear on their Android device. The shortcut offers segments of customized podcasts, including Top Podcasts, Trending Podcasts and genre categories (Comedy or Science, for example), in addition to the user's personal subscriptions.
Essentially, Google's new strategy allows a user to find a podcast matching their interests, then immediately subscribe with a few clicks. And since Google's algorithms are the best in the business, this is an unprecedented chance to get your podcast in front of the perfect audience.
How to Use Google Podcast to Your Advantage
The technology will be in place to help your podcast succeed. But, to ensure you make the most of the opportunity, keep these best practices in mind:
Enable Your Podcast
To ensure your podcast shows up in search results complete with a description and embedded audio player for each episode, you'll need to enable it to be indexed by Google. Here are the steps:
- Have a valid RSS feed describing the podcast — it'll need to meet RSS 2.0 specifications, but can be as detailed or simple as you'd like.
- Your RSS feed must hold at least one episode
- Have a dedicated homepage that links to your RSS feed — Google has the homepage specifications, too, but the gist of them is that you'll need a few lines of HTML code that look like the below image, where “href” is the RSS link and “title” is an optional short description of the podcast.
- The homepage, the RSS feed, and the feed's contents must be available to be crawled by Googlebot. Make sure the homepage doesn't require a login and doesn't come with a “noindex” tag.
- For your podcast to appear in Google Play, you'll need to meet the Google Play Music podcast RSS feed specifications in addition to the Google Search specifications.
Google has its own developer guide online if you need further instruction.
Optimize for audio search
Audio SEO will only become more important with the growth of the voice assistant, and Google's new podcast strategy is leaning into that shift. You'll want to be prepared. Here are a few questions to think about:
- What (spoken) phrases or questions would make your podcast appear in Google search results?
- What phrases describing your podcast would be the most relevant to your specific audience?
- How can you rank higher for the most important phrases?
One shift that I can see happening: Podcast episodes may soon be built around answering common questions that people might ask their voice assistants, with episode titles designed for a spoken-word search request. There may be dozens of Westworld recap podcasts, but the fact that none are currently named “What Happened on Last Night's Westworld” is a real missed audio SEO opportunity.
Podcast Mistakes to Avoid, Now
As a new era of podcast discovery arrives, we're leaving the old one behind. Here are the practices that won't be quite as useful, moving forward.
Skip text-based SEO
Since Google is incorporating audio search, it's increasingly aware of how people tend to speak when addressing their voice assistants. All the old SEO tricks that once worked for text-based searches are irrelevant.
Well, not all of them: You can keep using keywords relevant to your subject and style. But you can throw out any years-old SEO manuals you might have lying around.
Windowing — the term for limiting podcast access to just one outlet, such as Audible or Spotify — can be a great way for an established podcast to drive sign-ups for a subscription podcast network. But, if you're a smaller podcast that wants to take full advantage of Google's algorithm changes, you'll need to be available on all the major podcast channels. To benefit from the new podcast ecosystem, you should stop windowing, now.
That doesn't mean you can't try making additional episodes available to, say, Patreon supporters. But you'll need a free tier to show up on search results.
How Google Podcast Changes Future Podcast Launches
If you're planning to start your own podcast in the future, but haven't launched anything yet, you're in the perfect position to benefit from this news. Sit down and ask yourself a few questions about how your podcast format might be the best fit for the audience that could find you through Google.
- What questions does my Google audience want answered?
- Does my planned podcast answer them?
- Does a Google audience want an hour-long, in-depth podcast or a short-form version?
- What would make them want to subscribe rather than stop after hearing one episode?
Sure, a podcast's episodes might be built around answering commonly searched questions, but if a podcast consistently answers questions around a specific topic, it'll get subscribers rather than drive-by listeners. In other words, specific is better. “What phone is right for me?,” “How do I repair a cracked phone screen?,” and “Where should I sell my old phone?” could reel in phone lovers.
Finally, Stay Updated
Google's plans for the dawn of its new podcasting ecosystem are far from complete. Your Google Home may one day offer a few YouTube-style recommendations to try once you've finished your favorite. To make sure you don't miss any news, try setting a Google alert (see, Google really does everything).
As Google continues developing new ways to organically boost ease of discovery, podcasting success will be easier than ever.