Maximize your podcast’s reach by optimizing the search algorithm. Join hosts Tracy Hazzard and Tom Hazzard as they unravel the power of the podcast algorithm and reveal how you can be seen, heard, and found by your ideal audience. In this episode, Tracy and Tom share their fascinating insight into the three key search criteria in podcast directories that many well-established podcasts often miss: the title of your show, the title of your episode, and their corresponding descriptions. They dive deep into the value of keywords to a show’s discoverability and then shatter the myth about shorter descriptions. It’s time to maximize every word and make your content easily discoverable. Tune in now and take the first step toward unlocking your podcast’s full potential!
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How Does The Search Algorithm Help You Get Found In Podcast Directories?
Welcome to the show. We are going to go over how you can use the algorithm to get seen, heard, and found in the podcast directories. We’re not talking about social media algorithms here. We’re talking about what’s the algorithm in the podcast directories that you can tap into to make sure that you get seen, heard, and found.
This is of my favorite topics because I review tons of existing podcasts. I give these power appraisals where I review all the key factors of podcast listing and your show identity. I can’t tell you how many shows that are well-established and do have even some good following but don’t even realize are not being found by more of their ideal listeners organically within the listening apps for this particular reason. I geek out on this. It’s pretty fun for me.
This is the thing. This is the easiest win. I was recording an episode as a guest on a show. He never expected me to say this particular thing but this is the easiest win. We need to stop titling our episodes and shorting the descriptions of our episodes if we want to be seen, heard, and found. That’s it. It’s so simple.
There are only three basic things that are searchable in the podcast directory. It is the title of your show, the title of your episode, and the corresponding description, which are the show description and episode description. You’ve got a little bit of both that it’s searching through. There are categories and some of these other things but they’re not primary search criteria.
Remember that every algorithm is set out there for a directory. Its purpose is to find something. It’s the ultimate purpose of the algorithm. It’s got criteria and parameters of what it can search within. Title and descriptions are the biggest power areas, where you have the most characters. We are not using them to their full character counts ever. I see it all the time.
We shorten them. We decide we’re going to be cool about this. This is the number one area I see, especially with podcasters who are following an influencer model or who are doing that entertainment-style podcast. They think it’s like TV shows. Tom, we talked about this. It’s like all the Friends episodes are labeled The One Where.
The One With or The One Where Rachel Does This. If you ever look on whatever service you might look at to watch them and you see a bunch of episodes, they’re all truncated after The One With.
The reality is that’s exactly what somebody’s searching for. I want to watch the Friends episode where Joey did something stupid. Whatever it is that you’re looking for, if that’s in the title, then it’s searchable. Most episodes of most TV shows and podcasts, because they follow that serial entertainment model, have the cool, catchy 1-word or 3-word phrases. They think it’s cool to go, “Smart Podcasting,” like it tells you anything about what we’re talking about. It doesn’t talk about algorithms. It doesn’t talk about searching and getting found.
Our title of this episode is Algorithms: How to Get Seen, Heard, and Found. How Does the Search Algorithm Help You Get Found in Podcast Directories? That’s the title. That’s the description. It’s telling you exactly what you’re going to get in the episodes. If somebody says Podcast Directory Search Algorithm, they’re going to find our episode. It’s going to come up as number one, I’m pretty sure.
This is the issue. We are ghosting ourselves in our podcast episodes and our shows because we’re doing a terrible job of using the titles and descriptions. We can say that because thank goodness, Podetize, the company that Tom and I own, our job is to title and put the descriptions so our clients don’t have to do it, which is helpful.
In this world, if you are not doing that, that’s what you’re competing against. That’s why our clients have an edge. We are sharing this with you because if everyone did it, it would be so much more valuable. We would have more people looking at podcasting and going, “Look at all this information. Look at all this power.” They’d be double digging down on listening and then we all win.
Doesn’t every podcast want to be found by more of their ideal listeners? I don’t know any podcaster who does this with any level of seriousness that doesn’t want to be heard. That’s the whole point. It shocks me so much when I’m doing a power appraisal of a podcast and I find a description that’s two sentences long. I’ve had some that are ten words long. People sometimes don’t understand. It’s understandable. Maybe they don’t know what they don’t know but that description for their show is the single most critical part of your podcast listing. I can’t emphasize that enough.
There are many important parts of your podcast brand and goals for your shows but the description of your show is the single most important one. I’m going to admit here freely and openly that the search functions in a lot of podcast apps suck as far as search engines go. They’re not Google. They’re not going to say, “Did you mean to type this when you typed that?” Do you know how Google does that? You misspell something and it is like, “I’m giving you the search results for this, which is what I think you wanted. Is that right?” They don’t do that.
They are simple algorithms. It’s not even searching. What I’ve found consistently over time is that is for the most part. Spotify runs a little bit differently because Spotify weighs its shows at the front of the list. They’re cheating the algorithm by putting their shows first, no matter how they rank or rate.
In the search results?
Yeah. You’re getting paid results first, which you don’t realize. It’s not disclosed. Spotify’s answer to that is, “Will you pay for the app? You downloaded our app. You agreed to our terms and conditions, and that’s what we determined to do.” They don’t think they’re doing anything that’s unethical. That’s not what a search engine is for. You should disclose that when the show is not at the top.
Google gives you paid results. You know they’re paid. They’re at the top. It’s noted that way. You then get the organic results. Apple’s search function doesn’t do that. The only paid things are featured if you’re browsing through categories or top podcasts but when you are searching, you’re getting a legitimate organic search result.
Here’s the big tip. You get 4,000 characters, not words. I want to make sure because maybe you’re like, “We can write a 4,000-word description.” No. It’s not a blog post here. There is a 4,000-character limit for the description in the podcast ecosystem. For those of you that are on Anchor or the former Anchor, because somebody bought them, they are only giving you 600 characters. I don’t know why they do that because the entire system is capable of and allows you to have 4,000 characters. When you get 4,000 characters for your description, you want to use all of them. Even though you may think, “I don’t care. I want a two-sentence description for my show. I don’t need more than that,” you do.
I want you to clarify what you’re saying there. You’re saying 4,000 characters for the show description. What is the episode description? Is it the same?
I believe it’s the same 4,000 characters. I do believe every show to take full advantage of the organic discoverability available to them in all the listening apps should have long engaging titles and descriptions of both your show and your episodes. However, I’m also going to be real here with you all and let you know that the show description is probably twenty times more important than the episode descriptions. Tracy may disagree with me on this but I’m going to tell you why I believe this.
I don’t disagree with you.The best part about podcasting is that it's a flexible media type. Click To Tweet
Most listening apps prioritize results of shows that match up with your search before episodes. In some of them, when you look at the search results, especially on your phone but even on desktop versions of the apps, the show results are up top. The episode results are way below the fold. That’s an old newspaper term. You have to scroll down on your phone or on the website to get to the episode results. A lot of people overlook them. They don’t even realize they’re there or they’re not looking for an episode result. They’re looking for a show they can subscribe to so they are more interested in the show results.
That is the part where I disagree with you and here’s why. If you are a heavy podcast listener, you will be searching for a topic. You will likely know you’re searching for an episode and you’re looking down to it like, “I want to find out about how to do something but I don’t want a whole show. I want to know how to do this one thing.” It’s like trying to find a how-to video or something like that. You’ll skip down to the episode section. Anyone who’s a long-time podcast listener knows that that’s how it’s organized there.
Here’s also what happens. If you’re a binge listener, a heavy subscriber to podcasts, or a long-time listener of podcasts, you also know that the charts are useless. You won’t use the chart to make any decisions. There are lots of advisors out there and “podcasts gurus” who will tell you that the charts matter but a real listener knows that they don’t. They know that there are a lot of things in the charts that shouldn’t be there. There are a lot of things in the charts, especially in the Spotify charts, that Spotify put there and they’re not any good. There are a lot of things in the charts that have podfaded and are no longer accurate information. They know to skip down to where the shows are and they know to do that.
With that being said though, if I’m trying to look for the latest serial murder that’s come up, I want to see what’s new. I will look at the charts for that. You want to play in both places. If you’re going to exist in the podcast directories, searchability is a much and pervasive ability for you to get seen than charts. If you want to be seen in the directories in the other way, the only three things you have in your favor are downloads, plays, and play-throughs. Those things are the biggest factors there. The number of subscribers and reviews come down on the list but they’re down on the list. If you could have a ton of subscribers but nobody listens to it, it’s weighted in their algorithms of how that happens.
Discoverability though, and we’re talking about to be found in the search algorithm, comes down to keyword phrases. It is anything that you believe your listeners’ needs, desires, and challenges that they need to be within that description and/or episode descriptions. I never said, “Don’t write good episode descriptions.” I believe the majority of searches are people looking for shows more than episodes. Episode descriptions and titles are very important too.
When someone has decided they want to listen to a podcast in your topic area or genre, this is how they’re going to find you. I had a show I reviewed that’s about cybersecurity. It’s a big corporation doing this show with some incredible experts. They have incredible guests. Anywhere in the neighborhood of cybersecurity is nowhere in the title of this show whatsoever.
Their description was 3 sentences as long. Cybersecurity as a word was in there twice but none of the other related terms or phrases people would be searching for about cybersecurity were in that description. It was maybe 250 characters long of a description. That show is a ghost in searches in the listening apps.
Anybody searching on cybersecurity isn’t even going to know that show exists because it’s not going to come up in the search results. That’s such a shame. You put such effort into your show. You’re recording these episodes. You have wonderful guests. You have the wisdom to share with the world, the people that will listen to you, love you, want to work with you, and engage with you in some way, and they’re not finding you. That’s why this is so important.We need to understand how algorithms work and we need to play within that field if we want to get seen, heard, and found. Click To Tweet
Here’s the great news. This is fixable. This is the best part about podcasting. It’s a flexible media type. If you go and retitle your episodes and you have to do that at the hosting level, if you go and update your show description, episode descriptions, and all of that within 24 hours, it is going to be on every directory updated. You can do this. You can fix this and fix this easily.
That new description may take up to a week or so before that app crawls through your whole description and starts associating more searches with it. Give it a week before it starts coming up for more searches. Look at the numbers month over month. We can’t measure this in days or even weeks. You want to assess growth over the long-term but month over month, you should see more plays and downloads of your episodes by doing this one thing. You’ll pick up new listeners is the point.
I want to reference one thing for you social media influencers who are podcasting. The social media influencers who are podcasting who are used to these short little descriptions with hashtags and all kinds of stuff, do not do that in your description. It doesn’t work. It’s not searchable. There’s no hashtag library. It doesn’t do you any good.
A lot of real podcast listeners look at that and go, “They’re not serious podcasters. They’re social media who are dabbling in podcasting.” There’s a lot of skepticism about that crossover so don’t make it so obvious that’s where you come from and that’s the model of it. It is the number one reason why we see 250 words or less because they copy and paste their description from their YouTube channel, which is silly because your YouTube channel has more characters too.
There is nothing wrong with YouTube but half of podcasters, at least in our experience, are putting out their shows as videos on YouTube. You should. There’s a whole other audience there and a lot of other value there. What we’re talking about mostly is unique to podcast-listening apps. There are lots of other ways your show will be found through Google searches and other things that happen too and those are better search engines.
Those are things we’ve talked about in other episodes and will continue to talk about in other episodes about maximizing your podcast and getting the greatest exposure out of every episode. This goes far beyond the listening apps. If you have not heard us talk about that, then you can go check it out and search on those topics at Podetize.com in the Feed Your Brand area. There’s a good search function within our blogs that you can keyword phrase search and you’ll find some of those.
I wish the podcast directory had better algorithms. I wish they were something we could hack and get them to give us boosts like Instagram or something like that but they aren’t. They’re simplified algorithms. We need to understand how they work. We need to play within that field if we want to get seen, heard, and found. It’s simply that.
I hope I didn’t overemphasize it to the point of being annoying but this is so important. I hope it makes sense. Go look at a lot of other podcast listings. Check them out and see.
Don’t. This is where people go wrong because this is what I hear on the other side of this. They’re like, “I copied this popular podcast that was done in 2018.” In 2018, we only had 600 characters. We didn’t have 4,000 to use. This is the problem. When you follow a popular show that is most likely built by a network, it’s done wrong. Every iHeart show doesn’t use 4,000 characters. Every single iHeart show doesn’t do it. Every Spotify show doesn’t.
iHeart and Spotify as companies have much bigger marketing budgets and are spending money in different ways to raise awareness for their shows. They’re not relying on an organic search like most independent podcasters are. What I was going to say is to look at some other podcast listings and see how bad they are. I wasn’t saying to look at them as shining examples of what to model because there are so many that are not optimized.
Don’t model them, please. I’m so glad you all are here with us. Remember that you can check us out live every single week on YouTube, Twitter, Facebook, and LinkedIn. We’re in all those places at once. If you’re a client of ours, you can come and ask questions. We’re going to hop off, address our questions, and do group mentorship.
Thanks for reading, everybody. We’ll see you next time.