Audio SEO: Podcasts in Search Results

Every year, Google hosts their I/O Conference, bringing together developers from around the world to learn from Google experts, and get an early look at the latest developer projects. One of the most interesting takeaways from the 2019 I/O Conference was the revelation that Google will be (and in some cases, already is!) showing podcasts in search results.

This is one of the early results that indicates Google is now indexing podcast content and providing audio clips in search results.

Is Google Able to Transcribe Audio Content?

Yes. Google has offered a speech-to-text service as part of the Google Cloud Platform since 2017, which we’ve already seen get some upgrades. Not long ago, Android Police found changes in source code that suggested Google was transcribing some podcasts on the Google Podcasts platform.

Not only this, but Google sends automatic transcripts of voicemails on Google Pixel phones and to Google Voice numbers.

There’s also evidence of this in the search results, but with video. Google started testing suggested YouTube video clips in search results in April 2017. Starting with video makes sense for Google because of their profits. They own YouTube, which is much larger than Google Podcasts, so it was a smarter financial move to start there. It works by providing search results based on the audio portion of a video, so it stands to reason they can apply the same technology to audio files.

How Will Audio Appear in Search?

We can expect the starting points to be extensions of the Google podcast engine, including both automatic transcription and full-text and full-audio search. Both of these things are already in the works. Once you’re able to search within Google Podcasts, we can expect that to expand to general Google searches as well.

Right now, there is the question as to whether Google will return audio content or transcribed text. In some situations, it may be better to return audio clips for better matching user intent. If you’re searching for something you hear in a podcast, it makes for a much better experience to be able to hear the audio rather than having to sift through plain text to find it. The big advantage however, is to voice devices such as Google Home and Amazon Echo. Being able to return audio results fills the content gap for these smart speakers and voice devices, and bridges into full podcasts along with other non-text content.

Should I Start a Podcast?

Well, that’s entirely up to you since starting a decent podcast requires a bit more time, effort, and planning than simply grabbing a microphone and recording what you have to say. It’s true we are in the middle of a small podcast revival, and it’s reasonable to think that audio search may cause that revival to grow even more.

Before you get too excited, remember Google will always gradually release changes and test them for a few weeks – maybe even a few months. If you’re planning to start a podcast, don’t do it just because Google’s going to start including them in results. Do it to serve your audience first and foremost – because that’s how you earn brownie points with Google anyway.

If you’ve already got a podcast  and you want to make it search accessible, it’s important to make sure you’ve added it to Google Podcasts, and are entering the available metadata. If you’re not – go get started on that now – updating all the metadata you can.

All that you’ll really need to get your content transcribed is a clean audio file in a format that Google can easily process. That said, it’s important to consider how the audio content is structured, since completely free-form content may be harder for Google to parse and evaluate. Make sure your podcast theme is evident, along with the theme of each episode. Do you have a structure where a machine could separate questions from answers? Do you have concise takeaways, such as a summary at the end of each episode.

Audio SEO ultimately means we’ll need to be more deliberate and structured with our approach to audio. As Google continues to grow and evolve across devices, we need to be hyper aware of the content that best fits our audience’s needs. Is the searcher looking for video, audio, or text? Each modality is there to fit a different need and a different device or set of devices in the search landscape.

Are you excited about the potential audio SEO brings to the marketing landscape? Share your thoughts in the comments. I’d love to hear from you!


How to Get That Coveted Google Featured Snippet Spot

Let‘s preface this article with a small task (no hard labor, we promise).

Bring up Google search; type in “how to tie a shoe.” Hit search.

Now, look at the top of the page. Instead of showing regular results when people ask “how to” questions, Google now includes the featured snippet — a clear, concise answer to the posed question. These are usually short, surface-level explanations that get right to the point.

Why snippets? It‘s all about being useful to the searcher. Users get the information they need quickly, making them far more likely to click through and explore connected websites in more detail. In regard to SEO, this should and does change your goals slightly. Instead of focusing on only the top search result, you should target Google’s featured snippet spot, too.

So how do you land one of these coveted spots? There’s nothing you can do other than create good content, really, but most research shows that ensuring you optimize your pages for Google can help. Whether that means specially-formatting a question, recipe, DIY, or something else, we’ll teach you how to do that in this post.

Know Your Own Niche

Let’s say you’re a veterinarian. What types of questions do you commonly get from pet owners? Are they asking you what to feed their cats or how to stop their dogs from jumping? Try Googling some of the most common concerns you hear about and see what comes up in the snippet spot.

Is the content already yours? If so, congrats!

If not (far more common, frankly), take a look at the question as well as the “People also ask” section to check out similar questions. What type of content page could you add to your site that answers the same question but in a more concise, detailed manner? Can you better utilize keywords or create stronger visuals? Study what your competitors are doing and then do it better.

Answer New Questions

Tools like Answer the Public make it easier than ever before to figure out what people are searching for online. Type in a simple keyword and you’ll see some pretty specific examples outlining what people are looking for. Which of these is most unique? Pick an angle and start writing.

Format Your Pages Carefully

One of the things Google looks for when creating a snippet is a quick answer to the question at hand. This means your intro paragraph needs to be short, sweet, and concise, with an exact answer. You can expand on the subject and flesh out the details in the body of the article or blog post, but you need to make sure the opening answers the question. Period. Keep the answer or list short and sweet so it shows completely in the search results.

Use Different Types of Content

Google doesn’t only look for paragraphs of text to feature in the snippets. The algorithms search for other “signifiers,” too.

When you see featured snippets, you’re likely to see:

  • Short paragraphs answering specific questions
  • Numbered lists (e.g., steps in instructions)
  • Short bulleted lists complementing a brief paragraph of text
  • Tables showing rankings or other details in the form of a list
  • Clips from YouTube videos associated with the topic
  • Text from one website with images from another (dual exposure)

Combine different types of content on your website and evaluate which are performing best in terms of reaching the snippet position for your keywords. Make adjustments to some of your other pages based on your results. You may find it helpful to combine content types to increase your odds of having your page appear in the top position.

Do Your Homework

The majority of featured snippets aren’t based on simple, single-word keywords. They’re more likely to be cemented in long-tail keywords as parts of questions or longer search phrases. It often seems as though some of the snippets are filled by keywords with lower search volumes, too. For this reason, it’s important to include both popular and low competition keywords.

Build a FAQ Page

Answering multiple questions in one place is a great way to increase your odds of being featured in the snippet section. The best way to do this is to build a comprehensive FAQ page for your website. Each answer should start with a short, concise statement that gives a simple but clear answer to the question. Sentences or paragraphs after that can expand in more detail. Again, it’s important that a clear, factual answer be included in the first part of your text. Get rid of the fluff and be as direct as possible.

Create a Chart

There are a lot of great chart and table tools out there; use these to insert either or both right inside your on-page content. Google loves lists and tables. They’re structured and easy to read. Be sure to clearly include product or service names, brand names, prices, weights, or anything else commonly asked on your lists.

Utilize Images

As noted above, sometimes Google will choose a snippet text from one website, but an image from a different website. In some cases, they’ll even grab an image as the answer, especially if it is a graph or contains informational text. This is why it is important no only to create great content, but to make sure your image meta tags are properly completed as well. The more more information you can give the search engine crawlers about the content on your page, the better your odds of being featured.

The reality is that the featured snippet spot isn’t something you’re going to obtain easily. It takes a lot of work and concentrated effort, but the benefits are certainly worth the work. In the process you’ll create and discover a ton of content ideas, improve the quality of your on-page content, and ultimately improve your site’s traffic over time.

Have you been featured in a snippet? We’d love to hear about your achievement and how you got there!

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