How to optimize your podcast show notes for SEO (from an SEO expert)

Fragmented computer keyboard inside of a huge magnifying glass with a podcast microphone on the outside

Podcasters are an SEO strategist’s dream. From episode descriptions to podcast player search capabilities to full-fledged podcast show notes, there are so many opportunities to attract new listeners — and potentially even convert them into paying customers.

But how does one go about doing that? So many of my clients who are podcasters tell me that they can’t understand why the content they’ve already created for each episode isn’t attracting new people to their website.

And the most common reason is because they didn’t optimize the written content they created. Listen, I get it. No judgment here. We’re all busy, and podcast show note optimization is one of those tasks that can easily fall through the cracks. Heck, even though I specialize in SEO, I know I still have published show notes on my website that need improvement.

And that’s the beauty of it. When you have a large pool of audio content that you’ve produced, all you need to do is learn how to incorporate SEO best practices into your podcast show notes as part of your workflow, and your efforts should be rewarded by the search engines.

In this article, you’ll learn what full-length podcast show notes are, why they’re an integral podcast marketing asset, and how to write them so you can attract more listeners and website viewers. 

Record or import audio, make edits, add fades, music, and sound effects, then publish online, export the audio in the format of your choice or send it directly to your hosting service.
Create your podcast from start to finish with Descript.

What are show notes?

You might hear “show notes” and think of two different things: the descriptions that are published along each podcast episode and the blog-length posts that are published on the podcast’s website.

Podcast descriptions are hosted within podcast players and are often short and to the point — they lay out what the episode is about, then might include a few links or calls to action. That’s mostly because of character limits. The podcast descriptions that appear alongside an episode in Apple Podcasts, for example, can be up to 4,000 characters long, or about 500–600 words. But will all those words get seen by listeners? No. Only the first 160–175 characters (less than 35 words) are shown in the Apple Podcasts preview. A listener has to choose to click into the specific episode to read the entire podcast description.

Another type of show notes are the blog-length posts that are hosted outside of the podcast platforms on websites. My podcast, for example, has its own page on my business website, and on that page is a feed of posts for each episode that I publish. 

In this article, I’m going to focus on these types of show notes — full-length posts that are published on a website and not in the podcast player. These posts give hosts more creative flexibility with their content — and, for now, more SEO muscle. With the option to write longer show notes on a website post, hosts have more options to use long-tail keywords more frequently and naturally throughout the text. This attracts a larger audience who may or may not be regular podcast listeners, and it gives these viewers an option to listen to the episode or read the text that explains what was discussed in the episode.

While there are many creative ways to write show notes, you’ll often find that they contain an introduction, a short list of what was discussed, bios of anyone of importance, such as the host and the guest, and any resources, announcements, or calls to action.

Read more: The best AI tools for podcast show notes, reviewed

Why are show notes so helpful for SEO?

When SEO best practices are employed in podcast show notes, they create the organic opportunity for new people to find your podcast — along with your website and the work that you do.

Beyond organic traffic, podcast show notes also create backlinking opportunities — for both the podcaster and their guests. Backlinks tell Google that other websites trust you, and they’re an important ingredient in SEO strategy. When you link out to your guest’s website in the show notes, this creates a backlink for them, and if they’re working on SEO (which they should be!), they’ll be grateful for that link inclusion. 

But also, the more episodes — and show notes — you’ve created, the more chances you’ll have to be referenced elsewhere. And that reference likely includes a link that leads people back to your own site. According to Ahrefs, “Podcasts often attract links from listeners who reference guests in their own content. This makes hosting a podcast another way to potentially attract backlinks.”

What goes in podcast show notes?

All podcast show notes require a few key things: an introduction and explanation about the importance of the individual episode; what listeners can take away from the episode; any information about the people who were on the episode, such as the host, guest, or even producers or the crew involved in the production, depending on the type of show; and information on anything of importance that was mentioned in the episode.

But that doesn’t mean you have to stop there. Website show notes are a great place to include images or videos that would enrich the listening experience. To make your audio show more accessible, consider including a transcript as well.

And if that all sounds like a lot, don’t worry. Show notes are the golden ticket for podcasters who would rather record than write. Why? There are so many elements of show notes that are already complete before you sit down to start typing. Depending on how you’ve formatted them, your bio, the bios of your guests, and the entire transcript of the episode can be copied and pasted right into the show notes. And one of my favorite elements to add to podcast show notes are quotes from the episode, regardless of whether it was a solo show or an interview. All of these elements add to the overall word count of the post, which is helpful as long-form content usually outperforms short-form content.

99% Invisible's on-site show notes include embedded videos, images, and readable prose about the episode.
Read more: How to write for your own voice

How do I make sure my podcast show notes are SEO friendly?

Now that we’ve talked about what to put in the show notes, let’s talk about how to SEO them up. First, you’ll need to do keyword research to determine which short- and long-tail keywords — short-tail being general and popular, long-tail being specific and niche — you’ll use for each episode. Using an SEO tool, enter the terms or phrases your audience might search for in order to find an episode like the one you’re promoting, and then choose a long-tail keyword phrase that matches the intent of the episode — hopefully with a high volume and low competition! If your content strategy is already planned out, batching your keyword research will help you to save time and maintain focus. 

Once you’ve determined which keyword phrases will work best, it’s time to use them. As SEO is ever-evolving and each podcast has its own individual nuances, it would be foolish of me to give blanket SEO advice, but there are a few tried-and-true SEO strategies to consider when you write your podcast show notes.

First, use your keyword in the title, headings, and body content of your show notes, and do it naturally. Keyword stuffing and writing for search engines first is not going to earn you any SEO brownie points.

It became clear with Google’s 2022 Helpful Content update that search engines want content that’s actually helpful to share with their end users. It’s safe to assume that if you try to stuff keywords into your content, especially in a way that reads like a robot had written it, that content won’t be helpful.

Plus, when written well, your show notes have the opportunity to outrank sites who haven’t put in any effort to pay attention and adjust their approaches to Google’s 2023 update to their quality rater guidelines. With this change, the search engine made it even more clear that quality content requires expertise, experience, authoritativeness, and trustworthiness. And when you write show notes that include quotes from the experts you’ve interviewed, strong talking points, and an introduction that hooks your reader, you’ll have followed all of Google’s E-E-A-T best practices.

And your keywords can go in more places than just the title, headings, and body content. The meta description for each show note page is the perfect place to explain what an internet searcher will find if they click on your link. And if you’ve chosen a strategic keyword, it should fit right into that description. 

Additionally, any images or videos you include in the show notes can be uploaded using a naming convention that includes a short- or long-tail keyword phrase in their title. 

This same keyword can also be used as part of the alt-text for your images — but only if appropriate. First and foremost, the alt text should be used for accessibility purposes so that people using screen readers or other assistive devices can understand what the image depicts. If it’s possible to naturally include a keyword after, or as part of, the description, then go ahead and do it. If not, leave it out.

And speaking of accessibility, providing a transcript as part of your podcast show notes is both inclusive and a smart SEO practice. In regard to inclusivity, the transcription of an episode allows people who are deaf or hard of hearing (or any individual who may struggle with audio-only content) to read what was said in the conversation or solo episode. 

As it relates to SEO, transcripts have tons of natural variations on the keywords you’re targeting. So get them in the show notes. If you find it’s overwhelming to have so many words on one page, consider embedding them in a custom HTML box or nesting them in an accordion menu.

But remember, you can’t just slap up a transcript and hope that’s enough to get on Google’s good side. While the content would be long and potentially SEO-rich, it’s not helpful. Just like any language, audio content isn't exactly the same way on the page. It’s up to you to share your experience and build trust with your audience by staging the show notes and sharing content through a strategic outline.

Read more: The mighty transcript: How it can speed up your workflow

Now it’s time to write your podcast show notes

As much as I’d love to tell you there’s a secret shortcut you can take to impress the SEO gods with as little work as possible, that isn’t the case. SEO requires skill, practice, and most of all, patience.

But that doesn’t mean you should be disappointed, either. With a little work, your SEO effort should pay off for you by getting more people to your website and introducing a larger audience to your podcast.

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