Devil's in the details for successful podcasting: SES panel

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NEW YORK - Producing effective podcasts - those on-demand, radio-like shows people can listen to on MP3 players or computers - requires a comprehensive understanding of the detailed steps that go into podcasting optimization and a commitment to optimizing the medium, according to panelists at the "Podcast and Audio Search Optimization" session at the Search Engine Strategies New York Conference & Expo at the Hilton New York.

Chris Sherman, conference programming director and p resident of Searchwise, opened the session by explaining that although podcasting has much in common with other multimedia in terms of search-engaged optimization, the booming medium of podcasting requires its own kind of optimization. Amanda Watlington, founder of Searching for Profit, added that to do it well one had to understand the reason why it's worth doing in the first place.

"The benefits of podcasting are many: They're easily indexed; it's a low-cost medium; and they add a human-relationship element to companies," Ms. Watlington said. "But they also require an ongoing commitment. This includes choosing the topic for each show selectively, using the right keywords and metadata, and getting it all into the audio, too."

Using separate landing pages for podcasts is also critical to optimizing one's content, Ms. Watlington said.

Optimization requires adding unique titles, artists' or hosts' names, year, track or episode number, URLs and links to each show. It's also a good idea to add a description or abstract of the show on the show's landing page as it will improve the chances that the podcast will be picked up by the search engines.

"Use your podcasts to share interviews and [for] PR purposes," Ms. Watlington said. "You must aggressively seek listeners, so blog about your upcoming shows and use RSS feeds. Use your communication tools."

Daron Babin, CEO of Webmaster Radio, also talked about the benefits of podcasting shows and the need to optimize them carefully.

"Is anyone listening - is anyone out there?" Mr. Babin asked. "They are listening - and they're coming out in droves. This can translate into growth."

Mr. Babin spoke about the need to have "crisp, clean audio" and high-quality equipment that will help you produce audio people will want to listen to. More important, it's imperative to be genuinely excited about what you're doing.

"Be compelling. Be entertaining. Be engaged," Mr. Babin said. "People want your originality and your passion, and with that comes the downloads. You've got about 90 to 120 seconds to get listeners to keep listening, or you're done."

He underscored the importance of using metrics provided by content delivery networks to monitor the effectiveness of your podcasts and also to be prepared to pay a premium for good statistics and podcasting quality.

"For effective monetization in podcasting, most of all look at your numbers that are helpful for generating revenue," Mr. Babin said. "Also consider ad insertion into your podcasts."

Rick Klau, vice president of publisher services at FeedBurner, which manages more than 100,000 podcast feeds, also emphasized how important it was for anyone producing podcasts to learn about the options and tools to optimize their shows and learn about "what is working and what is not."

"Not everybody, for instance, is using iTunes, even though it dominates two-thirds of the market," he said. "So it's important to realize that not everyone is listening to podcasts on their iPod and that it is important, for example, to pay attention to what other players require."

Metadata is absolutely critical as it applies not only to the HTML in Web pages but also to the metadata within feeds because it is how searchers find you, he said.

A big challenge he sees in podcasting lies within the still-inefficient subscription process.

"The reality is that the notion of what it means to subscribe to content is still a fuzzy concept for people," Mr. Klau said. "There's an obligation on the producers of content - the podcasters and webmasters - to better explain what can be gained by subscribing to content and how to do it. … Make it easy for them to consume your content."

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