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How to Publish and Promote Your Podcasts

The Community, Journalism & Communication research group at the University of Texas at Austin has proposed four criteria for distinguishing podcasts from other digital video or audio files. A podcast must be:

  • part of a program-driven series, sharing a host and / or a common theme;
  • downloadable; and
  • easily available, usually via an automated feed.

The feed is typically RSS (Real Simple Syndication) or another web syndication technology. The distributor maintains a list of all available episodes, known as a web feed. A podcatcher application runs on client computers, checking periodically for updates and downloading newly listed episodes. Once a podcast is on a hard drive on a computer or mobile device, it is ready for offline viewing or listening. The most common file formats for podcasts are Ogg Vorbis and MP3.

Let’s assume you already know how to create a podcast series (it’s not that hard). The key questions are, how do you get people to subscribe to your web feed, and how can you monetize subscriptions? Promotion is the key ingredient in publishing: it’s not enough to make your content widely available, you have to let people know that it is available, and do so in a way that will convince them (some of them, at least) to subscribe. The quality of your podcasts will mainly determine your retention rate. Right now, we’re going to focus on getting new subscribers. The first thing you must do is to make your landing page (the web page where people get basic information about your podcasts and where they click on the RSS or Atom icon to sign up for them) show up on search engines like Google, Yahoo! and Bing. The “free” way to do this is through SEO (Search Engine Optimization). All three leading search engines use web crawlers to find pages that will be returned by keyword searches. Links are helpful here, because if your page is linked from another page has already been indexed by a given search engine, it does not need to be submitted: the crawlers will find it automatically. You should offer to trade links with other webmasters whose sites carry related content.

To make sure your site is indexed by search engines, submit it to them. Yahoo! submissions are paid. You submit manually to Yahoo Directory and the Open Directory Project, where humans review your site. Google Webmaster Tools let you build a sitemap in XML (eXtended Markup Language) and submit it for free.

Cross-linking pages within your own site can improve search rank. To improve your page rank against specific keywords, include them frequently in the text on the page. You should also put your keywords in the section of the page, enclosed in tags. If you want your ranking to persist, use “white hat” SEO techniques that deliver the same content to the search engine index and the end user. If you just want a high ranking and don’t mind being banned when you’re caught, you can use a variety of “black hat” SEO techniques characterized by deceptive use of keywords.

You can also use social media to attract “organic” traffic to your page. Create a Facebook fan page for your site and a Twitter account. Encourage people to “like” or “follow” your site, either by special offers or just by making it easy for them to do so with a button. Once you have visitors, you can monetize them by selling advertising on your site. Join Google AdSense, Microsoft adCenter or Yahoo! Search Marketing: all “display networks” that put ads on your site and share the revenue with you. Clickthrough rates don’t matter —they’re much lower than those for ads on the search engine site itself, e.g. Google AdWords. You can buy AdWords to make sure your site will appear in the list of “Sponsored Links” that accompanies search engine results, and if your bid is high enough you could reach the top of the list, where clickthrough rates are around 8 percent. But you may end up paying Google money if you use both AdWords to build traffic and AdSense to generate revenue.

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