Audio SEO – What is it and why should we all be listening?

Nov 29, 2019 by
Audio SEO – What is it and why should we all be listening?

In many ways – audio is the new video for the information age. We can see it in the way that voice activation and voice search is starting to penetrate the mainstream thanks to the Amazon Alexa and Google Home devices and in the growing sophistication of text-to-speech software. We are even seeing a perpetual rise in popularity of the humble podcast. Audio is now the most favoured search medium after image and video, but when it comes to SEO, where does audio fit in?

The Google effect

One of the major announcements at the Google I/O 2019 in May this year was that Google was going to start implementing podcasts into its search results. Almost as soon as the event ended, audio clips started being returned in search results. You might ask how this is possible, but Google has always been ahead of the pack when it comes to speech-to-text.

Zach Reneau-Wedeen of Google’s podcast team said: “Right now Google is really good at giving you text and video related to your search query. With all the amazing work podcasters are publishing each day, there’s no good reason why audio isn’t a first-class citizen in the same way.”

Google hopes to reimagine how users search for and listen to audio content, as it sees audio very much as the final piece of the multimedia puzzle. It already has the algorithms in place to be able to ascertain what a piece of audio (be it a short clip or podcast episode) is about and that information can then be transformed into searchable metadata. It’s a truly bold new frontier.

Audio futures

By 2050, it’s predicted than half of all online searches in the US will be done by voice and 30% of all online activity will be conducted without the use of a screen – by audio alone. Virtual assistants and hands-free internet use might be a fringe concern now, but the dye has already been cast and the slow march has begun in earnest.

So, what does this mean for marketers? Essentially, it means that it will soon be as important to adapt your audio content for search engines as it will your text and video content. For visually impaired individuals, this is undoubtedly a true blessing, as it results in a more diverse ecosystem of content where they don’t feel shut out by default.

Of course, audio SEO is still a fledgeling concept and is difficult to index and optimise, as a result. Google themselves are already providing technical guidance on how to make podcasts appear in search results, but there is still plenty of work to be done before we reach that bold new horizon where all audio SEO content is indexed like text.

Content of the future

If audio SEO ever truly takes off then it could potentially give birth to completely new forms of content. Spoken word versions of articles for example, or short audio clips answering specific questions. It’s early days yet, but as long as we don’t end up with podcasters listlessly repeating ‘keywords’ over and over to draw clicks then hopefully audio SEO can be seen as a force for good rather than evil.