iTunes search is a mysterious monster in many ways…

iTunes search algorithms are held close to the vest

iTunes search algorithms are held close to the vest

I’ll admit that right from the start…

The faceless, nameless powers that be over at the big Apple office hold their algorithms and secrets pretty close to the vest. And I get that.

But I’d really LOVE to see how iTunes search really works so that I could optimize my files and descriptions even better – wouldn’t you?

But never fear, iTunes search doesn’t have to be a total mystery!

There are some commonly agreed-upon “best practices” that come from SEO experts and Podcasters that not only make sense, they seem to work.

This post (though long) is going to walk you through one of those things: METADATA (Did you get the “joke” in my post image? Email me if you did – carey (at) podcastfasttrack (dot) com)

While there’s not much documentation out there about exactly what SEO benefits you get from maximizing the metadata you painstakingly put on your mp3 files and other places (in your WordPress PowerPress settings, Libsyn settings, etc.), the conventional wisdom says that doing so will help people find your individual episodes when they put their search query into iTunes search.

[tweetthis hidden_hashtags=”#podcasting”]Keep listening and find out how to get your podcast found in iTunes search[/tweetthis]

“SEO” as it relates to iTunes search

I guess I shouldn’t really be using the term “SEO” because the place where your episodes and show are most likely going to be found is not an official search engine (though it’s still going to be found there through traditional SEO best practices).

itunes search

iTunes search – will your listeners find you?

Your show is most likely going be discovered in the podcast directories: iTunes, Stitcher, etc, etc.

And if that’s where people search for podcasts, then that is where you want your files best optimized. Right? Think of those places as “search engines for podcasts” and you’ll have the right idea.

What I’m about to show you makes a huge difference there.

(BTW, if you want to know how to get your show submitted to the top directories, check out my presentation here – )

What IS meta data / ID3 tags?

itunes search - metadata tagsEvery audio file you create for your podcast has the ability to be “marked” or “tagged” with certain identifying information. It’s behind-the-scenes stuff that iTunes, Stitcher, and other directories will use to categorize and label your audio files.

Think of it this way:

Your smart phone has a built-in identifier that your cellular carrier is able to “track” via GPS, so they can pinpoint where you are at any given time. (No, this isn’t conspiracy theory stuff – it’s real). Your mp3 files can have similar information encoded into them so that iTunes search and others can identify things like the subject matter, author, publisher, show name, etc.

And it’s information YOU can put on your files intentionally so iTunes search will find what you want it to find.

How to create meta data / ID3 tags

IN APPLE OS – you can use the iTunes program to add the tags. I’ve never used it (I’m a PC guy) but have been told it’s do-able, though a bit awkward (strange, since Apple is typically all about “user experience”).

ON PC – I have long used a program called mp3tag ( It’s free, and does a great job. Make sure you don’t grab the German version – unless you speak German!

Another option for both MAC and PC users is Auphonic. Don’t misunderstand, Auphonic is much more than just a media tagger – it actually is an amazing audio optimizer (in terms of improving the sound) – but it also adds the ID3 tags that can improve your iTunes search. My team has recently begun using Auphonic to do some last-step improvements to our audio files and we love the results we’re getting.

What tag fields should you complete?

questions about iTunes search

What tags will help your iTunes search the most?

There are many, many tags you can add to your individual mp3 files.

[tweetthis]How do you know which tags to include on your podcast audio?[/tweetthis]

My advice is pretty simple – only do what will be truly helpful. In mp3 tag (mentioned before) you can customize the interface to allow you to add all of these and more. In iTunes, you’ll have to figure that out on your own (remember, I’m not a MAC guy). In Auphonic, there are default set of tags you can add, which are adequate for what I’m about to describe.

The ID3 tags I suggest are these:

  • Title (the title of your individual episode). If you’re able to do it without “keyword stuffing” in an obvious way, include as many keywords for the episode as you can.
  • Album (the name of your podcast). Again, key-word rich is good, but don’t overdo it.
  • Artist (that’s you, or the person doing the show). If you can legitimately add keywords in this field, do it. Example: Carey Green | podcast producer, entrepreneur, business coach, marriage & family counselor, life coach
  • Album artist (same as above)
  • Track (Episode number). If you do this, you don’t have to worry about including it in the title of the show or blog post. Podcast software will automatically number it according to this tag. TIP: Use 3 digits to keep them sequencing correctly.Example: 001, 002, 003… 010, 011, 012, etc.
  • Comment – You can put a series of relevant keywords or keyword phrases here that relate to the particular episode you’re tagging. But don’t over do it. 7 or 8 is typical.
  • Description – I paste in my entire description/content from the blog post or youtube/hangout video. It’s got tons of keywords and many, many podcast players will pull this info to use as its description for the episode. Be sure to include links.They won’t always be “live” but they are there if anyone wants them. And as far as I can tell, there is no “duplicate content penalty” for doing this.
  • Podcast URL – Here’s a chance to put your URL out there. Include the “http://” just in case the podcast players require it to make the link “live.” Some podcasters put a link to the episode show notes, others to their main website. It’s your call.
  • Image – Put your cover art here. If you do a different image for each episode, be sure you make that distinction here. This will be what podcasting/playing software will pull to show to the end-user when they play the episode.
  • Others – Most tagging software will allow you to fill in all kinds of other info. I don’t typically do any more than what I’ve shown you , but if you want to, knock yourself out!

Is this info about iTunes search optimization helpful? If you have any questions… fire away!

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