This is a question I’ve gotten a few times now.
“Do meta tags really matter for your podcast?”
To be honest I wasn’t sure how to answer this at first. Does it matter? I was taught to do it so it must matter right?
Well, I did some testing and as with most things we’ve been taught, the answer is “not really”.
I know, I know, that’s a bit counter-cultural so let me explain.
The point of the meta tag
Meta tags are by no means a new technology, they’ve been around ever since the early days of search and thus their purpose can be found in that world. Meta tags make it possible for search engines to categorize information in order to better serve that information to the correct audience.
Let’s say you write an article about restaurants in NYC, the meta tags you enter would allow early Google to understand what the article was about and who to serve it to.
With that said, search engines have gotten incredibly sophisticated since then and so the meta tag has become nearly unnecessary for blog posts.
Video and audio, on the other hand, create a whole new challenge for search engines since their content can’t be easily “read” by machines. As the technology around creating and consuming video and audio content improved, meta tags rose up as an easy way to allow search engines to categorize their information.
So why doesn’t it matter?
As technology has continued to improve search engines have developed multiple ways to categorize information. They can read titles, descriptions, episode tags (different from meta tags)…etc. Since they’ve developed these new found abilities it makes meta tags on the file itself pretty much obsolete.
Don’t believe me?
My podcast, Tiny Leaps, Big Changes, currently garners anywhere between 1500 and 3000 downloads per day and has been for the last 9 months or so consistently. About 4 months ago when I first received this question I decided to test it out and I stopped meta tagging my episode files completely.
Of course, I would still add tags to the episode information on my podcast hosting platform, of course, I would still write a description and a title, but I stopped doing the actual Mp3 file.
Literally no change at all. No spikes, no dips, just a consistent flow of return listeners and new discovery.
To prove it even further
My show recently jumped from #140 in the health charts to #3 for a period of about a week. If meta tags played any role in episode discovery this definitely wouldn’t have happened since none of the past 30 or so episodes have been tagged.
Now, you can keep tagging if you’d like to, but personally, I don’t think it matters for discovery and it certainly doesn’t affect the listener’s experience in any way.