Using Podcasts to Promote Your Site, Part I

Call it the new underground radio, or maybe the next step in future media, but “podcasting” has pretty much taken the internet by storm. Offering Web users a new dimension in getting news, fringe entertainment, and music from emerging and/or established artists, the podcast is another way the Internet expands its interactivity. We can do more than watch, hear and listen… and are introduced to new ideas and cultures that miss the mainstream.

Simply defined, a “podcast” is an audio clip, a miniature radio show that focuses on a topic like travel, art, news, sports, or just about anything of interest. The term comes from a combination of “streaming” and “iPod”, as these short clips are downloaded primarily for use with iPods and portable MP3 players. Clips can be anywhere from five to twenty minutes in length to allow for easy downloading, and can be found through specific websites that offer podcasts or through specialized portals such as Libsyn, which hosts podcasting communities. Web users interested in listening to podcasts can use a specialized search engine like Odeo or iTunes to find the thousands currently available.

For website owners, authors, musicians, and others interested in a unique method of outreach, a podcast can be a valuable marketing tool. Whether you’re selling a book by reading an excerpt or reporting on a favorite travel destination, adding a podcast to your existing website can help drive more traffic to your site, which in turn can increase your visibility and business. The benefits of offering a podcast to existing customers and potential new visitors who are enjoying this new technology are myriad.

Podcasts are cheap to produce! If you think you need to rent a recording studio to do a regular podcast, think again. All you really need is a computer, good recording software, a microphone, a good voice, and a willingness to have a little fun. A quick Internet search will direct you to recommended programs, particularly freeware and/or shareware that will work fine in a pinch until you can spend a little money on more sophisticated production. If you find that you are running out of memory to save podcasts on your computer, simply burn the MP3 files to CD and continue!

Podcasts expand your audience! As you start to create a podcast archive, the chance of your website being found through search increases. Additionally, a podcast gets your site listed on specialized search portals dedicated to audio-enhanced websites, increasing your link popularity. Let’s say you’re a mystery writer and host a podcast about his novels and the mystery genre in general. A podcast listener looking for that particular topic may have found it through your podcast, but not necessarily have found it any other way. With the podcast, you open your door to a potential reader, and perhaps others who may not be interested in the mystery, but might change their minds by listening to your show!

Podcasts introduce a new level of comfort! Podcasts bring a new dimension to your website, personalization unmatched by the written word. When you offer a voice to accompany the content of your website, you enhance the style of your site, drawing visitors to the “real” person behind the website. The concept, of course, is not new. During his presidential administration, Franklin Roosevelt addressed the nation through radio “fireside chats,” which were very effective in raising public awareness and support. The broadcasts helped amplify a likable personality in the president, which bolstered the nation’s spirit during the war.

Now, your podcast is probably not designed to rally troops to victory. However, offering this option to site visitors can make people warm to the image you project and, in turn, help sell your books, music, and services.

Podcasts give you a voice! With a podcast you can reinvent yourself. Do you operate a restaurant review website? It may house “The Phantom Dining Booth” as the secret diner who reports on the daily specials in town. If you write romance novels, you can create all your own works and become the new Mary Hart, delivering irreverent news and gossip about the romance novel publishing industry. Serious or playful, using a podcast gives your site a unique voice that you can tap into.

Once you’ve made the decision to record a podcast, comes the fun part: doing it. In Part II of this article, we’ll go over the procedures for creating, uploading, and promoting a podcast.

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