If you're searching for a specific topic or episode, what's the best podcast search engine? I tested the major podcast listening apps (Apple, Spotify, Google) to find out.
None of the major listening apps performed basic podcast searches that well. Furthermore, Apple, Spotify, and Google Podcasts don't return good episode-level results for simple queries.
If you're looking for an exact podcast name ("Joe Rogan," "Crime Junkie," "Stuff You Should Know"), you'll likely be able to find it in all of the apps.
But if you're searching for episodes on a specific topic ("skateboarding in the 70s," "rollerblading," "Podcast Movement conference"), the results are abysmal.
In this group, I would rank Google Podcasts #1, followed by Spotify and Apple.
However, for better results, I recommend using one of the 3rd-party search engines.
It's not surprising that Google (the king of search engines) would have the best search capabilities of all the podcast listening apps. It quickly found episode suggestions when I searched "skateboarding in the 70s."
Curiously, I got better results in the regular Google search engine for terms like "Podcast Movement." The featured "Podcasts" section gave many more suggestions for possible episodes that matched that term.
Apple did even worse for searches related to "Podcast Movement," and had similar results for "skateboarding in the 70s."
Aside from the major listening apps, there are some dedicated 3rd-party podcast search engines. If you're searching for episodes on a particular subject, it's better to use one of these.
When it comes to surfacing relevant episodes and shows, Listen Notes was the best search engine I tested.
When I searched for "skateboarding in the 70s," Listen Notes was able to scan episode titles and episode descriptions and show numerous results.
A more difficult search (for all the search engines) was for episodes related to the "Podcast Movement" conference. Most search engines didn't find anything, but Listen Notes delivers.
Some listening apps, like Repod, have incorporated Listen Notes search into their app. This delivered better results than built-in search on Apple and Spotify.
While not as snappy as Listen Notes, Podchaser also returned interesting episodes for different search queries. The Podchaser search engine did a pretty good job of searching episode titles and episode descriptions.
Goodpods is a notable mention. From what I could see, it only searches episode titles, but the results were better than what I got elsewhere.
When it comes to optimizing your show for search, two things really matter:
The name of your podcast
The podcast description
For example, if your podcast is about "rollerblading" your podcast's name should reflect that:
In our tests, most of these search engines are unsophisticated regarding matching search terms with results. Simply including your keyword in your show's title and description is the best way to rank.
We're advising podcasters to put relevant keywords in the:
Title of their podcast episode
Episode show notes
What do we mean by "relevant keywords?" A keyword is any specific term or phrase that a podcast listener might be searching for. For example:
A specific topic: "Summer Chaos 2022 inline skating contest results"
A popular guest: "Interview with Nicolas Servy, winner of Summer Chaos 2022"
A common question: "is rollerblading good exercise?"
A common comparison: "Rollerblading vs roller skating – which is best?"
You can use a keyword explorer, like Ahrefs, to generate relevant search terms.
Here's how we might structure an episode title and description for a rollerblading podcast:
Transistor is podcast hosting, analytics, private podcasts, and dynamic ad insertion. Whenever we can, we help our customers improve their podcasts (including search engine optimization) so listeners have a better chance of finding your show.