Last Updated on July 25, 2020
The current podcast ecosystem is a challenging one to promote your podcast in, admittedly. First: as of mid 2020, there are currently north of 1,250,000 shows that have produced over 29 million episodes. Assuming an average length of about 1 hour, it would take you 2,111 years to get through all the current episodes on just Apple Podcasts. It's a crowded space, for sure.
The Impact of Covid-19 on Podcast Marketing
And the challenges are accelerating during the year of COVID-19. 49,000 new podcasts were released in April 2020 alone, but listener growth lags behind, in fact many podcast experts and platforms experienced a 10-20% drop in listens during the months of March and April 2020. Our theory is that this is being caused by changes in podcast consumption behaviors – fewer people driving, commuting, listening at the gym. One other interesting statistic that has emerged is that while mobile listening trends are down, web based listening trends are up.
- All of this makes it even more important to promote and market your own podcast with solid footing.
- We would argue that podcast websites and creating a great web-based listening experience has increased in importance.
How do you promote and market your podcast in 2020 and beyond?
- Reaching Your Target Audience
- Basic Podcast Promotion Tactics
- Submitting Your Shows To Podcast Directories
- Podcast Guesting On Other Podcasts
- Using Paid Ad Strategies
- Leveraging Your Own Guests
- Make It Easy As Pie To Share Your Episodes
- Contests and Promotions To Gather Apple Podcast Reviews
- Leverage Email Subscribers With Social Media Share Gates
- Promote Your Podcast Organically With SEO
- Content Strategy & Patience
- Plan Interesting Topics
- Join a podcasting community or network
- Use your email list
- Make Your Your Podcast Homepage Design Less Egocentric
- Figure out your audience and engage it
- 5 Mistakes to AVOID when promoting your podcast
- Conclusion – And How Polymash Helps
The increasing role of Chinese click farms have had an outsized impact on the top 200 ranking for Apple Podcasts. The charts are gameable, hackable, and a lot of people are doing just that. The Youtube video above was put together by LimeLink, and if you're a podcaster you owe it to yourself to check it out. Careful, you might get depressed, or worse, be tempted to try the same for your podcast. Don't! This post is here to help.
Compounding that: launch algorithms have changed, and reviews don't matter as much as they once did. The older (still common to many) model of giveaways and contests won't work as well as it did even 1-2 years ago.
As a result of the overall landscape, promoting your podcast has to come from newer sources. But what exactly are those sources?
This is why I put together this (pretty exhaustive) post, and hope that it will prove useful for beginning podcasters, but also that the veterans will find some podcast promotion tips and tactics they may not have considered yet.
Oh, and there is now also an entire Podcast and Youtube Channel about this. It's called "The Podcast Growth Show", and if you find some of this material useful or have podcast promotion tactics you can share with us, I'd love it if you joined our community.
Reaching Your Target Audience
Understanding the target audience for your podcast comes first, and then reaching them comes second. Doing analysis of your target audience is a pre-requisite that should come with launching a podcast in the first place, before any podcast promotion even begins.
- Try to build a solid understanding of who your podcast listeners are, the topics they like and what else they listen to
- You can research the most popular podcasts in your niche on Apple Podcasts
- You can use PodNews.net, which has a good search feature that delivers useful information about each show. For example, here is a search for “real estate podcasts” on podnews.net.
- You can roughly gauge the popularity of each podcast by the ratings and number of episodes you find, and look through the episode topics of the most popular shows for inspiration.
- Your job is to create episode content that is the most relevant for your target audience
Basic Podcast Promotion Tactics
Your First Episode, And Your Trailer Episode
Pay attention to your first episodes, and consider having a “Trailer” episode you can promote that will help people understand what your podcast is all about.
- If you have a website, this trailer episode can be featured in a “New Listener” section of the podcast home page. This way your new listeners have an easy way to get oriented.
- Some people record a brief trailer episode, and then expand on the concept and origins of their show in the first episode. I like this approach, and would then recommend featuring both episodes in the “New Listener” section.
- Consider re-recording your trailer once you’re 10+ episodes into your podcast, usually we can think of ways to improve it and make it more relevant as we get the first few episodes under our belts. And perhaps re-recording your first episodes is even more important for veteran podcasters with a lot of episodes.
Launch With At Least 3-5 Episodes
If you have created a trailer episode, and assuming Episode 1 is about your show, then I would recommend launching with 5 episodes.
- This allows your target podcast audience to binge-listen once they discover your show
Create Time To Stay Ahead Of Your Publishing Cadence
In addition to the first 3-5 episodes, it is a good idea to have 3 more episodes completely done and scheduled. It takes the pressure off during your launch cycle.
You want to create the mental space and the time to focus on promoting and marketing your show.
You don’t want to get stressed about producing your next episodes or lining up your next guests.
Invest In Basic Marketing Materials Like Business Cards For Podcast PR
Create a business card specific for your podcast so you can hand it out in conversation. If you are hiring someone on Fiver, 99 Designs or UpWork to design a podcast business card for you, don’t stop there.
- Have the designer also create Facebook page headers, Website Page Headers, Twitter Page Headers and other basic social media PR material for you to use online as well as in print.
Word Of Mouth
Word of mouth is not to be under-estimated, especially when first starting out. Sure, in the age of Covid-19, socially distant ads and social media presence seems somehow both sexier and more possible. But word of mouth doesn’t only mean “in person”. Calling some old friends to tell them about your project can give you a wonderful initial boost. Depending on your podcast topic, you can also engage family, coworkers, virtual meetup and Facebook groups in your niche.
Submitting Your Shows To Podcast Directories
This was also the topic for episode 1 of the podcast growth show, called Podcast Directories – The Best Ones To Boost Your Podcast.
OK, this is basic, but also necessary, so let's start here. Ensuring your podcast can be easily discovered by listeners on existing platforms is key. It may be a passive promotion method, but still, it is worth it, especially doing during your podcast launch phase.
This is also one of the easiest marketing approaches you can take. You're looking to make sure your podcast has the most reach possible. Being in as many podcast directories as possible is a great start towards that end.
Now, I've seen some good blog posts about this topic alone, but that's why I'm including web stats for each directory: For each directory below I'm including sign-up links as well as web traffic stats from Similarweb. I'm doing this to provide a relative measure of popularity for each platform. I'm adding this research as a form of encouragement.
You can decide for yourself if the traffic to these directories is worth your submission effort. My own approach: if the platform has more than 50K visits a month, it's worth submitting. Many have 100s of million visits a month. So, let's get to work, and if you're a veteran podcaster, use the list below to double check.
Apple Podcasts (AKA iTunes)
Listing your show on Apple Podcasts is pretty obvious, and I'm just listing it here for completeness. It is the most important directory. But perhaps not for the reason you think.
Most people focus on submitting to Apple Podcasts or iTunes in order to be in the "New and Noteworthy" section. But for me the most important reason to submit to Apple Podcasts is that most mobile apps (AKA podcatchers) use the Apple Podcasts directory to list all available podcasts inside their app. This means you need to submit to Apple Podcasts if you want your podcast to be found on a majority of podcatchers out there.
- Apple Podcasts submissions are handled through Apple's Podcast Connect.
- Web Stats: 224.7M visits a month
Spotify is a relatively new player, but has been growing fast. Most podcast hosting services now provide integration with Spotify. In Libsyn, for example, you can define Spotify as a target publishing destination. Libsyn also provides detailed "how to" guides on setting this up in the first place.
- Submissions to Spotify are handled inside your podcast hosting platform. This should be the preferred way to publish on Spotify, as I understand it "preferred partner hosts" like Libsyn integrate with Spotify so that you get analytics.
- Spotify also just launched their Podcast Portal, which means you can submit your podcast manually if you are not with a preferred partner. However, your episodes will be cached on Spotify, and this means your analytics won't reflect listener credits in your hosting platform. This is why you should submit via your Spotify preferred podcast hosting platform if possible.
- Web Stats: 251M visits a month
Formerly the #2 podcast promotion and listening destination. Lately I feel the platform has become somewhat ad saturated, and there a lot of other listening apps and platforms have emerged. Stitcher requires it's own submission process.
- Stitcher's submission process is handled on their Podcast Partner Signup page.
- Web Stats: 4.18M visits a month
Google play is putting a lot of effort into developing their podcast app and overall podcasting ecosystem. This is good news, and if your show is not on Google Play yet, I would definitely add it there.
- Google Play has a podcast portal where you can submit your show.
- Web Stats, including podcasts and music: 1.4B visits a month
What about Google Podcasts, and what's the difference between it and Google Play?
Google Podcasts is a relative newcomer, and Google Play has been around for longer. Here's an article explaining the difference. You don't "submit your show" to Google Podcasts as such. As far as I can tell, you must have your own podcast website, where you need to include a <link> to your podcast RSS feed as well as your website. Sounds confusing? Podnews.net has a good tutorial on how to get listed on Google Podcast here.
TuneIn has been around a long time, with available apps for almost all operating systems and mobile devices.
- Their process is straight forward using their submission form.
- Web Stats: 24M visits a month
iHeart Radio is another podcast directory that gets your podcast information from your hosting platform. In Libsyn, for example, you can define iHeart Radio as a target publishing destination. Libsyn also provides detailed "how to" guides on setting this up in the first place.
- Submissions to iHeart Radio are sometimes handled inside your podcast hosting platform. For example on Libsyn.
- Here is a direct link to submit your show
- Web Stats: 27.72M visits a month
Blubrry is best know as a podcast hosting platform. So if you publish your show on Libsyn or one of the other podcast hosting services, Blubrry may not be something you've considered. However, Blubrry has a very popular podcast directory not limited to only Blubrry hosted podcasts. So as part of promoting your podcast, you should consider adding your show to this directory.
- Here is where you add your podcast on the Blubrry directory.
- Web Stats: 1.01M visits a month
Mainly a podcast hosting company, but also has an extensive podcast directory
- Create an account on Podbean, then submit your podcast feed URL
- Web Stats: 4.89M visits a month
Update December 2o19: No longer available, unless via email request to rob [dot] greenlee [at] spreaker [dot] com
Like Blubrry, Spreaker is both a hosting platform as well as a podcast directory. You used to be able to submit your show even if it is not hosted there. You sign up for an account, and then supply your RSS feed there. If you are not hosted on Spreaker, see above.
- Spreaker podcast signup page
- Web Stats: 3.95M visits a month
Player FM is the multi-platform podcast app that helps you find shows on the topics you care about and play them at your convenience, even when you're offline.
- Add your podcast to player.fm
- Web Stats: 7.29M visits a month
Update December 2019: With recent podcasts launches, I have noticed that the current ACAST submission page is no longer available. I am hoping it will come back, because this was a terrific directory, but it could be that they are requiring your podcast to be hosted there now.
(Formely) a podcast hosting service with it's own app and directory. You can submit your show to be featured on their site and inside their app.
- Select the "Non Hosted Show" option and submit your feed URL here
- Web Stats: 2.21M visits a month
Digital podcast is a directory that will help you promote your podcast by listing it there. Their submission process is really simple, all you need to do is to create an account and then paste your podcast RSS feed URL.
- Digial Podcast directory signup page
- Web Stats: 81.82K visits a month
Handpicked podcast playlists from people who love podcasts.
- Click here for the submission process
- Web Stats: 378K visits a month
Podcast search engine that claims to have audio transcripts of 542,280 podcasts. Their web stats seem to indicate a good level of activity, so I am listing it here.
- Submit your show to ListenNotes
- Web Stats: 236K visits a month
- iPodder has a simple submission process on their site, you suplpy name, email and your podcast feed.
- Add your podcast to iPodder
- Web Stats: unavailable, may indicate the platform is no longer active
Good Pods is a little different in that it is a podcast curation platform. This means you need to apply and provide a brief justification why they should promote your podcast and why it should be included in their directory.
- Apply here (no longer available) to be considered in their directory
- Web Stats: Not available, may indicate the platform is no longer active
More detailed instructions?
If you would like to promote your podcast by submitting to each one of the above directories, each of the links provided are pretty intuitive. But are looking for more detailed instructions, a good start would be here.
Podcast Guesting On Other Podcasts
Steve Olsher 's Profiting from Podcasts is a program for non-podcasters and podcasters alike to appear on other people's shows. As part of his site he gives away "lead magnet". This is a currently free directory and contact information for 670 podcasters whose show you could appear on. So that is one useful resource for this.
We also dedicated an entire episode for a deep dive into this topic, especially if you are the DIY type and want to avoid spending money on expensive programs.
In our tutorial video we show step by step how to automate a highly personalized "podcast guesting" outreach campaign.
So read on for some summary tips on this topic, but if you are interested in our deep dive and ready to explore details on how to execute podcast guesting outreach campaigns, please check out episode 2 of the Podcast Growth Show called Podcast Guesting – A Cure For Stalled Subscriber Growth [S1E02]
Here is the short version:
Work the bigger players in your space
Listen to full episodes of some of the bigger players in the space you're podcasting in. Make notes. Find their contact info and email with feedback. Be open and honest, saying something like
"I'm very interested in podcasting in this space. I particularly loved how, in Episode XXX, you talked to Guest XXX about Topic XXX and got him to admit Fact XXX. I'd love to know more about your process for guest selection, guest prep, and more. Would you have maybe 20-30 minutes for that? I'd be willing to help you out with elements of your show in return for your time."
A message like that articulates what's in it for the bigger-name show. Now you might get to work on their show, learn from them, or maybe eventually be a guest or get intros to their previous guests. You're on your way.
Steve was very gracious in making this list available, so please do not abuse it.
What do I mean by that? Do not send cold mass emails to all 670 big name podcasters! besides not getting on any of these shows, your name will be dirt in the podcasting community.
Instead, do this: Ask yourself if you're 100% ready. If you can answer "yes" to 4 out of these 5 questions, then you're good:
- Have you already been a guest on at least 20 other shows?
- Have you already added value to the person you're reaching out to in a meaningful way?
- Do you have your own show, or a substantial online presence, and have you already connected with, or had a podcaster on my show?
- Have you made your presence felt in their community?
- Do you know this person, their interests, likes, dislikes and have a solid affinity for them?
Work the smaller players in your space
Steve's Olsher's "profiting from podcasts" list features some pretty big podcasters with established audiences, and that's great. However, if you are in a smaller niche, you may have an even better success rate by doing some of the initial leg work yourself.
Reaching out to other relevant podcasters in your niche is easy, and Apple Podcasts is the perfect tool to look up interesting shows in your category. Each show lists a website, and you can quickly get a sense how professionally each podcast is set up. Almost all podcast websites have a contact form or other way to get in touch, and again you can send a templated email requesting to be on their show.
You will want to listen to the show you want to appear on, and comment on something that you heard and liked about it. This gives you a much better chance of being accepted than sending what may look like a templated mass email.
The more personal you make your inquiry, the better the results.
To promote your podcast, guesting can be a crucial part of the ecosystem. When you appear, you inherently get to promote your podcast and other work (provided you're interesting, which we'll take as a given right now).
If some listeners like what you have to say, they will jump over to your own podcast and subscribe.
Using Paid Ad Strategies To Reach Your Podcast Audience
Using paid ads for promoting a podcast is not for everyone. But appropriate if you have a budget, for example for business podcasts where lead generation and email list building are part of the overall objective.
And don't just think "ads don't work" – not all platforms are alike. When it comes to promoting your podcast using paid ads, there are a few options.
Paid ad strategies is the topic of our Podcast Growth Show video episode called Paid Podcast Advertising – A Look Behind The Scenes [S1E03].
It explores 3 platforms in greater detail, and also offers our simple 5 step process to better target podcast listeners with Facebook Ads:
But read on for the Cliff Notes summary of our deep dive, here's my take on 3 platforms.
Generally speaking AdWords is expensive. So the question you'll want to ask yourself is this: Can I afford driving traffic to my podcast at $5-$20 per click?
My own view is that you need measurable results for this, and for most businesses this means sending traffic to a good landing page that features a gift or give-away and collects an email address. Sending ad traffic to Apple Podcasts and hoping that people subscribe is difficult to measure, and not worth it in my opinion. On AdWords you cannot even target podcast listeners easily. So we don't use it except for corporate podcasts (as we are producing several)
Facebook is one of the most affordable paid choices for promoting a podcast. It may seem easy to simply "boost" an episode specific post on your podcast site, and then hope people listen and subscribe.
But I would not recommend this approach when first starting out. Instead, I would recommend sending traffic to a dedicated podcast landing page that features an incentive for signing up. Boosting a post is a quick solution but rarely converts as well as a carefully crafted visual and ad specifically outlining the listener benefit and value proposition of your overall podcast.
Consider combining these ads with "Share Gates" covered later in this post.
If you have not done so before, getting started properly with Facebook ads can be intimidating, so consider taking a Facebook ads course or hiring someone experienced to help you get started.
In Podcast Advertising Networks
With both AdWords and Facebook you will mostly be advertising to non-podcast listeners. It is difficult to target podcast listeners only on Facebook, and next to impossible on Google.
But this is why in-podcast advertising networks are so effective. By default, your entire audience consists of podcast listeners.
One great way to get new listeners is to advertise on other existing podcasts in your niche. Most podcasters only think of podcast advertising networks as something to help them monetize their own show. But placing an ad inside one of the most popular podcasts in your niche can be super effective. According to Midroll, 61% of podcast listeners have purchased from such podcast ads.
The real benefit of this approach is the fact that you are advertising on your medium. if people are listening to your ads, that means they are podcast subscribers already. It is much easier to convince them to check out your show, than to show your Facebook or AdWords content to people who may not even listen to podcasts at all.
So how much does this cost? Here is some information from Midroll, by far the best known podcast advertising network.
All Midroll podcast ads are priced on a cost-per-thousand downloads model, or CPM. For instance, with a $25 CPM, a spot on a show with 10,000 downloads per episode costs $250; with 100,000 downloads, it’s $2500.
So let's do the math. If your ad is highly relevant to the audience of the podcast you place your ad into, and assuming 3% of listeners take action and subscribe to your show, your cost per new listener would be $0.83. If only 1% of listeners take action, then it would be $2.50 per subscriber. Either way, these numbers compare very favorably to advertising on Facebook or AdWords.
- Here is a link to Midroll's metrics, demographics and pricing, everything you need to know to advertise your own show on one of the best known podcast ad networks
- Authentic is another podcast ad network with some compelling shows to advertise one, including the hit "Serial"
How To Promote Your Podcast By Leveraging Your Own Guests
If you have an interview show, you might expect that your guest will help you promote your podcast. But make sure this is not an unspoken assumption on your part. After having launched over a dozen shows, I've found that getting your podcasts guest to share episode links with their own social networks can be like pulling teeth.
And the more connected and "famous" your guest is, the less likely they are to do this without being prompted.
Go Through Lengths To Present Your Guest In A Good Light
For example, we have an on-boarding sequence when we book guests on our shows. During this phase, we ask them to fill out a simple form, and to provide social media links, books they are promoting, short bios, profile pictures etc. This is so that we can create a great looking guest section with pictures and links to their work. In other words, you want to create great looking show notes that your guests would be proud to share and help with promoting your podcast.
Make your expectations clear from the beginning
But in our guest on-boarding sequence we already make it clear that we expect podcast guests to share the episode on their social networks, in a nice way. And we tell each guest that when the show goes live, they will receive ready made sharable links and notifications.
Create macros and scripts for sharing links
What you need to be doing here is leveraging the power and networks of your guests to promote episodes, but also promote your own episodes. Again, this needs to be done sparingly to an extent; you don't want to be seen as a self-promoter. That usually gets you silenced algorithmically on Twitter and other sites. But if you have scripts for yourself and your guests, it's an easier process.
Some Example Scripts
Use something similar for Facebook/LinkedIn and/or Google+
“I was just on the [NAME OF PODCAST] with [YOUR NAME] and talked about [WHAT YOU TALKED ABOUT]. If you’re [REASON WHY SOMEONE MIGHT BE INTERESTED], listen here: [PASTE THE LINK FROM STEP #1)
Use something similar for Twitter and include a service like ClickToTweet:
“I was just interviewed by [YOUR TWITTER HANDLE] and talked about [WHAT YOU TALKED ABOUT]. Listen here: [INSERT SHORTENED LINK FROM STEP #1]”
Automate This Process Using Text Expander Or Email Macros
Scripts are designed to make your process easier. You can even make them a Macros in your email so that deployment is just a matter of filling in the brackets.
A great tool for this on Mac is an application called Text Expander. This will allow you to enter templates like the above and recall them at the touch of a button or shortcut key. And a popup will prompt you to simply fill in the blanks with the needed information.
- Here is a link to the Text Expander site.
- More details, scripts and tips for making it easier for your guests and you is also the topic of our podcast episode entitled How To Get Your Podcast Guest To Promote Your Podcast [S1E04]
Beyond Guests, Make It Easy As Pie To Share Your Episodes
This means having social share buttons on your episode landing pages that are bright, high, and prevalent. You don't want people having to dig around to share with their networks. Make it easy. We over-complicate so much in marketing (and, well, life). Why over-complicate this?
There are dozens of helper platforms out there that place attractive social share buttons next to your episodes.
Look for the type of share buttons that float on the side of your podcast. This way your social share icons are always "above the fold" and visible in the browser window.
- Here is a review of the top 10 social share button plugins for WordPress
- There are some really cool tools to help design 1-click "ready to use" social share messages.
Contests and Promotions To Gather Apple Podcasts Reviews
This used to be a very popular launch tactic. The idea was to launch a contest, and ask people to enter the contest by leaving an Apple Podcasts review, and then emailing the iTunes ID to enter the contest as proof.
iTunes and Apple Podcasts Have Changed
Since then, the algorithm to rise to the top of Apple Podcasts has changed. It is no longer driven by the number of reviews. Instead, at the time of this writing, the number of new subscribers have the most impact, followed by the number of episode downloads. Therefore the number of reviews no longer contribute to being at the top of the "New and Noteworthy" section.
Therefore the "Launch Contest" is less common now. Besides no longer being as effective, setting up a launch contest usually takes a good deal of time to set up. You need landing pages, marketing automation capability and time. But if you have the passion, time and effort to spare, a launch contest will still give your podcast launch a great boost, for some of the below reasons:
But Reviews Are Still Important
Reviews are still important and should not be ignored. They lend credibility and social proof to a podcast. Seeing that dozens of people are leaving great reviews for a podcast you might enjoy might tip the scale for you to take action and subscribe. On the other hand, seeing a podcast on Apple Podcasts with no reviews at all also tells you something.
Adding The Right Incentives
The tactic of offering some kind of incentive, give-away, or lead magnet for leaving a review still works well for getting reviews.
The selected give-aways don't have to be expensive. It is more important that they be relevant, related to the podcast topic or context. So for example, for a customer experience podcast you might have a contest to win free tickets to the biggest yearly Customer Experience conference. That beats offering an iPad as a prize, simply because your subscriber and contest participants are much more likely to actually care about your podcast and topic, instead of just trying to win an iPad.
Promoting your podcast with social contests is also the topic of our video episode 6 of the Podcast Growth Show: Podcast Marketing With Social Contests [S1E06]. We examine and recommend both free and paid platforms to do social contests right.
Leverage Email Subscribers With Social Media Share Gates
The contest launch tactic described above has a sister. You can run this campaign as a variant of the more traditional launch contest. The difference? Much easier and less time consuming to set up.
Introducing the GoViral Tool
Bryan Harris over at GrowthTools has a great free tool called GoViral. GoViral gets you more quality traffic and shares by offering a free gift to your new subscribers in exchange for sharing your site with their friends.
GoViral automatically gets people to share your content – it’s instant word of mouth.
A Dead Simple Setup
The cool thing about GoViral is that it creates the social share landing and download pages for you behind the scenes, and this makes it dead simple to set up. So the sequence is as follows:
- Susan signs up for your email list
This could be on your homepage, for a webinar or in a blog post.
- GoViral offers her a gift for sharing your site
This could be anything from a free PDF, to a discount, to a free course.
- GoViral gives her the gift and you get free traffic
Works with Twitter, Facebook, Instagram and 16 other services.
GoViral is integrated with most social media platforms, and checks behind the scenes that someone actually shared your podcast link before making the gift available.
We have used this system extensively to increase our webinar registrations by ~35%.
- Here is a link to GoViral from GrowthTools
Want to see GoViral in action? Great!
Here is a live example of this: You can download a PDF version of this entire Podcast Marketing Guide by sharing it on Facebook. For one thing, if you are enjoying this post, I'd appreciate it! Plus it makes a handy reference.
Just click the download button above to see the GoViral system in action.
How To Promote Your Podcast Organically With SEO
We actually have an entire dedicated SEO course on how to promote your podcast, but realize most podcasters are probably looking for quicker solutions when first launching their show. The rest of this article has been covering all sorts of other promotional approaches, but overlooking organic search is short sighted and a strategic mistake.
Getting Long Term Traffic
In the rush to launch a promote a podcast, this is often overlooked, or placed on a back-burner, and before you know it you're 25 episodes in without taking advantage of the long term benefits of SEO. Optimized episode landing pages tied to long-tail, low-competition keywords will drive valuable traffic to your site.
Consider How People Actually Find Podcasts
Have a look at the below chart from Edison Research. It makes my point: The most popular discovery for podcast is not Apple Podcasts, not Google Play or Spotify, but Internet search.
Google Search Is What Really Matters
We are big fans of using SEO tools to research podcast topics, and utilizing your podcast’s website (and more importantly, episode specific articles AKA show notes) to attract traffic and interest. In fact we presented this form or promotion at the PodFest conference in early 2020, and here is a free mini-course on podcast promotion using SEO research, which outlines why and how this works.
Transcription Services Are Your Friend
Transcripts are your SEO friend, and increasingly affordable. The reason you want to use transcripts in your show notes is that Google will index this content, and attribute more rank to your episode because of the length of the episode show notes post. Machine based translation is getting more accurate, and costs around .10 a minute. 100% accuracy comes at a slightly higher cost, about $1.00 per minute. Still, considering the time it would take you to write bespoke show notes, this is an easy time saver investment. It's a nice 1-2 punch of automated services and human narrative context.
When you do this, pay attention to readability. Transcripts are almost always hard to read, and often look line dense, run-on text. And people on the internet like to "skim" content. Plus, from an SEO perspective, Google's new search algorithms values content quality, and this means readability in addition to length.
Our "best SEO practice" is to break said transcribed shows notes into readable chunks with H2/H3 headers for the main themes of the episode.
Ideally the H2 and H3 headers tell the story of the episode for someone just glancing and skimming.
Content Strategy & Patience In Promoting Your Podcast
This is a broader content problem in marketing. Anything with content takes time to develop, but if it's tied to a business that needs to show short-term results, leaders often lack that time.
Embrace The Time It Takes
If this is a solo effort, you need to make the time and you need to embrace it.
Being passionate about your podcast is almost a pre-requisite.
For example: we know two gym owners who launched a supplement business and, at the same time, a podcast. It took about 75 episodes consistently week-to-week before their traffic started to go way up, and that was largely because one episode in the 60s-range was about the Keto Diet, drew a lot of attention, and helped them out getting noticed for other episodes. But 75 episodes weekly is about a year and a half. It will take time.
That Said: Plan For Great Content and Interesting Topics
Look at BuzzSumo and similar sites to see what has interested people in your niche before. Ask people on LinkedIn. Ask people on Twitter. Ask your email list. (More on that in a second, as the email list is somewhat the holy grail of this process.) Have conversations with people.
Let's go back to that small business example again. Supposed you pose a question like "What episode topics would you like to hear?" on LinkedIn and several say they want to know how to improve hiring on a budget. Well, find a good guest for that (again it's about research), produce the episode, and when it's produced, GO BACK TO THAT THREAD and share it with those who asked for it.
They'll find value and are much more likely to share it around more. Interesting, consistent, relevant-to-core-target content is going to help any podcast launch well. It takes time, but you'll get noticed faster on that approach.
Join a podcasting community or network
What are "Podcast Networks"?
A podcast network is a collection of podcasts that are produced, distributed or made available to advertisers through a single company, or network.
The advantage of being a member is that these networks frequently have agreements to cross-promote other podcasts on the network. Therefore the ability to attract advertisers is better for the entire group as well. Be prepared that you will be asked to promote the other participants as well, often you don't have much of a choice about who gets promoted. So joining one of the big players is a no brainer.
However, in order to join a network, the burden is on you to show that you can bring existing audience equity to the table (this audience could be from a different medium) or your product is so good, that given the megaphone, you will quickly build equity for the network (this could be in the form of a unique vantage point, expertise, or refined production skills).
Be careful about smaller podcast networks
Think twice about joining a smaller podcast network just to save time and effort, or because they promise you to build a site. And especially if they ask you to give up your feed and offer to host your show from their own feed. You will want it in writing that your podcast feed will be given back to you once you leave the network.
The ideal situation is to join a network that allows you to keep your own personal website and hosting arrangement.
Use your email list
This is where we recommend you focus some energy and effort.
People opt-in to your lists because they care about some element of what you've put forth. So, now you've got a podcast (or you built the list with the podcast). Well, if they opted in, they are somewhat interested. Keep them interested. That starts with good subject lines. Use the same techniques already covered in episode title development.
Your Guests Make You More Interesting
Think of the most interesting, different-sounding point that your guest made. Figure out how to spin that into an emotional subject line. You can use Headline Analyzer Tools (CoSchedule and others have this) to see how powerful a headline is, and then use said headline as the subject line for the email about a specific episode.
Every so often, engage with your people about guests they want to see, topics they want covered, how they feel about the show in general, and more. Be human. Respond to these emails directly. Marketing automation is the bee's knees but people want to think they're having a convo with the actual creator. You might drum up some business for yourself as well in this process.
Many do email marketing wrong because they just blast out the latest thing they have with a generic subject line and limited context. That gets you low open rates and high unsubscribe rates. At that point, why even have an email list? Be interesting and different. It takes work and sitting down and thinking about the most intriguing thing said on an episode, even if it was just one tiny nugget, but it's worth a ton if you do this with every email send.
Make Your Your Podcast Homepage Design Less Egocentric
How do you design a podcast site to engage your audience? Make it more about them, and less about you and your show. And while you do that, you will increase conversion and list-building opportunities.
The Definitive Guide To Design Podcast Sites For Conversion & Engagement
How can you do that? Glad you asked. We have a full long-form article on how to design podcast sites for list-building optimization, where we discuss The Upside Down Podcast Homepage — and we also debate the relative merits of 1,000 Apple Podcasts subscribers vs. 100 dedicated email list subscribers. (Hint: the latter is more important.)
By the way, there is a free design pattern for the optimal podcast home page to download.
Figure out your audience and engage it
Even though we did not list this at the beginning, this is where almost everything marketing-and-sales-related needs to start, and it's no different with podcasts. It's just that it's time consuming. And anything time consuming often gets overlooked. But OK, let's assume you've got some time.
Let's say you want to target small business owners; that's actually a relatively common target for podcast producers in the business genre. You need to start by thinking this out loud to yourself:
Where do small business owners hang out?
Well, scaling a business is hard. Very few do it successfully. In all likelihood, then, a small business owner would be hanging out on his/her:
- LinkedIn overall
- Specific LinkedIn groups
- HBR and similar sites comments
- Facebook groups about SMB/entrepreneurship
- Their own email looking for emails that seem helpful (this goes to a point later on)
Make a list of where your audience is or would be. Find groups connected to said audience. Join those groups.
Your Contributions Are Key
And now, this is the part many people miss. It's not about joining those groups and just blasting every episode. That won't work — and on Reddit, it might even get you shadow-banned.
What will work is this: join those groups and contribute to discussions. It's time-consuming, yes. But it's important. Add value to discussions and respond to the comments of others.
After you do this about 20 times, you can start sharing episode links — but this is a big one — ONLY share the links if they are relevant to a specific discussion.
In short, you want to make your sharing conversational and not forced. If it's part of an ongoing dialogue about, say, doing taxes as a small business and you have an episode about that, it's totally relevant and within the knowledge flow people need, they will click on it and listen. But if you just blast that episode devoid of context, it's a much steeper hill to climb.
5 Mistakes to AVOID when promoting your podcast
Apple actually recently launched their own podcast marketing best practices, and since Apple is where about 500 billion hours of podcasts have been streamed, it seems like a great place to get some tips on what to do — and maybe more importantly, what not to do.
A few things Apple says to avoid include:
Mistake #1: Long Flowery Intros
- Skip the vague, flowery intro and let the people know what they can expect to hear.
Mistake # 2: Non Relevant Show Notes Content
- After you tell listeners what to expect, make sure they know how to find what you’re talking about. Whether it’s a specific episode or your show in general, give them a link to go to.
Mistake #3: Poor Images and Screenshots
- Pick screenshots wisely. If you want to display a screenshot of your show as it appears on Apple Podcasts, capture it from the Podcasts app using a mobile device, like iPhone or iPad. (If you don't know how to take a screenshot from an Apple device, read this.)
OK, and here are some mistakes we often see
Mistake #4: Lack of Content Strategy
- It is much more difficult to promote your podcast episodes without planning ahead. This means scheduling and producing episodes a couple of weeks in advance. This will allow you to dedicate more relative time towards ideas for promoting the show, thinking of good episode titles, and writing show notes.
Try not be in a rush
- Plan and research your episodes ahead of time. If your show allows it, plan for content themes. This can enable you to implement a powerful SEO ranking technique called "cornerstone content", where several related episodes share links to one primary episode about the theme. We have consistently used this to SEO boost blog posts and episodes onto page one of Google search results.
- Research a bunch of potential keywords for an entire season. Then you can craft your episode titles and show notes to be optimized around high value keywords. These are long tail keywords with low difficulty scores, but that still attract search volume. Use a utility like KWFinder to do the research.
- Make sure your show notes are of sufficient length. If your show notes are less than 300 words, the likelihood that your content will appear in Google search result is close to zero. You will want to have show notes that are at least 700 words or longer to give your content a chance visibility.
Mistake #5: Weak Episode Titles
- Don't create boring episode titles. Avoid titles that start with "This week our host XXXX talks to our guest YYYY about ZZZZ". Don't start episode titles with "Episode nnn:" Within Apple Podcasts and all podcatchers, space for your episode title is at a premium. So don't waste it with obvious, redundant or irrelevant. Podcast listeners increasingly consume podcasts on a per episode basis, by searching. So your episode titles have a fraction of a second to attract a listener.
Make sure your episode titles pop.
- Write down 7-20 versions of your planned episode titles – do this every time, and I can almost guarantee that the quality and click-worthiness of your episode titles will improve. We use a tool called CoSchedule Headline Analyzer to craft our episode titles.
- For examples of this, search for "podcast content strategy" – polymash shows up on page one, or google "customer experience podcast" – our client Customer Bliss shows up on page one, or "appreciative inquiry" – our client Positivity Strategist is on page one, or "podcast SEO course".
- Learn a bit about SEO – think of it as an investment that will pay dividends for years to come. I offer an SEO for podcasters course, take advantage of this, or learn the basics of SEO elsewhere. The importance of titles, as well as how to create more interesting ones, is covered there in detail.
- DIY or Done For You? If the concept of doing SEO yourself makes your eyes glaze over, invest in some help to make your show grow.
Conclusion – And How We Help
How do we help? Why are we writing this article, even?
Years ago, we were helping a client with her overall content strategy. If you've worked in digital at all, you know that people from previous business model generations often don't initially "get" how to market with content, and this client — while great overall — was no different.
Ultimately, we convinced her to try podcasting as a content strategy, and the results have been amazing. It has bolstered her brand within her expertise area, and allowed her to build a community through her podcasting.
Perhaps more importantly, she just loves being a well known podcaster now, and meeting all the people she gets to impact with her show. (Think about the impact of the first season of Serial and you'll probably understand what we mean.)
And this has been true for everyone we have helped launch a podcast as a content strategy. We design a very-targeted, very-contextual, and very-successful approach to launching podcasts. We also help with podcast promotion and subscriber (email!) growth, too.
And our clients eventually prefer podcasting to blogging, since the content ideas and content strategy emerges much more effortlessly. Plus, they are more likely to advance to video and multi-channel content models.
All marketing is two things:
- Effectively building a community
All great podcasting is those two things as well. It's a different landscape than it was even in 2018/19, but you can do this.
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