Better Podcast Episode Titles — Podcast Show Notes Tools, Part 2
Last Updated on October 11, 2021
Creating better episode titles is one of the most important steps to ensure your podcast episodes are discoverable, will stand out and get listens as well as new subscribers for your podcast. But creating compelling episode titles can be hard. And in this episode we will highlight our favorite tool for crafting great podcast episode titles.
But first, a quick reminder about what we are doing in this series of episodes of the Podcasting Strategy Show: We are covering business podcasting from a strategic angle: Specifically, why show notes play such an outsized role for podcasting as a content strategy. And so episode titles should not only be compelling to your listeners, but also work towards a business ROI, meaning SEO presence and discoverability for your podcast.
And while we take on this subject from our perspective as a podcast marketing and production agency and what we do for our clients, the intent here is to be "open Kimono". This means we are sharing our agency methods here, in part to inspire Indie and DIY business podcasters to adopt some of what we cover. And for our clients, these methods account for 65% of their listener growth.
Better Podcast Episode Titles — Table Of Contents
- A Quick Episode 6 Recap [01:40]
- The Outsized Importance of Episode Titles [02:25]
- Why Are Podcast Episode Titles Important? [02:55]
- In App Search vs Web Search — A Case Study [03:50]
- Formulas And Generators For Podcast Episode Titles [10:34]
- Questions To Ask When You Craft Episode Titles [12:20]
- Some Dos and Don’ts In Crafting Episode Titles [14:57]
- The Power Of Language In Podcast Episode Titles [17:50]
- What does Headline Studio do? [18:31]
- What are elements of a compelling episode title?[18:53]
- How do Headline Studio’s features help? [19:20]
- How do you use Headline Studio? [22:16]
- Final Thoughts On Improving Your Episode Titles [23:39]
- Conclusion, Links and Resources
A Quick Episode 6 Recap
Last time we started to talk about the many tools in our agency workflow that save us a ton of time and allow us to scale podcast SEO show notes syndication. I'm progressing this series by talking through the various workflow phases involved in scalable show notes production from an agency point of view. In the last episode we talked about the crucial role that pre-season and pre-episode SEO research plays, and we also covered some logistics tools. And once you’ve decided on the keyword for optimizing your episode, it is then time to incorporate this into your podcast episode title. And that’s what we are covering today.
The Outsized Importance of Episode Titles
First I'd like to highlight the outsized importance of episode titles, and how they contribute to discoverability and growing a listener base.
Some of you might be skeptic about when I make a statement like "outsized importance of show notes" for business podcasting. OK. But don't just take it from me. A little later-on I have some case studies from industry thought leaders at PodNews.net and elsewhere to share, which that basically amplify, if not prove my point.
Why Are Podcast Episode Titles Important?
Three quick answers we as podcasters already know:
- In App Search — How can your show be found by people who are already on a listening app, and looking for new podcasts?
- Web Search — Many podcasters and brands under-estimate the importance of this, as we have pointed out before. Podcast Episode titles for show notes are an important part for web discoverability.
- Click-Worthiness, not to be confused with click-baitiness. There are a lot of scenarios where people only listen or visit after a glance at the episode title.
In App Search vs Web Search — A Case Study
A lot of us assume that a major way of having our podcast content found is on podcast listening apps like Apple Podcasts, Spotify and so on. But in order for this to work, people have to search inside those apps.
Technically, this depends on how content is made searchable inside listening apps. In other words, which parts of a podcast are indexed for search.
So I came across a case study and cool, if dorky experiment: Mark Steadman teamed up with James Cridland, the editor of Podnews, to experiment with nonsense words in the name of science.
The idea was to pick a different nonsense word for each relevant podcast-related tag in our RSS feeds, and to see which apps picked up which words.
Here are some of their findings
So here are some of the findings from this experiment, I really want to give Kudos to Mark and James here, since doing this must have been quite labor intensive.
Now James and Mark did not limit their research to just Apple Podcasts, they also looked at Amazon Music, Apple Podcasts, CastBox, GoodPods, Google Podcasts, IVoox, Listen Notes, Overcast, Player FM, Pocket Casts, The Podcast Index website, PodcastAddict, Spotify, Stitcher. This list then represents the most common listening apps, and from my perspective a large enough data set to draw some conclusions from.
#1 Apple Podcasts only searches your podcast name, episode titles, and author tags
So no matter how great a podcast description you have crafted for your show, or for each episode, in Apple Podcasts people cannot find your podcast or any episode based on that content.
#2 Apps heavily weight podcast-level data over episode-level data.
What this means is that search for your podcast title or words in your podcast description will likely show up in most apps. But your episodes are much less visible via in-app search, since ONLY the titles of the episodes are indexed for search.
This is precisely why at Polymash we focus on podcast web SEO, because on the web your episodes WILL show up, if optimized correctly.
#3 The in-app podcast search landscape is badly in need of attention.
Hopefully this will at some point get addressed. I am not quite sure why no-one has taken up the challenge of indexing episode descriptions yet. Is it that podcast app makers thing that in-app search is not important?
Imagine if in-app search reliably showed not only new podcasts to listen to (as is currently the case), but also had episode level suggestions to offer to app users. I would think this would be beneficial for listeners, app creators and podcast hosts alike.
#4 Podcast App SEO is not a viable podcast growth strategy.
Let me just comment here on the term "Podcast SEO", vs "Podcast App SEO". Most people don't consider that there is a difference. There is a common misconception that all Podcast SEO has to do with being found inside listening apps.
And what James and Mark mean here is about "Podcast App SEO": Trying to have optimize your podcast to be found inside apps is severely limited.
Of you've listened to any of our content before, you will know that we focus on Podcast Website SEO as a way of growing a show, especially for business podcasters.
Their Conclusion From This Case Study
To Mark and James these findings highlight the need for good podcast websites. Compelling titles, rich and meaningful show notes, useful links, host and guest bios; all of these are useful for placement within Google and other web search engines because they’re useful to humans.
- If you have a guest, put their name in your episode title, especially if they’re the kind of name people will search podcast apps for.
- That said, episode titles aren’t universally indexed.
- Don’t rely on podcast app search for discoverability.
I think it’s unwise to put too many eggs in the podcast-app search basket. Search is just not evolved enough within these apps to be meaningful.
Formulas And Generators For Podcast Episode Titles
Let's consider the structure of how podcast titles are often set up. There are common patterns for episode titles any business podcasters will likely have seen on other podcasts they listen to. For example, listicles are a format, like “The Top 10 Tips to do XYZ”. Or Question-based titles, which often present provocative propositions. Or how-tos that offer tutorials and tips.
There are tons more formulas and formats, and if you'd like to see a fun and insane way to generate a ton of title ideas, here is a title generator to create tons of title suggestions based on a keyword you enter: https://www.title-generator.com/
I did this for this episode, and I’ve put an image of 12 out of 100s in the show notes:
These formulas only go so far, and skew on the "click-bait feel" side of things. So we recommend staying clear of them, other than to generate ideas if you're really stuck.
Questions To Ask When You Craft Episode Titles
Instead, here are some questions to ask as you are crafting podcast episode titles:
1. Does it match expectations? Does the content deliver on it? Is it a Clickbait?
Consider your own behavior when listening to podcasts, does the title of the episode matter? I would argue in many cases yes, depending on the nature of the show. If I'm listening to a news podcast, perhaps the title will not matter. But for most of my areas of interest, if the title is boring or irrelevant to me, I might choose to skip it. On the other hand, if a title promises something super interesting and then the content does not deliver, count me out.
2. Is it Clear? Or Clever?
Personally I prefer clear over something clever or mysterious, and I also think that this is easier to SEO optimize.
My personal preference: “clarity” beats “being cute” every time.
3. It really grabs your attention? Is it ordinary?
Why does something grab your attention in the first place?
4. Is it to the Point?
When I’m browsing through podcast episodes on my devices, I prefer short descriptive titles that make it clear what I’m about to listen to.
5. Does it highlight a Benefit?
A title that makes the benefit of listening obvious is very compelling. Thought personally I find this is pretty hard to fit into a few words.
6. Is it too short, long or just right?
The right episode title length is a subject for discussion. My advice is to err on the side of too long rather than too short. It is challenging though, I think factors like SEO title length, fitting on a mobile screen, covering all the other points on this list and still having enough room for your guest name make it so.
7. Can I create a good title and ALSO have my keyword present in it?
Personally I often find myself coming up with creative episode titles, but then realize my keyword is not present in the title, which from an SEO perspective is a “must have”
Some Dos and Don’ts In Crafting Episode Titles
I do not like to think of titles in terms of "dos and don’ts". But here are 3 considerations I would offer:
1. The Right Length
I would ensure the optimal length for SEO presence. Too short is bad, too long is bad as well. The tool we will review later offers guidance on this.
2. Including Your Guest Name
Including your guest's name in the episode title is a matter of preference.
- Do include your guest name in the title if they are well known, famous, or at least well known in your industry.
- Some businesses might even optimize the entire show notes article for Google search based on the guest name.
- If your guest is a business relationship of some sort, then consider if there is a benefit: If the guest google themselves and your episode shows up in the search results, is that important to you, or to the guest?
- We often do quick google search or use our keyword research tool we covered in the Podcasting Strategy Show Episode 6 called KWFinder. This way you can see if your guest name is searched for a lot.
3. Including Episode Numbers
Including episode numbers in the title is another matter of opinion with many business podcast experts.
The only "rule" I would suggest following here is to never place the episode number at the front. I recently saw an example of this where the beginning of each episode title started with "Episode 1, Part 2:" For podcast consumers, It wastes 18 characters of space on small screen, often obscuring what the actual title was like. I've included a picture of this in the show note.
But perhaps the more important aspects here is that this dilutes SEO: Google places the most importance on the beginning of your title, so starting this with "Episode 1, Part 2:" lowers SEO potential.
The Power Of Language In Podcast Episode Titles
So I hope that up to this point I’ve managed to convince you that episode titles are important, and also not that easy to create. Which brings us to the tool I want to review in this episode, called “Headline Studio” by a company called CoSchedule. This system delves into some of the science, psychology and language behind what makes titles compelling. It performs analysis of titles based on:
- Emotional Words
- Power Words
- Ordinary Words
- Length, structure and format
And it offers word banks, SEO analysis and a whole lot of additional features.
Introducing Headline Studio — What does it do?
Headline studio gives you data-backed suggestions and a roadmap for improving headlines or episode titles you initially think of. It offers suggestions for effective words your title should include, and provides a headline score based on CoSchedule’s criteria on what makes a good title.
What are elements of a compelling podcast episode title?
- The right word and character length
- Clarity about the episode content for the listener or reader
- Click-worthiness through the use of uncommon, emotional or power words, which CoSchedule Headline Studio helps you find
- Use of patterns where possible that have proven successful like listicles and how-tos
How do Headline Studio’s features help?
Headline studio also have the following features to make your experience in using the tool much more convenient.
Word Balance Analyzer
Headline Studio shows you exactly how many common, uncommon, emotional and power words your title contains and shows you the best possible way to balance out the words your title should contain. Their recommendations are based on word usage and title patterns proven to be successful on social media.
Headline Studio provides you with their built in thesaurus to find words for each of their categories. Browse through their word bank and discover fitting words and their synonyms to create the ideal word balance.
Headline Score Breakdown
The tool also provides short breakdowns of what your title contains which includes :
- Word Count – The amount of words your title contains and a bar to show you how many words are recommended.
- Character count – The amount of characters your title contains. Also has the same bar as the wordcount breakdown.
- Type – Shows you what type of title you have, its description and ways you could improve it.
- Reading grade level – The difficulty of the words you used in your headline/title.
- Sentiment – What sort of sentiment your title conveys.
- Clarity – Checks if your title gets right to the point.
- Skimmability – Shows you how skimmable your headline/title is and displays where the topic of your headline/title and where to place it.
SEO Score Breakdown
Headline Studio also includes information on how your headline/title would fair SEO wise. It includes the following features :
- Search Preview – Shows you exactly how your title would look like in search results.
- Competition – A breakdown on where your headline/title stands among other headlines.
- Your Top Competition in Search Results – Displays the top competitors in search results for your headline/title. This also might give you ideas on how to structure your own headline/title to give you a competitive edge.
- Keyword Variations – Shows you keywords similar or related to your headline/title which you may include to rank higher in search results.
- Related Questions – Displays related topics your audience also searches for which you may include to reach a wider audience and rank higher in search results.
How do you use it?
Headline Studio is simple and easy to use, go to their site, insert your headline/title and click analyze. It will then display the information which we listed above to help you craft a better title. We suggest trying at least 5-7 versions of an episode title you had in mind, it’s not just the tool, but the practice of creating these variations that makes you better at this.
Web App Version
To use the CoSchedule Headline Studio web app, just visit their website here.
Create a free account, and beyond the free version you will also get a trial for several premium features and headlines as well.
Personally we use this tool and its older counterpart, Headline Analyzer, to improve the title of each piece of content we create, get a clear understanding what our titles are missing and to learn how to craft amazing titles.
I should mention that if you are using a Chrome browser, there is also a useful extension available, you can find it here.
Final Thoughts On Improving Your Episode Titles
I can virtually guarantee that your episode titles will improve through a tool like this.
The reason I'm so confident is not just because it is a great tool: It’s the iterations that count
It is the practice and discipline of iterating — when you create 7 variations of a title, which Headline Studio practically makes you do, you’re bound to improve. It makes you think about your listener, your SEO, your episode topic in a new way. And the end result of choosing one of 5-7 variations will predictably create more interesting episode titles and gain you more listeners.
In conclusion, Headline Studio is a great tool for creating new titles and improving your old ones. It works for your blog and for your podcast episode titles. It provides you with a fair measure on how your title would do and provides you details steps on what to do to increase your own score, which certainly beats figuring out why your titles are not doing well through trial and error.
Disclosure: This paragraph above contains an affiliate link, and we may earn a small commission if you make a purchase, at no extra cost to you.
Conclusion, Links and Resources
This was the second of a multi-part series highlighting the workflow tools we use as an agency to produce high impact show notes for our podcast clients. We have seen the success of this approach last and build through several years, as podcasting has become ever more competitive and celebrity driven.
It does not have to be this way, and podcast show notes are the key to ever-green discoverability for any podcast that has a business content strategy intent. And, as we covered in this episode, better podcast titles are key.
Tools and Resources Mentioned in This Episode
- The PodNews Case Study: Who Indexes What
- Our SEO Research Episode: Podcasting Strategy Show Episode 6
- Headline Studio Disclosure: This is an affiliate link, and we may earn a small commission if you make a purchase, at no extra cost to you.)
Freebies: Our Podcast SEO Show Note Templates