Last Updated on August 21, 2020
This video walk through outlines a highly converting podcast website design pattern called “The Upside Down Podcast Home Page” – optimized to create a guided experience for your site visitors, and to encourage them to subscribe to your podcast via email. The video covers 2 versions of this – a more complete version for established podcasts with multiple seasons or topics, and a simple version for new podcast sites with a narrow niche and focused audience.
In this post I want to outline the reasons behind focusing on email list building instead of obsessing about iTunes rank and "New and Noteworthy".
Why Podcast Website Design Should Focus On Email List Building instead of iTunes Subscribers
The holy grail of podcasting is to get iTunes Subscribers, right? And to get into the "New and Noteworthy" charts, right? And so podcast website design should focus on getting visitors to your site to subscribe on iTunes, right?
Wrong, in my opinion. The iTunes podcast ranking algorithm as well as the "New and Noteworthy" charts are seriously broken at the time of this writing. The top 200 podcasts are being gamed and exploited, and are full of entries who are paying thousands of dollars to overseas click farms for instant presence in the top charts. This is not just my opinion, but has been extensively covered in the podcast news beats. If you want to see a comprehensive video explaining how this is the case, and what the impact on the iTunes ecosystem is, just watch this video by Lime Link.
So why design your podcast website to get people to subscribe on iTunes, when you could be getting people to subscribe to your podcast via email notifications?
I would gladly trade 1,000 iTunes subscribers for 100 podcast email notification subscribers.
Email list building sounds like such a trite concept, but even today it is still one of the most valuable assets your business can build. The fact is that you can provide your audience with more valuable context, and you get to better position your episodes through the email notifications you send. Should you still encourage your listeners to subscribe on iTunes, Google Play or Stitcher? Of course, but it is better to do so after they have opted in via email.
The Inbound Philosophy of the "Upside Down Podcast Home Page" Design Pattern
"Conversion Optimization" is such a crass term. Sounds vaguely exploitative, like you are somehow tricking or taking advantage of your audience.
Let me try and debunk that.
The "Upside Down Podcast Homepage" design pattern is intended to better serve your audience.
It is meant to create a better experience for them. It is based on empathy with your audience. Your podcast website design should be intended for your audience to discover your best and most relevant content. Content that resonates the most with their own situation and listening goals, and also is what you are most proud of.
Creating a Guided Experience
And so, the intention is to create a guided experience for your visitors. This means hiding distractions, and reducing some of the options that some visitors may be accustomed to. For example, the presence of a comprehensive menu with lots of choices at the top of the page. Or buttons to jump off to iTunes and Stitcher where they can simply subscribe. From a UX perspective, you may think these make it easier for your visitors, when in fact they can create cognitive friction, overwhelm, and too many choices.
The idea is not to make it "harder" for your visitors to find these links, but to simply guide them on a journey to better understanding your topic, how your podcast addresses their own needs, and how best to stay connected with your content.
None of this can happen if you "make it easy" for your site visitors by placing a "Subscribe on iTunes" button on the top of your site. That just sends them straight to the iTunes store, where they will see a homogenized list of episodes with no context, no background story, no differentiation between one episode and the next.
The subscribe on iTunes links are still there, of course, but placed near the bottom of the page. This means as your visitors scroll through your podcast website, you have the chance to encourage them to discover your content and subscribe to your show via email.
And this is where "Pilot Stories" come in. But first, let's walk through the upside down podcast website design one section at a time:
Above The Fold
The top of the page is dedicated to one thing: getting people to sign up to your podcast via email.
Look Ma, No Menu: This is what makes it an “upside down” page. Menu links are moved to the footer instead. If you must have menu items, limit them to 3-5.
Showing Face: Showing a face above the fold increases conversions, trust, engagement
Call To Action: Deliver a solid call to action above the fold, but make sure this is NOT an iTunes button.
The social proof band establishes you're not a weirdo, and if possible outlines your best reviews, or that your podcast was in the top 100, or that you've been featured elsewhere, including on TV, or even if you've appeared on other podcast shows.
In our video, notice the design treatment for this section.
The roadmap section provides an on-ramp to let your site visitors self-select their journey through your content.
This could be navigating through multiple seasons or categories. Each segment or column on the road map smooth scrolls to a pilot story section further down the page. This allows your visitors to stay on your site.
SEO Tip: For extra credit, implement a WordPress plugin called "Reduce Bounce Rate", which communicates with Google Analytics and records scroll movements. In our tests we have observed improvement in bounce rate from the 80s to the 30s.
The Role of Pilot Stories in Podcast Website Design
As covered in our video, there are multiple ways in which pilot stories function within your podcast website design to highlight your very best best content.
If you have a single and focused niche you may only need a single pilot story. But if your podcast website design is intended to offer multiple categories of content, or multiple seasons, then you can add "Pilot Story" sections for each.
Pilot Story Section For Seasons
For people with seasonal shows, these sections can tell the story of each season.
- Having a section for each season provides you with a chance to outline the value proposition of listening to each season.
- It also lets you highlight the best and most popular episodes, and allows people to jump to the show notes pages for each episode that resonates with them.
Pilot Story Section For Topic Categories
Another way to position the pilot story sections is to categorize your content. Does your podcast offer advice, or tips? If so, chances are that your episodes fall into multiple categories of advice and tips. You can develop a "Pilot Story" for each category, and highlight the best episodes for each.
Your Pilot Story's Call To Action
One thing all pilot stories have in common is that they offer you the chance to highlight your best content. And it also provides you with the opportunity to offer your audience a call to action. What is it you want them to do?
Don't miss any new episodes…
The simplest way to implement this is to simply offer a way to subscribe to email notifications as a way to stay connected with your show.
A more advanced call to action provides additional incentives to your audience.
For an example of this, see season 2 of the Positivity Strategist Podcast.
This podcast season talks about "Seven new literacies for living and leading in our times", and the gift being offered for people to subscribe to the show is a "7 Literacies Guide" to go along with listening to the season.
Associating your podcast homepage with strong calls to action also allows for utilizing paid ads and post boosts on Facebook and other platforms. And, make sure your podcast episode files use Facebook correctly and link to your show notes pages rather than to iTunes.
Podcast Subscription Links Section
Finally, here is the section that unfortunately appears right at the top of the podcast home page in too many podcast website designs. By the time that people scroll to this section, your pilot stories have had ample time to communicate the benefits of signing up via email as well.
If you use the icons and graphics provided by each platform, consider adding text explanations under each graphic. Your readers might not recognize each graphic.
The Episode Grid
Like the iTunes links, your complete episode grid is purposefully moved towards the bottom of the page layout, so people are likely more likely to scroll and discover the highlighted episodes in the “Pilot Story” sections above.
The Navigation Footer
This is what makes this home page “upside-down.”
Most websites have their navigation at the very top of the page, but moving it to the bottom of the page, we have increased focus and conversions.
Conclusion and Examples
We use this design pattern on a number of pages ourselves. And this design pattern is obviously not limited to podcasting websites and homepages. Here are some examples we built for a clients in different industries:
- Meditation: Women’s Meditation Network
- Real Estate: Darin Batchelder Real Estate Investing Show
- Spirituality: Inspirational Sermons
- Financial Services: Finley Wealth Management
- Polymash Podcast Production: Our own podcasting services page
- The Podcast Growth Show: Our podcast home page
- Health and Wellness: The Wellness Connection
Also, if you are interested in a downloadable PDF version of this design pattern as featured and covered in the video with all the annotations and explanations, please sign up for our Podcasting Resources Guide above.
WordPress Ready Made Podcast Home Page Download
And I am creating a "Done For You" version of this design pattern using the Thrive Architect content builder, which means this will be a "ready to install" customizable page template on any WordPress site, let me know if that is something you would want in the comments.