Today's episode is a little different. We are going to talk about the importance of building a great podcast home page, and the role it plays in promoting your podcast.
Let me apologize in advance: Talking about podcast homepage design patterns is a mostly visual exercise. It you are listening and not able to see the video and the show notes, I'll try my best to verbally explain the page layout elements as we go through.
But the episode features a YouTube video where you can see the visual bits explained in detail, and I'd encourage you to watch it above.
What we are talking about is a highly converting podcast homepage 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 a focused audience.
But first I want to outline the reasons behind focusing on email list building instead of on iTunes rank and "New and Noteworthy" presence. I get asked about this a lot, especially by "podcasting purists" and "old school" podcasters who are experienced and may already have a solid audience and following. For them, understandably, the primary goal is to serve listeners on iTunes.
Why Podcast Homepage 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 homepage design should focus on getting visitors to your site to subscribe on iTunes, right?
Well, not from my point of view. For a number of reasons: 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 Homepage" 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 homepage design should be intended to help your audience discover your best and most relevant content. Content that resonates the most with their own situation and listening goals, and is also 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 home page design one section at a time:
Again, apologies for the visual nature of this, but what follows will talk through a number of website design elements called "page sections". These are the building blocks of modern web design. They can be thought of as horizontal bands of grouped content. Most of us are familiar with websites that have a "Header" or "Above the Fold" or "Hero" page section. Well, there are other less prominent sections as well, and we'll talk through each one involved in the "Upside Down Podcast Homepage" pattern.
The "Above The Fold" Section
Above the fold is defined as
positioned in the upper half of a web page and visible without scrolling down the page.
The above the fold section is the first thing that creates an impression when we visit a site. It is often where we find a "Header" or "Hero Image". The top of the page should be 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.
Social Proof Section
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. It is often implemented as a set of light grey logos where you might have been featured, or can include testimonials from your guests. The design reason for "greyed out" logos are that they are a more humble brag, and less likely to visually compete with the design of your site.
In our video, notice the design treatment for this section.
The Roadmap Section
The roadmap section provides an multiple choice on-ramp to let your site visitors self-select their journey through your content. It is most often designed as a section with a set of columns or content boxes with an icon, a headline, short description and a button to find out more.
It provides an "at a glance" overview of your podcast's content, while at the same time encouraging your visitors to select what they are most interested in. Clicking on your road map section represents a sort of "micro-commitment" to further engage with your content.
A good example of a roadmap would be for guiding your site visitors through multiple seasons of your podcast. Each season would have a title, a description, and a button to find out more about it. A click on each button triggers a smooth scroll down the page to a pilot story section, which further explains the season and offers some of its best content. This sort of self selective exploration of your content allows your visitors to find what they want as well as 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 Homepage Design
As covered in our video, there are multiple ways in which pilot stories function within your podcast homepage 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 homepage design is intended to offer multiple categories of content, or multiple seasons, then you can add "Pilot Story" sections for each.
For listeners unable to see the illustrations in our show notes, the pilot story section features not only the headline and compelling description, but also a mini grid of your best episodes on the related topic. Our own design approach is to split this page section vertically, with the pilot story on one side, and a mini episode grid on the other side.
This allows you to highlight your best content, instead of hiding it deep inside your site. Use Google analytics to identify the best and most popular episodes from the past, and then feature them here.
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 about how to subscribe on iTunes or other podcast directories. This appears right at the top of the podcast home page in too many podcast homepage designs.
The reason for placing this further down is this: 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.
Minor tip: If you use the icons and graphics provided by each podcast platform, consider adding text explanations under each graphic. Your readers might not recognize each graphic.
The Episode Grid Section
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
Additional Downloadable Resources
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 click here to sign up for our podcasting resources guide, which features a PDF version of the entire design pattern with lots of implementation notes.
WordPress Ready Made Podcast Home Page Download
Also, I am creating a "Done For You" version of this design pattern, ready to install on any WordPress site, let me know if that is something you would want in the comments.