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Podcast Marketing With Social Contests And Give-Aways

Promoting a newly launched podcast with a Facebook contest used to be a very popular podcast marketing tactic. The idea was to launch a contest featuring a relevant give-away and to boost it with paid Facebook ads. To enter the contest, contestants were asked to subscribe to the show, leave an iTunes review, and then to email the iTunes ID name used for the review to the podcast host as proof. The podcast host would then enter the applicant into the contest drawing.

In today's episode we examine:

  • The reasons why this is not as popular launch strategy anymore
  • But also why this podcast marketing strategy is still a good idea today
  • Prize selection tips and why they are key for this podcast marketing strategy
  • Contest Structure
  • We will cover some of the best paid and free contest platforms
  • Tips for setting up and running such contests
  • Need some help for your own contest launch?

iTunes Focused Launches Have Changed

Podcast marketing no longer focuses on iTunes alone
Podcast marketing no longer focuses on iTunes alone

The reason this was a successful strategy a few years ago was that the "New and Noteworthy" algorithm within iTunes was driven by the number of reviews a podcast would receive in the initial weeks after launch. And contests were a great way to get lots of reviews in a short amount of time.

Since then, the algorithm to rise to the top of iTunes 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.

As I have said elsewhere:

I feel that podcasters needlessly obsess about getting into the "New and Noteworthy" section.

The reality is that over the last two years iTunes has become a highly competitive space, given that major popular radio stations have shifted their energies from terrestrial and satellite radio to podcasts as a way to create a digital presence.

And there has been evidence that being featured in "New and Noteworthy" typically yields only a few hundred additional subscribers.

Podcast marketing through “Launch Contest” is less common now

The main reason is that N&N is no longer as influenced my the number of reviews a podcast gets. 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. Or money to spend on contest platforms.

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 iTunes 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 iTunes with no reviews at all also tells you something.

Why a Launch Contest is Still A Good Idea

Getting reviews and testimonials is as hard as it ever was. We've seen this play out countless times. People are happy to offer leaving a review, but iTunes doesn't make this process very straight-forward. So when it comes down to it, even your friends and relatives somehow don't get around to it without repeat reminders.

Contest Prize Selection

Prize selection matters in podcast marketing  with contests
Prize selection matters in podcast marketing with contests

Adding the right prizes and incentives is key. The selected giveaways don’t have to be expensive. It is more important that they be relevant, and 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.

Another example might be a podcast about podcasting, podcast growth and promotions such as my own show. If I were to run a contest for the Podcast Growth Show, I would choose to give away a premium microphone or podcasting gear package as the grand prize.

Why Choose Multiple Prizes?

But one prize is not enough. By giving away multiple prizes, you increase the desirability and success of your contest simply because there are better odds and many more ways to win.

The most successful contests offer a single grand prize, and then a number of secondary prizes in decreasing value.

In fact, you should give away a free resource for everyone entering your contest. This could be a simple lead magnet PDF, as long as it is related to your podcast's topic and focus.

Podcast Marketing Contest Example Prizes

For the Podcast Growth Show, here is how I would plan to structure my own podcast contest. My goal would be to attract new podcasters. So my prize selection would focus on thinking about what would be relevant for new podcasters.

Pretty much every podcaster I know tried to save money during their initial studio setup. And the thing they most likely tried to save money on is their microphone boom arm. A cheap version of this can be highly frustrating to use, and a more professional model with greater reach and a more solid feel is a pleasure to use. Believe me, podcasters will appreciate the difference.

  • 1st Prize: Premium RODE PSA1 Swivel Mount Studio Microphone Boom Arm (a $109 value)
  • 2nd Prize: A Great Dynamic Podcast XLR and USB Microphone – The Audio Technica AT2005 (a $79 value)
  • 3rd Prize: 15 copies of our "Podcast Marketing & SEO Online Course" – (a $97 value)
  • 9th-25 Prize: Our Podcast Marketing Bible Ebook (a $9.97 value)
  • Prize for all contest entrants: "How To Market Your Podcast" ebook and access to our online "Podcasting Resources Guide"

Contest Structure

Podcast promotion contest structure
There are many facets to consider when launching a podcast promotion contest

As I previously mentioned, the launch contests of yesteryear focused on getting iTunes reviews. But that should no longer be the only focus now. For me, it is much more important to attract the right listeners to join my email list and to subscribe to my podcast through email notifications.

So my focus would be to get contest entrants to

  1. Subscribe to my show via email
  2. Subscribe to my show's YouTube channel, because I feature lots of cool "how to" and demo videos there
  3. Like my podcast's Facebook page
  4. Join our Facebook podcast marketing group
  5. Leave an iTunes review

Multiple Actions to Enter The Contest

These are multiple actions to take, and people might think this is a lot to ask just to enter a contest. And that is right, except:

Each action completed creates additional chances to win the prize

So the logic is this: You must subscribe to my email list, that part is required because otherwise I cannot communicate with you and send you the prize. But if you complete the other additional steps, each completed tasks enters you in the contest additional times, greatly increasing your chances of winning one or more prizes.

And, each action is weighed differently: For example, subscribing to my Youtube channel is worth an additional 5 entries, but leaving an iTunes review is worth 25 additional entries.

The genius of this approach for podcast reviews is that it makes it a no-brainer for a contest entrant to do the hardest thing: Leave you an iTunes review.

Later in the podcast I explore the differences between a DIY approach versus utilizing one of the contest platforms out there. This approach of multiple contest entries for multiple actions is only possible by using proper contest management platforms like.

An example of multiple actions to increase your chances

In our video we feature a great example of this in a contest currently underway. The company is Syrp, and they are giving away some photo gear. Click below to start the video at 10:44 seconds:

At 10:44 – an example of multiple ways to enter a contest

Is it necessary to validate iTunes Reviews?

Unfortunately I don't know of any platform that integrates with iTunes directly to validate if someone actually left an iTunes review. But in my mind, most people will do so if asked, because they are afraid of missing out and being found out. What if you were to ask them for the iTunes name they left a review under before sending them their prize?

  • Note that with the Gleam.io platform, there are several easy ways to enter a contest by answering a question or by leaving a comment – and here you can simply ask the user to enter the iTunes name under which the review was left.

Creating Contest Landing Pages

If you want to create a contest, you will want to set up a contest landing page. A contest landing page is a distraction free website or page where you can send ad traffic to, and where people can learn about and sign up for your contest.

You can build such pages manually, but you may not need to when using the contest platforms we will discuss a bit later. They handle the creation of and simplify the design of landing pages, and some even allow you to create multiple versions of these pages and conduct A/B tests to see which ones perform best.

Q: Do you need to A/B test pages? A: It depends. There are people out there that have tested their contest pages. Here are some links to these tests and their outcomes. Why not learn from their tests and model your landing page on their winners? This will save you time and effort.

Generally speaking, it seems that contest landing pages with video perform better.

The Facebook Ad Campaign

Once you have a landing page, it's time to set up a Facebook campaign to boost your contest landing page. Facebook marketing is too big a topic to tackle in this episode, but here are a few tips to make this work:

Setting Up And Using Facebook Ads Manager

Creating A Facebook Ad

There are many easy ways in which you can create a Facebook ad. You shoot a quick video or FB live post, create one or more images about your contest, and come up with some fun language to use for a Facebook post.

We use the AIDA method when creating Facebook ads and landing pages for contests:

  • A =Attention – Ask a provocative question or make a statement that earns the attention of your audience
  • I=Interest – Expand on attention grabbing line with something that will peak their interest and explain.
  • D=Desire – What's in it for them to enter your contest. Duh, that's easy, right?
  • A=Action – This is the call to action, what you want them to do

Finding The Right Audience

The key in making Facebook ads effective and affordable is to show your contest ads to only your very best, most relevant audience. In Facebook parlance this is called "audience targeting". If you have never done Facebook ads before, this can be a bit tricky. Basically you are trying to limit the number of people who see your ads to only those interested in your primary topic.

Targeting Podcast Listeners

But that is not all: You also want to make sure the audience your Facebook ads are shown to are likely podcast listeners, and that part is much harder.

podcast marketing with Facebook Ads
The 5 Step Process to Advertise To Podcast Listeners On Facebook

We have a 5 step process to target likely podcast listeners on Facebook. It walks you through our method on Facebook Ads manager, and you will learn how to target people generally interested in your podcast's topic, but who also are likely podcast listeners.

Free vs Paid Contest Platforms

Are paid contest marketing platforms worth it?

Should you use a paid contest platform like the ones we outlined above? Or is there a way to build this all for free?

Advantages of Paid Contest Platforms

Paid contest platforms are the way to go. For a relatively low monthly fee they offer a range of distinct advantages over a DIY approach.

They integrate with social networks. This means they validate that someone actually shared a post, liked your Facebook Page or Youtube channel. All of this before they are entered in the contest.

Most paid platforms offer pre-built contest landing pages for you. You get up and running much more quickly, and don't have to invest in fancy landing page builders.

They send out custom email reminders. This saves you from having to create your own email funnels, saving a lot of time.

Some have A/B testing built in. This means you get to test out multiple landing pages to see which perform better.

Here are some of my favorite contest platforms to consider:

Rafflecopter

  • Rafflecopter – One of the most affordable platforms out there. Rafflecopter offers a free plan, trials for the more advanced plans starting at $13 a month at the time of this writing. While an easy platform to start with, it is basic.
  • It lacks some of the more innovative features features found on higher priced platforms.

Gleam.io

  • Gleam.io – I really like Gleam.io. It is a smart and flexible contest platform. It rewards people to take multiple actions to promote you while entering your contest. This increases the viral potential of your podcast marketing or launch contest. After having reviewed about 10 different contest management platforms, Gleam has emerged as my favorite. It is, however, not the least expensive, the Pro plan being $45 a month.

Upviral

  • Upviral – a good alternative to Gleam if the expense of that platform is a hurdle. By automatically emailing reminders, setting goals and providing incentives/rewards, your contest entrants stay on track and deliver. They get rewarded, you get new subscribers and everyone’s happy! Upviral has an example case study on their site of their own podcast launch contest which resulted in 7000 contest site visitors, 450 leads and 50+ reviews on iTunes.

Contest Domination

  • Contest Domination – a flexible platform that offers 7 day trial and a per contest payment option for $100 for a month. The benefit of their approach is that you get access to all features, where some of the other popular platform restrict their features for the basic plans.

To summarize these contest platforms, I feel that Gleam is the most innovative platform to try, and you can expect to spend perhaps $90 for a pro plan for a 2 months campaign. The major spend for podcast launch campaigns comes from Facebook ads anyhow, I would expect to spend between $20-$50 a day for the duration of the campaign. Be sure to check out Episode 3 of our podcast on Paid Podcast Advertising – A Look Behind The Scenes [S1E03]

Free Contest Platform Options

If you want to run your podcast launch contest with absolutely no additional expense, here are some ways to do it as well as some things to keep in mind:

  • To save money on prizes, you can give away content and prizes that don't cost you anything, like courseware, or eBooks or other premium content you have previously developed
  • You can use your own email list software like Mailchimp or Constant contact or even free Gmail automation tools like YAMM (we covered YAMM for Podcast Guesting Outreach in episode XX of our podcast)
  • You will need to develop your own landing pages on your podcast or blogging site.
  • Rely on your social network for free promotion and awareness of your contest, with a big enough following you can save on promoting your contest with paid ads
  • You can use tools like GoViral – a free platform from Growth Tools which ensures and validates social sharing. It is great to use as an add-on for thank you pages.
  • Try out GiveawayTools – a new contest design platform that's currently still in beta, but is free and integrates with several social platforms.

So it can theoretically be done for free, but it will require a large investment of time on your part.

My own view is that a zero cost and DIY approach is not likely to succeed

And the question you should ask yourself is about the relationship between time spent and likely effectiveness of the contest campaign you are setting up.

Need a guide to help with your own contest launch?

I've just published a resource for folks wanting to set up their own contest. This is published in "Open PDF" format, meaning the entire guide is provided on-line with no sign-up required, but you can download it guide as an option if you want.

Podcast Marketing with Launch Contests
Podcast Marketing with Launch Contests

I also offer some ways to collaborate around setting up your own launch contest, from low cost "DIY" sanity checks all the way to "Done for you" contest setup and management.

Conclusion

Apart from getting iTunes reviews, a podcast marketing contest with the right prizes and incentives can quickly add a ton of visibility and email subscribers to your podcast.

While it may not reliably get you into the "New and Noteworthy" section of the iTunes podcast directory any more, having some great reviews still lends social proof and credibility to your podcast. And email subscribers to your show are a permanent asset.

If you decide to run a podcast marketing contest, I recommend using a paid contest platform, as this will save you a ton of time and effort.

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.

Podcast Homepage Design Patterns

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.

The Upside Down Podcast Website Design Pattern - Above The Fold
The Upside Down Podcast Homepage Design Pattern – Above The Fold

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.

The Upside Down Podcast Website Design Pattern - Social Proof Section
The Upside Down Podcast Homepage Design Pattern – Social Proof Section

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.

The Upside Down Podcast Website Design Pattern - Roadmap Section
The Upside Down Podcast Homepage Design Pattern – Roadmap Section

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.

The Upside Down Podcast Website Design Pattern - Pilot Story Section
The Upside Down Podcast Homepage Design Pattern – Pilot Story Section

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.

Podcast Website Design Example of a Call To Action
Podcast Website Design Example of a Season And Call To Action

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.

The Upside Down Podcast Website Design Pattern - iTunes Links Section
The Upside Down Podcast Homepage Design Pattern – iTunes Links Section

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

The Upside Down Podcast Website Design Pattern - Episode Grid
The Upside Down Podcast Homepage Design Pattern – 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.”

The Upside Down Podcast Website Design Pattern - Episode Grid
The Upside Down Podcast Homepage Design Pattern – Episode Grid

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:

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.

Podcast guests are key in helping promote an interview style podcast

One of the best things about having an interview style podcast is that you get to know and collaborate with some really cool people. And if you’re lucky, your podcast guest will help you to promote “their” episode and your podcast.

If you’re even more fortunate, your guests are well connected and have a large social media following – resulting in more people being aware of your podcast and subscribing along the way.

Don’t Fall Into The Expectation Trap

You might expect that your podcast guest will help you promote “their” podcast episode.

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 podcast guest to share episode links with their own social networks can be like pulling teeth. It’s a bit like asking for reviews, people seem happy to do offer them in principle, but then it rarely happens without gentle reminders. Repeat reminders.

And depending on your own personality type, asking explicitly may not be in your nature. Repeatedly.

Add to this the fact that the more connected and “famous” your guest is, the less likely they are to do this without being prompted.

Getting a podcast guest to want to help co-promote breaks down into 2 parts:

  1. Designing a pleasurable experience of being on your show
  2. Making it super easy to help promote your podcast

So here are some tips to make this easy on yourself, and even easier for your guest.

Part 1: Designing the Podcast Guest Experience

Podcast guest experiences are a matter of design
Podcast guest experiences are a matter of design

You want your guests to be excited to be on your show. For guests that have never been on a podcast before, this may require some gentle education about the mutual benefits of being on your podcast. The goal is to foster a sense of excitement, collaboration, co-ownership and reciprocity.

In fact we have found that once guests truly understand all of the benefits of “guesting” on your podcast, they are much more likely to chip in and promote the episode when it goes live.

Explain How You Will Present Your Guest In A Good Light

We have an on-boarding sequence when we book podcast guests on our shows. During this process we reiterate that the process is designed for us to be able to promote the guest, highlight their background, links to their website, current initiatives and so on.

During this phase, we ask them to fill out an on-boarding form. They are 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, we want to create great looking episode show notes that our guests would be proud to share and to help cross promote. Essentially, we’re doing this on THEIR behalf.

Making the Sign Up Process Easy

Still, people are busy, and they hate to fill out forms. Especially if they seem complicated. So here are some design aspects to help make this process easy:

  1. Do not use a super long intimidating looking forms with lots of fields to fill out
  2. Instead, break fields into manageable small sections with fewer fields
  3. If you are on WordPress, use a forms tool that supports a “wizard” like interface, which breaks the sign up process into smaller steps or pages
  4. Display a progress bar on the sign up form
  5. Extra credit for forms that can be “saved” in the middle of filling out a form

Here are some WordPress tools that support multi-step forms

Eliminate Technical Difficulties

You want your interview to go smoothly, and making sure there are no last minute technical difficulties is important. Look at it from your guests point of view: They may not be used to Skype. They may not have headphones, earbuds or microphones. They may not know how to connect these or configure Skype in the right way.

We produce some podcasts where our guests are an older demographic or simply “tech averse”. Or we get people who cannot use Skype because they are behind a corporate firewall, and we therefore need to offer alternative recording platforms like “Ringrr“.

In any case, the last thing you want is to discover these things the last minute before starting to record, which usually results in a flustered guest.

2 tips for eliminating technical issues

  1. Send a “technical setup” email as part of your guest onboarding sequence.
  2. Arrange for a brief test call a day or so before the actual interview to iron out any issues. Some podcasters have a brief 10 minute “test” conversation with their guests right before the interview starts, and this is OK as long as you are confident that your guests have the equipment and experience to handle that.

Prep Your Guests On What To Expect

Being comfortable doesn’t just depend on technical issues. Guests appreciate having sense of the flow of the conversation.

A lot of podcasts follow a set interview structure, with predictable segments and questions that the guest will be asked. Take John Lee Dumas’ “Entrepreneur on Fire
podcast. He has an episode format with certain questions that each podcast guest can easily prepare for ahead of time.

Open ended conversation with surprise questions may be more unsettling for your guests. But this may make for a much more interesting listening experience for your audience, and result in more surprising and compelling podcasting.

In the end you may have to balance your guests comfort with your listening audience’s expectations for compelling conversations.

Tips for balancing guest vs listener experience:

  • Approach it from a hybrid perspective. Feature open conversation segments, but also have several prepared questions for your guest to fall back on.
  • Ask your guest to listen to one or more representative podcast episode so they know what to expect.
  • Send your typical episode structure outline to your guest via email as part of the aforementioned “onboarding sequence”. Even if you have mostly unstructured conversations, sending a “guest cheat sheet” ahead of time is a good idea.

Part 2: Getting Your Guests To Co-Promote Their Episode

Getting your podcast guest to share
Make sure your podcast guests know you would like them to share your episode

Make Your Expectations Clear From The Beginning

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 shareable links and notifications.

Automate The Process

Scripts and templates are designed to make your process easier.

A great tool for this on Mac is an application called Text Expander. This is where you can store pre-written emails. When you are ready to send the email, a popup will prompt you to simply fill in the blanks with the needed information. In this case that would be the name of the guest, name of episode, episode URL, etc.

Which emails are part of our typical on-boarding sequence?

  1. “Thank You Note”, sent right after filling out our podcast guest application. This is a short simple email. We don’t want to overwhelm with too much information at this point. But we do include a Calendly or YouCanBook.me link to schedule a test call and get this on the calendar.
  2. “What To Expect” email, sent an hour after filling out our podcast guest application. This includes our podcast “one sheet” PDF with typical episodes, show structure, about pages and other useful links. It also contains guides for technical setup, wearing earbuds, Skype etc. We ask guests to ask questions at this point.
  3. “Reminder Email”, sent 2 days before recording. By this time you as the host might have formulated some guest specific questions in addition to the normal episode structure. Also this is discussed on the pre-call.

Some Automation Resources:

Make Sharing Easy For Your Podcast Guest

One of the easiest ways to get people to share is to send them an email containing instructions on how to share your show notes post on your website. They will want to check out the show notes pages anyhow, and in many casts that is true.

The problem with that is that you are asking your podcast guest to take the time to visit your website, check out your show notes page and then use social share buttons to share. And in this scenario they have to come up with some clever text to share. This is not exactly distraction free, as they might start reading your show notes, listening to parts of the interview. Next thing you know they have forgotten to share, and OMG, look at the time.

Usually our guests are extremely busy people, what if there is a better way?

Well, there is. By all means, first send your guests to the show notes page to check it all out and to see what a quality job you did.

But then send them ready-made share links in one or more separate follow up emails. A big benefit benefit of this strategy is that you want your guests to share your show notes page. NOT the iTunes link. Not the episode on Stitcher or SoundCloud or Spotify.

Social share traffic needs to go to your website, not iTunes.

There are some really awesome services out there that let you prepare ready-made tweets and Facebook shares. They are easy to use, and you can prepare several social shares for your guest to click on and use. These can simply be sent via email. Your guest does not even have to visit the show notes page to use these:

Sharing Ease Resources:

The idea is to send your podcast guest a separate email with a range of pre-made tweets and social shares.

  • Click To Tweet – is a twitter specific service that generates tweets. Click here for another example of a ready-made tweet to our “The Podcast Growth Show” homepage.

A Simple Sharing Text Example

Use something like the below 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]”

But be creative, and don’t just send one single share. Send a range to choose from. Outline the text for each share and then paste the share link next to the share text in the email

Share The Success And The Once Is Not Enough Rule

You may think that after the initial share of your live episode you should not repeatedly ask your guest to help promote. I get that.

But your podcast guest will love to hear about how popular their episode was. So here are some good ways to stay in touch and to send additional shareable links without being a nuisance:

  • Let them know how well received the episode was, and place some additional shareables at the bottom of that email.
  • Even months after the interview, you can reach out to let your guests know that you are getting great feedback. Again, place some share links into that email.

Conclusion

Involving your podcast guest in the promotion of their episode and your podcast overall is a critical element in building a community around your show. I can summarize the important bits like this:

  • Educate your guests on the benefits of appearing on your podcast
  • Set an expectation that this is a collaboration that can succeed only with their help, beyond just showing up for an interview
  • Make it as easy as possible to be on your show
  • Make it as easy as possible for your guests to share your episodes
  • Be persistent and follow up more than once

How to promote your podcast main image

The current podcast ecosystem is a challenging one to promote your podcast in, admittedly. First: as of Summer 2019, there are currently north of 725,000 shows that have produced around 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 iTunes. It's a crowded space, for sure.

How do you promote and market your podcast in 2019 and beyond?

  1. Submitting Your Shows To Podcast Directories
  2. Podcast Guesting On Other Podcasts
  3. Using Paid Ad Strategies
  4. Leveraging Your Own Guests
  5. Make It Easy As Pie To Share Your Episodes
  6. Contests and Promotions To Gather Apple Podcast Reviews
  7. Leverage Email Subscribers With Social Media Share Gates
  8. Promote Your Podcast Organically With SEO
  9. Content Strategy & Patience
  10. Plan Interesting Topics
  11. Join a podcasting community or network
  12. Use your email list
  13. Make Your Your Podcast Homepage Design Less Egocentric
  14. Figure out your audience and engage it
  15. 5 Mistakes to AVOID when promoting your podcast
  16. Conclusion – And How Polymash Helps

Introduction

The increasing role of Chinese click farms have had an outsized impact on the top 200 for iTunes. 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.

Submitting Your Shows To Podcast Directories

The place to start? Promote your podcast by submitting 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.

iTunes

iTunes 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 iTunes in order to be in the "New and Noteworthy" section. But for me the most important reason to submit to iTunes is that most mobile apps (AKA podcatchers) use the iTunes directory to list all available podcasts inside their app. This means you need to submit to iTunes if you want your podcast to be found on a majority of podcatchers out there.

Spotify

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

Stitcher

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.

Google Play

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

TuneIn

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

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

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.

Podbean

Mainly a podcast hosting company, but also has an extensive podcast directory

Spreaker

Like Blubrry, Spreaker is both a hosting platform as well as a podcast directory. You can submit your show even if it is not hosted there. You sign up for an account, and then supply your RSS feed there.

Player.fm

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.

Acast.com

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.

Digital Podcast

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.

Radiopublic

Handpicked podcast playlists from people who love podcasts.

  • Click here for the submission process
  • Web Stats: 378K visits a month

ListenNotes.com

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.

iPodder

  • 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

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 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

Guesting is a great way to promote your podcast
Guesting on other shows is a great way to promote your own podcast

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:

  1. Have you already been a guest on at least 20 other shows?
  2. Have you already added value to the person you're reaching out to in a meaningful way?
  3. Do you have your own show, or a substantial online presence, and have you already connected with, or had a podcaster on my show?
  4. Have you made your presence felt in their community?
  5. 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 iTunes 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

Marketing your podcast using paid ads
Marketing your podcast with paid ads can be very effective – especially on other podcasts

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:

Promote your podcast with Facebook ads
To promote your podcast with Facebook ads, you will want this 5 step quick guide

But read on for the Cliff Notes summary of our deep dive, here's my take on 3 platforms.

Google Adwords

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 iTunes 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

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.

How To Promote Your Podcast By Leveraging Your Own Guests

Your own guests need to play a role in growing your podcast
Make sure your guests help you by sharing episodes they appear on

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.

Beyond Guests, Make It Easy As Pie To Share Your Episodes

Ensure your podcast episodes are easily shared
Ensure your podcast episodes are easily shared

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.

Contests and Promotions To Gather iTunes Reviews

Podcast launch promotion contest
Promote your podcast and get reviews with a contest

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 iTunes review, and then emailing the iTunes ID to enter the contest as proof.

iTunes Has Changed

Since then, the algorithm to rise to the top of iTunes 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 iTunes 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

market your podcast launch with GoViral
The idea is to try and promote your podcast launch to go viral.

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:

  1. Susan signs up for your email list
    This could be on your homepage, for a webinar or in a blog post.
  2. GoViral offers her a gift for sharing your site
    This could be anything from a free PDF, to a discount, to a free course.
  3. 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%.

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.

How to promote a podcast GoViral Demo image
Help us out by sharing this post!

Just click the download button above to see the GoViral system in action.

How To Promote Your Podcast Organically With SEO

Promoting a podcast with SEO is a long term strategy
Promoting a podcast with SEO is a long term strategy

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.

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

Invest the time to promote your podcast
Content marketing takes time

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 Interesting Topics

podcast marketing takes time
Interesting topics can come from researching your audience

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

Podcasting networks actively help cross promote, but can be difficult to get into
Podcasting networks actively help cross promote, but can be difficult to get into

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.

Some bigger podcast networks include Panoply, Maximum Fun, PodcastOne and Gimlet Media.

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

email list building is underated for engaging with your podcast audience
Email is underrated

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

Make it more about your audience than your podcast

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 iTunes 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

Finding your ideal podcast audience
Finding your ideal podcast audience is the start

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
  • Reddit
  • Quora
  • HBR and similar sites comments
  • Facebook groups about SMB/entrepreneurship
  • Reddit
  • Quora
  • 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

Podcast marketing mistakes to avoid in podcast promotion

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 iTunes 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:

  1. Storytelling
  2. Effectively building a community

All great podcasting is those two things as well. It's a different landscape than it was even in 2016, but you can do this.

You can help us by downloading a PDF version of this post

If you'd like to have a downloadable version of this podcast marketing guide for reference, please share it on Facebook:

Help us out by sharing this post!

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.

A video walk-through tour of the “Upside Down Podcast Home Page” design pattern

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.

The Upside Down Podcast Website Design Pattern - Above The Fold
The Upside Down Podcast Website Design Pattern – Above The Fold

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

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.

The Upside Down Podcast Website Design Pattern - Social Proof Section
The Upside Down Podcast Website Design Pattern – Social Proof Section

In our video, notice the design treatment for this section.

Roadmap

The roadmap section provides an on-ramp to let your site visitors self-select their journey through your content.

The Upside Down Podcast Website Design Pattern - Roadmap Section
The Upside Down Podcast Website Design Pattern – Roadmap Section

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.

The Upside Down Podcast Website Design Pattern - Pilot Story Section
The Upside Down Podcast Website Design Pattern – Pilot Story Section

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.

Podcast Website Design Example of a Call To Action
Podcast Website Design Example of a Season And Call To Action

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.

The Upside Down Podcast Website Design Pattern - iTunes Links Section
The Upside Down Podcast Website Design Pattern – iTunes Links Section

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

The Upside Down Podcast Website Design Pattern - Episode Grid
The Upside Down Podcast Website Design Pattern – 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.”

The Upside Down Podcast Website Design Pattern - Episode Grid
The Upside Down Podcast Website Design Pattern – Episode Grid

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.


Additional Resources

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.