The number one question podcasters are famous for asking is, how do I grow my show? There are a million answers to that particular problem. However, before you dive deep into aggressive new growth strategies, it's time to see if you are missing some of the basic best practices that are keeping people from accessing your content in the first place.
1. Is your show available on the right platforms?
Having your shows available on the right platforms is crucial. Can people access your show on Apple Podcasts, Spotify, Google Podcasts? Apple is the top podcast listening destination, and dozens of other podcasting apps will draw from their library. If you're not on Apple, you are probably invisible. But Spotify is making huge gains and has quickly become the second most popular listening destination in the US and first in many other countries around the world. When it comes to Google, many folks may be on Google Play, but what's more important is being on their new Google Podcast app. You can't submit anywhere to be on Google Podcasts though, your feed has to be indexed like websites, but it's worth checking if you are available. If not, be sure to follow their guidelines to get picked up. These three locations ensure any mobile user can find and listen to your show.
2. Are there clear subscribe buttons on your website and episode pages?
When someone arrives on the page for your podcast within your website, can you easily convert them to a subscriber? There is a great chance people are going to find your podcast page or an episode page without having listened to your podcast before. Once they are there, make it easy for them to follow you and get notifications for new episodes. You can put buttons to lots of different apps, but Apple, Google, and Spotify are probably your best bet. Most people have an iOS or Android device, which means the first two work with just a click. And others are very familiar with Spotify. More than that, and you could be creating choice overload, especially for people who are not podcast enthusiasts. Assume that podcast enthusiasts, once they know you have a show, are fully capable of subscribing through their favorite platform.
3. Are you wasting space with your episode titles?
There is no need to repeat the name of the show in your episode title. Nor does it make sense only to name it "Episode XX." No one in the history of podcast searches has ever thought that Episode 17's are the best. The episode title is a searchable field in most podcast apps, so be sure to include keyword friendly titles. Cleverness is good, but a descriptive title that will attract listeners searching for your keywords is more important. When it comes to episode numbers, Apple has asked users to stop listing them in titles.
Most podcast hosting platforms give you the option to make an Apple-specific title without them as well as assign an episode number that Apple officially recognizes. If you must have episode numbers because you reference them a lot, try putting them at the front of your description so people can still easily see them.
4. Does your artwork make sense?
Your logo is the first impression most people will have of your podcast when they are searching directories. Be sure that the name of your show is bold and clear so that even when looking at them as tinier squares on mobile devices, everyone knows what show they are selecting. You can use an image of yourself, but the title needs to be clear and avoid a lot of clutter. Again, when shrunk down, most of that clutter will be unclear at best.
5. Are you using an external mic?
You don't have to spend thousands and thousands of dollars to mimic broadcast-quality operations for your podcast. But if you're not willing to spend even $50-$75 on a decent USB microphone and think you can rely on the built-in speaker mic on your laptop, you probably won't hold on to listeners for very long. Yes, some top-rated shows have terrible quality, but their content is probably invaluable. If you are still trying to get discovered and grow, you need people to want to listen. If your quality is so bad that it becomes an actual strain to consume, you'll lose your audience before you get to deliver value. Also, don't just throw one mic in the middle of 2-4 people. Everyone needs to be on mic, about 2-4 inches from it at most to capture high-quality sound.
6. Do you make your audience wait too long before delivering value?
Is your intro music too long before we hear a voice? Do you ramble about entirely unrelated things before getting to the topic of the day? Most new listeners to a podcast are going to choose whether they will stick with a show in under 90 seconds. Make sure you have made it very clear what value they are going to get in this episode as fast as possible before they lose interest. Podcasts are free, but we are asking the audience to invest their time, don't waste it.
7. Are you making your value proposition clear?
When considering the show title, episode title, episode description, the show intro, or your social media posts, are you letting people know why they should listen? Again, podcasts are primarily free, but people have to invest their time. Why should they give you 20, 30, 60 minutes or more of their time? What value are you going to provide? Make it clear. Even laughs or comfort can be of value to the listeners. Just be clear of what they should expect.
8. Are you giving people a reason to listen when you promote on social media?
Following our last step, when promoting your episodes on social media, are you asking your followers to do something for you, or are you providing them with value? Most podcasters simply post "check out the new episode." Sure, if I am already a follower of your show, that is useful information. But if you are reading this, I assume you are looking for subscribers. Don't ask the audience to do something for you, let them know what you are going to provide them if they listen. In other words, give them a reason that they can't miss this episode. There's a subtle but essential difference between "Reviewing changes to tax laws in 2020" and "Could changes to the tax laws in 2020 impact your wallet?" The latter lets people know that this content could impact them directly. Big caution, though, don't tell people you're providing value and then fail to. That would be clickbait.
9. Are you creating individual webpages for your episodes?
There are several key advantages to having a website for your podcast and creating an individual page for each episode. For starters, it's easier to make your content more searchable when there is a website attached to it where you deploy proper SEO tactics. Second, instead of sharing a link to your hosting site and giving them more traffic, you can drive people to your webpage. Once there, maybe they want to learn more and will click on your logo. Or you can steer them to sign up for your email list. Lastly, if you are following the guidelines in #2, you make it easy for people to consume your content. If you post a link on social to your episode on Apple, then you've basically told an Android user that you have no interest in their click. But if you are driving people to your website with embedded audio players and subscribe links to several options, users can now quickly get the show where they want to. Plus, if people share links to your website vs. the episode itself or hosting site link, you get that backlink traffic, which is very valuable.
10. Are you enjoying yourself while creating this content?
You don't have to have a podcast. If you're not enjoying the process of making this content, the audience is not going to enjoy listening. This content that you put out is going to be a reflection of you, your business, and your brand. If you want to do this, do it with a smile. Listeners can actually hear the difference between a host that is smiling while talking and one that is not. Don't waste your time or anyone else's by producing a podcast simply because you think you have to. Do it because you are so in love with the content that you can't wait to share it.
Mathew Passy is The Podcast Consultant, a 15-year veteran in the media industry with a majority of that time spent producing podcasts. The Podcast Consultant helps clients launch, edit, produce, promote, and benefit from their podcast. You can learn more and listen to some of his clients' shows at ThePodcastConsultant.com