Getting more subscribers to your show is your biggest challenge as a podcaster.
You know you can get more subscribers, but you don’t really know how.
If that’s you, you’re probably missing a free strategy that runs while you sleep. And it only gets better the longer you do it.
I’m talking about SEO.
If you want to reach the top of the charts, get subscribers while you sleep, and make some money from your podcasting, then you are in the right place.
Table of Contents
Use these links to jump through this guide.
Chapter 1: Why Should Podcasters Care About SEO?
SEO, or Search Engine Optimization, is the set of practices that helps you get discovered on Google search when people search for things related to your podcast.
(FYI, there’s also SEO for Apple Podcasts and YouTube and Amazon and Instagram and everything else. We’ll talk about Apple Podcasts in this article.)
But I’m putting the cart before the horse. Let’s back up a bit.
As Kevin Goldberg of DiscoverPods has noted, there is a podcast discovery problem. (Actually, he’s said it twice.) People don’t find podcasts unless they search on a podcast-specific search engine like Apple Podcasts or Stitcher.
In other words, people typically don’t find podcasts unless they go looking for podcasts.
Only 24% of Americans listen to at least one podcast per month. And the other 76%? They’re not podcast listeners.
So podcasting is still in an early adopter phase. What does that mean for you?
It means you have an extra hurdle to getting new subscribers.
You can focus only on the people who are already listening to podcasts…
…but the majority of people aren’t even listening to podcasts.
Sure, the first group takes less effort to convert.
But the numbers are in group #2.
Now, let’s think for a minute. What search engines do people use?
Google. And what shows up on Google?
Your podcast’s website.
(Still don’t think you need a website?)
If you want more subscribers and ultimately more money, you need to make sure your website is at the top of Google for as many relevant searches as possible.
1.1: What is SEO and How Can It Help Me?
SEO, or Search Engine Optimization, is the use of data-driven best practices to get you discovered by people searching for relevant terms in Google search. Some benefits of SEO are:
- More visibility from people who have never heard from you
- Trust from people who click on your website and listen to your podcast
- The ability to engage with and grow a new audience who aren’t actively looking for podcasts
This means more listeners and subscribers to your podcast.
(Which, if you’re monetizing your podcast, means more money in your pockets.)
This guide contains the 20% of SEO that will get you 80% of the results.
In order to leverage all of the benefits that SEO can get you, you first need a website.
1.2: Why do I need a website?
Imagine Apple Podcasts goes away tomorrow.
Or Stitcher. Or Spotify.
All your subscribers? Poof. Gone forever.
We don’t want that.
Here’s another possibility: your podcast gets banned from Apple/Spotify/Stitcher. Again, you lose all your hard-earned subscribers in an instant.
Total nightmare, right?
With a website (and an email list), you become the owner of that relationship between you and your subscribers. You insulate yourself from any algorithm changes Apple or Stitcher might pull.
(We’ll talk more about email lists in Chapter 5.)
A website also provides even more value to your audience. Let’s look at some examples.
Section 1.3: Examples of Podcast Websites
Each of these short videos covers a different podcast website. Let these serve as both ideals and inspirations as you build your podcast’s website.
Section 1.3.1: Online Marketing Made Easy
Amy Porterfield’s Online Marketing Made Easy podcast is for online entrepreneurs. I put this first because her website is so good and does many of the things I talk about in this post.
For example, Amy Porterfield is a master at list building.
But there’s also a lot here that could be better. While her website is great from a business perspective, she’s missing a lot of SEO value. I talk about this in the video.
Section 1.3.2: On Being
Krista Tippet’s On Being show is in many ways in stark contrast to Amy Porterfield’s brand. While Amy focuses on step-by-step, immediately useful and executable information, Krista Tippet’s podcast is about the messy, complex nature of what it means to be human.
You won’t find guides or checklists here, and I doubt the On Being team does any keyword research, but that’s okay. They use content marketing—which I talk about in this video—to build their audience.
But as websites go, you could do a lot worse.
Section 1.3.3: The Tim Ferriss Show
The Tim Ferriss Show is a longform, interview-based podcast. Tim, like Amy, is an expert at creating an ecosystem around his podcast episodes.
There’s one thing I really want you to notice here.
Each of Tim’s shownotes contain a link to one other episode you might enjoy.
Of course you’re going to click on that link. And listen to the next one.
Section 1.3.4: Everyone Hates Marketers
Everyone Hates Marketers is a podcast with a promise: you don’t have to sell your soul to be a good marketer.
Their home page does a few things very well, and I want you to emulate them:
- Give me a list of episodes to start with
- Advertise a freebie to encourage email list subscribers
- Tell me exactly who you are and what you’re promising
The website is very simple, but I guarantee you their home page helps them direct new visitors to their very best episodes…which no doubt encourages some subscribes.
Section 1.3.5: Your Online Genius
Finally, we have Your Online Genius, a podcast run by my friend Bobby Klinck. Bobby is a lawyer for online entrepreneurs and I wanted to feature this website because Bobby does a FANTASTIC job of monetizing his podcast.
Think about what offerings you can offer on your website. In Bobby’s case, they’re simple forms and a membership site. Can you offer a membership site and give members some extra content?
If you’re a travel or location-specific podcast, can you use your podcast to host tours or throw a contest and reward the winner with a round-trip ticket to your area?
This is a post about SEO, not running a business, but I wanted to make sure you saw some examples of podcasts that do a good job of earning money for the podcaster.
Section 1.4: The Website Overview
Now that you’ve seen some examples, can you guess some best practices?
- One episode per page.
- Let your listeners filter by topic.
- Recommend one related episodes.
- Offer something to get people to subscribe to your email list
This is the power of your podcast’s website: the ability to recommend and control the experience of someone listening to your podcast.
Where do you want someone new to your podcast to start? What are your best episodes? How else can you add value to your listeners?
Chapter 2: Keyword Research for Podcast SEO
Keyword research is the foundation of SEO. Keywords are search queries—anything you type into Google search is a keyword.
Picking the right keyword for each of your episodes is how you’re going to maximize the number of potential listeners and fans that find you. Don’t skip this step!
Section 2.1: The Only Rule You Need
One keyword per episode.
One keyword per page.
One episode per page.
One keyword per page.
If you already have a bunch of episodes, you should begin this exercise—even if keywords were not on your radar when you started podcasting. Pick one keyword for each episode and organize them in a spreadsheet.
(I know, I hate spreadsheets too. But this will pay off, promise!)
I’ve given you an example spreadsheet to work from. Copy it to your own Google Drive.
But exactly which keywords should you pick?
This depends. If you don’t have that many episodes I’d go through the proper keyword research process for each episode.
If you have a lot of episodes and you’re already pressed for time, I’d pick the handful of top-performing episodes to give special treatment and ignore the rest.
Section 2.2: Start with a Proven Topic
What is your podcast about? What do you want to record an episode about?
Remember that you’re podcasting with your audience in mind. The keyword you ultimately select should reflect a topic they’re interested in.
But how do you choose a topic?
This is easy. Here are some suggestions:
- Stalk Quora and Reddit and keep a running list of repeat questions/themes you notice
- Ask questions in Quora and Reddit and notice how many other people also have this problem
- Look at what topics are getting a good response from other content creators in your niche (not just podcasters—-bloggers, vloggers, Instagrammers…you name it)
- Go to Buzzsumo and type in a few sample topics. Look at the websites that have gotten a lot of shares; can you put your own spin on their content?
- Search for your topic in Apple Podcasts—if someone else did an episode on your topic, listen to it. Can you do better?
Topic research boils down to 2 considerations:
- Does this answer a question that my target audience has?
- Can I improve or put my own spin on what’s already out there?
If the answer to either of those questions is “no,” then I’d advise you to pick another topic.
But if you answer both questions with “yes,” then you, my friend, have found a proven topic.
Section 2.3: Picking a Keyword for Your Episode
You need to use a keyword research tool in order to find a winning keyword. Once you find a keyword, you’ll optimize your webpage around that keyword. (We’ll go to that.)
What makes a winning keyword?
A winning keyword has a high search volume and a low competition. This means that a lot of people are searching for it but it’s not very hard to get to get your website to the first page of the Google Search results.
First, fire up your favorite keyword research tool. I’m going to use Ubersuggest, which is free.
Let’s assume your podcast is about Facebook Ads and search for keywords related to “Facebook Ads.”
There’s a lot happening here, so let’s break it down a bit.
- The keyword. These are the actual search terms.
- The search volume. In other words, this is an estimate of how many people are searching this term every month.
- CPC, or cost per click. This is mostly for Google AdWords, which is not what we’re dealing with here. You can ignore CPC.
- Competition. In other words, on a scale of 0 to 1, with 1 being the hardest, how difficult is it to land on the first page of Google with this keyword?
You can check a keyword’s search history by hovering over the little bar graph icon next to the Search Volume value.
According to this data, searches for “advertise your business on facebook” peak in the summer and mellow out for the rest of year.
Let’s filter by Search Volume.
Most of these keywords are complete nonsense, aren’t they? Facebook login? Facebook people search? Not at all related to our search.
What’s going on here?
Section 2.2.1: The 3 Keyword Classifications
In order to understand what’s going on here, let’s back up a bit.
Most SEO practitioners classify keywords into 3 different groups: head, body, and tail. Here’s a graphic from Backlinko that breaks this up:
- Single-word phrases, or head keywords, are very competitive but don’t convert very well. (In other words, even if someone does find you after searching “Facebook login,” it’s not likely they’ll listen to your podcast on Facebook ads.
- Word phrases, or body keywords, get fewer searches but convert better than head keywords. Body keywords are sometimes called “medium-tail keywords.”
- Word phrases, or long-tail keywords, form the majority of searches. They convert very well because of their specificity, but you need to rank for hundreds of them in order to see any meaningful traffic. (For more on the long tail, listen to the episode Hitsville on Seth Godin’s podcast Akimbo.)
You want to target medium-tail keywords because:
- Medium-tail keywords get enough search traffic to make SEO worthwhile;
- Medium-tail keywords convert reasonably well;
- By optimizing for a medium-tail keyword, you’ll automatically rank for dozens of long-tail keywords.
But how do you map the data from Ubersuggest onto these three categories? How do you know you’ve found a medium-tail keyword?
I start my search within the 2,000-10,000 searches per month bound. (You can export the data from Ubersuggest into a spreadsheet and delete the head keywords if that’s easier for you.)
From there, I find a keyword I like and check the competition. If the competition is pretty low (under .35), I go for it. If not, I pick another keyword.
Sometimes you can’t find a “perfect” keyword, and that’s okay. Choose an imperfect one, but don’t get stuck here.
Section 2.4: Above All, Know Your Audience
One of the problems with any crowdsourced data like keywords is just that—it’s crowdsourced. If your podcast reaches a very specific niche audience that might search different from the general population, it might be worth targeting medium-tail keywords on the low end of the spectrum—especially if that leads to increased discoverability and more conversions.
That said, I am all in favor of your experimenting.
An example of this is Krista Tippet’s podcast, called On Being. Krista Tippet knows that her audience is interested more in conceptual, philosophical discussions—and despite what the keyword research will tell you about the market, she’s built a very successful community around these dialogues.
The keyword research for the title of one of my favorite episodes, “All Reality is Interaction,” paints a bleak picture—not many people are typing the phrase “All Reality is Interaction” into Google. But Krista knows that a more esoteric title is more attractive to her audience.
Chapter 3: Maximize Downloads and Clicks with Smart Episode Names
Now that your potential listeners have found your podcast, you need to ensure the episode titles pique their interest.
More specifically, you need to let them know they’re in the right place. Otherwise, you risk them running off and leaving you…forever.
Let’s do our best to make sure that doesn’t happen.
Section 3.1: What’s In It For Me?
It’s time for some tough love:
Chances are, I don’t care about you. I care about me.
Your potential listeners? They’re the same. They don’t care about you. They care what you can do for them.
If you want me to download your podcast episode, you need to craft a title that makes me want to listen.
How do you do that?
Frame your title in terms of benefits.
For example, “How to Eat Healthier and Save Money” is a much better title for your podcast episode than “Grocery Shopping 101.”
“10 tips to learn German in 30 Minutes a Day” is better than “10 Tips for Learning German.”
The what’s in it for me question is one of the best questions to preemptively answer any time you want somebody to take an action (like download your podcast).
Section 3.2: Name Dropping Like It’s Hot
Sometimes you’re going to interview an expert on your podcast.
Sometimes that expert has a bigger fanbase than you do.
In that case, include their name at the front of the title.
Otherwise, you risk their name getting cut off, like in this example:
I have absolutely no idea who “Micha…” is referring to. Who is this special guest?
Surprise: It’s Michael Hyatt.
A Michael Hyatt fan would have downloaded that episode as soon as they saw it, no questions asked.
But by allowing the names of their guests to be truncated, your podcast is losing a lot of potential visitors.
The same is true for the episode page on your website. Putting the name of the influencer towards or at the front of the page’s title (and in the URL slug) is going to make it super clear to a searcher who the star of the show is.
Section 3.3: Hacks to Improve Clicks + Download Rate
HubSpot learned we’re more likely to click on a Google Search result if you include the following in the title:
- Brackets or parentheses
- A number
- The current year
While I really recommend you include these in your post titles (where it makes sense), I also recommend you include them in your podcast titles.
The current year is a particularly sticky topic—so many podcasts aren’t being updated and seeing “in 2016” makes it super clear to me that this podcast has been discontinued.
Likewise, if you have an evergreen podcast episode and you’ve updated the episode webpage (and maybe even released the episode), you’ll want to include some indication that the information has been refreshed for the current year.
The same study also found that we’re less likely to click when the following words are included in the title:
- How to
Additionally, positive superlatives (best, amazing) underperform. Avoid these words in your titles.
Chapter 4: The Anatomy of an Optimized Podcast Episode Page
Section 4.1: The 11 Essential Elements of Your Podcast Page
Follow the links to easily navigate through this section.
- Subscribe Button
- Mailing List Opt-in
- Summary/Key Takeaways
- Links to related episodes
- Links to resources mentioned in this episode
- Social Share buttons
Let’s go over each of these.
Include the keyword, your guest’s name (if applicable), and the benefits that I’ll receive after I listen to this podcast episode.
Some good titles include:
Tim Ferriss understands the name of the person he’d interviewed is the most important part of the episode. If you know who Sir Richard Branson is, you’re interested in this episode. If you don’t know who he is, but you know what the Virgin Empire is, you’re still likely to listen.
This is from the High Resolution podcast. Here, the person herself isn’t quite so well known (Rochelle King), but her position in her company is enviable. When I see this title, I’m interested because I admire Spotify and I want to learn more from someone at that company.
If you’re a designer or typographer—in other words, if you’re part of Debbie Millman’s target audience—you already know who Massimo Vignelli is. But this title also lets me know Debbie previously launched this episode. It’s Debbie being transparent about the content she’s relaunching. As a new listener, it gives me an opportunity to see one of the “greatest hits” of the podcast, which might pique my interest.
2. Subscribe Button
This is your first call to action. If I do nothing else on your page, at least I’ll have subscribed, and that’s a win.
It might be tempting to include subscribe buttons to every single channel where your podcast exists, but I recommend including only three: Apple Podcasts, Spotify, and Stitcher. Why? Because these are the most popular podcasting platforms.
If you know the majority of your current listeners use Overcast or another podcasting app, then swap out Spotify or Stitcher.
I’ll place your subscribe button near the top of the page, above the fold.
So many people make the mistake of placing large images at the very top of the page.
This cuts off the episode title and makes me scroll past a giant image to play the audio! Not ideal.
Instead, I’d place your image beneath the audio. At the very least I’d get an image that isn’t so tall.
If you can include more images near the bottom of the post, I encourage you to do to so. These could be custom banners for quotes or tweetables you’ve extracted from the conversation, or images of your guest in the studio if your record live.
I wouldn’t include more images just for the sake of including more images. And I wouldn’t include large images above the audio or the timestamps.
This is a no-brainer—you want me to listen to your podcast! Put this front and center, above the fold. It should be one of the first things I see when I land on your page.
I often see timestamps for podcasts on episode pages:
Everyone is doing them and you should follow suit—they’re helpful.
But you know what would make them even better?
If I could actually jump to that time in the audio. On this person’s website, I have to figure out what part of the episode I want to hear, and then I have to scroll all the way to the top of the page and manually fiddle with the audio until it starts where I want it to.
A much better experience would be if I said, “I want to hear about your new strategy to get more content done in concentrated amounts of time,” and then I could jump to that section of the audio in one click.
Neil Patel and Eric Siu of the Marketing School podcast do this perfectly. Check it out on their website.
This is an easy win so many people miss.
Include your transcript on your webpage. If you also include a downloadable pdf of your transcript, that’s great too—but you’re missing out on a lot of SEO potential of Google can’t actually read the words on your page.
A transcript is good for another reason, too: if I can read along to the audio I’m hearing, I’m less likely to jump ship to another webpage. This directly affects your site’s dwell time, one of the metrics we want to maximize.
If your podcast is a solo venture and scripted, like the French-history podcast The Land of Desire, a transcript is fraught with SEO value.
But if your podcast is a conversation between two or more entities, a word-for-word transcript might be annoying to read through. In that case, I recommend editing out the tics so make the transcript readable. You can see an example of this on Krista Tippet’s podcast, On Being.
7. Email Opt-In Form
Your email list is your best tool in pursuit of your endgame—more loyal subscribers. You need to plug your content upgrade and offer an easy way for a visitor to subscribe to your mailing list.
Make it easy to find. Don’t hide it in the sidebar. Don’t hide it in your popup. Include it on the page.
You should take this time to download this checklist and sign up for my email list. 😉
8. Summary/Key Takeaways
Before I commit to listening to your episode, I want to know I’m in the right place. Your summary of key takeaways, which should be near the top of the page, will let me know exactly what I’m going to learn in this episode. Like the rest of your text, this is an opportunity to use LSI keywords.
9. Links to Related Episodes
Suggest 1-3 similar episodes you’d like your visitor to listen to after the episode on this page. Episodes with the same guest are a good pick, but complimentary episodes that offer a different perspective on the main topic of this episode might be even better.
Even though these are links to other pages on your website, you should open these in a new tab.
As we’ll see in the next section, less is more here. Tim Ferriss only includes 1 related episode—this means you’re more likely to actually follow his suggestion than if he gave you 2 or 3.
10. Links to Resources
If you mention any tools, people, websites, or projects in your episode, then use this space to link to them. I don’t recommend restricting the number of links here—that said, keep it reasonable. Don’t like to 20+ resources.
All of these links should open in a new tab. Otherwise, you send someone off your website and your exit intent popup doesn’t trigger. You don’t want either of those things to happen.
11. Share Buttons
You want people to share your episode, although sharing isn’t the #1 action you want your visitor to take. I recommend keeping these share buttons small and away from the main view of the page. You can include them at the bottom or directly above/below the audio player.
Section 4.2: Category Pages for Smart UX and SEO
Are you familiar with the Jam Study?
Researchers at Columbia and Stanford found that choice is demotivating. In other words, giving me fewer choices means I’m more likely to actually make a decision.
This is one of those times where I recommend choosing user experience (UX) over SEO. Remember, the endgame here is to get people to interact with you. If something is good for SEO but discourages your visitor from that goal, don’t do it.
SEO is not your endgame, okay? Interaction is your endgame.
(I know, the SEO guy is saying SEO isn’t the endgame. Heretic am I.)
Here’s where this lesson is going:
A good SEO practice is to have internal links to other pages on your website.
Therefore, if you have a lot of related pages, it makes sense to link to all of them to maximize your SEO.
But since you want your user to follow those links and thus interact with your website, the Jam Study tells us that we should restrict the number of links on that page.
Here’s what I’d do instead:
Introduce a category page.
On your episode page, link to 2-3 related (complimentary, suggested) episodes on your website.
Then, beneath those highlighted links, include a link to your category page.
That master category page should highlight 3-5 top episodes.
Beneath those top episodes, list your remaining episodes and link to each of those episode pages on your website.
Highlighting suggested episodes make it easy for your visitors to decide where to go.
Putting the rest of your related episode links on the category page does a few things:
- It signals to search engines that these are on related topics
- It keeps your individual episode pages free of clutter
One more thing: Your category page should provide additional value beyond massive amounts of internal links.
This means you can use your category pages to do the following:
- Explain why this topic is important
- Give an overview of this topic
- Highlight the different experts you’ve interviewed around this topic
- Incorporate LSI keywords to better signal to Google what this page is about
- Optimize your category page around a medium-tail keyword
A powerful category page has a huge opportunity to rank in Google and direct people to your featured podcast episode webpages.
I use the Enhanced Category Pages plugin on this website.
Section 4.3: The SEO Power of an Optimized Podcast Episode Page
But back to your episode pages. What is the SEO power of the above elements?
We’re looking at a few metrics here:
Dwell Time is the time someone spends on your page. We want to increase dwell time as much as possible without negatively affecting user experience.
As a podcaster, you have this easier than more. Including the audio of your podcast recording on your website can help increase the amount of time someone spends on your page.
If you want to take this to the next level, you should also include your transcript on the same page.
If you have show notes and a transcript, then your visitors can follow along with the audio. And now they’ve spent 45 minutes reading through + listening to your podcast episode (because you’re that good—I know you are) instead of the 2 minutes they would have spent otherwise.
The show notes and transcript are good for another reason: they help people who don’t want to listen to audio right now.
Sometimes we just want a quick answer. If you include skimmable show notes and a transcript, I can quickly learn what I want, and then I can save your podcast episode for later.
But otherwise, you’re risking people clicking through to your page…only to be confronted with pure audio, which might make them bounce away.
Click-Through Rate (CTR) is the rate at which someone clicks to your website from the Google Search results.
You want to ensure you’ve crafted a compelling headline and meta description that will pique my curiosity or let me know that you’re going to answer my question.
Why does click-through rate matter? Consider the following:
Your website is at position #9 of Google search results. You’re on the first page…but you’re not getting any clicks.
But if you’ve written your headline and meta description with the intent of getting more clicks, you might be at position #6 tomorrow.
In other words: the more someone clicks on your page and stays there, the more Google learns that your podcast episode is the best solution to someone’s search query.
There are two kinds of keywords you want to include on your page: your focus keyword and your LSI keywords.
(Remember that LSI keywords are related keywords.)
Your focus keyword should appear in the following places:
- The page’s title
- The URL slug
- The meta description
- At least one headline
- In the first 150 words of the page
- In the last 150 words of the page
- On the alt text of any images
Your LSI keywords should appear on the page where it makes sense to include them.
Don’t force your keywords onto your page, and rephrase them if you think it improves the quality of your copy. Remember that Google uses semantic search, so exact-matching keywords aren’t as important as they once were.
If you include an on-page transcript, your page should be plenty long enough. Otherwise, you want to include enough information on your webpage so you hit at least 500 words. Ideally, you should shoot for 1,800+ words, including your transcript.
That said, your page should only be as long as it needs to be. Your copy should be trim and free of extraneous trappings or contorted phrases designed to artificially increase word count. Clarity over length.
Chapter 5: Capturing Email Address from Your Podcast Website
Why include a section about capturing emails in a guide to SEO?
Because I want to make one thing very clear:
The endgame of almost any online marketing strategy is to get people to subscribe to your email list.
Because you need to own the relationship with your audience. If Google or Apple Podcasts change their algorithms and you drop like a stone through the search results, you’re out of luck.
In other words, long-term SEO is not guaranteed. The Powers That Be can change any piece of their algorithm at any time, and you might have to play some serious catch-up.
But they can’t touch your email list.
In other words, email is a failsafe.
Section 5.1: Why Do You Need an Email List?
Because you need to own your relationship with your listeners.
If you’re waiting for people to listen to your podcast and then take some action…what happens when they skip a week? What happens when they switch to an Android and forget to subscribe on Stitcher?
Poof. Gone forever.
If you have their email, you can keep that channel of communication open. You can send them your latest episode and keep them listening. You can hear back from them.
In other words, email lets you communicate with your audience in a different way than podcasting does.
Section 5.2: Pick an Email Service Provider
Unless you have any kind of cash coming in, I recommend you start with MailChimp.
Because their beginning plan is totally free. Once you reach 2,000 email subscribers, you can switch to a paid program or another provider.
(2,000 is a lot of people.)
Melyssa Griffin has an excellent guide to getting started with MailChimp.
Section 5.3: The Power of Content Upgrades
A content upgrade is a freebie that compliments your podcast episode. You give out your freebie in exchange for someone opting into your email list or you can give it out to anyone who comes to your website, regardless of whether or not they opt-in.
In other words, a content upgrade should help me get more value out of your podcast episode.
This could be a checklist or worksheet that will guide me through an exercise you or your guest taught me in the program.
It could be a Cliffs Notes version of the podcast episode, with the powerful takeaways highlighted.
It could be a group or partner exercise that asks me to interact with my friends or peers.
A strategic content magnet will give me any of the following:
- A reason to sign up for your email list
- A reason to keep your podcast episode top of mind
- A reason to share your podcast episode
You want my email address. That should be priority #1.
But you also want me to keep thinking about your podcast episode. That way, I’m getting real value out of it and I become a loyal listener of your show. I’m also more likely to check out your other programs—free or paid.
But if you get me to share your podcast episode, either because I want to do the exercise in the content upgrade or because I thought of someone who could benefit from that episode, you’ve taken me beyond the role of a listener.
Now I’m your evangelist.
We want to create evangelists. But first, we need them to be subscribers.
We want subscribers on two fronts: to our podcast via the podcast directory and to our mailing list.
Section 5.4: Send Me to Your Website
A few things need to happen in order for me to become an evangelist of your podcast and subscriber to your mailing list.
- I need to find your podcast
- I need to listen to an episode
- I need to get from your episode to your website
- I need to opt into your email list
- I need to open your content upgrade
- I need to feel compelled to share your material
I can drop off the wagon at any moment. How will you keep me from doing that?
We’ll look at how to find and listen to your podcast episode later in this guide; we also just talked about opting into your email list. (If you want more about this, I really recommend attending Amy Porterfield’s list-building masterclass.)
We’re going to talk about how to get me from your episode in my Podcast app to your website.
The simplest way to do this is to add a link to the show notes. Something like this:
But what if your URL is hard to remember?
Easy: make an easy-to-remember URL and redirect me.
I’ll use Amy Porterfield as an example. The URLs to her podcast episodes are hard to remember:
I mean, there’s no way I’m going to type all of that into my browser, especially not on my phone. No thanks.
But the following URL, which is much easier to remember, also links to that same page:
And I’m much more likely to remember that URL, especially if you say it during the podcast episode and use it in the show notes.
If you’re on WordPress, you can use the free plugin Pretty Links to make redirect URLs.
Section 5.5: When I Land On Your Website
Here’s a different model:
Instead of finding your podcast episode on my podcast app and visiting your website of my own accord, why can’t I land directly on your website?
Let’s say I find you through Google search.
I’m likely either searching for a podcast or for a specific piece of information.
If I’m searching for a podcast and I find your website: I’m an easy conversion. I’ll probably click subscribe.
If I’m searching for a specific piece of information and I find your website, am I likely to search your podcast audio to find it? Probably not.
The case is as follows: I just landed on your website. You want me to subscribe to your podcast and your mailing list. I wanted to find the answer to my question. Is there a way for both of us to win?
Here it is:
- Make it very easy for me to find what I’m looking for.
- Use an exit-intent pop-up to catch my information
- Redirect me to a Thank You page and ask me to subscribe to your podcast
Let’s focus on the exit-intent pop-up and the Thank You page right now.
Section 5.6: Exit-Intent Popups
Let’s be real. Popups are annoying.
They’re also the best way to add subscribers to your email list.
Exit-intent popups trigger when a visitor is trying to leave your website. They don’t invade the user experience and they don’t distract me from the reason I came to your website.
In other words, they’re considerate. If you’re going to show a popup, you might as well try not to be rude.
In your popup, you should ask the visitor to subscribe to your mailing list. Once they input their information, you want to redirect them to a Thank You Page.
You can use PopupAlly to create an exit-intent popup on your WordPress website.
Section 5.7: Your Thank You Page
You want to thank anyone who opts into your email list. (Good manners will get you far, okay?)
Your Thank You page should have as few calls to action as possible.
Here’s what I prefer for Podcasts:
- Include a button asking someone to subscribe to your podcast
- Include some text beneath that button that will take them back to your website
Now that you have their email address, the icing on the cake is if they subscribe to your podcast.
The next best thing is if they return to your website.
Section 5.8: What Do You Actually Write to These People?
At the risk of sounding too obvious, you should email your subscribers whenever you release a new episode. If you’re releasing weekly content, then this is an easy weekly email.
You can also do any of the following:
- Ask them what topics they’d like you to cover;
- Ask them who they’d like to see you interview;
- Ask how your show has changed their lives;
- Write them a short note;
- Tease an upcoming episode;
- Curate and share content related to your podcast;
- Send them bonus material;
- Pitch your Patreon page;
The possibilities are endless.
Don’t stress about what to say to them. Just say something. Remember: these people tune into your show every week—they want to hear from you! They’re interested in the topic of your podcast…which is something you’re passionate about.
Let this be easy.
Chapter 6: All About Apple Podcasts (Search, Ranking, Getting Featured)
Unfortunately, most of the data we have on Apple Podcasts ranking factors is anecdotal. That said, a few key metrics stand out; you should focus on these when trying to rank in the Apple Podcasts search.
Section 6.1: Subscriber Acquisition Rate
We’re pretty confident the rate at which you acquire subscribers to your show highly correlates with its position in the Apple Podcasts search results.
Neil Patel and Eric Siu of Marketing School noticed a bump in their rankings after they ran an experiment that increased their subscriber count.
Rob Walch of Libsyn validates this, claiming that the Apple charts are completely determined by “the total number of new subscribers in the past 7 days, with a weighted average for the last 24, 48, and 72 hours.”
Section 6.2: Downloads
Nathan Latka says that, per Rob Walch, there is no relation between the number of downloads and the rankings or appearance in the search results.
Section 6.3: Reviews
Contrary to popular wisdom, Neil Patel and Eric Siu of Marketing School found that receiving more reviews didn’t have any significant effect on the ranking in Apple Podcasts.
Daniel J. Lewis also confirms this.
Does that mean reviews aren’t important? Of course not. Reviews are valuable social proof and communicate information about the quality of your show to other potential subscribers.
But reviews do not seem to be a ranking factor.
Section 6.4: Searchable Tags
According to The Audacity to Podcast, there are 4 tags that affect searchability in Apple Podcasts:
- Show Title
- Show Author
- Episode Title
- Episode Authors
According to Daniel, your description is not searched by Apple Podcasts.
In other words, don’t put your keywords in your show notes and expect that to help.
Section 6.5: Increase Subscriber Acquisition Rate with Apple Smart Banners
If you have an iPhone, you’ve seen these smart banners before.
What you might not have realized is that you can include one of these on your website that links to your show on Apple Podcasts.
Whenever someone visits your website on their iPhone (like one of your email subscribers), they’ll see that banner. One click later and they’re looking at your show on the Podcast app.
Pretty neat, right?
Dan Misener from Pacific Content says one of their clients saw a 21% increase in subscriptions after implementing a smart banner.
Imagine you get 5 iPhone visits a day. That’s a new subscriber every day.
How do you add these magical banners?
Add the following line of code to your
<meta name="apple-itunes-app" content="app-id=XXXXXXXXXX">
XXXXXXXXXX is your podcast’s unique numerical ID.
Don’t know how to add code to your
<head> in WordPress? WPBeginning has you covered.
Section 6.6: New & Noteworthy
There’s a lot of lore surrounding the mysterious “New & Noteworthy” section of Apple Podcasts. It’s someone of a make-it-or-break-it goal for new podcast hosts—make it into the New & Noteworthy section and you’re podcasting dreams will be fulfilled!
Unfortunately, it looks like the New & Noteworthy section isn’t all it’s cracked up to be. The Podcast Host found that being featured in New & Noteworthy did little to improve his downloads, and on March 11, 2018, Audacity Workshop presents compelling evidence to suggest that section isn’t being maintained.
Even if this section was being regularly updated and being featured there meant tons of new subscribers, there’s no opportunity to game the system. It’s curated by real people.
Let’s move on to things you actually can influence.
Section 6.7: The Top 200 Chart
The Top 200 chart is a list of the top 200 episodes, updated daily, and determined by plays and downloads.
The good news is that you have some influence over which of your podcast episodes you include in the Top 200 Chart—create excellent content.
Since you’re building an email list, you can release a new episode and tell your email subscribers to listen to that episode on the day you released it. This has the potential to dramatically increase the number of plays and downloads that episode gets, which increases your chances of landing on the Top 200 chart.
Chapter 7: Google’s Plan for the Future of Podcasts
Google very recently announced a new plan for the future of podcasts in the Google ecosystem. This plan includes changes to Google Search, Android, and Google Assistant.
According to Android Authority, Google has announced the following plans for the future of podcasts:
- AI will automatically transcribe podcast audio into searchable, time-stamped text files
- Searchers will use those files to make it easy for listeners to navigate an episode
- Ultimately—and this might be in the distant future—Google wants to automatically translate podcasts into any given language using text transcriptions.
What does this mean?
For one, it’s an extension of what we’re already seeing in the Google Search results:
Where I now see individual episodes in Google Search, we’ll soon be able to play and scrub from the search results.
In other words, there will be one less reason for someone to click on your website. Searchers will be able to listen to your podcast from the search results.
You need to give them an additional reason to click on your website.
That could look like:
- Amazing content that makes them want to know more
- Complimentary visuals or videos
- Reference to the show notes
- A plug for your awesome, email-list exclusive content
- Content upgrades
- A mention of related episodes that you’ve recorded
One thing here:
You will not be targeting the people who already listen to podcasts.
Because most people don’t listen to podcasts. Therefore, most of the people who find you in Google search won’t be podcast listeners.
Getting those people to your website—and giving them an amazing experience—is a great way to convert them in podcast subscribers.
Chapter 8: Why Podcast Quality > Podcast SEO
Podcasting is a form of content marketing. And we know that people are more likely to share content that is good.
Specifically, not only does your material need to be top-notch, but everything else needs to be professional.
Section 8.1: Kill Your Darlings
I’m serious about this.
No amount of SEO or paid advertising will get you leads or improve your downloads if your podcast is bad. There are so many podcasts out there and you’re killing your chances of getting a sizeable listener base if your audio quality isn’t up to par, or if you’re bantering too much or I have to listen to too many ads.
People are sensitive about how they budget their time and your podcast takes a certain amount of minutes to listen to.
If you record a podcast episode and you decide that it doesn’t add substantial value to your listeners, I want you to delete it and try again.
Section 8.2: Marketing is an Amplifier
Another thing to remember: marketing amplifies the message of your product. It doesn’t create or change it.
If the message of your podcast is truly so profound, life-changing, or enjoyable that I feel impacted, I will share it and talk about it. Implementing a podcast SEO strategy will only amplify that.
But if your podcast isn’t enjoyable, new, or exciting, then implementing a podcast SEO strategy will return more of what you already knew—a flat line, nothing to show for your efforts.
You need to understand which of these best describes your podcast and your material before you begin marketing.
Section 8.3: Where to Focus Your Efforts
At the end of the day, podcast listeners care very deeply about two things:
- Sound Quality
- Content Quality
If your podcast is unlistenable or you have boilerplate content, no amount of SEO (or marketing) will help you.
How do I know this? Because it’s one of the central tenets of content marketing. Nobody is going to talk about another boring article on why you need a morning routine. And we’re definitely not going to talk about it if it’s poorly written or if the website makes it difficult to read.
The same is true of podcasting.
Remember: SEO (and all forms of marketing) exist to amplify the amazing product you already have. They are not a substitute for a lousy product.
Conclusion: How This Ties Together
We know that ranking on Apple Podcasts is determined by your subscriber growth rate.
If you’re ranking on Google and capturing emails, then you have a steadily growing email list. You can use that email list to stay top of mind and ask listeners to subscribe via Apple Podcasts.
Since you have a steady influx of subscribers, you should have no trouble climbing the Apple Podcast rankings.
I know you’re busy and that SEO is probably last on your todo list, so I threw together a cheat sheet on the 5 most actionable takeaways from this post on podcast SEO. Get it here:
P.S.: What did you think of this guide? Was there something I missed? Let me know by leaving a comment below.