So, you wanna start a podcast? At this point, podcasting is pretty much common knowledge. Even so, we can define a podcast as an on-demand audio platform, where in contrast to radio, podcasts often run longer, feature guests and are delivered in a colloquial and conversational tone.
The 2020 podcast landscape
In the unpredictable year of 2020, podcasts, among other media, have seen an enormous rise in popularity. To highlight this growth, Apple registered 550,000 podcasts in June 2018, compared to October 2020 with 1,500,000 podcasts equalling over 34 million episodes. Podcast Insights estimates 25% of the world are weekly podcast listeners, subscribing to an average of 6 podcast shows in the past week.
Podcasting is not only a prevalent form of media; it is also making ground-breaking profits. For example, the Joe Rogan Experience is the most successful and loyally followed podcast in the world; the recent September partnership with Spotify was a $100 million deal. With statistics as impressive as these, no wonder everyone and their mum own a podcast.
What podcast content is trending right now?
Aside from the popularity and rapid growth of podcasts, it is still a relatively new form of media which we have almost no factual data on, no studies of industry trends, no academic analysis or platform forecasting. In comparison to radio, which has had much academic and industry analysis, allowing easy-to-understand breakdowns on how the platform works, how to engage users and therefore how to maximise profits and brand awareness through the channel.
It was not until 2015 where Spotify began to release freely available podcast datasets, which consists of 100 000 episodes from different podcast shows, that media researchers could start to analyse the podcast platform academically. Understanding how to podcast content works, how to enhance podcast search functionality and how to maximise profits through following popular trends.
The podcast platform continues to be so popular because it targets a broad demographic of modern society, the time-poor individual. As a product of living in a fast-paced society, most people don’t have time to read articles; instead, they need to consume media through quick channels. Hence, when developing podcast content, it is essential to keep in mind the time-poor target audience.
Podcast apps tend to have ranking charts based on geographical listening, which display what type of content is popular for different places; this is an easy way to see what trends are popular in your country. Overall, Podcast Insights identified comedy as the most popular podcasting genre of 2020, followed by education and news.
Unlike most online content which competes for the top spots in Google, when searching for podcasts people tend not to use search engines, but instead search in specific podcasting apps, with Spotify and Apple clearly take the industry lead.
While podcasts don’t directly compete with video or written formats, the podcast genre is still highly competitive; this is where digital marketing tools can help content go viral. Specifically, Search Engine Optimisation (SEO), is the most effective marketing tool for newly established podcasts.
Search Engine Optimisation is the art of ranking high on a search engine without using paid advertising, also known as an organic listing. But how does content get to the top of search results?
When a user searches, there are two forms of results: paid and organic. A paid result is practically an advertisement – where an owner has paid to relate their business to specific keywords.
On the other hand, organic results are not influenced by paid marketing. The organic order of websites is not random; instead, websites are ranked according to how relatable content is to the searched keywords. Podcasts must prove that its content is naturally the most relevant to particular search terms.
The podcasting apps are similar to search engines, as they too place the best-reviewed content at the top of the charts. The more 5-star reviews, the higher number of listens, an aesthetic cover art, engaging episode content and clickable titles, the higher the chance that the podcast will rank on the charts. Apple and Spotify favour 5-star reviews because they are the most efficient sign that a podcast is of good quality.
Ultimately the following hacks will boost newly established podcasts. Most likely, every single successful podcast started by doing these authentic quick hacks, because everyone needs a leg up when starting on a new media platform.
Incentivise your listeners
Podcast listeners are usually time-poor individuals; they most likely don’t even know how to leave a review. A helpful way to influence your audience to leave a review is to offer something interesting in return.
Let’s look at another case study; The Misfits Podcast ranks in Spotify’s top five most popular podcasts, even since its first upload in June 2018. This podcast makes for an interesting case study because they are not a traditionally ad-friendly group, with risky content involving experiences with illegal drugs, joking about sensitive topics and having conversations about sex.
However, one strategy that has led to the success of the Misfits podcast is their considerable dedication to include the audience into the podcast. For example, at the beginning of every episode, the group discusses their favourite 5-star review; this is an extremely clever tactic as both parties gain from this interaction. A 5-star review significantly helps the ranking of the podcast, and one lucky listener gets a personalised shout out from their idols, ultimately building a strong relationship with viewers through consistently using an entertaining call to action.
The balance between having an authentic call to action and coming across as unfriendly is a fine line, but successful online content must find the perfect balance. A call to leave a comment or subscribing does not have to be in every episode; a good balance could be asking for feedback in the final episode of a series.
Particularly for newly established podcasts, you want to enforce the idea to your audience that good quality content comes first, not your ratings. A call to action is usually more effective at the end of an episode because the audience that listens to the end of the episode is more likely to leave an authentic review.
The importance of cross-posting!!!
Let’s start with the facts; podcast listeners are much more active on multiple social media channels than the entire population, 94% of podcast listeners are active on at least one social media platform daily, vs 81% for the whole population.
As podcast listeners are more likely to follow brands they like on social media, there is a lot of opportunities to reach broader audiences across multiple streams of social media. Take full advantage and create a podcast page for Instagram, Facebook, TikTok, Twitter, LinkedIn and most importantly, YouTube. Ideally, you should post small snippets of the most entertaining segments from your lengthy podcast or post short previews for upcoming episodes.
Despite being a video platform, YouTube has, in the past year, become a staple stream for podcasts. A 2019 survey of Canadian adults found 43 per cent of people used YouTube to watch their favourite podcasts. That put YouTube ahead of Apple Podcasts, who sat at 34 per cent and Spotify, who sat at 23 per cent.
Not only should you create a YouTube channel to post full-length videos of your podcast, but also create a ‘highlights’ channel, where short clips from the podcast can be posted. Short highlights are more approachable for time-poor consumers and easily shared. This system is another way for your podcast to travel, taking full advantage of the YouTube algorithm, which favours long videos and frequent uploads.
Catering to algorithms will, without a doubt, drive up audience engagement.
Similarly, as of July 2020, Spotify incorporated video into their app, working both as 5-second clips for music and full-length podcast episodes. Posting visuals onto Spotify is another effective way for fans to become closer acquainted with their favourite content creators.
In addition, creating a transcript of your podcast is another avenue where you will be able to cross-post your content, now you can post onto websites that favour written content, such as Medium, personal blogs, industry blogs and Facebook.
Targeting keywords is one of the most traditional SEO marketing tactics, alike optimising written content for Google, podcasts similarly have spots for written content, were strategic keywords can be used.
Whilst you might have ideas for podcast keywords, it is incredibly beneficial to cross-check with professional SEO software. Don’t be discouraged by professional marketing tools; nowadays, they are quite affordable and easily accessible even for first time users; the industry tends to recommend Google Keyword Planner because it is free and easy to use for accurate keyword suggestions.
When choosing keywords, you should make sure they hit all of the following:
- High relevancy to your podcast concept,
- Trending terms that are currently being searched, and
- Words that compete with your competitors.
After you have identified the best-ranking keywords, you should incorporate them into everything from the name of the podcast, episode titles, meta descriptions, image filenames, the podcast artwork, categories, hashtags, transcripts, timestamps, notes and home page descriptions.
It is also crucial to remember that since podcasts are an audio form of content, you should target phonetic keywords and optimise content for voice searches. For example, you should target language used in questions such as what, how, when and so on, as more people use speech-to-text features to search now more than ever.
So, What’s Next?
Podcasting is a great way to expand your digital footprint and a fun way to create a loyal audience!
With the optimisations mentioned on this list, your podcast should generate some impressive results. Still, at the end of the day, SEO can do nothing unless your podcast has original and high-quality content. It would be best if you also made a habit to analyse the results from each of the podcast episodes, to determine what is or isn’t working.