You are podcasting, but how do you know if you are on the right path to success? There are so many Podcast Performance Metrics that it might be confusing what should be measured to get a meaningful picture of the success of your show.
In this article, I will go through the 55 Best Podcast Performance Metrics. I will explain how they are useful and what kind of conclusions they might help you achieve!
Before reviewing all the essential podcast metrics, you need to be aware that obsessing over a single metric is not the best approach. The most important is the big picture when you review your entire analytical dashboard.
The performance of all metrics as a whole will tell you how your podcast is performing.
Basics of Podcast Performance Metrics
Podcasting KPIs (Key Performance Indicators) or performance metrics are measurable parameters that can help you monitor each aspect of your podcasting business.
- Advertise on the right podcast with your target audience so that you don’t waste your dollars targeting people who will not take action.
- Select an ad type that will appear attractive to your target audience.
- Track your KPIs and ROI so that you’re aware of how your advertisement is performing to tweak it as needed and use the feedback to create more effective ones down the road.
Sources of data
There are many data sources you could start using to understand your audience and measure podcast performance better. I recommend the following data source:
Primary sources of data:
- Analytics from your Podcast Hosting – I have reviewed in detail over 20 podcast hostings
- Google Analytics and Google Search Console – once you set up your podcast website, you need to add Google Analytics and Search Console to collect information about your site visitors.
Secondary sources of data:
- Facebook Pixel – you don’t need to have a Facebook site for your podcast, but you can monitor who Facebook users that visit your site are. This will be helpful down the road if you ever decide to run Facebook ads. It is good to have already data about your audience waiting at your disposal and not have to wait additional weeks to collect them. Just set it up and let it run.
- Mailing Statistics – pick a good mailing provider like sendinblue or convertkit, build your mailing list, engage with people, and have a list of engaged users that can help you in your future marketing efforts.
Under review. Possibly a good new source of data:
- Google Podcast Manager – this is a brand new service promising some useful measurements. We will test it for you and let you know if, and how it might be useful.
Main Challenges in Accurate Podcast Measurement
There are two major problems with getting accurate podcast performance metrics:
- Podcasts are downloaded.
- Details of consumption of a downloaded file are difficult to measure.
Podcasts are hard to track as they are downloaded, not streamed.
Let’s start with a technical definition provided by industry-standard IAB’s Podcast Measurement Technical Guidelines:
“Podcast content is an on-demand media format that listeners either download to, listen to later, or consume online. Unlike the streaming format more common in video, podcasts continue to be downloaded because of the convenience offered by existing platform and application functionality.
Despite the use of the word ‘streaming’ in podcasting, ‘streamed’ podcast files are progressively downloaded via the standard HTTP protocol.”IAB’s Podcast Measurement Technical Guidelines
On the surface, for an end-user, the consumption of a podcast looks similar to the consumption of any video content, like YouTube videos, or videos from any streaming platform (Netflix, Amazon Video, etc.).
- You upload your podcast audio files to a podcast hosting provider (like Podbean, BluBrry, Spreaker, etc.),
- A listener uses an audio app (also called user agent) (like Apple Podcast, Spotify, Pandora, Stitcher, etc.) to access his favorite podcasts,
- An audio app holds a catalog of your show and episodes and accesses it through an RSS feed,
- When you click to listen, you actually trigger a file download from a podcast hosting,
- Unlike with music streaming the podcast file gets 100% downloaded onto the listener’s device,
- When you listen to a podcast, you are listening to a file that has been downloaded from a podcast hosting server onto your device,
- Once that file is downloaded, the host itself has no way of knowing how much of the podcast you’ve actually listened to – or whether you listened to it at all!
As you see, this is not streaming. With streaming, parts of a file are being delivered as you listen and get deleted soon after.
The whole process of listening to podcasts makes downloading a podcast one of the key podcast metrics of overall performance measurement. But it also creates challenges because it is challenging to check what you do with a file that resides entirely on your device.
Some measurement is available when people listen to your show through a dedicated app from podcast hosting, but only a fraction of your listeners will use that. Most people will use major music/podcast platforms to listen to your podcasts like Apple Podcasts or Spotify.
Downloads are unique, and not comparable.
Listening to podcasts seems easy and effortless. And it is great for users but adds another layer of complication for creators and marketers.
Because of the nature of how podcasts are accessed, downloads are a key podcast metric, but they are still a very complicated one to interpret.
- A listener can download a file, but not listen to the file.
- Single listener using multiple devices can download the same file a couple of times (on laptop, smartphone, and tablet).
- The downloaded podcast episode can be listened to multiple times.
- An application used for listening podcasts may request the file from a podcast hosting several times to download the content fully,
- A listener may manually re-request the download several times.
All of these variables and inconsistencies make the interpretation of a download even more difficult.
55 Best Podcast Performance Metrics
A reference point for your cost metrics
Input KPIs are podcast metrics designed to help you understand how much effort you are putting in the creative process. You should decide which part you should outsource and how much that outsourcing is worth to you by interpreting them.
Know your hourly rate
Before we proceed, you need to know your own hourly rate. How to calculate it? Simple. Just divide how much you make in a month and divide it by the hours you had to work at that time. If you have highly seasonal work or work irregularly, you can calculate this for a longer period to flatten the fluctuations.
hourly rate = (sum of income earned in a period of time) / (sum of all the hours spent working)
Knowing your hourly rate will help you decide when something is worth outsourcing or if you should perform it yourself. Just compare the cost of service to your rate and make a decision.
Input Podcast Metrics
Input podcast performance metrics measure how much work and effort you put into the whole process, and how much basic podcasting activities cost you.
1. Research Hours – how much time did you spend on researching material for an episode.
2. Research Cost – how much did it cost you to complete the research. When outsourcing, you will get a cost from the provider. When doing it on your own, include all the time spent researching and the cost of any additional materials you had to purchase. If you do it on your own and it requires a lot of time (and cost in this case), maybe it makes sense to outsource this.
3. Scheduling Hours – how much time does it take to schedule guests.
4. Scheduling Cost – include your hourly rate, and if you are using premium scheduling apps, add their cost.
5. Recording Hours – how much time does it take to record a podcast. This parameter will work differently for larger podcast production operations vs. a private podcast when you want to be a host of your own show.
6. Recording Studio Cost – if you pay for access to a studio, add it; if you have a home studio, your equipment cost is just a one-time expense, so monitor your hourly rate.
7. Hours required for production and editing – how much time do you spend editing an episode.
8. Production and editing cost – hourly rate + if you are using subscription-based podcast editing software (like Adobe Premiere), you should include this in your monthly editing costs.
9. Publishing time – ideally, you should pick a good podcast hosting integrated with many directories, so you simply publish with a single click, but if you don’t then you should measure how much time you spend on that
10. Publishing cost – if publishing is done through a podcast hosting integrations, it is already covered in the service cost. In other cases, count it using your hourly rate. If you spend a couple of hours a month doing this, maybe it is a good idea to spare a few $ and upgrade your podcast hosting.
Podcast Output KPIs
The goal of output podcast performance metrics is to track how your content is growing over time. You should compare output metrics with performance KPIs to be sure that the content you are producing brings expected results.
11. Number of episodes – your key output podcast metric is, of course, the number of episodes. In the end, those episodes will bring you listeners and possibilities to monetize. Make sure you keep a regular publishing schedule, and the number of new episodes does not decrease over time.
12. Transcripts published – since Google is indexing podcasts, you need to publish transcripts if you want to grow your show organically. They will get picked up by Google and grow your traffic.
13. Cost of transcripts – when you do it on your own, you use your hourly rate. In other cases, some podcast hostings provide this service at a low cost. You can always get it transcribed for you by a freelancer. The usual cost in those cases is c.a. $1 per minute of audio.
14. Promo material – there are different types of promo materials you can make: sound bites, video clips, pins, graphics, etc. You need to customize this podcast performance metric to your activities. Later tie this with the growth of your audience. You should be able to show if promo materials are increasing your listeners or not.
15. Cost of promo materials – use an hourly rate. But here it probably makes sense to outsource stuff. While I would recommend doing sound bites on your own (if you don’t have a podcast producer), the pins and graphics are a great promo material to outsource.
16. Number of Unique Downloads – as I’ve explained above, a simple total number of downloads in case of a podcast is not a precise measure of how big your audience is.
The number of unique downloads is the most accurate of all podcast performance metrics. It most closely resembles your actual podcast audience size.
The IAB guidelines, quoted earlier, recommend using “unique downloads” and specify how the company that provides you with statistics (in most cases your podcast hosting), should identify and aggregate uniques, e.g.:
- if the same file is downloaded 10 times by 6 user agents behind one IP address, that will count as 6 users and 6 downloads,
- IP addresses that excessively download/play at a rate that is not feasible should be blacklisted,
- high-density IP Addresses (dorms, corporations, etc.) should be whitelisted,
- Play-Pause-Play Scenarios – if you listen to episodes in multiple sessions, this should still be counted as one download even if this happens at different locations, such as home and work.
This is also a main podcast performance metric determined when agreeing to a marketing Cost Per Mile (CPM) that you get paid for advertising.
17. Downloads per episode – measure and try to understand how episodes perform. You will soon find that some episodes get more downloads than the others. Try to analyze and break down the formula of what makes a successful episode for your audience.
Also, revisit this data periodically. In time the number of downloads may increase as people link to your episode, and it is being discovered by people online.
18. Number of Downloads Month over Month – Measure the change in a number of listeners month-by-month to determine how fast you are growing. Naturally, new shows will see very high growth rates that should eventually flatten. Make sure your show doesn’t lose listeners in the long period.
19. Number of Subscribers – unfortunately, this number is not easily obtainable. Due to the nature of podcasting described earlier in this post, your podcast hosting doesn’t know how users behave in their podcasting apps.
However, the steady growth of new subscribers is critical for Apple Podcast Algorithm to position you higher in their rankings. The best approximation of the number of subscribers that podcast hostings are providing is actually a count of the unique clients that download your feed in a day.
20. Number of Subscribers Month over Month – using the numbers your podcast hosting will provide, you need to measure changes in user-based month-by-month. This will help to indicate how fast is your user base growing.
Understanding your audience is helpful as it tells you what kind of content might be more relevant to them. When you work on your podcast monetization strategy, this will help you find the right sponsors or target your own ads. You can even use it to plan a tour to meet with fans in person.
21. Subscriber and Listener Locations – understand in which countries your show is the most popular. Use this knowledge to engage with your audience and find new opportunities to market your show.
22. Subscriber and Listener Locations by City and Top Cities – a breakdown of your audience locations by city can help you with planning a live-tour. You can use this knowledge to do even more targeted marketing if you have a podcast that is focused on promoting a business.
Popular Content and Listener Behavior
Understanding your listeners’ behavior is crucial for growing and improving your show. When you start a show, you always should have a listener persona prepared. When your show gets more and more listeners, you are able to verify if you are attracting people you want to connect with. Based on these podcast metrics, you can make a decision about the future direction of your show.
23. Top Episodes – tracking your top-performing content tells you exactly what your listeners want more of. If it was a seasonal content, then refresh it regularly. If some guest types are more attractive to your audience, try to invite more of them.
24. Listens by Source – understand how your podcast is listened to. Track direct listens, listens via the embeddable player, and listens via your feed. Understanding user behavior will help with the focus growth effort.
25. User Agents – usually, most stats’ providers will show together which devices and apps your audience uses to get your podcast. Knowing the top apps, you can check your podcast there and explore opportunities to engage with listeners or further grow your audience. Having the data on the most popular devices will help you with understanding the financial status of your listeners.
26. Downloads by Time of Day – this set of podcast performance metrics will tell you what is the best time to publish new episodes. Knowing the weekday and the exact hour of your peak listening can help to set your recording and publishing schedule always to have a fresh episode when people are expecting it.
27. User Retention – tracking how many users come back to your podcast, and your podcasting website tells you a lot about user engagement. If your retention is low, you can deploy techniques and tricks to increase user engagement and improve retention.
28. Sources of traffic – track if your podcast and podcasting website are getting more searches and additional listeners from Google search results. Try to understand where the referral traffic comes from. Referral traffic will also tell you which episodes and pages on your podcasting websites are getting links and mentions.
Achieving high User Engagement is crucial. It allows you to better connect with your audience. Later this allows converting listeners into satisfied clients effectively. What is great is many elements build user engagement, and with a bit of effort, you can design your podcast episodes for higher user engagement and improve engagement podcast metrics.
To measure user engagement, you should have a podcasting website where you measure user engagement with Google Analytics.
29. Visits to your websites – ideally, when you publish a new episode, this should increase traffic to your website. Additionally, to make sure that traffic comes from your show, you can prepare special redirect links to count that traffic. To keep those links unique, you should only mention them on your podcast.
30. Mails received – or communication from site embedded forms. Track how many messages you are receiving after episodes and try to understand what makes your listeners take action.
31. Social media traction – there are many ways to do it. Simplest and cheapest way would be to measure how much traffic to your podcasting website comes from social media platforms.
32. Backlinks – you always want people to link back to your website as you can’t really track links pointing to your show directly. Sometimes people link to your show on your podcast hosting site. Those links do not build your reputation.
33. Bounce rate – bounce rate metric tells you how significant percentage of your audience left after visiting just one site on your entire page. Ideally, you want users to click through your website, indicating to Google that the site has a lot of valuable content. To encourage users, you can promote other posts on your site.
34. Time on site – this is another critical metric showing the amount of time the user spends on your site during the duration of their visit. If you build a site using a combination of transcript and embedded episodes, the time on site metric can be quite high if people will listen to episodes via the browser.
More Creative Ways to Measure Engagement in Podcasting
To make sure that engagement is strictly attributed to your podcast and now simply due to the website, we need to make some clever ways to get dedicated podcast metrics. The best way to do it is to design call to actions (CTAs) and then request on your show that users will perform those actions.
Try a couple of them before you decide which works best for you.
Examples of Call to Action responses you could track:
35. Promo Code – create a unique discount code that will only be shared on your show. Codes need to be unique. Don’t reuse codes shared elsewhere, or you will never be sure where those clients came from. Promo code can be a discount, a free shipping option, an extra to an order.
36. Exclusive Offer Code – exclusive offer may be a trial, early access to a yet unavailable product, or a unique offer of a bundle of products. Think about items that won’t be offered in the future due to the nature of your product (early access is a great example).
I recommend making exclusive offers through a dedicated landing page and with a dedicated code. This combination will help you better understand your audience and don’t confuse other visitors to your website.
During the podcast, give your listeners instructions on how to use the code (e.g., go to a domain.com/deal and enter the offer code at checkout).
PRO TIP regarding using promo and exclusive codes:
Consider making either a limited amount of codes or codes that will expire after some time. This sense of urgency will motivate people to take action. Additionally, clearly inform people when and how they can get the latest promo code (or if it was an exclusive one-time offer). You don’t want to frustrate your potential clients.
37. Landing pages with email sign-ups – a great thing about collecting emails is that you can have many forms located all-around your website. This way, you can know which form performs best. To get additional sign-ups directly from your podcast, ask users to visit a specific landing page. Usually, this will work best if you connect it with dedicated bonus content.
38. Landing pages with bonus content – if you don’t collect emails, you still may want to offer bonus content. Make that content available through a landing page you are going to provide only during a show, and you will know if this is attractive for your listeners.
39. Marketing time – as you can promote your show in many different ways, you should be aware of what actions you are taking that aim at increasing traffic and qualify them as marketing time.
40. Marketing cost – cost here can vary extremely. You can start by using only your hourly rate when you promote your show on your site, social media, and to your email list. Finally, calculate all the cost of paid promotions you run.
41. Sales and Purchases – your podcast is a great place to sell effectively if you know how to pitch your own products. Reward your loyal podcast audience with special deals, something you don’t offer every day, and direct them to a landing page where they will be able to complete this exclusive purchase.
We have gone so far through many productivity and cost parameters that can help you to understand your podcast performance. Now you need to review all the overhead costs associated with running your own podcast.
42. Website Hosting – you need to pay for a reliable podcast hosting to run your website. Luckily good services are easy to find. BlueHost offers very affordable website hosting. SiteGround is a bit more expensive but offers better quality.
43. Podcast media hosting – there are many media hosting offers. We have a thorough review that can help you to choose the best podcast hosting offer for you. Although there are some free offers, I recommend getting a reasonably priced but high-quality offer.
44. Mailing services – to fully utilize the potential of your podcasting business, you need to collect emails. At the beginning, you can use the free offers of sendinblue or convertkit, but once you build your list, you will need to update to a premium plan.
45. Fees and subscriptions – review all the remaining fees and subscription you need to pay regularly. Add also those that you need to pay once a year to renew a license. In this category, you will find marketing services and portals, premium WordPress plugins, software like Adobe Audition.
46. Paid Ads – monitor the cost and performance of your ads. This, on its own, can be a separate and detailed topic, but in general, you should measure the ad cost against the ad performance and target goal. For example: if you run ads to get more email subscribers, you need to know what the lifetime value of a person is on your mailing list.
Podcast Financial Metrics
From podcast performance metrics we have described above, you need to have metrics that aggregate data and build a full picture of your efforts and results.
47. Total monthly hours spent – know how much you spend monthly on all podcast related activities.
48. Total monthly cost of promoting a podcast – you should have a separate category to monitor a marketing cost. Once your podcast is mature enough, you should be able to use this metric to understand how much additional traffic or sales is generated by $1 spent.
49. Average cost of episode promotion – know what your average cost of promotion is. Some services like marketing, ads, etc. are not directly related to each episode, and you only receive an invoice at the end of the month.
50. Total monthly cost of running a podcast – summarize all the cost you pay per month for your show.
51. Average cost of running a podcast – use total cost and divide it by the number of episodes. This will tell you on average how much you spend on production, promotion, and hosting your podcast.
52. Total monthly revenue – monitor how much money is your podcast making. Make sure it covers enough to sustain the content production costs and all the overhead costs.
53. Total income from your podcasting business – knowing the revenue and the costs, you will know what your podcasting business income is.
54. Average income per episode – understanding average income per episode should be used when experimenting and making a decision about the final show format. Analyze this and decide if it is justified to record more episodes per week than you are currently producing and publishing.
55. Return on Investment (ROI) – your final podcast metric relates to understanding the return on investment. This is the relation of income to cost. Measure how ROI changes over time. Analyze what has the biggest impact on ROI. Should you invest more money in any aspect of your podcasting business?
Don’t Focus on This
Before I conclude this post on the best podcast performance metrics, I’ll mention a stat that you should not focus on.
Number of Reviews – it used to be important and displayed more prominently by Apple in the days of iTunes. Currently, to see them, you have to scroll down in the Apple Podcasts to find them. Spotify currently doesn’t even have the possibility to add a review. And those are the two biggest platforms with podcasts. Don’t focus on collecting and counting reviews.
Social Media Vanity Metrics – don’t focus on likes, number of posts, tweets, retweets, etc. In the long run, those do not make sense. Social media are great for paid ads, and getting social signals for the search engines but not for daily promotion efforts.
To achieve success with podcasting, you need to monitor a set of podcast performance metrics regularly.
You need reliable sources of data for your metrics. The best will be provided by your podcasting host, Google Analytics, Google Search Console, Facebook Pixel, and your mailing services provider.
You should always keep an eye on the podcast metrics in the following categories:
- Audience Geographies,
- Popular Content and Listener Behaviour,
- Marketing Effectiveness,
- Financial results metrics.
Monitor your metrics regularly, analyze changes, and adjust your plan of action so you can always be ahead of the game.