Podcasting best practices are a set of guides we have listed out and developed to help creators of podcast shows to have immediately a better starting position when working on shows. Our goal here is to increase the odds of the show to become successful by building in tried out and proven behaviors and techniques.
Part 1. The first impression – make each episode a statement about the quality of your show
You should plan a level of consistency and quality in all your episodes. The goal here is that as your show grows in time in a number of episodes some new users won’t start listening from your very first episode. I’ve recently subscribed to a show with over 500 episodes. I didn’t start from their first episode but rather scanned titles of the last ten and chose the most interesting sounding topic.
1. Use welcome and send off phrases to build trust and relationship
Address your listeners in a memorable way. Something that will work with your nature as a host and the nature of your show. This is an important part of image and long term brand building, through consistency and recognizability.
Those welcome and send off phrases are important as you never know which episode will be the first one a new listener discover.
Those phases are important elements of your style which allows you to be successful. Podcast host likeability is a vital part of the success of the show (alongside the content itself) so make sure those phrases are an element of your podcasting style.
2. Create a memorable podcast name and cover
Try to find a balance between creativity and simplicity. Think if the show is focused more about your personality or a specific topic you are talking about. As the name is part of the first impression try to make it easy to remember.
Similarly, like name, the cover should also be something that stands out and is something that can be easily recreated in memory when the listener thinks about your show. As much as the cover can always be changed and upgraded it is good to have a memorable cover as soon as possible.
If you need more tips on creating a good podcast cover we have prepared a detailed guide concerning this: How to create a capturing attention podcast logo?
Part 2. Episode structure – leverage familiar elements for higher engagement
If you keep the consistent similar structure of your podcast episode you will create a professional impression. Those elements which will build familiarity, structure, and trust don’t have to be extensively long. It is important for them to be there as a sign of quality and dedication
3. Have a familiar intro for working as awaited and friendly greeting
This is the extension of the first impression. The familiar intro is important for both, new users who are just getting to know your show and getting to know you, and regular users who already listen to your content
But the intro is a bit bigger than welcome phrases. It can contain a short music clip, your shows name and of course those already mentioned words of welcome.
Intro improves show recognition. When a listener hears it over and over again intro becomes an integral part of the show and is expected. Since your podcast audience will hear it each episode makes it not only memorable but also short.
If you are going to use music samples in your intro be sure you are not infringing copyrights. We discuss this in-depth here: Types of music you can play on your podcast.
4. Front-sell previous episode – actively promote past episodes for more episodes’ downloads
There are benefits of mentioning the previous episode soon after you have started a new episode:
- The current episode can be the first time some people finds your show so context can be helpful
- You want to consciously build awareness that your show is something lasting
- When you are discussing a bigger topic and sometimes information has been given in the previous episode can be valuable for the current episode.
5. Cross-sell other episodes and content – actively promote your best content
Once you will have a longer show and more episodes published some of them will become more popular than others. You can recognize those top episodes from your list and mention them in more current episodes.
Also if you are referencing some topic you have already covered in depth in another episode you should provide easy access to this episode you are referencing and encourage your listeners to get familiar with it.
Monitor those popular and valuable episodes and promote them in your current episodes.
6. Back-sell future episode – invite for future episodes
Regular podcast listeners are a very focused audience. A lot of them listen to entire episodes until the end. You want to provide them with a little glimpse at what is coming in the next episode.
- This reinforces your brand as a dedicated creator providing continuous value
- You generate additional interest as there is always something more coming up
- If your audience is large enough this can create additional discussion among your listeners on what is coming next
To find out more about planning an episode review our article 9 key tips on how to plan podcast episodes
Part 3. Data-driven decisions – use data to deliver better value
7. Understand your audience
Podcasts live and grow when they are becoming popular amongst their target audience. But since we have over 10 years of data on podcasting audience you don’t have to guess who listens to podcasts and how to reach this audience in general.
We know that podcast listeners are in general young, educated and affluent People between 12 and 24 years of age make 40% of regular, monthly podcast listeners. This is the largest age group and fastest-growing closely followed by the 24-54 age group. From an annual income perspective, the largest group of listeners are people in households where the annual income is between $100k and 150k per year and in the group with income ranging $75-100k.
Those statistics (and much more) are in detailed provided in here: Podcasting Demographics 2020 – Guide to Understanding Your Audience
We know also that engaged and regular users currently listen to 7 shows a week a dedicated almost 8 hours weekly listening to shows.
You should analyze how does the audience of your show compares to the general audience. Draw conclusions and make the best content possible for your target group.
8. Get publishing frequency right to grow an engaged audience
This advice is something you will need to experiment with on your own and reach conclusion. In general, statistics show that the highest reach is achieved by episodes published on Wednesdays when their length is between 30 and 40 minutes. On top of that users are accustomed to a one episode per week publishing schedule.
This is a good place to start when you first publish but you may want to experiment with your content and explore as for your specific podcast and audience you may get better reach with a different schedule.
- Length – test 30-40 minute optimal length assumption by publishing occasionally episodes longer and shorter.
- Day of publishing – if everybody will post on Wednesdays then other weekdays may actually look like a good opportunity to get high reach as they may be less crowded with new releases.
- A number of episodes – there are very successful podcasts that are publishing more frequently than once a week. Once you will master content preparation and production you can experiment if your show will perform better with more episodes released weekly.
Important note: don’t test everything at once as you won’t know which factor has most contributed to change in your listeners’ behavior.
9. Craft and test your episodes name for a higher reach
Currently, many content creators are competing for people’s time and attention. Not all of your episodes will get opened by regular viewers and even the dedicated fans can choose to skip or listen later to an episode. When a listener has a choice which episode to play a title can have a deciding role.
What can you experiment on when naming episode:
- Length of episodes name
- Clarity of title vs. little ambiguity
- Title in the form of a question
- Reasonable use of capital letters
Controlling those factors can be an easy and successful way to increase your podcasts reach.
10. Analyze podcast statistics
Observe statistics of your show and episodes and make good marketing and production decisions regarding your future content:
- Seasonal behavior of your listeners
- Devices and platforms used
- Most popular applications
- The geographical location of your listeners,
- Sources of traffic and referring domains to your podcast
- The popularity of individual episodes
Podcast hosting services are well known from good quality statistics and analytics, and which we recommend are BluBrry and Podbean. Track carefully statistics of your episodes and your listeners’ usage patterns to improve the reach of your show.
Part 4. Consistency and reliability – build processes around your podcast production lifecycle for maximum quality
11. Start long term content planning – control your vision to produce higher quality
Online success never comes overnight. You will need to prepare yourself to slowly grind a number of listeners. When the early audience won’t come as quickly as you hoped for you need to have a long term content plan and stick to its execution.
If you plan to come up with new content ideas every time you plan to record you will find that early low numbers of listeners don’t encourage you to come up with anything good and creative. That is why you need to have a long term plan and execute it regardless of early results.
The best advice is to have a long hit list of episodes ideas you can always draw inspiration from. Sit down a develop this list. I recommend having at least 100 general, broad ideas. This long list will force you to be creative. Of course, some ideas will be better than others and some you might skip in 2 months time when you work on recording but the list will be there to keep you motivated while you work on your show.
For more details on long term content planning, we recommend our material at Podcast content planning – build long term value
12. Work ethic – regularity and consistency in execution
Commit yourself in front of the audience to a publishing schedule. This will make you look professional and will require your responsibility in terms of keeping to this promise.
You should have a schedule developed when you are working your episodes and not hope to find some time as days go by. If you decide to publish new content on a weekly basis you have only 7 days to prepare, record and edit a new episode.
Plan 3 days on content, idea and script development, use 1 day for recording and 1-2 days for editing. This way you will always have a buffer in case you need to spend more time on any of the steps or in case of other emergencies.
13. Long term plan and patience to execute
Have a general plan for how you show should feel and work in 1 or 2 years. Have the patience to produce your show regularly and always find time for marketing activities. Everyone who currently has an audience started at the same place and big and successful shows got their only due to the strength and perseverance of creators.
Think about how you show can mature and get even more audience over time and always be hungry for more success. Write down and develop ideas that can improve your show, improve the effectiveness of your marketing campaigns and address the expectations of your audience.
Part 5. Marketing – extend beyond podcasts in search of a new audience
14. Have a dedicated website for your podcast
Technically it is not necessary to have a dedicated website for recording podcasts and publishing episodes. However, having a website has multiple long term benefits:
- It enables you to get to know your audience better and have more statistics,
- Option to build an email list for marketing purposes
- More options to communicate with listeners
- Increases marketing potential and promotion of your show
- More options to monetize
If you are considering a website for your podcast (to which we strongly encourage) you may like our detailed guide: Podcast Website Marketing Guide – increase the number of listeners and improve monetization
15. Engage in active marketing and promotion
Once you have a few episodes publish which can be interesting for an audience hungry for new shows you need to start working on advertising your show. Some very successful ways to do it include:
- Get more traffic from your website via google search results
- Publish a youtube video of your episode to find additional listeners through your youtube marketing channel
- Establish yourself as an expert in your niche and get followers through twitter
- Leverage Pinterest through some creative graphics about the content of your show
- Invest in paid advertising and promote your show on social media and on other podcasts
Not all of the above traffic sources can be applicable to all podcasts so you will need to develop a strategy most suitable for your show and your audience.
For more detailed and comprehensive guidelines visit our guide: How to drive traffic and promote your podcast – detailed Podcast Marketing Guide.
Part 6. Built-in quality – use solutions and approaches in daily life which will automatically boost the quality of your results
16. Focus on Clients
Deliver content enriching people’s lives. Think why an average, typical to your target demographic person listens to your show. Imagine what role your podcast plays in his or her life Do they listen to your show for knowledge, entertainment, shock, awe or for practical solutions?
Analyzing statistics from your podcasting host, asking for and reading feedback and engaging in discussion with your listeners on social media can help you clarify which needs you are addressing and can help you to be more useful to your audience in the long run.
Recognize and confirm which need your podcast will satisfy in a unique way and focus on delivering exactly what your audience wants.
17. Focus on audio quality – sound in the room
In the world when so many shows competing for our attention, listeners at some point will have to choose which shows they are going to abandon and which will they continue listening to. Audio quality will become a more important factor in the long run as the landscape gets crowded. Because of it, you should never neglect how your podcast sounds.
Improving quality is also one of the main factors why podcasts continue gaining popularity so you should address these listeners requirements. It will allow you to be recognized by a new audience as a high-quality content producer.
Lastly, people listen to podcasts usually doing other activities – at home, in the car, at the gym – there are background noises present when they listen to podcasts. Since there are those disturbances you want your podcast to sound as good as possible and be audible in all circumstances.
If you want to review how can you improve the audio quality of your room review Silent home podcast studio – detailed and easy soundproofing guide
18. Optimal gear for best audio sound
Quality of devices impacts significantly how good your final product sounds. A reasonable investment at the beginning will ensure you are starting at a better level than your competition and will save you valuable time in post-production editing. Additionally, you want to buy good enough equipment so you won’t have to upgrade it in 6 months. Key investments you should make when working on the show are:
- Microphone – dynamic large diaphragm microphone is the optimal solution for starting and even advanced creators. Your microphone should record your voice in the highest quality and ignore the majority of background noises. We are strongly in favor of (and are also using) Shure SM7B.
- Audio interface with built-in preamp – you need to have this device to connect a dynamic XLR microphone to your computer and translate the analog signal into digital. High-quality equipment which will last you for years is Focusrite Scarlett 212 / 2i4.
- Headphones – large headphones perfectly isolating sound and preventing leaking it back to your microphone are necessary for recording.
- Digital Audio Workstation (DAW) – fully-featured editing software allowing you to easily and effectively, manipulate multiple tracks at once.
If you want to have even more powerful setup invest also in the microphone activator and higher quality audio cables.
Choosing optimal equipment, offering the best value for money is not an easy task. We want to help in this choice by offering our recommendation Best Podcasting Gear – detailed guide & recommendations.
19. Take care of your voice
Having healthy rested and well sounding voice is extremely important for podcast host. Once you have become a creator you need to plan around your recording sessions to be sure you sound best on your recording day.
There are a number of factors impacting how you sound:
- Wear of your voice – don’t abuse your vocal cords in 24 hours before your recording as this won’t be enough time for them to regenerate. Don’t attend loud parties and don’t do public speeches.
- Rest before you start recording – your voice won’t sound good if you come and record unrested. The tiredness in your voice will be noticeable.
- Fluids you drink – it is best to drink room temperature water during the day of the recording. Coffee, alcohol, sodas, cold beverage, etc. may or may not have an adverse effect on your voice. At least observe their impact and eliminate those drinks accordingly to sound best.
There are dozens of factors that can impact your voice, even medicine can have some adverse effects. We made a comprehensive list of factors which impact how you sound on your podcast and you can review this on 13 vocal tips for podcasters – sound PRO for free and get more listeners
20. Test and preview before publishing
Always do a final quality check before publishing. Listen through your final .mp3 file before submitting to podcast directories and make sure nothing was missed in the editing process.
This is a short tip but extremely important. Avoid haste and editing and publishing in the last minute. Eventually, you will publish something sounding bad or unedited properly. Always find time for final quality check.
Part 7. Engagement – work to engage your audience to get more loyal and returning listeners
21. Be authentic and seek feedback
Make sure your personality is reflected in your show. In the end, both your content and host personality and likeability impact shows success so you want your audience to get to know you and understand what drives you to create podcast they are listening to.
Ask your fans what do they like about the show and what they value especially high in your show. Focus on positive aspects delivering the most value to their lives. This will push you in the right direction and naturally slowly eliminate elements of your show which your audience likes the least.
Create an email address where your fans can provide you with feedback. What you will receive will come from most passionate members of your audience so don’t be surprised with what you receive.
22. Create engaging podcasts to get increase reach of episodes
One of the ways to engage your users is asking for their feedback as mentioned above. But this is more of a way to find out how to improve and what resonates best with your audience. Other ways to create engagement with your listeners include:
- Setup a voice recording mailbox and ask your listeners for their stories (in the context of your show) which you could later use in fragments on your show,
- Periodically create Q&A episodes when you will answers questions your audience has regarding your show or even yourself. As already mentioned hosts personality is very important to shows success,
- If you feel comfortable in an unscripted environment you can host live sessions with your listeners. Live sessions are promoted on social media and are a good signal to algorithms that you are worthy of putting in front of users of their platforms.
23. Build an email list and use lead magnets
Owning a website for your podcast is very important and one of the benefits is the ability to build mailing lists. Communicating with your fans through emails:
- Reinforces relationship with your brand and your show
- Builds even more trust as users accept you in their personal mailboxes
- Allows fans to get informed about transcripts of your episodes if they are not able to listen to an episode
We discussed 7 key areas of best practices in this guide:
- The first impression – invite a new user to your show, think that each episode is an introduction of a new listener to your world,
- Episode structure – built familiarity within each episode, try to make each episode feel like a part of a bigger show,
- Data-driven decisions – address audience needs, there are a lot of statistics available and analyzing and understanding them can help you be successful.
- Consistency & reliability – have a long-term plan for content, work and achieving your milestones, the success probably won’t come overnight so you need to have patience,
- Extend beyond podcasts – promote your show regularly to ensure your reach and listenership will grow regularly and consistently,
- Built-in quality – build competitive advantages, make sure that you have great content but also that your audio stands out among other shows,
- Engagement – interact with the audience, find ways to get feedback, answer questions from your listeners and even allow them to be part of your show.
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