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Podcast optimisation: domination versus oblivion

If a tree falls in the forest and no one is there, does it make a sound? Is your podcast this tree? We provide the best tactics to land in people’s playlists.

When it comes to content, I often think of the old philosophical question: if a tree falls in the forest and no one is there, does it still make a sound?

 

It’s much simpler when it comes to marketing. You can produce the best content in the world, but if no one engages with it or can find it, it’s near useless. 

 

This conundrum is particularly relevant when it comes to one of marketing’s shiny new(ish) toys, podcasts.

 

A lot of brands are producing incredible podcasts. But the sad fact is, they often don’t get the cut-through they should when you peak under the metrics hood. 

Podcast are growing, and listeners are sticky

If a tree falls in the forest and no one is there, does it make a sound? Is your podcast this tree?

First the good news. 

 

The ABC’s OzPod survey revealed more than 30 per cent of Australians are listening to a podcast monthly. And listeners are right in most brands’ sweet spot: largely 25-44 years of age.

 

Typically, this audience listens to four podcast series, and six episodes, every week. And to top it off, they listen to around 80% of each episode.

Podcast listeners are incredibly ‘sticky’ when they find shows they like. So, the question is: how can brands crack the code and insert themselves in people’s playlists?

Most importantly, you need to produce a bloody good podcast that delivers value to a specific tribe.

 

This includes everything from a skilled host(s), quality interviews and guests, expert storytelling, and sophisticated editing. But that’s table stakes if you want your podcast to stand out and get shared.

 

A good example of this is HCF’s ‘Talking to Teens’ series. It takes parents inside the heads of teenagers on topics including sex, mental health, resilience and eating disorders.

 

HCF tailors content to a specific audience and explicitly addresses its biggest challenges. It’s thought provoking, provides utility, and is designed to make parents more informed.

 

And crucially, it maps back to its brand and acquisition strategy, so it’s ultimately contributing to commercial outcomes.

More brands need to replicate this approach and be far more deliberate, precise and structured in terms of how they leverage and optimise podcasts.
So, we thought we’d lay down 12 of our favourite tips and tactics you should consider to help ensure your podcasts gets the attention it deserves. Now there is one glaring omission from the list below, and it’s a big one: search.

Too many brands aren’t capitalising on the fact Google is actively helping people find, and listen to, your podcast. (Read the announcement here.)

 

But that’s a pretty meaty article and we’ve decided to detail exactly how to make it easy for Google – and other search engines – to find and promote your show in separate article.

 

Watch this space or drop us a line if you want us to let you know when it’s live. 

 

Note: we’ve made the assumption you already have a podcast and want to enhance its reach and performance. These tips still hold true if you’re just starting out, but you also need a sophisticated launch strategy.

HCF’s podcast provides genuine utility to a specific audience that is a key acquisition target.

Podcast owned, earned and paid sophistication

Positioning that cuts through

People judge a book by its cover when it comes to podcasting. You need sophisticated cover art that stands out, and clearly conveys what you’ll be talking about. 

 

Your title is incredibly important and should focus on one keyword. And it should be as short as possible. It is the entrée not the whole meal. Your cover must be tailored to your tribe and speak their language.

Cross promote your blog and website

You should be cross-promoting your blog and podcast. The blog can provide a preview for a full episode, as well as a retrospective deep-dive. The added beauty of this approach is that it lets people bookmark your podcast and listen to it later.

 

Not to mention the benefits of being able to build up data on your audience to further streamline your marketing.

 

It’s also a no-brainer that you should be including clear links to your podcast via your home or relevant landing pages, ideally personalised by segment.

 

There’s also a heap of SEO benefits, which we’ll cover in part two of this yarn.

Your most valuable audience: EDM subscribers

Rather than trying to build a podcast audience from scratch, tap into the tribe that have already given you permission to engage with them. 

 

Providing utility and reengaging your audience via a podcast should be a sophisticated component of your retention and advocacy strategy.

 

Not to mention the fact it’s one of the easiest, albeit underutilised, ways to cost effectively scale your audience.

Super users are your evangelists. Identify and nurture them.

“Super listeners” accelerate growth

A report by the Knight Foundation and Edison Research states that “super listeners” consume twice the amount of podcast content compared to generic listeners.

They are loyal evangelists, with 96 per cent recommending a podcast to a friend.

On average, they listen to about 13 podcasts per week and are generally “podcast loyalists”– subscribing rather than downloading individual episodes.

 

These are your influencers. Identify them. Understand them. Nurture them. Target them. And ensure the podcast content you’re producing specifically meets their needs.  

Transcribe your podcasts

A lot of the most successful podcasts offer a full transcript of the entire show.

 

Firstly, this enables you to engage with a different audience – those that prefer reading to listening. And secondly, it underpins your SEO.

 

Loading a transcript – as well as the audio – should really be a no brainer and can be done quickly and cheaply by using tools such as Temi or Otter.ai.

Podcast atomisation

There’s easily 30+ pieces of content that can be shared for each episode across myriad channels pre and post the show.

A punchy audiogram is low hanging fruit, and it works equally well for social as well as your preview blog post.

You already have the audio, now you just need to make it bite-sized and add a visual, sound wave, and subtitles. 

 

And the list goes on, particularly given you have a transcript to play with. Some of the tactics should include image quotes, optimised thumbnails for YouTube, social posts (across myriad brand channels), blogs, pictures of the host and guest, and shareable sound bites.

Leverage your guest’s audience

One of the simplest promotional strategies is leveraging your guest and their audience. Sure, most brands have a one-off promo that Joe Bloggs is appearing on the show. And then there’s generally… nothing.

Everyone likes to showcase the fact they’re on a podcast and to encourage their audience to listen to it. So, make it as easy as possible for your guests to promote the episode to their fans in a staggered fashion.

Simple tactics can include packaging up a suite of co-branded collateral for your guest to drip-feed through their channels. You could share a funny anecdote or interesting insight from your guest on your socials as a teaser – pointing to when the podcast will drop.

Apple Podcasts (formerly iTunes) categorisation

Apple Podcasts is still the podcast behemoth – despite Spotify snapping at its heels – with reports it’s responsible for as much as 70 to 80% of a podcast’s listens and downloads. You can choose three categories to list your podcast in, and you need to do so smartly.

 

Remember that Apple Podcasts is effectively a search engine that happens to play music. You want to analyse your competitors and maximise your chances of being found by the right people.

Facebook, LinkedIn and Instagram Live; and YouTube

Your guests are already mic’d up, and it’s not that hard to put a tripod and camera or phone in the vicinity as well. From there, you’ve created additional video and image content to leverage.

 

Live streaming your podcast through Facebook, LinkedIn or Instagram enables you to engage with an audience by taking questions during the podcast. It also provides real-time feedback on what is resonating most with your audience. 

 

However, the biggest con is that you’re ‘live’ and you can’t edit on the fly.

 

On the flipside, you can upload the polished piece to YouTube and it’s another asset to push out, as well as a reason for people to subscribe to your channel. Other benefits include closed captions, automatic transcripts, and significant SEO benefits. 

 

They won’t all be right for your brand or audience, but they’re low-cost and effective tools within your video armoury. 

Social strategy

I’m not going to bang on about the need for social strategy – that’s a bit like saying air is helpful when it comes to breathing. Instead, I’ll defer to Jay Baer’s famous quote: “Content is fire and social media is gasoline.”

 

If you’re investing time, effort and money to produce a podcast – and to atomise it – make sure you have a solid amplification strategy in place. And yes, you need to have some spend behind it.

A podcast is also an incredibly valuable asset to actively engage with your audience. Nurture, add value and to turn your podcast listeners into an organic community that powers your growth. 

Let directories do some of the heavy lifting

Apple Podcasts is the biggest game in town, but it’s not the only one. At a minimum, you want to make sure your show is available in Google Podcasts so people with both an iPhone and Android can access it.

 

The PR Warrior, Trevor Young, is a long-time podcaster. His top tip for brands that produce a regular podcast is to make sure they submit it to the myriad third-party podcast directories and apps across the social web.

 

“Not everyone accesses their favourite podcasts through Apple, so make sure your podcast is broadly available through other directories as well,” Young said.

 

“Some directories will take a direct feed from Apple Podcasts, so you don’t have to do anything to get listed. But with others, you’ll need to submit your podcast through your podcast hosting platform, if they enable it.”

 

Young also suggests listing all of the channels people can access your podcast on your website.

 

Some of the typical places to consider include Spotify, Stitcher, SoundCloud, Overcast, iHeartRadio, TuneIn, Player.fm, Castbox and Pocketcasts.

Section of podcast directories

Update your email signature and social bios

This seems captain-obvious, but a lot of brands forget to do it. Consider how many emails you send each day, and how much awareness or click throughs that may drive. 

 

Ditto your branded and personal social bios. For instance, you may include the podcast title in your LinkedIn headline and the company description.

 

I’m not saying all of these tactics work for your brand. But you should definitely be considering elements like these if you want to grow your audience.

 

The second half of this article deep-dives on search, including elements like:

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