Welcome to your podcast marketing journey!
This guide is designed to shine a light on the concrete ways to grow the audience of a podcast, from cross-promoting with other podcasters, to running ads on Overcast, to showing up in Apple Podcast’s Top 200 Shows, and more.
The iTunes directory lists over two million podcasts. Breaking through the noise can seem daunting. But, there’s some good news: millions of people are searching for new podcasts every day.
This guide has two parts. First, how to design your podcast to be discovered by listeners. Second, a list of actionable strategies to market your podcast that you can try right now. (Or, at least after you grab another cup of coffee 🙂)
Want to skip ahead? Here are our top-5 strategies for podcast marketing:
Design your podcast to be discovered
Imagine clicking a catchy Instagram ad for an e-commerce mattress site, only to land on a website with a broken checkout link. Not only will you leave the site, but you might tell your friends about your negative experience. What’s more, Google’s search algorithm will bury the website in search results due to its poor user experience. Worst of all, no mattresses will be delivered!
Like a working checkout link on an e-commerce website, there are table stakes to promoting a podcast. Check these boxes to make your podcast visible — both to listeners and podcast apps like Apple Podcasts and Spotify.
Podcast app ranking factors
Take a minute to open the app you use for podcasts. Whether that's Apple Podcasts, Spotify, Overcast, Stitcher, or someplace else, one thing is true: you'll find several ways to discover new shows. On Spotify, that's Top Podcasts; on Apple Podcasts, Top Shows or New & Noteworthy.
Showing up in podcast apps is critical to growing your audience because millions of users find new podcasts this way.
So, how do podcast apps decide what podcasts to introduce to their users?
We call these podcast app ranking factors. Note that, like Google's search engine algorithm, podcast apps don't disclose their ranking factors in exact terms to prevent unworthy podcasts from gaming the system.
Apple Podcasts Top Shows
Apple Podcasts lists the top 200 podcasts in total and in each category, determined by an algorithm.
Libsyn’s Vice President of Podcaster Relations, Rob Walch, claims that your podcast's number of subscribers in Apple Podcasts is the sole ranking factor for Top Shows. And it doesn't take long to get noticed.
"[The Top Shows chart is] 100% about the total number of new subscribers in the past 7 days, with a weighted average for the last 24, 48, and 72 hours." (The Feed)
Apple Podcasts New & Noteworthy
New & Noteworthy is a highly-coveted curated list of podcasts that are less than 90 days old. This section is hand-picked by Apple. While there's no algorithm to reverse-engineer, Apple's curators look for these ranking factors (in addition to a quality show, of course).
- Frequent and consistent publishing
- High quality podcast cover art
- Ratings and reviews
Table stakes to become discovered by podcast apps (and listeners, too)
We just walked through the data points and characteristics that matter to Apple's algorithms and curators. Here's how to design your podcast to hit the podcast app ranking factors. In the process, you'll produce a better podcast — not only for algorithms, but for listeners.
Release episodes consistently
Algorithms that recommend podcasts are on the hunt for “active” podcasts. Pick a release schedule, and release consistently. If you can’t release every week, record a bunch of episodes in one to two days, and then drop a new episode every week for the next six to eight weeks. Voila, you have a season!
Choose a descriptive name
Choose a name that tells people what the podcast is about without “keyword stuffing” bland words or phrases. When someone sees your podcast in their podcast app, it should be obvious what they’re in store for.
Here are a few examples of descriptive podcast names without sounding bland:
Use clear, attractive cover art
Alongside the name, cover art should make the thrust of your podcast clear.
Influential podcaster and entrepreneur, Neil Patel, puts it this way:
"It’s better to be clear than clever with your podcast branding.
Your audience should be able to tell what your podcast is about by just looking at the cover art." (Hack Your Way to 10,000 Podcast Downloads with These 15 Tips)
Stand out with your cover art, with the name in big, bold lettering that can be read on a small phone. Take a look at the shows listed in Apple Podcasts’ New & Noteworthy:
Podcast collective and production studio, Multitude Productions, advises podcasters to prioritize design, as well:
"If you’re going to spend money on anything, your first priority is a mic.
Second must be art." (How to Start & Grow A Podcast)
When it comes to designing a podcast to grow, Nathan Latka of The Top provides a fantastic case study. Go deeper into how Nathan launched his podcast, here.
Podcast marketing strategies
Now that you've designed your podcast to become discovered, follow these strategies to drive new listeners to your podcast.
This is a growing list of marketing strategies. Have you marketed your podcast with another method? Drop us a line. We'd love for you to contribute to Great Podcast Marketing.
Podcasters often work together to grow each other’s audiences by exchanging ad spots, promoting entire episodes of one another’s work, or even collaborating on an episode. This is called cross-promotion.
Cross-promoting exposes your show to listeners who’ll enjoy it with the stamp of approval from someone they trust. It's a great way to grow your audience.
There are three types of cross-promotion:
Each host reads a promo for the other podcast on their show. Promo swaps either materialize as host-read promotions for each show or audio files exchanged and inserted into each show.
Each podcast drops an entire episode of the other’s on their feed, typically with a host-read introduction to the new podcast. Feed drops often happen in between seasons when the podcast dropping the episode isn’t regularly releasing new episodes.
The host should add an introduction to a feed drop to provide listeners with context for why this episode is on their feed. One good way to introduce a feed drop is to conduct a short interview with the host.
The podcasts create an episode together and release it on both feeds. Crossover episodes take many forms, typically borrowing the format from each show.
Find the right cross-promotion partner
Seek out podcasts that are of a similar size and have a similar audience to yours. Podcasts close in listenership make good partners for cross-promotions because there’s an even trade-off of exposure to new listeners.
Here are a few ways to find podcasts with a similar audience:
- Seek out podcasts that have interviewed the same guest or covered the same topic you have
- Search your category in Apple Podcasts
- Navigate to the section underneath your show in Apple Podcasts, You Might Also Like
You can find podcasts with a similar size by using the number of Apple podcast reviews as a proxy.
Promote through your guests
Podcast episodes that feature guests can boost new listenership by introducing the guest’s fans to the show.
Justin Jackson of Build Your SaaS, for example, attributes his show's unexpected growth to one guest:
"One trend we've noticed is that a big guest can drive a lot of downloads. For example, in April 2019 we had a huge spike in listeners. That was the month we released this episode with Taylor Otwell. Taylor has a large audience, and he brought us a lot of new listeners." (Transistor)
You can supercharge the exposure lent by your guest by making it simple for them to get the word out. To this end, we love the advice from Kevan Lee of Buffer's blog post, We Didn’t Know How to Promote a Podcast. So Here’s All We Learned.
On the day you release an episode, send the guest an email providing specific materials they can share with their fans. Here are some examples:
- An image with a quote from your guest. (Try Canva to create images)
- A 30-second audiogram with a portion of the interview. (Try Headliner to create audiograms)
- A pre-written Tweet and Facebook post
Advertise your podcast on other podcasts
Advertising on podcasts isn't just for mattress retailers and website builders. Podcasters can advertise on podcasts, too. Like cross-promoting, running paid ads on podcasts introduces your show to listeners who may enjoy it based on their podcast preferences.
Where do you run podcast ads?
There are several podcast advertising platforms out there, including Midroll, Advertisecast, Megaphone, Podcorn, and more. Each platform provides you with the interface to set up ads and run them to listeners on their network of podcasts. On most platforms, you can determine which podcasts to advertise on, and how many listeners you want to reach. Megaphone enables targeting ads to listeners based on demographic data and interests.
When it comes to getting a campaign off the ground quickly and on a small budget, we suggest checking out Podcorn. It’s a self-service tool that doesn’t require a huge budget, with different options for the types of ads you can run.
Another approach is to be a sponsored guest, where you pay to be placed on another show. Services like Interview Valet can help set up sponsored guest appearances.
Advertise your podcast on Overcast
Overcast is a popular podcast app that allows podcasters to market themselves using banner ads. Here's what it looks like:
How to set up an Overcast ad
In Overcast, you can purchase banner ads that display your podcast cover art, name, and tagline. Set the audience for your banner ads by podcast categories, such as Comedy, News, Sports, etc.
Advertising in Overcast is a popular option for podcasters in part because you can measure the results easily. For each campaign, you'll see the number of new subscribers in Overcast.
Once your podcast has gained a following, it will undoubtedly grow from the word of mouth of your fans. At Refer-O-Matic, we built a tool to run referral programs for podcasts so that you can amplify your biggest fans’ recommendations.
It’s simple: Listeners sign up, get a unique link to share with their friends, and earn rewards when they hit milestones for referrals. Here are some of the popular rewards podcasters using Refer-O-Matic have offered their listeners:
- Merchandise like stickers, tee shirts, and even hand-drawn portraits of world leaders
- A shout-out on the podcast
- An ad-free version of the podcast
- Coaching calls
And here are a few referral programs we love:
When listeners head over to the referral page, they’ll get a link they can use to share a specific episode or the entire show.
Great Podcast Marketing is an ongoing list of marketing strategies. If you've grown your podcast, we'd love to hear from you.