Podcasting is a long-form content format. Don’t compare podcast download numbers with things like YouTube plays, or social media follower counts.
Do you want to have a successful podcast? Of course, you do. That’s why you started that podcast in the first place and since you’ve published the first episode you were constantly talking about it, you have been sharing it all across your social media channels and you are even dreaming about how to receive that Podcast Oscar one day.
But now, back to real life, you are reading this article, which means that you are struggling to understand what to do in order to create and maintain a successful podcast.
First of all let’s see what success means in podcasting.
Go and Google “successful podcast” and you will get hundreds of articles on how to create a successful podcast. Everybody is talking about successful podcasting and how you can get to it in only 10 steps and 5 tips, how to easily transform yourself and your content into the best of the best.
Well, the real answer is….it depends.
Sorry to disappoint you but it really depends on a lot of other contexts, ideas, and resources to get a successful podcast.
I get it that you want to be the next Tim Ferriss and to have people call you “The Oprah of podcasting” – which by the way, it’s an article written by his strategist on that time, Ryan Holiday – So yeah, anybody can give you a name and make you the next of the next. But let’s get back to our topic and discuss success in podcasting.
When I started podcasting in 2017 I had a simple goal in my mind:
- I will publish 50 episodes (one episode/week)
- I will document my entire process and after the 50th episode I will see if I will continue podcasting.
Today my podcast is one of the most popular podcasts in my country (Romania) and I’m consulting top brands and celebrities to make the best out of their podcasts.
So, do I have a successful podcast or not?
I can say that I have a successful podcast but in the meantime there are other podcasts that got more downloads than me, they are every day on top of Apple Podcasts and they’ve got a bigger community of followers and listeners than I do. Am I still the most successful podcaster in town?
But first of all, let’s define success in podcasting. What do you think it’s success in podcasting?
Is it the number of downloads per episode? Or, maybe it is the number of traffic to your website? The amount of money you are making in every episode? The amount of social media mentions and shares you got for every episode?
And the questions can keep coming but we will still get to that stupid answer that every smart marketer will tell you “it depends”.
How do you define what’s a successful podcast and what is not?
Everything starts from the Podcast itself, and I mean from the topic you want to talk about and how big is that niche.
For example, let’s take as a topic for your podcast the word “pasta” and document everything around it. The history of pasta, interviews with chefs and pasta lovers, talking about recipes and other things around this topic.
Next step to understanding the success of your podcast is to start doing some research:
1. Do a keyword research
Go to Google and type “pasta podcast”
That’s how you may be able to find everything you are interested in “pasta podcast”. There are Twitter accounts and other food and restaurant podcasts who talk about pasta. But there are not so many podcasts who are talking about “pasta” only. This means that it’s an interesting topic because:
- People love pasta
- “Pasta” is an international food language
- You can cover at least 30 episodes only about pasta: the history of pasta, interview with pasta lovers, interview with restaurant owners, topics about different pasta shapes
- You can start doing a better job then others are doing right now
Then, you can go on Apple Podcast and do a quick search for “Pasta”. You will get some podcasts about pasta and some podcasts about restaurants as well.
Now, these are some really cool insights because you can see that even if there is interest, the market is not so competitive.
As a consequence, it might work for you if you start that podcast.
2. Do some research about your competition
When you start a podcast it means that you are starting a battle around attention. So it means that you are in a battle with other podcasts who talk about the same topic you are talking about. This means that before you hit that record button, you have to have some insights and ideas about your competition.
But now you will start asking “If I’m talking about pasta, who is my competition? Do I compete with podcasts that discuss only pasta or do I compete with podcasts that are more general but in a few episodes talking about this topic as well?”
And my answer is YES – everyone who is talking about your topic can be a competition for your podcast.
Therefore, when doing that initial research, I recommend you to create a spreadsheet and copy/paste every single episode/show you can find that is talking about your topic.
And this research can be a good resource for you because:
- Listen to all of them and see what they are doing well and what they are doing wrong
- Start your show with a few ideas you can steal from them
- Get some resources and thus have a starting point (guests, interesting people, chiefs)
Here are a few ideas if you are interested in pasta podcast:
Now, just think about these shows and consider that podcasters invested time and resources to do them.
This means that there is a community that is still interested in this topic. So yes, it means that you chose a good topic for your podcast.
Next, let’s get a little nerdy here and…
3. Start an SEO keyword research
I know that we are talking about podcasting and not SEO, but from my own perspective I believe that we need some SEO here as well. Why? It’s because SEO can help us react and see if the numbers tell us whether we are on the right track or not.
To this end, I used Ahrefs and looked up at the “pasta podcast” keyword:
It looks like the search volume is not so high in numbers. In fact, it’s even small. This does not make me a pessimist about this topic, however, because it can mean 2 things:
- I can build a strong brand around a topic such as “pasta”
- I can build the most popular podcast around pasta and people will start searching for it.
Why am I saying this? Because I will do a research on these 2 terms:
- Pasta: 105K search volume
- Podcast: 251K search volume
And I know that my SEO buddy will roll their eyes and write me back (what the heck all you talking over there) because this is not the right SEO strategy.
But hey, I’m a branding specialist who knows how to use branding and SEO to grow a content marketing project. So maybe I push the boundaries a little bit here, but why not do some experiments here.
As stated by the experts at https://wiredclip.com/buzzsprout-review/ this is what you need to know on how to find the best podcast hosting service. Start with your podcast goals in your mind and think about what you really want to do with your podcast. Do you want to start it as a business, as a hobby or just grow your brand in this particular network? Then find a good podcast hosting service for your show, so your work would only be to publish the episode and let them do the entire thing. You don’t want only a hosting service where you upload your podcast episodes, you also want a service that is well oriented on helping your audience experience.
Furthermore, do not forget to check your stats once in a while and see how your podcast performs, how people receive it and how well your initial research is working out. All major podcasting platforms include dashboards with more or less thorough statistical data that will help you get an idea about how to move on and improve on your SEO strategy.
4. Do some social media community diggings
Now that we have finished with the SEO and keyword research, let’s put the social media hat and see how many Facebook groups around the topic “pasta” we can find. What did I do? I went on Facebook and searched “pasta” in the search bar, which took me to the following results:
And yes, I found some pasta lover communities.
This looks like a big community “Pasta Lovers!” It gives me an optimistic view of my podcast.
And if I will go further with my research, I can find out that the “pasta” hashtag is quite a popular hashtag around social media. People are taking pictures with their food (duh) and posting it on Instagram.
Now, my marketer mind is searching for new ways to transform this online project into offline experiences. Wink-wink
Now that we have some ideas on whether our topic is popular or not, we still need to think about how to make that successful podcast.
Why have I done this research?
I did it because I wanted to show you that a successful podcast will only be successful if you talk to your target audience.
For example, if you will start a podcast about pasta and you find out that in your country there is a community of about 1000 persons who love to talk about pasta, they have their Facebook group and they even do live shows on how to cook pasta, it means that the target audience of your podcast is around 500 people. I divided it to 50% because not everybody will listen to podcasts; some of them love to watch videos and maybe some of them just use the group to get a recipe, prepare it and that’s all. So we also need to be a little realistic here.
Therefore, if your audience is around 500 people who love “pasta” and you can get 500 downloads per episode with an average consumption of 90%-95% of your podcasts – it means that you have a successful podcast.
Think about that upon launching your podcast and use all the 22 podcast networks where you can submit your podcast. This way, your chance to get to those 500 downloads it’s increasing.
However, I don’t believe that downloads are the only way to measure the success of your podcast.
If you have lots of downloads, it doesn’t mean that everybody listened to the entire podcast.
That’s why I love that Apple Podcast came with the idea of “Average Consumption” and Spotify calls it “Episode Performace” while Sticher call it “Average Completion Rate”.
But a successful podcast really depends on you, the creator and producer, the mind behind it. Maybe success for you means more subscribers, more downloads, more web traffic, more social media engagement, or more money in the pocket.
It really depends on YOU.
What do you want from your podcasts?
If you have a clear goal right from the beginning, start working on it. But never ever compare yourself to the big players. Always compare yourself with the last episode you published and see what you can do in order to improve on it.
I’m sorry that I didn’t give you some tips and tricks on how to create a successful podcast that will skyrocket you at the top of Apple Podcasts, next to your idols while the next day you will sign a book deal and a cover on GQ, Esquire or Entrepreneur.