We'll talk really quickly about season-level elements. Some shows break their episodes, or rather, some shows break their episodes up into seasons. Why might you wanna do that? Serial is a really good example of this. Season one was an entire story, season two was an entirely different story, season three is going to be a third very different story. Shows lik Serial, shows like Tally Abecassis's First Day Back, Someone Knows Something that we looked at earlier, like a true crime sort of show where they follow a single story over time. Each season follows a different story, and the way that you package your show can include season. Apple has season markers where you can denote this is season one, this is season two, this is season three. And some podcasts, you download an entire season all at once, in one go so that you can binge listen. So, not all shows do this, but if you do, you wanna make sure that your show-level elements and your episode-level elements and your season-level eleme...
nts are really all aligned and pointing in the same direction. Is anybody in the room doing sort of a seasonal-based show? I would like to hear more about it later. But this is an aspect of the packaging that you really do need to think about. Okay, we're gonna talk about websites. Every podcast needs a website, not just 'cause it's a good idea, but because this is now how you get into Google Podcasts. Your show cannot be listed in Google Podcasts unless it has a website, because the way that Google Podcast crawls the web is there's an RSS feed, there's a website, they have reciprocal links, and that's how you get in the index. So, every show needs a website. It is not just your home base, it is functionally a part of the plumbing that gets you submitted to these directories. You could build out a fully custom site, you could use the website that is included with your podcast hosting service. Many of them offer that. But your show needs to have a website. What is the job of a podcast website? I think there are three jobs. You wanna make your podcast website so that it is dead simple to sample your show, just to check it out. You want new people who hit your site to be able to just sample it. You wanna make it frictionless as possible for them to, if they like what they hear, subscribe, and you wanna help your most engaged fans dig a little bit deeper. So, with that in mind, we have found that great podcast websites tend to have a couple things in common. Mobile first. According to the Infinite Dial numbers, 69% of podcast listeners say that the device they use most often to listen to podcasts is a smartphone, tablet, or other portable device. This is not a huge surprise, but it means you need to make sure that your website is optimized for mobile first. You want touch-friendly audio players. Have you ever been on a podcast website and there's like the world's smallest player and you're pinching and zooming just so you can hit the play button and it's really fiddly? There are lots of different audio players out there. Prioritize the ones that have big, tappable, thumb or finger-friendly play buttons. You could use the one that comes from your hosting company. This is SimpleCast. There are third party solutions. Radio Public has a really great player. You could do a full-on custom coded one. But whatever player you choose, make sure that it is finger-friendly, especially for people who are not familiar with podcasts. If you take a new podcast listener and put a website in front of them with a tiny little play button, they're never gonna find it. Make it obvious. Official badges and branding. This is a Gimlet website, and they've got a whole bunch of different app badges. You wanna use the official ones. You wanna make sure that they're placed above the fold so that people do not have to scroll, and scroll, and scroll, and scroll to get to your subscribe buttons. You wanna follow the brand identity guidelines of whatever platform you're working with. You'll notice that the major ones have this. What you don't wanna do when it comes to badges, you don't wanna make your own custom podcast badges. Lots of people do this. Use the official ones supplied by the platform. Also, don't just Google Apple Podcast logo and use that. It's probably wrong, or out of date, or somebody else's homemade version of the podcast logo. Apple, Spotify, Stitcher, all of these platforms like it when you use their official badging, and are not big fans when you make your own janky version of their logo. You wouldn't like it if somebody made a janky version of your logo. So, which badges should you use? There are lots of them out there. I would argue that you should prioritize first part badges, that is, Apple Podcast and Google Podcast. Those are the apps that are installed on every single smartphone that is out there on the market. Whether people know it or not, they've got this on their phone. If you know that you're trying to target a specific audience, you could point people to that. There's a guy that I know who does an independent hip-hop podcast called The Come Up Show. He points people to SoundCloud. Why? 'Cause tons of independent hip-hop artists are on SoundCloud. It's the place for his people. But when in doubt, use the official badges and prioritize the apps that are already installed on people's phones. Smart banners, have you ever seen this? It's a one tap link deep into the Apple Podcast app. These are commonly used by app developers, but they work for podcasts as well. It's a single line of code that you can add to your website, and these only show up on iOS. I strongly recommend that you implement an app banner. And your website also needs to include the recommended Google Podcast tags so that not only are you gonna show up in Google Podcast, but you're gonna show up in search results. This is a screenshot of Google Pixel with Google's search results, where a play button is actually right there on the search engine results page. So, there's a technical specification for doing this, and if you're working with a podcast host that supports it, use this. You want those links between your RSS feed and your podcast website. All the details are at Google's developer site. Companion content. If you can build out a beautiful custom website that has additional details, not just a player, but biographies, or a text article, or additional photos, or videos, or resources, do that. We want your website to be a way for people to dig a little bit deeper. This is Dell Technology's website. You scroll down, it's full of great information. So, create compelling companion content. We also want easy on ramps. This is the New York Times' The Daily. If you go to their website and you've never heard of a podcast before, they give you step-by-step instructions. Same thing, this is Charles Schwab. They have a website. A lot of people who are hearing Charles Schwab's podcast have never heard a podcast before. They made it dead simple. There's a button, how to listen, and it walks you through step by step by step. Remember that most people in the world are not regular podcast listeners. Your website needs to make it very, very simple for those people to listen. So, to recap. Podcast listeners, they use their eyes first, their ears second. Your show-level elements, your episode-level elements, your season-level elements, your website, and the audio that you've spent so long to produce, they all have to be pointing in the same direction. There are, at last count, more than half a million podcasts in the Apple Podcast directory. That number is growing every single day. The question that I have for you and that I hope you take away from this is how am I going to use the non-audio elements of my show to stand out on the shelf, 'cause this is what you are up against. I would love to hear what you guys are thinking at this point.
We have hands shooting up, so let's see if we can squeeze in a couple questions. Let's start here.
Hi, thank you so much for this. So, you mentioned that your podcast should have its own website. So, I also own my own business and have been debating between setting up its own website or just having it as a page as part of my other one. Could you give any information on should I still have it as a page, or set it up on its own? Maybe even the same for social media channels?
I think either is totally fine and there's not a wrong answer to this. So, from a technical perspective, for submitting to Google Podcasts, you just need to have, when I say website, I mean a webpage, right? So you don't need to go buy a separate domain for your site. In my day job, we work with big brands. Some of them have built their podcast website on their own corporate website. Others have set up entirely different sites. So, IRL is a good example of this. Mozilla does a show called IRL and they bought irlpodcast.org, and that is the home of the podcast. And it links back to Mozilla and there's lots of cross pollination, but it's got its own home on the web. And I think that the way that I would think about it is, you know, what do you want your listeners' primary relationship to be? Or who do you want your listeners' primary relationship to be with? Is it you as the host of a show? Is it the show as an entity? Or is it the parent brand, right? And I don't think there's a wrong answer to this. I think when you think about social, or even websites, there is time and effort that goes into maintaining and building those things, and often, if you've got a podcast and it is hosted by a person, maybe you don't wanna set up a second Twitter account just for the show if the primary interaction is with the host of the show, right? If I'm, like, I'm a listener to a lot of podcasts. I identify with the host of a show, and I feel like my relationship is with the host of the show, and I might follow that person on Twitter or follow them on any other social platform in a way that I might not follow their show account. So, I mean, that is not probably a very satisfying answer. I think from a technical standpoint, there's no reason to do it one way or the other, and it is all about how siloed do I want this thing to be. Do I want it to be seen as an extension of my company, or do I want it to have a life all on its own.
How important is it to do a show trailer versus maybe just like a short little intro to each of your episodes saying what you are and what you're about?
So, I think about trailers in a couple of different ways, and trailers play different roles. A trailer for a new show is technically a placeholder so that you can submit your show before the first episode comes out, 'cause you wanna make sure that you're available on Apple, and you wanna make sure that you're available on Google, and you wanna make sure that you're available on Spotify, et cetera, et cetera, et cetera. So, technically, the trailer performs sort of a placeholder function, just to be there so that you're not submitting an empty feed, which will get rejected, right? The trailer also functions as a movie trailer or a TV trailer, and it's a way to amp up excitement, either for a new show that's launching, or a season that is coming out. So, I'm working on a bunch of projects right now where we're doing season two of an established show, and we're using the trailer to talk to existing listeners to say, hey, we got new episodes coming! We really love them and we think you're gonna love them too. Make sure that you check 'em out, here's when they drop, right? And then the other goal that a trailer can play is, well into the future, if you have marked an episode as a trailer, it's gonna live in a privileged spot in apps like Apple Podcast. It's gonna be essentially pinned to the top of your list. So, for new subscribers, even though it may have come out at the very beginning of your run, it's gonna be the topmost thing. So, in that way, a trailer for a podcast, well into the future, functions like a movie trailer in any of the stores that let you rent or download movies, right? I rent and download movies on my Apple TV all the time, and often I will watch the trailer for a movie that came out 30 years ago. And that's a helpful, right, so you need to think about it in its life at the beginning of your show, in between seasons, and then well beyond the life of the show. Even if your series has wrapped, your trailer still performs a useful function, and whether it's, hey, this is coming up, or hey, this is an introduction to the show if you've never heard of it before. And a trailer can play all of those roles. I think a well-done show-level trailer saying here's who we are, here's what we believe, and here's what the show is all about, here's what you can expect, is a really valuable tool and not a lot of people are using them as effectively as they could be, given the privileged spot that they sit in in Apple Podcast.
Thank you so much. I do branding and web design, so this is my happy place. But wondering how, in the can, how static it is? Like, I'm just thinking, for somebody just getting started, down the road, once you get going, and you have a budget, and you, let's say, update your logo and branding, can you go back into your stuff and edit any of those graphics, or is it set in stone?
So, this is a great question. We're gonna approach it right now where, season two, the visual identity of it looks very different than season one. So, you can do it in a going forward way. You could also actively go back and tweak the title of an episode, you could tweak the description of an episode, you could fix an error, you could update episode artwork. You could do all of those things. You're never gonna be able to pull back MP3s that have already been downloaded and are already sitting on people's devices. But if I decide that, oh, I put a picture of the wrong Kate because there were two Kates at Grownups Rethink Who They Were As Kids that night, I put the wrong Kate there, I could go back and retroactively fix that. Or if I visually rebranded the show, and This American Life did that just recently. They created a new show logo, right? They went back, rebranded, and at a show level, it's all the new stuff. And if they wanted to, they could go back and retroactively edit. So yes, you can do that. You're never gonna pull back previously downloaded MP3s, of course, but yes, absolutely. And if your show changes in the course of doing your show, if the focus changes, if the host changes, if any of that changes, I would encourage you to do that, absolutely. Yeah, you wanna keep it current.
<b><p dir="ltr">Dan Misener makes podcasts. By day, he heads up audience development at Pacific Content, a Vancouver-based podcast company. By night, he produces the award-winning series Grownups Read Things They Wrote as Kids.</p></b>