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Marketing a Podcast and Marketing With Podcasts: The Challenges of Both


One of the marketing mantras these days is to do a podcast to market your business. That’s great. Podcasts allow you to speak—literally—to your audience of fans and prospects. Your voice can make a different, deeper, personal connection with your audience than blogs or other written posts can.

There’s just one issue: You're going to be marketing a podcast to use a podcast to market your business! So it’s one of those classic “chicken and egg” scenarios. Podcasts are not that different from blogs in that you need to drive traffic to your posts in order to sell your stuff to visitors, or earn advertising revenue from their views and clicks. But there are some significant, unique challenges that podcasts have.

Podcasts Are Not Very SEO Friendly

At least at this stage of technological development, audio content (and often video content, too) is not always and automatically indexable by Google and search engines. That’s why some podcasters post a text transcript in the show notes and description. That helps the text-based bots “read” the podcast.

Creating a text transcript has its own challenges. If you’ve ever tried to transcribe some audio yourself, you know it can be time consuming busywork.

There are programs, apps and services that can transcribe your audio or video. Most have a fee involved, usually assessed by the minute. My personal favorite for many years for my YouTube videos been I’ve also seen recommended.

But that ups your cost to podcast. Most of these services charge in the neighborhood of $1 per minute (as of this post date). Do a 30-minute weekly podcast? That could cost you up to $1,500 or more per year. Even if you cut down your podcast length, it still could be hundreds of dollars. And since most podcasts are not revenue generating, this could represent a loss.

Dealing With SEO Challenges of Podcasts

Understand that unless you’re willing to invest either significant time or money into including a transcription of your podcast, your podcast will not be indexed by search engines. However, there are a couple things you can do improve the chances of getting your podcast indexed without spending a fortune.

1. Include Relevant Keywords in the Episode Title... and Near the Beginning

What do you talk about in the episode? Include that topic keyword in your episode title.

2. Your Episode Number Is Irrelevant

On a related issue, many podcast episode titles start with “Episode #...” With so many podcasts starting their episode titles with “Episode,” yours will inevitably be added to the search engine slush pile of thousands of other podcasts that also start their titles with “Episode.”

And do your listeners really care what episode number your podcast is? I’ve noticed that this emphasis on including the episode number in the title is a vanity metric for the podcaster: “Welcome to Episode 970.” I’m guessing they’re hoping the audience will think, “Wow, they’ve been podcasting for a long time.” As a listener, I don't care.

If you feel strongly about including the episode number in the title, put it at the end. For SEO purposes, as for blog titles, the closer you can put your topical keywords to the beginning of the title, the faster and more efficiently the bots can find you.

3. Make Your Show Description Search Friendly

As with the episode title, make sure that your show description is written for SEO.

4. Only Transcribe Important Episodes

True, there may be some episodes that are really special or helpful for your audience, and may be ones that you’d like to improve the possibility that they’ll be found by the search engine bots. Investing in a transcription for those episodes might be worth it, in addition to the SEO friendly title and episode description.

More Insight on Podcasts and Marketing

Podcasts Can't Be Clicked

Like social media, podcasting is good for branding. But it may not be good for more transactional marketing and analytics. This is particularly the case when it comes to click through rates.

Sure, you can include links to your sales funnel webpages in your show description and monitor that traffic with Google Analytics. However, you have to remember that most people listen to podcasts while they’re doing other things, particularly driving or exercising. Chances are they are not going to stop what they’re doing, go to your show notes, and click your links. No, they’re going to listen and move on to the next show or episode. So monitoring the marketing success of a podcast with web traffic analytics is difficult to impossible.

Dealing With the Unclickable Nature of Podcasts

1. Understand the Difference Between Branding and Sales

Branding can be a key to sales success and should be part of every business’ marketing. However, you need to remember that it may not be a transactional sales effort, as things like Google AdWords advertising might be. You are merely going for top of mind awareness, not sales.

2. Announce an Easy-to-Remember Link in the Podcast

One thing I’ve heard some prominent podcasters do is mention a special, easy to remember web address during the podcast. “For more information, go to such-and-such website/page.” That web address should be short, clearly enunciated (even spelled out if you suspect it might be misspelled), and repeated to imprint it on listeners’ memory. Some show hosts announce this same link in several (or all) podcast episodes. This also helps.

Also notice that the announced web link has a specific landing page noted. This not only helps you track the analytics, it helps you customize the landing page content for your podcast audience.

You may also wish to offer a special incentive for listeners who do visit the landing page. This also can help increase the chances that listeners will remember the link and actually make the effort to visit.

Advertising Your Podcast

“My podcast is on Apple Podcasts [Spotify, Stitcher, etc.].” Good for you! But that means almost nothing, other than that it makes your podcast available to your potential listeners where they want to listen. iTunes and their podcast platform brethren are merely distribution channels.

Unless you’re participating in some special program they offer for revenue sharing or advertising, the popular platforms—iTunes, Stitcher, Google Podcasts, etc.—will do nothing to proactively promote your podcast. They don’t have to. Actually, both sides of the equation are doing favors for each other: You provide content to keep listeners on these channels' platforms, and they make your podcast accessible to listeners.

Like considering spending on transcription for your podcast, spending on advertising to promote your podcast seems like a difficult choice. You’ll be spending money promoting something that may not even be directly making you money.

Remember, You’re Not Really Advertising the Podcast

If you are using a podcast to market your business, then the amount you spend on advertising and marketing it is actually a cost to advertise and market your business overall. So the better way to look at it is to remember the end goal and consider any advertising to promote the podcast as money to promote the business, not just this little audio show you do.

Admittedly, this is tough to get over. I’m definitely guilty of looking at this in a short term, instant gratification way. But I’m strongly considering such things as Facebook ads to grow my podcast audience.

One of my podcasting pals from the coaching industry actually pays handsomely to host her online live radio show that is rebroadcast as a podcast afterwards. She reasoned that the show gives her expanded marketing exposure that helps build her brand and business opportunities. Kudos to her on that brave move that looks beyond the immediate results and feedback.

This article is accurate and true to the best of the author’s knowledge. Content is for informational or entertainment purposes only and does not substitute for personal counsel or professional advice in business, financial, legal, or technical matters.

© 2018 Heidi Thorne


Heidi Thorne (author) from Chicago Area on August 14, 2018:

Linda, the points I share in these posts are always generated by something I end up bumping into (or stumbling over). :( So I figure others probably are, too. Appreciate your kind comments, as always! Cheers!

Linda Crampton from British Columbia, Canada on August 13, 2018:

You always share good advice, Heidi. You answer important questions that I've never even thought of! As always, thanks for sharing the information.

Heidi Thorne (author) from Chicago Area on August 13, 2018:

Liz, the podcasting world is still a big question mark for many. So you're not alone in it being vague (it was for me, too).

Glad you found it helpful. Have a great week!

Heidi Thorne (author) from Chicago Area on August 13, 2018:

Bill, when you have time, I think the Mailbag could definitely be an easy podcast that wouldn't take additional time in terms of content development. We'll look forward to that someday.

Thanks for stopping in and enjoy your week!

Heidi Thorne (author) from Chicago Area on August 13, 2018:

Flourish, I'm not sure there's a solid benchmark that could be used to determine if podcasting is worth it. Getting downloads is so tough! There's just too much competition for attention.

For me, though the downloads are nowhere near what I want them to be, I'm building my audio platform for the growing consumption of audio content.

On a related note, I'm publishing the audio editions for some of my existing print books and eBooks. I'm surprised that I'm already realizing sales in the first few weeks, even though those books were first published years ago. So I think that speaks to the coming audio trend.

As I touched on briefly in the post, engagement with podcasts is just about zero. Other than some things like announcing a memorable link for comments, it is very, very tough. I am hoping for a tech breakthrough that allows people to comment on a podcast during or after they listen... maybe with a voice command since they're usually driving or doing other things?

As with everything, it really depends on your goals. It does take an inordinate amount of time, especially when you're learning how to podcast.

The ROI isn't where I want it right now, but realize the potential. So I'm limiting my podcasting to a once-a-week broadcast until it starts gaining traction. While some may say I should go heavier on it to build, the cost is way too high (both dollars for hosting and time) to justify anything more right now.

Great, thoughtful questions as always. Thank you and have a great week!

Liz Westwood from UK on August 13, 2018:

This is whole area that I am very vague about so I appreciate you opening it up and unpacking it for me.

Bill Holland from Olympia, WA on August 13, 2018:

The thing is, I think I could make a good podcast, one people would enjoy. Now where is the time to do it? What do I do without in my schedule in order to make a good one? These are the dilemmas I face, thanks to your constant prodding. lol