One of the big questions podcasters ask is how the Apple Podcasts chart are calculated (and indeed before then how the iTunes podcast charts worked).
Apple have always been fairy quiet when asked as they were keen that people didn’t try and ‘game’ it. Not that it didn’t really stop people trying.
Well, this year they released some Podcasts of the Year which prompted Podnews Editor James Cridland to ask how the charts were created, which garnered what we believe is the first on-the-record answer.
Apple say the charts are calculated from:
“A mix of new subscriptions, play-back activity and completion rate.”
New subscriptions was the bit that most people felt was how they did it. What that means is there’s an algorithm looking at how many people have clicked subscribe in the past hours and days. This demonstrates which shows have momentum, and stops the charts being clogged up entirely with big podcasts of the past.
The new information is that play-back activity and completion rate are part of the calculation too. This is a good way to measure quality. For example, if people listen to a whole episode, after clicking subscribe, then that would suggest the show must be pretty good.
It also stops nefarious services having a hundred Apple accounts and just clicking subscribe on a show.
Also revealed was that:
“Ratings and reviews aren’t factored into these charts”
So perhaps you really don’t need to say ‘rate and review us’ on your podcast any more.
James talked about this on his new podcast – Podland – a great discussion about the podcast sector.
AND if you want to easily promote your podcast, do check out our free service – podfollow.com. It creates a free link to your show that opens up your podcast in Apple Podcasts, Spotify/Google Podcasts, your website – depending on what device people click on. There’s also lots of free stats too.
With any new project there comes a point when you just want to get it out of the door and unleash it on the outside world. Often with a podcast you’ve done what seems like the hard bit – the audio recording and edit – so you submit it to Apple Podcasts and tell everyone about it.
There’s then a delay with Apple getting it up there, and you field questions from people asking about Android phones, and by the time your twitter followers can actually listen, you’ve blown any momentum.
So, here’s our tips on launching a new podcast.
Don’t talk about your podcast (in person, or digitally) before everyone can subscribe and listen to an episode.
The sad truth is that trying to create a buzz for a new thing is difficult. Generating anticipation for a project that people have little connection to, is hard to achieve. Rather than the mystical pre-buzz, you’re better off point to something that meets a need, where you can describe why someone should listen.
“In my new podcast, Davina McCall gives me her tips on how to work from home [link]” is much better than “I’ve just recorded my first podcast episode with Davina McCall, it’ll be out soon”.
People need the ability to act on information straight away. Links rather than pre-promotes!
So, if that’s the end point, what have you got to do to get there?
Making it easy to listen
To make your podcast easy to listen to, it needs to be on all of the platforms that people listen to podcasts on. Apple Podcasts is the big one – with about 50% of listening, but there’s a whole host of others you should be on. Podnews has an excellent list of all the places you can put a podcast on, but before we get there, let’s look at your RSS feed.
I’m assuming that you’ve worked out where your podcast is going to be hosted. Whether that’s Acast Open, Omny, Audioboom, Libsyn or somewhere else you’ve got a route to create an RSS feed that you’ll submit to the places on the Podnews list.
Remember submitting a podcast feed is not an instant thing, for example Apple can take from 24 hours to a week to activate it in Apple Podcasts.
To submit a podcast it needs to have an episode – ie some audio. It doesn’t need to be a proper episode and it doesn’t even have to be something you’ll launch with. Your first main aim is to get your channel listed, so create episode zero.
Episode zero can be a nicely produced trailer for your show, or it could be as simple as a 30sec MP3 of you saying – “Hello, this is the Work at Home podcast, we’ll be interviewing people all about working at home. Stay tuned!”
When you submit your feed the other information that will be appearing is your show image, the title, a description and a link to a website.
Spend some time on these things, yes – of course you can change them later – but in preparation for a launch, do a good job on this. Remember that imagery is one of the core things that people see – is yours professional? Can you understand it if it’s shrunk down to a small square?
If you haven’t got much artistic skill, use a service like fiverr.com, and pay someone from £25 to design one for you. If you put no effort into your imagery, why should anyone spend any time listening to your podcast?
Coming up with a good title is hard. Clever titles, or obscure title are fine if you’re going to be spending marketing money to explain what it means, or if you have a large social following where can you introduce it. If you don’t have these things, don’t add another rod to your back, just pick a title that explains what your show is.
Don’t believe me? Have a look at the Apple Podcasts chart and see how many successful shows without famous hosts have a random title. It’s hardly any.
Next – the description. Some people will discover your podcast through search – either in a podcast app or through Google. The words in your title and description will have the main impact on that. Make sure your descriptions have a short two line ‘elevator pitch’ that succintly explains what your show is at the top (mainly for humans to read), and then a couple of paragraphs that goes into more detail, using words that people might search for (for the Google bot).
Website address. In the system that you use to publish your podcast there will likely be a field for you website address, make sure it’s filled in. With there being lots of different podcast websites out there, all using your RSS feed, this is the page they’ll all link to. It’ll probably mean this page ends up being the top search on Google for your podcast’s name.
Have you got a website?
A website is useful. It should have the ability for people to find out more about the show, the episodes, the hosts, your social media, and a way for people to get in touch with you. We all research on the internet when we hear about things. If someone says “hey, there’s a great working at home podcast” you’ll likely search for it. If you click on the podcast’s website and it looks professional, welcoming, with loads of information on, you’re more likely to listen.
Depending on your podcast host, they might give you a free website – which isn’t a bad place to start. However you should really register a domain, and use something like Squarespace or WordPress to create a more specific site for you.
Here at podfollow you get a free landing page for your show (here’s an example one). If your show is already on Apple Podcasts search for it here, and click Listen. If you claim your podcast (for free) you can add links to your social media. You could always buy a domain and point it to this listen page.
Whichever you choose to be your website, make sure you update the ‘website’ URL in your podcast host so all the apps will point to it.
Right, so your feed is now ready – good images, well written description, linking to your website, and an episode zero. Perfect, now you can submit to all the places on the Podnews list.
The most important places that your podcast should be submitted to are Apple Podcasts and Spotify, followed by Castbox and Podcast Addict. Often if you’re in Apple Podcasts many apps will get your show from their catalogue. If you want to appear on Alexa devices – you should also submit your show to TuneIn (as it’s often the default player for podcasts here).
The purpose of doing all this work and getting episode zero up, is to insure that you’re ready to launch. At this point I still wouldn’t have told anyone about my show. Right now you’re building your house so it’s ready for you to move in.
Again, by having episode zero and the feed live for a week, should give Google time to find and list you. Google Podcasts has a 1% share of the market, but getting in there is becoming more important to be listed on Google properties like Google Home smart speakers.
Okay – all the plumbing’s done. You’re in all the places. You’ve finished your first episode is it time to get it up? No.
Podcasts that do well tend to be regular. This could be daily, weekly, monthly – it doesn’t really matter how often, but there’s real value in listeners learning that there are new episodes at a set time. If your favourite TV show was on randomly it would be quite hard to make sure you don’t miss an episode. Whether a TV series is delivered in binge form or just every Sunday night, knowing this helps you include your favourite shows in your regular schedule.
But we know that it can be difficult to hit that same weekly point, what happens if you’re busy one week, or your co-host is away? We’d always suggest trying to get five or six episodes in the bag first, and then keep making new ones. That way, any little problems won’t matter, as you’ll still have an episode ready to go each week.
Recording five or six in advance is also a good test of whether your idea’s a good one and whether you’ve got the ability and focus to keep going.
The other advantage of having some time before your episodes go out is that you can concentrate on the marketing.
Firstly, clip good, short bits from each episode and create videos for social media (all for free through Headiner). Have different creatives that you’ve made – designs, lengths, platforms – so you can see what works.
Then create a media pack about your show – text, imagery and audio – of your first episodes. Include a release schedule with who your guests are and links to summary clips and the whole episode. You can then use this to contact relevant media and reviewers.
Do any of your guests say anything newsworthy? Can you prep a press release, with attached audio clips, that are ready to go when you need to send them.
If you’ve got all of that ready, then I think you’re ready to go! Well.. nearly.
You want to make sure that your first episode is up online, in all of the places, before you start promoting it. When you hit publish in your content management system, that updates the RSS feed, but you need to wait for all of the places to check whether there’s a new episode on it.
Generally the big apps work out, over time, how often you update your feed, and then they check it at a related frequency. As you’re new it may not check it straight away, it could be up to 24 hours, but is likely to be more regular than that.
With Apple you may see it straight away on your phone. That’s because you probably subscribed to your channel and your phone checks independently of the main Apple Podcasts store. You want to look up your podcast on the Apple Podcasts website, if the new episode is there, then all Apple users will be able to access it. But do also wait till its up on Spotify etc before you start asking people to listen.
Where should you link to on social media?
One of the difficulties with podcasting is that people use different apps. If you link to Apple Podcasts in a tweet, that’s annoying for all the people with Android phones, as that link won’t necessarily work.
We worked on a big TV show podcast and needed a way to cope with this, that’s why we created podfollow. Every podcast has a free podfollow link that opens Apple Podcasts for iOS users, Google Podcasts for Android users and your website for Desktop users. It creates a nice social image that appears automatically for Facebook and Twitter, and if you claim your show, for free, you can choose where links will redirect to. It’ll also give you free click through stats too. There’s more information on linking to a podcast on social media here.
A podcast feed with great graphics, title and description
A website created
A trailer/episode zero created
Available on all the podcast apps
First six episodes in the bag
Social assets created for the first few episodes
Media pack developed and online
Episode one has appeared in all of the apps
You’ve got a podfollow link ready to use on your social media
On podfollow we, by default, link to Apple Podcasts for iOS users, Google Podcasts for Android users and your website for Desktop users.
We also give you the ability to re-direct any of those people to Spotify, our own player pages, a Pocketcasts page, a Podchaser page, or to pop the RSS feed.
Some users leave our defaults on, some make some changes, and others ask us, not being sure!
Firstly, there isn’t a right way to do it, everyone’s podcast is different, but here are some thoughts and suggestions.
Our general thought is that if someone clicks through a link that they should be able to listen very quickly, and then ideally subscribe so they get more episodes. We use the phrase Listen & Subscribe on the social images that we generate so that people who see the link know what’s going to happen when they click!
The vast majority of iOS users have Apple Podcasts installed on their device whether they’re podcast listeners or not. It allows them to easily listen, and as the biggest podcast app out there, if you play it by the numbers most users will be using it. We think it’s probably the most obvious place to drop iOS users.
Google Podcasts isn’t the most used of podcast apps (though we think it’s now the most popular after Apple and Spotify). The benefit of linking to it though is that nearly every Android phone has the app pre-installed as part of the core Android code. This means, again, that people can listen straight away.
A decent number of our users do change the Android link to Spotify. Listening to podcasts in Spotify is free for anyone who has the app installed on their device, and as one of the most popular apps out there, a large number of your users are likely to have it installed.
The third most popular destination to set for Android is our web player. If you’re not aware we have a simple landing page for each show – here’s one – you can access yours by adding /view/ to the end of your podfollow link (or finding it in the Dashboard). This has links to the main podcast apps and the benefit of a play button so people can listen to your latest episode, or navigate to a recent one.
We use your website, or the website you link to in your RSS feed, as the default for Desktop users. We think that people in front of a computer or laptop have a little more time, and think it’s good to send you some traffic.
However. Not all websites provide a great experience. We sometimes see that links go to production companies or a homepage where it’s difficult to find your podcast.
If this is the case for you, then our player page is perhaps a better choice as it’s a simple, lightly branded option, that gets directly into your content.
Another popular choice for Desktop is Spotify or Apple Podcasts where shows can be played directly too.
One of the things we thought was really important when creating podfollow was making sure there were excellent images for social sharing.
If you post your podfollow link on Facebook, Twitter and other sites, a lovely image will show up:
Initially we take the image for your podcast channel from the RSS feed, create a background and pick a colour for our ‘Listen & Subscribe’ text.
When you update your podcast image in the RSS feed, the podfollow system should update too. If it hasn’t yet, you can click re-check RSS feed to push it through.
Alternatively, if you’ve claimed your podcast, you can upload a manual image for your main podcast logo or upload your own social sharing image.
Sometimes, though, we get an email to support saying that it’s not showing up as the social sharing image yet in Twitter or Facebook. Often this is because those social sites cache the old sharing image. They generally update over 24hrs or so, but you can speed up a change.
With Facebook, their Sharing Debugger feature allows you to get Facebook to re-spider a site and see any new metadata, including a sharing image. Just paste your URL in and click Debug. You may need to click ‘scrape again’ to get the new image to show up.
On Twitter, you can use their Card Validator. Whilst it doesn’t automatically update an image, we find that pasting your URL in there, can speed up what Twitter shows for your URL.
Linking to podcasts is hard. There’s not one perfect way to do it. This is because users are split across many different platforms and people can listen to podcasts in many different ways.
Historically most people have linked to iTunes/Apple Podcasts. That’s great for Apple iOS users but hasn’t always been good for everyone else. That’s why we created podfollow.
We wanted, for our own projects, a way to link to podcasts that worked for more people. So, we built something that we used for some of our shows, and then thought “hey!” let’s make it available to everyone.
We wanted to make it SUPER EASY to use. You don’t need to register, all you do is go to the homepage type in your podcast and it will give you a link for you to put in social media (or anywhere!) that will just work for lots of people. It’ll also display a nice personalised social image for your show on social networks.
When we were thinking about where to send people when they clicked on the link, we knew there’d be a few different options. Our main thought was that we wanted people to be able to listen straight away, and for many, subscribe to a show.
So, we send Apple iOS users to Apple Podcasts. It’s not the perfect app, but it’s used by the vast majority of Apple podcast listeners.
For Android users it was a little harder. When we got going in May 2019 Android folks were split across many different apps. Whichever one we picked would have annoyed a load of users. However, when Google Podcasts popped up, it had a lot going for it. Firstly nearly every Android phone, whether you realise it or not, has Google Podcasts installed, as it ships with Android now. This means nearly every Android user who clicks a link will be able to play your podcast straight away.
For desktop users there were lots of options, but when we looked at people’s tweets, main creators send people to their own website. So we thought that was a good idea too. Desktop clickers get sent to the website that you put in your RSS feed.
Where do podfollow links go by default?
Apple/iOS -> Apple Podcasts
Android -> Google Podcasts
Dekstop -> Your website (in your RSS feed)
But can I change that?
We know that every podcast is different so we’ve made it so that you can change any of the links to go anywhere that you like! All you have to do is claim your podcast. It’s free to do and you’ll find the link at the bottom of the page when you search for your show on podfollow.
Most people leave Apple users to Apple Podcasts, but on Android for those that change it, they tend to alter it to Spotify or our own web view.
Our own web view works on desktop or mobile and gives people a nice website to listen to your show. It also shows buttons for Apple Podcasts, Google Podcasts, Spotify and your RSS feed, so they can easily click off to one of those apps too.
In fact our web view acts as a pretty good website if you don’t have one. If you’ve logged in and claimed your podcast, you can also add things like your social media handles and even a Patreon link.
What are the other podfollow features?
If you claim you podcast, lots of features pop up, all for free:
Vanity URL – you can change your URL from a number – podfollow.com/1060761517 to something easy to remember like podfollow.com/science – or something you can easily mention on your show.
Change Redirects – choose where each of you links go to. You can send people to Apple Podcasts, Google Podcasts, Spotify, our web view, Pocketcasts, Podchaser or even just pop your RSS feed
Social images – we always create automatic social images based on your square artwork – but you can login and change the colours, or even upload your own image.
Social media – you can add social media accounts so that your web view acts like a proper website.
Episode links – as well as a channel link you can grab an episode link too. It’ll take the artwork from the individual episode for the social link and should drop your users in the right place to listen to what you’re talking about.
Stats – we track all the click-thrus from your link (whether you’ve used it, or other people have too)
Advanced linking – if you want to change your links to Google Podcasts or Spotify, you can do it there.
User Access – are there lots of people who work on your show? You can give different access to friends and colleagues so they can get links, control redirects or just see the stats.
You can use all of this when you’ve claimed your podcast. Just log in and select your show from the dropdown.