Turning Happy Accidents Into A Podcast Audience
When podcasters think about random discovery, we assume people are looking specifically for podcasts. But in reality, people are just looking for topics. How do you make sure that your podcast (or better yet, your podcast’s episodes) a part of that discovery set?
I know it sounds weird to think about people just randomly stumbling across podcast content. But it happens. Call them happy accidents, fortuitous connections, or just plain-old weird searches, but this is often the way regular humans discover content.
Contrary to popular belief, people don't start their day with a blank Google search box every day, with the express purpose of finding a very specific thing. Sure, we all do that from time to time. But it's not the most common way that people discover content. Instead, people express interests in certain topics or themes. When seeking information about or around those topics and themes, in most cases, we're not looking specifically for a podcast to give us that information.
However, if a podcast -- or better stated, the contents of an episode of a podcast -- contains the information we’re looking for, then great! We’ll grab that content.
So that's what I want to talk about today: making sure that your podcast’s content can be stumbled upon.
I've ensured my content can be stumbled upon a couple of different ways.
1. I invest in Google-friendly content.
When most podcasters think about how their podcast shows up in Google, they tend to focus on the show overall. And that’s a mistake. Because the focus should be on people who are not looking for a podcast. Why? Because most people aren’t looking for a podcast! Most people, as mentioned above, are searching for information about a topic. They don’t have a preferred format in mind. They just want information. That’s their intent. To get information.
Recently, I’ve doubled-down on the blog post/article/landing page for each episode. I can’t call what I’m doing “show notes” because it’s much more involved than that. “Show notes” as they are understood in the podcasting space is a quick-ish summation of the contents of an episode. Maybe a paragraph or two followed by some bullet points. The idea behind this style show notes is obvious: to compel someone to listen to the episode to get the information they desire.
Yeah… Google’s not big on that tactic.
Instead, I take the time to create a large block of content, oftentimes in excess of 1500 words, for each episode’s page. (Yes, you’re reading one of those right now.) I do it because that’s what leads to a better experience for the person who stumbles across my content. It’s what they want to see: lots of information. And I do it because Google won’t even add my show to the consideration set if I just phone in the webpage ala “show notes”.
Getting a podcast’s webpages to rank in Google isn’t easy. Search the podcast communities and forums and you’ll see people looking for definitive proof that “show notes” actually rank and attract searchers to a site. Those questions are either met with deafening silence, anecdotal “I know it works!” comments that can be written off, or actual proof from a very, very small number of people who spend two to three hours assembling a high-quality piece of written content that’s worthy of inclusion in search results.
I know what you’re thinking. “I don’t want to spend two to three hours building out a webpage for my episode, because then they’ll just read the webpage and not listen to my episode or subscribe to my podcast!”
Yes, that’s absolutely going to happen. And you should be OK with that. Because you’ve met the users’ need with your content. You’ve just discovered what they want. Now go do more of that. After seeing your content a few more times, they might just check out your show. Maybe.
2. I publish where readers are looking for well-written content.
The good news is the effort I put into these articles isn’t of value only to my website. I publish that exact same content on Medium. (If you’re reading this on Medium, gimmie a clap so I know, OK?) Sure, I spend a little bit of time doing some extra formatting, embedding the audio player for the episode, and adding some boilerplate to give them more information on the show and myself. But that’s single-digit minutes. All of the actual effort to create the written content is 100% re-usable.
Does it work? Absolutely. In fact, my Medium articles get more views than my episode pages on my website get clicks from search engines.
Like… way more. And I don’t publicize my Medium articles across social media, via email, or anything. I post it (properly) to Medium and never promote it. Yet every article I post on Medium gets views. Views that I’m doing nothing to influence.
People browse sites like Medium. Medium users are looking for topics, or at least articles that speak to topics that interest them. Most Medium users aren’t looking for podcasts episodes -- and certainly not new podcasts to listen to. Medium users may search for various topics or hashtags. They scan through the front page, which the app handily customizes just for them based on their prior reading history. They’ll see articles that have been read and/or published by people they’ve chosen to follow.
All of this “discovery” is really a set of happy accidents that leads to my content showing up for people who are interested in what I have to say.
I'm not saying Medium is the right platform for your episode pages. Especially if you're cranking out a couple of paragraphs, some bullet points, and then dumping out a transcript. That's not sufficient for Medium. (Or, really… anywhere.)
You don't know where the perfect avatar for your show is hanging out. And even if you did, you don't know what their experience with podcasting is. But you want to reach people that match (or at least have somethings in common with) your avatar. You want those people to stumble across the topics you're talking about on your podcast. You want them to consume your content. So you have to do the work to make your content available in places (and formats!) where those people are looking for new content. Not necessarily podcast content.
Think of the topic that you're pushing out with each of your podcast episodes. Beyond the audio files themselves, is your content something people should be able to stumble across and enjoy? If so, figure out where those people are and use your audio files to create content they can enjoy. Because until audio is treated as a first-class citizen (Google promises they’ll soon be doing that), you're going have to invest time into making great written, viewable, eyeball-focused content. Content that goes beyond your desire to drive people to listen to your podcast episode.
Ensuring podcast content gets spread far and wide is the kind of thing that makes podcasting better. Not just easier. And that means you will have to invest time (and maybe money) if you want people to stumble across your content.
If you need help with that or just need a podcasting pro in your corner, get in touch with me. I think through strategies and tactics like this for my clients all around the world. It’s all designed to make their podcast better, not just make it easier.
I shall be back tomorrow with the wrap of this audience-focused mini-series right here on Podcast Pontifications.