Grow Your Podcast Audience

All podcast hosting platforms offer analytics measuring how listeners interact with your podcast. You can see what episodes get the most listens and what time of day listeners tune in.

The challenge becomes finding insightful data that can help you grow your podcast audience. Here at Sounder, we noticed that most audio creators are confused about how to put their podcast analytics into action to continually grow their streams.

To help explain, I analyzed the metrics of my new podcast, The Big Exit, using Sounder’s analytics dashboard and tracked the changes I made to create a simple growth strategy. With just a few adjustments, my audience grew by 48% in one month! Crazy, right?

Like most podcasts, The Big Exit is a passion project, which grew from my fascination with entrepreneurship and startups. On the show, I discuss startup acquisitions with the founders who lived it. From Brett Jurgens, founder of Notion, to Lori Torres of Parcel Pending, I interview startup founders who have built their businesses from an idea and sold for many millions of dollars.

I learned a lot from this exercise and recorded my thinking, changes, and analytics to show you how you can get similar results with very little effort. It’s all about podcasting smarter, not harder. Here’s exactly how I turned my podcast analytics into a growth strategy that is now on pace to double my streams month over month.

Keyword Terminology

Before we dig in, let’s go over some general audio analytics terminology.

Podcast Streams

A stream is counted when any one of your episodes is played within a 45-minute period. At the podcast-level, streams are counted across all of your episodes. At the episode-level, streams are counted for a specific episode. Streams give you an understanding of how popular your podcast (or a specific episode) is becoming.

Podcast Listeners

A listener is counted when a unique person listens to any of your episodes within 24 hours. We’re always aiming to grow this number! Ideally, your streams and listeners grow together — that means your podcast is reaching a larger audience and is making an impact.

Overall Podcast Performance

This may be called something different on each hosting platform, but it’s the performance of your podcast over the past week, month, or another increment of time. Stepping back from episode-level performance helps you see what days of the week listeners are tuning in to your podcast and more.

Top Episodes

On Sounder’s analytics dashboard, we provide a list of your top-performing episodes to help you understand what your audience enjoys.

Okay, let’s dig into my growth strategy over this past month.

1. Grow Podcast Audience With Demographics

Audience demographics helps you understand where in the world your audience is streaming and downloading your episodes so you can better target your content.

Insight: Checking my analytics for the last seven days, I noticed my listens were primarily coming from the US, but I was surprised to see the second highest listener demographic was Canada.

Grow podcast audience strategy: Looks like Canadians are listening. I used this information to begin researching entrepreneurs in Canada who would be great guests. It helped me build out my guest pipe-line for the rest of the year.

2. Keywords

Something incredibly cool about Sounder’s analytics is keywords. Using our Sounder Player and podcast web pages, listeners can search your podcast catalog for a word or phrase and find its exact location within your episodes. Our analytics dashboard gives you a list of the top keywords searched.

Insight: Checking my keywords, I noticed listeners were searching for “business” which is great engagement. I also saw listeners searching for the keyword “bootstrapping.” (In business, bootstrapping is when someone builds a company with very little resources, usually only with their personal savings — no venture capital)

Grow podcast audience strategy: I needed to find a guest to speak to who bootstrapped and sold their business for big bucks. And that’s exactly what I did. I booked Josh Dorkin, founder of Bigger Pockets—a one-stop-shop for real estate investing, to talk about starting out of his living room with only $12 bucks. Give it a listen.

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3. Time-Of-Day Distribution

There’s a lot of data out there that suggests the best time of day to publish a new episode, but there’s nothing like understanding your specific audience’s listening habits. A time-of-day distribution chart can inform your new episode launch strategy.

Insight: Looking at these analytics, I see that people are primarily starting to listen in the morning and then consistently listen throughout the day.

Grow podcast audience strategy: What does this mean for me? Most people listen at the beginning of their workday. And since they are listening, they are likely an entrepreneur or thinking about starting a business. The Big Exit is all about inspiring entrepreneurs, so in addition to posting new episodes at these precise times in the morning, I also pull out inspiring quotes from my guests and add them to the beginning of each episode.

4. Publishing Cadence

It’s always a good idea to back up from episode-specific analytics and look at a month or three of your overall podcast performance to get a big picture of what’s working well.

Insight: Before this case study, I published bi-weekly but looking at the analytics, I noticed I was losing momentum in the off-weeks and overall audience growth.

Grow podcast audience strategy: I hunkered down and changed to a weekly publishing cadence. Weekly episodes helped tremendously in my stream growth, which you can see above (I quickly made this with Excel using my tracked metrics). Now my current listeners know exactly when I’m publishing, and new listeners have more chances to find The Big Exit.

5. Devices, Applications, and Browsers

Depending on the data, understanding what devices, apps, and browsers your listeners are using to stream or download your episodes can inform your podcast content. Some questions to ask yourself: how does this information impact the length of my episodes? How does it impact the content itself?

Insight: This month, I focused on devices. In the last 7 days, I noticed that 70% of my listeners were tuning in via their mobile phone, 27% on their PC, and 3% on their tablet and smart watch.

Grow podcast audience strategy: As we are starting to see more and more people drive back to work, the amount of mobile listens (as a percentage) has been increasing compared to COVID lock-down where these numbers were reversed coming more from the PC than Mobile. Looks to me like my audience is listening while driving, multitasking, or doing work on their mobile phone and computer. Going forward, I might experiment with how I edit my podcast. For example, it could be useful to add a bell or ding to alert listeners to relevant tips and information.

6. Social Media Promotion

While social media is not measured on our analytics dashboard, it is still part of your podcast’s analytics. And over time, you will be able to tell if your efforts are paying off by tracking where your referrals are coming from.

Insight: It takes me about 2–3 hours to record and edit an episode. Turning that hard work into social quick moments is crucial for growth (and sanity).

Grow podcast audience strategyI went from posting once per episode to three times, using Soundbites and the Sounder Player. Each subsequent post generated unique listens. Since my guests have large followings, I asked them to share to their network and made it easy by giving them a link to the full episode along with two specific quotes via a Soundbite URL with written social media snippets.

7. Referrals

Where are people finding my podcast? How can I target my effort there? Unique to Sounder’s analytics, a referral is counted any time a stream is played on a podcast platform or the Sounder Player. So if I blast out my new episode via the Sounder Player to all social networks, friends, and blogs, Sounder records what platform gets the most interactions.

Insight: Publishing weekly is no joke, so I really wanted to track where my audience was coming from to better target my marketing efforts.

Grow podcast audience strategy: I did a few things to boost the visibility of my Sounder Player and understand where my audience is coming from.

First, I put together a simple WordPress website for The Big Exit. (More on why you need a website for your podcast here.) Then I linked my Sounder player to my website so that no matter where people found my show, it brings them back to my website, which helps boost my brand visibility.

I also turned each episode into a blog. What’s great about the Sounder Platform is that it also helps generate a transcript of each episode. I began editing my transcript and turning them into blog posts. On the top of each blog post, I embedded the Sounder Player.

Bonus: Leveraging Transcriptions

Once you have your transcription generated from Sounder or another service, you can leverage these transcriptions in a variety of ways to increase traffic and listens to your podcast and web pages. Below are a few steps you can take to get the most out of your podcast transcriptions. You can view an example of what the transcripts look like on a blog post here.

Time needed: 30 minutes

How to Use Transcriptions for Your Podcast

  1. Leverage Sounder’s Free Transcription Service

    Every episode on Sounder is automatically transcribed. You can use our free transcription service or upgrade to our plus plan to get even better quality transcriptions.

  2. Export Transcription into a Word Doc

    If using Sounder or another service, you can copy and paste the automated transcription and add it into a new word document.

  3. Break out the Transcription into Speakers and Update Transcription

    No automated transcription service is 100% accurate. To save on time, I had someone from Fivrr help fix the errors and break out the speakers. They are able to do 30 minutes of audio for about $15. You can also do it for free if you have the time.

  4. Add Transcription to Each Episode’s Blog Post

    By adding these transcriptions to your episode pages on your website, search engines will index this quality content which will help with organic Audio SEO.

  5. Update Episode Description with Best Episode Moments

    Most podcast apps like Apple Podcasts allows up to 4,000 characters for the episode description. However, the median amount of characters podcast creators write is 163. This means there is much more real estate to add additional content to help with rankings when people search on these apps. You can use portions of your transcription to add to your existing episode descriptions.

  6. Use Episode Moments to Create Catchy Social Media Posts

    With Sounder, you are able to link to specific parts of your episodes. Once you know the precise episode moments you would like to share, you can find that exact location within your Sounder Player and share that Soundbite Snippet on social media. Having these transcriptions, will help you find the best marketing moments to share to your network.

Final thoughts

Doing this case study helped me understand a few things.

  1. Podcasting takes time, so working smart is the only way to grow.
  2. Episodes are not a one-and-done deal. If you produce great content, they keep growing well after the week you publish them. Once you have great content, it keeps growing. You can have on-going interaction for maybe ever.
  3. There are many ways to interpret analytics, and it’s part of the creative process of podcasting.
  4. A good, clean analytics dashboard is key to taking control of purposeful marketing growth. If you haven’t already, check out Sounder

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