I received a great voicemail question for AskPat that I decided to answer in this blog post instead of on the podcast.
Pat, I’m starting a podcast soon and I want to know what you think the most important metrics are related to podcasting that I should worry about. What should I be paying close attention to understand if this is working or not?
Since coming back from Podcast Movement earlier this month, a lot has been on my mind in the world of podcasting, and as more and more people begin to start their own shows, more and more people are going to wonder about the answer to this very question. On the other hand, many people won’t even realize just how important this question really is, which is why I’m sharing it here today.
It’s crucial to ask ourselves these questions about success metrics because unless you know what success looks like to you, you’re never going to be happy, you’re always going to feel behind, and whatever you’re trying to do just isn’t going to last. So what’s the answer then? If you’re a podcaster, what are the most important metrics to worry about?
In my opinion, there are three which I’ll list for you in reverse order, starting with the third most important:
Important Podcast Stat 3: Downloads
Paying attention to how many downloads you have is obviously important, but it might surprise you to see downloads as number three, and not number one.
Downloads, of course, are always going to be important. When we start a new show, it’s what gives us the realization that people are actually on the other end listening, and even though we check every single hour, it’s fun and exciting to know our message is actually getting broadcasted and listened to.
Over time, you begin to notice trends. Perhaps you’re gradually adding more and more downloads with each episode month over month, or maybe you’re seeing a steady decline, in which case you should figure out why and make adjustments as necessary.
The download numbers tell you what’s working, and what’s not, especially when it comes to specific episodes. Once you have a healthy number of podcast episodes in your archive, you’ll begin to see which ones are studs and which ones are duds. From there, you can begin to learn what your listeners want more of, and what you should be staying away from. You can bring back popular guests, knowing 100 percent that those were some of your most downloaded episodes, and topics with small numbers—well, you might want to hold back on more episodes like those.
If you have advertisers or sponsors (or plan on having them) you’ll need to keep track of your downloads. How many downloads do you need to begin advertising? Well, the nice thing about advertising on a podcast is that companies typically pay a set amount per thousand downloads (this is called a CPM model, or cost-per-1000 model), so it can start small and can scale with you.
With that said, I was sitting in the audience of a panel at a conference once and I heard something interesting. The panel was led by the founder of a company that helps bridge the gap between podcaster and advertiser. The founder said that they typically won’t work with podcasts that don’t have at least 50,000 downloads a month.
For those just starting out, that’s a disheartening thought, and it puts advertising out of reach for most podcasters who are in the beginning phases of their journey. However, in my experience, a good podcaster who builds a relevant audience can have massive success, even with far smaller numbers.
Which brings us to . . .
Important Podcast Stat 2: Conversions
Fifty thousand. That’s a lot of people. It’s almost a stadium full of people when you think about it, which is incredible. Over time, many podcasters will reach audiences of that magnitude (or more) every time they come out with a new episode.
For now, let’s consider a new number: 100 listeners.
In the podcasting world, 100 listeners is definitely achievable, and sometimes can be achieved right away, but it’s not a lot. Many podcasters would pack up their microphone bags and go home with those kind of numbers, especially if they’ve been podcasting for a while.
That imaginary stadium full of people has now become just a room of 100 people. But imagine yourself stepping into a room full of 100 people in real life, which is what a lot of us do when we speak in public. All eyes (and ears) are on you, and you take the stage to share or teach whatever you’d like. Now, it’s a bit different.
"If you have a podcast, you have your own stage.” – Pat Flynn
And here’s the thing:
When you’re just starting out and your numbers are small, you actually have an advantage over those with larger numbers who can’t possibly take the time to reach out and get to personally know their listeners on a personal level. When you do that, you dramatically increase the likelihood that those people will convert.
So when you’re just starting out, don’t worry about the small numbers you have. Focus on building relationships that can potentially grow into a raving fan base, those people who love what you are doing and will help grow your show much faster than anything else.
Here’s a challenge: can you actually name twenty of your listeners and learn their story? Get on a Skype call with them and ask them what they need help with, learn their story and why they listen to you, and you’ll be amazed at just how useful that experience will be for you and your show.
We’re still talking numbers and data here though, so what are we actually “converting”?
The most important conversion metric to consider are conversions from listeners to email subscribers. When you have an email list, it’s much easier to reach out to those people, share new content with them, and learn more about your audience so that you can better understand what other content you should create. This is the quick way to start building those raving fans. Building your list should be a primary goal when it comes to your podcast.
It’s all about the calls-to-action within your episodes. Let’s take a look at how Amy Porterfield builds her list with her podcast:
Provide a quick and easy URL to get back to your show notes
Show notes are important and can be a great value add to your show. They include a list of resources and links mentioned in the episode, plus some other bonus content too. If you provide a quick URL back to your shownotes for a particular episode directly from the audio of a podcast, people are more likely to end up on your site, which is important because that’s where they can subscribe to your list, dig deeper into your site, or even become a customer. So, in your episodes, provide a call-to-action back to the blog to get get the links and resources mentioned, plus anything else that might be available for them there too.
Amy and I both use a tool called Pretty Link Lite, which is a free WordPress plugin that allows you to create a nice looking (pretty) link for URLs that might be longer. For example, here’s a title of one of Amy’s episodes: Episode #79: How to Add Urgency To Your Next Promotion. The URL on her website for this podcast episode is:
That’s quite long, and if you were to mention that exact URL on your show, good luck getting your listeners to remember that and follow through.
Using Pretty Link, your URL can be short and easy to remember:
When you go through that link, it’s a redirect. People still end up on the longer one, but it’s a much better experience along the way. Over time, people learn the pattern and can quickly get to the blog for any episode that they’d like without even thinking. I use “smartpassiveincome.com/session78,” but looking back, I wish I had done it like Amy and removed the “session” part of the URL.
Provide a podcast episode specific lead magnet or content upgrade
Content upgrades are downloadable pieces of content that relate specifically to a particular post, podcast, or video that you created, and they’re usually accessible through the exchange of an email address. They work massively well for building your email list.
And they don’t necessarily need to take a ton of time to create either. Here are 10 content upgrade ideas that you can use to add more content to your publications and increase the size of your list.
On Amy’s site, you can see a button to download an upgrade that she mentions in the same podcast episode as before:
As you can see, it’s not just a random thing that was plopped into this post. The download option actually integrates and relates to the content of the podcast. And of course, when you click on the link, it asks for your name and email:
Getting listeners to come back to your website and then subscribe to your email list is important. Most podcasts I listen to do not give a good enough incentive or have show notes worth coming back to. Convert those listeners into email subscribers, and you’ll be able to grow much faster and serve your audience much better.
And this brings me to our final metric, one that is less popular to talk about, but in my opinion is the most important one of all . . .
Important Podcast Stat 1: Your Time
When you commit to starting a successful podcast, you’re committing to all of the ins and outs of creating your own show, and putting in the effort required to produce episodes consistently for a long period of time.
When I first started my podcast back in 2010, it would take me about five hours to complete an entire episode on average. This excludes the first episode, which I recorded three times because I was trying to be perfect. From start to publish, that particular episode took about twelve hours across the span of a week.
Yeah, don’t do that.
Podcasting does take a lot of time through, and because there are different phases of producing a podcast, like scheduling the interviews, recording the episodes, editing, exporting and uploading, creating show notes (and content upgrades), and then finally hitting publish, we don’t even realize how much time it takes overall.
You must keep track of how much time it takes for you to produce an episode, because in most cases I’ve seen, there are things podcasters can do, even before hiring help (which I finally did last year to help me edit and produce my show), that can shave an hour of work from each episode. You can then use that saved hour for something else, including promotion and marketing, creating new content elsewhere, repurposing your audio file, or even getting that time back to do something you love, such as spending more time with your family or playing golf. Whatever!
Those hours go by quickly, so optimizing your workflow and podcast production will save you a lot of time, and help make it seem like less of a chore and more of a work of art for you.
I went through a period in 2011, right around the one-year mark of the podcast, when I felt like it was becoming a chore. Immediately after I’d hit publish on an episode, I’d say to myself, “Ugh, now I have to do the whole thing all over again by next week!”
You don’t want to get into that kind of mode, because your content, energy, and numbers will suffer. You might delay an episode for a week (which I’ve done before), which then becomes two weeks, and so on. If you’re not staying consistent, you’re not going to have consistent listeners, you’re not going to be able to get those raving fans like I mentioned earlier, and you’ll eventually fizzle out.
So here’s my challenge for you podcasters out there:
For the next episode that you produce, the moment you start thinking about it, clock the time you work to produce it until it’s published. As you’re doing this, write down all of the major steps that you take along the way.
You’ll begin to see where most of your time is spent, and many things will pop out to you as being somewhat time heavy when they shouldn’t be.
And, as a byproduct of this exercise, you’ll have something that looks like a procedure list that you (and then, later on, an assistant) can use for producing future episodes without wasting any time to think about what the next steps are.
Having this procedure list is extremely important. When I finally got my head on straight and created one for myself in early 2012, it became much easier (and stress free!) to produce my episodes. At that point, it would take at most three hours to create an episode.
Now, with my team on board, and now that we’ve done this process a few times, I batch record my episodes and my team batch processes the production. My time is spent recording the episodes, and that’s it. So the length of the episodes, plus about five minutes to export that audio file into Dropbox, is all it takes for me to produce a weekly episode for The Smart Passive Income Podcast.
Something that took me three to five hours now takes me sometimes less than one. Yes, I am spending money to have my team do some of the work for me, but man—it’s been a game changer for sure. Those two to four hours saved per week adds up to over 100 hours during the course of a year, which I’ve been able to use elsewhere in building my brand and business.
Keep track of your time, learn where you can cut hours, and streamline the production, and I promise you’ll have a better time producing your podcast overall.
I hope this look at the most important metrics have inspired you in some way. I’d love to know if you agree that these are the most important things to consider (and if you agree with my order as well), or if you have other thoughts on what’s important. Please add to the discussion by commenting below!
And finally, for those of you who are looking to start a podcast soon, I recommend checking out my free podcasting tutorial that has helped thousands of people get their show up and running. It’s 100 percent free, no opt-ins required, and the only thing I ask of you is that you commit, and share a link to your show once it’s up. Everything from equipment to recording software to tips and how to get your show on iTunes—it’s all there for you.
Cheers, best of luck to you all, and make sure you subscribe to my AskPat podcast if you haven’t already! There I answer your voicemail questions five days a week, with hundreds of episodes in the library already!