This is a Guest Contribution by Chris Ducker, from ChrisDucker.com.
It’s no secret that the subject of podcasting has been a buzz for quite some time. In fact, some say that although there have been solid podcasting networks around for years and years, it’s only just in the last 12-18 months that the idea of starting a podcast, especially as a blogger, has become something that we’d even consider.
I’ve been blogging for three years and podcasting for almost as long. I’ve had three separate shows, but nowadays tend to focus on just my New Business Podcast, which goes along with my brand as a blogger and entrepreneur. I can categorically say that starting and marketing a podcast has been extremely important, when it comes to my success as a blogger.
So much so, that I would say if you could only add just one strategy to your blog marketing mix this year, I’d highly recommend podcasting, and here’s a few reasons why:
- 45 million Americans download and listen to at least one podcast a month (source). That’s in the US alone – think about how many millions you can reach worldwide!
- One in every four podcast listeners, tune into podcasts while driving (source). This is a good opportunity for you to have the undivided attention of your audience.
- The volume of podcasts has remained fairly steady since 2011 (source). There’s a lot of opportunity for you to capture a chunk of that market share – regardless of what niche you’re covering.
- The typical podcast consumer is between the ages of 12-34. They are also, high-ticket buyers, and are Internet savvy (source). Perfect if you’re wanting to monetize your blog.
On December 22, 2012, I launched my latest, aforementioned podcast. Within the first month of it being live I had enjoyed over 10,000 downloads via iTunes and had gained the number one spot in the two main categories I was going after, namely “Business” and “Marketing & Management”. Cool, right? Accident? Absolutely not.
There was a very clear strategy in place to make that success happen, which I’ll tell you more about later, so you can put it in place for your own podcasting success. However, before you can have a top ranking podcast, you’ve gotta create one!
Getting Ready to Podcast
If you’re still with me at this point, I’ll assume that you’re rarin’ to start your own podcast. But, let me tell you now that, just like setting up a blog for the first time, it’s going to take some planning and preparation to get your podcast out there in the right way.
As this guide unravels you’ll see me discuss the process of setting up, packaging and launching your podcast in the following phases:
- Planning your Podcast – You’ll need your thinking cap for this phase!
- Recording your Podcast – Hardware and software you’ll need to record your podcast.
- Post Production Work – Exporting, editing, and tagging your audio for iTunes.
- Publishing your Podcast – All about creating an RSS feed and submitting your podcast to iTunes and the other directories.
- Marketing your Podcast – Advice and tips on how you can get your podcast to rank well, be found and help catapult your blog and brand online!
Please note there are a bunch of links in this post to resources such as hardware, software and other online tools – none of them are affiliate links.
Planning Your Podcast
As with any marketing endeavor, you need to sit down and spend some time thinking about what your podcast is going to be about, your target audience, your keywords and your goals. If you’re blogging already and want to focus on producing content for the same type of audience, then this part of the process will be a little easier and faster for you.
Note: If you’re not blogging already, or if you’re thinking of changing your blogging focus – this exercise is also perfect for you, too – just replace the word ‘podcast’ with ‘blog’…
Some of the things you need to be asking yourself, in preparation of getting going with your podcast are as follows:
1. Your Podcast Title
The name should be descriptive of what your podcast is all about. Take my podcast title for example, from its title alone you know that “The New Business Podcast” is all about business. More importantly, it contains a keyword (business podcast) phrase that I am optimizing my blog and my podcast channel for. Smart, huh?!
2. Your Podcast Subtitle
This will show up next to your podcast title. Your subtitle should complement your title and give listeners the chance to get an ‘elevator pitch’ on what your show is about. Try to include a few keywords here, too – it’ll help your show get found in searches.
3. Your Podcast Description
This is a good place for you to identify who your target listener is and what they can expect from your podcast, i.e. what topics you will be covering in your episodes, common takeaways, etc.
4. Your Podcast Artwork
People’s eyes are naturally drawn to images that “pop” from the rest, so use colors and font styles that will draw people to your podcast, as flowers attract bees. If you’re looking to build on a personal brand, then it’s a good idea to include your headshot in the artwork, along with your title (and possibly subtitle), too. Dimensions change from time to time, according to the directory your listing in. When it comes to iTunes, which is the 800lb podcasting gorilla that you want to be focusing on going after, your artwork needs to be 1400×1400, to make sure that it displays in the various sizes it gets listed in, such as web results, inside iTunes, via the podcast app on the iPhone and iPad, and so on.
No good at designing, or don’t want to have to do it all yourself? No problems, I have a solution for that later on…
5. Your Podcast Talent Name
Your talent name should tell people who you are in several words. It’s not just your name. You have the ability here to include several keywords that you want to be discovered for. It’s imperative that you utilize this option properly.
You’ll see in the screenshot below how I’ve covered (1) the title, (2) the subtitle, (3) the talent name, (4) the description and (5) my talent name.
6. Your Podcast Intro and Outro
One of the ways that you can brand your podcast is by having a distinct intro and outro. It can be as simple as a piece of an instrumental music, or a combo of music and a short voice-over.
If you’re using music, make sure that you get the license to use it – iStockPhoto has some brilliant audio recordings you can license cheaply. Then get your voice-over ready and simply lay it on top of the music using some simple audio editing software, such as Garage Band.
Don’t want to record the voice-over, or edit your intro’s and outro’s together yourself? No problems, I have a solution for that later on…
When you have everything above ready, put them aside for use later on. You’ll need them when you submit your podcast to directories like iTunes, Zune, Blackberry, Stitcher, etc. Before I get into that stuff, let’s get stuck into what you’ll actually be submitting!
Planning Your Podcast
This is the fun stuff! Recording your podcast. I say fun because this is really where “YOU” come into play. This is where you share your knowledge and experiences to your listeners. To start recording audio, you’ll need to get the following sorted out first:
Your Show Format
Typically, there are two types of podcast formats you can go with. First up is the ‘solo’ show, where it’s just you talking into your mic, laying down all your experience for your listeners to indulge themselves in. Secondly is the ‘interview’ format show, where you bring on guests that can lend their own experiences and tips to your audience – much like I did with Darren, on my podcast recently.
You might also decide to do a combination of the two. I recently changed from a full interview format, podcasting twice a month, to a mix of interview / solo shows, which allows me to share my own experiences and business experience a little more freely, by publishing slightly shorter episodes (around 15-20 minutes), bi-weekly.
This is a no brainer, I know. Can you use your laptop’s built-in mic? Certainly. Will it sound good? No! At the very least, you need to be recording with a microphone that is on a headset – preferably when it’s attached to your head!
However, if you’re really serious about using podcasting to take your blog, business, or personal brand to the next level, don’t scrimp on your hardware (besides, it doesn’t cost a fortune, anyway!). Invest in a good quality mic and a few cool accessories.
My podcasting set-up is in the image above, here are the Amazon links to everything I use:
Audio Recording / Editing Software
Another no-brainer. You need software to record your podcast. Whether you’re doing a solo show, or an interview format show, if you’re on a Mac, I suggest you get involved with GarageBand, and if you’re a PC user, then Audacity should be your top choice.
If you’re recording interviews, I’ve found the easiest way to do this is via Skype.
You can do this really easily on a Mac using the software, Call Recorder for Skype from Ecamm Network – it’s just $19.95, and allows you to record not only Skype-to-Skype calls, but also Skype-to-phone calls, too. On the PC you can do the same thing with Pamela. I recommend upgrading to the Professional version (€24.95) because of it’s specific support for bloggers and podcasters.
Getting Ready to Record
There are a number of things that I’ve picked up in the last few years since I started podcasting, in regards to actually planning the individual episodes.
Firstly, make sure you plan out your show properly. If you’ve ever listened to a podcast before and thought that it sounded like it had been literally thrown together at the last minute, the chances are it probably was!
If you’re interviewing a guest, visit that guests blog, or website. Snoop a little on what they’ve been up to on social media profiles – especially Twitter, as people tend to speak a little more freely on that platform. Then put together some questions, or at the very least a collection of bullet points on topics that you’d like to discuss with them.
If you’ll be recording a solo show, that doesn’t mean this gets any easier. In fact, it’s harder, as it’s all about you, and only you! So, likewise, plan out your content by getting some ideas from your community, answer some questions they have and provide some solid ‘how to’ advice. All this coupled together with your charm, humor and entertainment factor, and you should be fine.
Either way, I always like to make sure that I’ve got a glass of water close by, any material I might need to reference during the recording either on the screen, or better yet, printed in front of me – as well as making sure that all other distractions turned off.
Now, go ahead and hit that recording button!
Post Production Work
We’re now coming down to the nitty-gritty of things. The dirty stuff that happens after you’ve recorded your podcast. This is where all the techie talk comes into play. Audio and sound engineers refer to this stage as post production work and it starts with exporting your audio file.
Now, don’t be scared of this term. When I say export, it just means that you will save the file in a format that is recognizable by iTunes and other audio directories and devices – in other words, across the board – an MP3 file format. Name your file something relevant, like NBP001 (this is the title code I use for ‘New Business Podcast – Episode 1’).
Note: For those using Audacity, you will be asked to download a LAME encoder the first time that you export an audio as an MP3 file. The system will direct you the download site or you can also download it here.
After you’ve exported your audio file, the next thing to do is to edit your audio. You can do this using Audacity, or GarageBand, as we’ve discussed already.
This is the part where you add the intro and the outro, remove background noise, adjust sound levels, and add any sound effects, voicemail recordings, etc. This is also where you trim the audio and remove portions that you’d rather not include in the final product.
Drop an F-Bomb by accident? Bleep it. Stuttered, mumbled? Removed it. Recording run for too long? Cut it! You can do what you want – it’s YOUR podcast, after all.
When you’re done with the file, the next thing you need to do is to save your edited audio as a new file. This way, just in case something happens in the future, you’ve got the original, un-edited file, along with the ‘final’ edited version, backed-up. Always back-up.
Now that you’ve got your final audio (the version of your recording that the world will hear), you need to tag it properly, so that all the information related to your show gets uploaded with it, along with the file itself.
Here’s a screenshot of how I tagged a recent episode of my podcast. You’ll notice all the information we finalized earlier coming into play here, such as the title, subtitle, description, talent name, etc. It’s also at this point that you’ll attach the podcast artwork to the file, too.
After you’ve done this, give yourself a pat on the back. You’ve successfully tagged your podcast. Which leads us to the next step.
Don’t know how to edit audio files together, or simply don’t want to have to worry about tagging your audio files yourself? No problems, I have a solution for that later on…
Publishing Your Podcast
This is essentially a three-step process which includes getting a media host sorted out, setting up your podcast only RSS feed, publishing your first few podcast episodes and then finally submitting your podcast to the major directories!
Set Up Your Media Host
Firstly, you need to figure out where you’re going to host your audio files. At first, as long as they are below the maximum upload size of 50MB, you can do this directly onto your WordPress server, via your usual dashboard. The only problem with this is that when your podcast becomes popular, you might have server issues, with all the download’s taking place!
A far better way to attack this step in the process is to upload your files to a dedicated audio file / podcast server. I use the folks over at Libsyn, and they have been brilliant. They even promote my episodes and blog posts via social media, from time to time. Awesome customer service, too. With a few different payment options to choose from you can get started at just $5 a month, for 50MB – just enough space for one, maybe two episodes a month.
Set Up Your Podcast RSS Feed
Once you’ve uploaded your file to your media host, the next step is to create a feed for your podcast. This is the one area where a lot of people trip up. So, let me put that another way – you need to create a ‘podcast only’ RSS feed. I can try doing this on your own, if you’re tech-savvy enough, if not – here’s the perfect, step-by-step solution for you.
Within WordPress, you’ll see five dozen, or so plugins listed when you search for “podcasting “ in the directory.
We’re going to install and activate the best one, in my opinion. The Blubrry PowerPress Podcasting Plugin. Note: This is the same plugin you’ll use to actually publish each of your podcast episodes, too.
Once installed, follow the steps below to create your Podcast Only RSS Feed:
- Under the Welcome Tab, check the box before “Custom Podcast Channels” and save. It will create one podcast channel by default.
- Edit the default “podcast” channel. You can find this in under the PowerPress menu in the left hand side. Change the name of the podcast to the Title of Your Podcast show. Don’t forget to save.
- Click Settings under the PowerPress menu and go to the Basic Settings tab. Make sure that the boxes are checked before Media URL and Media File Size and Duration. These options created additional fields in the Post Editor, where you can enter the file URL of your podcast. Keep in mind that this URL ends up in .mp3, or other audio file formats.
- Scroll down to the bottom and delete the URL in the Default URL field. Save again.
- Under the Feeds tab, make sure that “Enhance All Feeds” is selected.
- Copy the Podcast Only Feed URL. Since you have no podcast episode published yet, it will be in RED. Make a note of it for later use.
- Scroll down under the Feed Settings, set the number of podcast episodes you want to show in the feed, e.g. 10, 20, 50, or 100.
- Upload your RSS Image. This is the cover art you prepared when you were planning your podcast. The size of the image should be 300×300 pixels.
- Add a location to your RSS Feeds. If you don’t plan on traveling for each podcast episode, then put down your normal location.
- Save your new settings for the Feeds tab.
- Go to the iTunes tab and scroll down to the iTunes Feed Settings. Enter the details required namely Subtitle, Summary, Keywords, Host and Categories. Just copy these from your podcast plan. (Remember the one you prepared before you started recording?) Select three categories for your podcast.
- Set whether your podcast will contain explicit content or not. Upload an iTunes Image, which is the cover art you have prepare beforehand. Use the file size with 1400×1400 pixel dimensions.
- This is where you publish your first podcast episode. Just open a post draft, as usual, type out your show notes and then put the post in a ‘Podcast’ category, so it’s easier for archiving / searching in the future. Don’t forget to add the media URL – the file URL for your podcast that will end in .mp3, that’s sitting on your file server. The box for this is under the text editor box.
- Go back to the Feeds tab under the PowerPress menu and click on the “validate” link next to the Podcast Feed. This will open another window called Feed Validator, which will tell you if you’re feed is properly setup.
- Make sure that your Podcast Only RSS Feed URL is the same as the one you took a note of earlier on. This is important because this is the URL you will be submitting to the directories.
Continue to Publish New Episodes – Now that your feed is set up, and your first podcast episode is published, all you need to do is continue to publish new episodes – and before submitting to the main directories – which are:
Why do we need to publish more episodes BEFORE submitting? Because the chances of your podcast getting accepted by directories is correlated to the number of episodes you have. Meaning, the more episodes you have in your feed before submission, the more likely that it will get accepted.
In fact, Blubrry for example, says that it requires seven episodes before they’ll accept your podcast into their own directory. However, I’ve found that a minimum of three episodes is usually good enough to get listed in these major directories, and lets not mess around here – iTunes is the one we really care about, right?! I got a listing on the iTunes store with just three shows for my latest podcast.
Marketing Your Podcast
Just because your podcast has been approved by the directories and you’ve started to publish regularly, doesn’t mean that you can relax. In fact, you now need to work even harder than ever to make sure that it’s found and downloaded by as many people as possible. Especially when it comes to getting a taste of a little iTunes success.
How to Achieve Amazing iTunes Success – FAST!
At the top of this post I mentioned the success I had enjoyed in the iTunes store. I utilized a really simple tactic that paid off big time, and although I did produce an in-depth post about it on my own blog, this article would not be complete without including it here, too.
There’s a little known fact that many first time podcast producers are unaware of, that will make all the difference in the instant popularity of your podcast in the iTunes store. It’s about how to take advantage of the ‘window period’ you’re given in the ‘New & Noteworthy’ section of Apple’s iTunes Store once your podcast is approved in its directory.
Apple automatically lists your podcast in the ‘New & Noteworthy’ section, which appears at the top of the iTunes search results for every category, for a limited period of 8-weeks, following the launch of your podcast in the iTunes Store.
Bottom line, you have two short months to shine, and grow your audience. So what you need to do is launch three episodes in your first week, this boosts your download count immediately – putting it very close, if not right at the top of the section – ahead of all your competitors.
Then, try your best to publish at least one new episode a week, for the remaining 7-weeks, to keep the download (and subscriber) count growing, and your podcast listed at the top of the charts.
With the New Business Podcast, by the end of the 8-week period, I had consistently held the number one spot in two separate categories, and received well over 25,000+ downloads with just 9 episodes published.
General Podcast Marketing Tips
Even with the simple iTunes tactic (and the success that it can bring) in place, you still need to market the hell out of your show. So, here are a bunch of additional marketing tips that you can work on, to be sure that your podcast becomes a success, and helps catapult your blog and brand to the next level.
- Promote your podcast through social media. Post links to new episodes on your Facebook page, Twitter profile, as well as your LinkedIn and Google+ profiles, too.
- Invite members of appropriate Facebook and LinkedIn groups to subscribe to your podcast – this works really well, if you stay focused.
- Add a link to your podcast in your email signature.
- Add a link to your podcast on the sidebar of your blog, or perhaps the navigation bar.
- Email your list subscribers whenever you publish a new podcast, incase they aren’t subscribing to your Podcast RSS feed.
- Reach out to other bloggers that you’re friendly with, and ask for them to mention your new podcast on their Facebook page, etc. – you can offer them a guest spot on your show, if it helps sweeten the deal!
Get Smart – Don’t do ALL the Work!
Remember where I said a few times earlier on in the post that I had a solution to you not knowing how to do something, or simply not wanting to do something related to getting your podcast up and running… well, here it is.
It’s called outsourcing.
No talent in graphic design? Want a cool sounding ‘movie voice guy’ to do your intro and outros? You can hire freelance graphic designers on oDesk, or if you’re in a tight budget, go to Fiverr. Just make sure that you’re clear on what you want. Provide examples of cover art work that appeal to you and perhaps some audio examples.
If you want to take all of this to the next level, then you could also look into finding an Audio Editor VA, either part-time, or full-time through Virtual Staff Finder (Disclaimer: I own this company), or another service – they can then fundamentally handle the whole process for you. All you need to focus on is creating the content and marketing the content!
And if you didn’t want to handle the marketing side of things, you could also find a VA to do that for you, too – but, that’s a whole separate blog post!
And my final tip, above and beyond everything else, is to be sure to provide great value in every episode that you publish. This is easily the best way to make sure that your subscribers will continue to tune in, and recommend your podcast to their own networks.
The fact is that ‘fluff’ doesn’t cut it anymore. As online content creators we need to be sure to research and create content that is genuinely consumable. If it is, people will not only consume it, but they’ll also be more than happy to share it with the people they know – and that is what makes a ‘good’ podcast… ‘great’.
Focus on having fun with your podcasting, and utilizing the power that it brings to your overall online brand. As far as I’m concerned, it’ll help grow your blog faster than any other activity that you can spend time on nowadays.
Are you already podcasting to help build your blog following and overall brand? If so, share with the community here what’s worked well for you. I know I’d love to hear from you, for sure!
Chris C. Ducker is a serial entrepreneur, speaker and author. He is the founder of Virtual Staff Finder, the world’s number one VA match-making service, as well as a popular blogger and podcaster at ChrisDucker.com. He can also be found daily on Twitter @chriscducker.