Starting a Podcast: 7 Things I Wish I Knew Before I Published My First Episode

Creating the Content Warfare Podcast has been one of the best decisions I’ve made as a content creator. Podcasting is a very intimate way of sharing ideas and creating value for your audience. There is no visual component to podcasting and it’s that aspect of the content medium that makes it unique and engaging.

On a podcast you must be able to educate and entertain an audience with nothing but your voice, there’s no fancy images, editing or text formats that can prop up shallow podcast content.

This is why I love podcasting.

To me the podcast format draws out the truly inspirational and dedicated thought leaders in an industry and separates them out from the pretenders.

Over the past 10 months I’ve published 32 podcast episodes. I’ve done five episodes completely my own and invited amazing guests to join me for the other 27. Each week is a new experience trying to draw out value that listeners can digest and apply successfully to their business.

After 32 podcast episodes I feel I’m just finally starting to get a handle on how to do this. I come from the school of thought where you publish first… edit, refine and focus second.

I really didn’t know what the heck I was doing I published my first podcast.

I’m not saying my way is the right way, as the true greats of the online marketing industry, the Pat Flynn‘s and Mark Schaefer‘s of the world, will spend weeks preparing before they start a new project. What I can tell you is that the Content Warfare Podcast is battle tested.

But I still wish I’d known these seven things before I published my first podcast:

1) Buy a quality microphone w/ a pop filter

You don’t need to spend $1500 on a professional grade microphone to achieve quality sound recording. However, your microphone does need to achieve a minimum level of quality in order for your podcast to be enjoyable to listen to. When I first started I was using a $15 microphone that I bought at RadioShack. It was the cheapest microphone on the rack.

I would consider my cheapness early on a mistake, as the early sound quality of my podcast episodes was less than stellar. It was too long before I realized podcasting was going to be a long term content marketing strategy for me. So I did some research and bought a $75 Samson Go Mic and a $15 pop screen filter which provide a perfectly adequate sound quality for the Content Warfare Podcast. (The pop screen keeps you from getting those loud audio spikes when you say the P or some people say T and is worth the $15 investment).

2) Hook your audience early

Podcast listeners are no different than the website visitors you get to consume your text-based blog posts or videos. You need to hook your audience early or they will not stick around for the body of your content. What I try to do is pull out one very engaging thought from the podcast, if I have a guest with me it will always be from the guest, that I know will hook the the listener into sticking around.

Properly executed the intro goes something like this (From episode #31)

“Your audience logs into Facebook to be educated and entertained. This makes focusing on yourself or your business with every update or post the worst Facebook marketing strategy for adding the quality fans your business needs to grow… But according to today’s guest, the most wonderful Amy Porterfield, the path to Facebook marketing success lies with showing social love!”

3) Use pretty links and/or vanity URLs

During the course of your podcast you’re going to talk about resources and websites that you’d like your audience to visit. However, the nature of how listeners consume a podcast can make calls-to-action a difficult task. Most of your listeners will not be in front of a computer while listening.

My suggestion is to make URLs as simple and easy as possible for your listeners to remember which will encourage them to actually take the action you’re recommending. A good example of this is the show notes for Content Warfare Podcast episodes. I will create a vanity URL using the free Pretty Links WordPress plug-in, which is just the numerical number of the podcast episode so that listeners can easily find show notes when they do finally get in front of a computer.

(i.e. www.ryanhanley.com/32 redirects you to my most recent episode titled Transcending the Transaction through Useful Marketing Jay Baer.)

4) Ask for iTunes reviews

The largest and most engaged podcast audience exists on iTunes. If you’re looking to grow a large podcast audience, which shouldn’t necessarily be your motivation for creating a podcast, where you rank in the iTunes podcast directory for the keyword terms that describe your podcast, will be a huge determining factor in the size of your podcast audience.

Though Apple has never officially released their ranking criteria for podcasts in the iTunes directory, iTunes reviews are widely considered the most important factor in ranking.

Like a true rookie, in the beginning episodes of the Content Warfare Podcast I did not ask for iTunes reviews. I just assumed that if I produced a good product people would go to iTunes and leave me a review. This is not the way it works. People will go and leave you a review on iTunes but you have to ask them to do so and give them an easy way to get there.

So I created the vanity URL www.ryanhanley.com/review and I mention this link on every episode. I ask listeners that if they found value in the episode, to visit iTunes and please leave me a review. If you’re looking for other ways to increase your iTunes reviews I encourage you to visit this article that I wrote for Anna Hoffman on Traffic Generation Café.

 

5) Prepare, prepare, prepare

This may seem like a no-brainer for some of you, but I know some of you that like the fly-by-the-seat-of-your-pants and “Wing it.” This often leads to very unprofessional sounding podcasts. Whether you write out an entire script or just do an outline with a few bullet points, have an idea of what you want to talk about and in what order you want to do so.

If you’re going to be interviewing someone make sure the you send them questions/topics beforehand so they know what you plan on addressing during the episode. This will make your guest more comfortable and will also allow you to follow high value tangents that may arise during the course of the interview and still keep things on course.

The most obvious signs of an unprepared podcast are ummms, ahhhs, stutters, long periods of silence and/or a disconnected flow to the podcast.Not properly preparing for your podcast is the easiest way to lose listeners.

6) Use a better RSS service

When I first started my podcast I used Google’s now semi-defunct RSS service, Feedburner. About three months ago I started to find bugs, errors, image issues, and even delayed propagation of new posts. I found that in some cases it may take days for a podcast to flow through Feedburner into iTunes and Stitcher.

After reading some of my most respected marketing sites, such as Copyblogger, had decided on Feedblitz, I followed suit and went with Feedblitz to handle my podcast RSS feed. Fee blitz is a very stable RSS system with excellent reporting. Feedblitz costs $1.49 a month making the value to cost well worth the investment for a little peace of mind that my podcast RSS feed will be handled properly.

7) SEO for iTunes

ITunes is very much a search engine. So like optimizing your website for Google search, you can optimize your podcast listing for iTunes search. There are four places that you can add keywords to your iTunes listing to help with iTunes search engine optimization.

Your podcast title: start with the title of your podcast, add a colon and then list keyword terms for your podcast. This will look like: Content Warfare Podcast: Content Marketing | Social Media | Content Creation.

Publisher name: do the same thing with your publisher name. Start with your name, add a colon and then list to possibly three keywords in my case it’s: Ryan Hanley: Content Marketing and Business Strategist.

Podcast description: you can add quite a bit of text here. The podcast description box will be used for both iTunes and human SEO. Make sure that you are using similar keywords that are listed in both your podcast title and your publisher name but at the same time writing in a way that will encourage people to subscribe to your podcast.

Podcast episode title and description:  when titling your podcast episode be sure to include the primary keyword in the title, as well as in the description of the episode as both of these features will be carried through to iTunes. When you search iTunes specific podcast episodes will show in search results.