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Podcasting has experienced a renaissance in the last couple of years. According to RawVoice, which tracks 20,000 shows, the number of unique monthly podcast listeners has tripled to 75 million, up from 25 million five years ago.
Suffice it to say, now is a great time to start a podcast. It’s an authentic and intimate way to demonstrate authority in your niche and to grow your client base.
I recently started my first podcast1, Agencies Drinking Beer, with my cofounder, Kevin Springer. When starting out, I was a bit lost with the technical logistics of actually setting up the podcast; figuring out the best approach required a lot of searching and digging.
I want to make all of that easier for you. Here, in one place, is all of the best advice, information and resources I can offer you. This way, you can spend less time on the technical side of setting up your podcast and more time creating killer content.
Ready to start? Let’s go!
Plan Your Podcast
While this article focuses on the technical aspects of getting a podcast online, we should quickly cover the basics of starting a successful podcast.
Pick a Target
As with any content marketing2 endeavor, start with identifying your audience and creating personas3. Your podcast should target one distinct niche and not try to appeal to everyone.
Listen to other podcasts4 in your niche to get an idea of what’s out there and what you can offer that’s different. A ton of web design podcasts are out there; so, if your goal is to talk about web design, think about how you can approach it in a way that no one else is doing.
Form a Structure
Decide on the length of the show, whether you’ll have interviews, how often you’ll publish episodes, what day of the week you’ll release them and so on. In most cases, there is no right or wrong way to do it. I’ve listened to podcasts that are 15 minutes each and some that are two hours long. Just pick what works for you and stick to it as consistently as possible.
Plan Your Content
While heavily scripted podcasts can come across as stiff and robotic, planning your topics is still a good idea, especially if you’ll be interviewing guests. I schedule our episodes using a Google Docs spreadsheet, and I use Evernote5 to store notes, questions and topics for each episode. More recently, I’ve also been sending guests an email outlining the questions I plan to ask, to guide the discussion.
Add the Polish
Create a theme song in Garageband or buy a stock theme from somewhere like AudioJungle6. Music will add a lot of energy to your show and make it feel polished and professional.
What Makes A Good Podcast?
An entire article could be written about this — in fact, many articles out there discuss what makes a good podcast7 — but I will mention some things I’ve learned in the four months I’ve been doing it.
You don’t need to have the golden voice of a professional radio announcer, and people won’t care if you stumble or make mistakes — that will just make you sound more authentic and human. Whatever you do, don’t read from a script. Speak from the heart and say what you’re really feeling.
If your podcast revolves around a subject that you love to talk about, then creating new content each week will not be hard. Your passion will shine through, and people will pick up on that. In my podcast I talk about building great agencies because it’s a topic I enjoy discussing with agency owners. I also like beer.
It’s hard to market an episode where you bounce from topic to topic and go on long, rambling digressions. A few off-topic excursions are fine if they are entertaining, but have a clear direction in mind for each episode. If for nothing else, that will make it easier to package and promote later. Preparing bullet points to have in front of you will help guide the discussion.
Really Listen to the Other Person
This seems obvious, but it’s tricky in practice. If you are thinking about what you’re going to say next while your guest is speaking, later you’ll listen to the recording and kick yourself for missing out on great conversational opportunities because you weren’t really listening to what the other person was saying.
My advice is not to overthink it. Recording something is better than obsessing over getting it perfect and not recording anything. Your first episode isn’t going to be as good as your 10th or 50th, but accept this fact, lay down some tracks and move on.
Ready to record? Let’s make sure you’ve got the right tools in place.
Record Your Podcast
The hardware required to record a podcast is actually pretty simple.
We use a Macbook Pro with an external hard drive (since clips quickly eat up storage space). Mind you, any PC with an audio input can be used.
A proper microphone was the first thing we purchased, and after some research we found a fantastic product at a great price point, Blue Microphones’ Snowball iCE10. It’s a simple plug-and-play USB mic with a sturdy swivel tripod stand. We require two of these because we have two hosts on the show, and we also purchased a USB hub to plug into.
Headphones are a necessity, and they must be ones that do not have a microphone built in, so that they don’t pick up unwanted sounds. We use Rocketfish’s headphones hub for two.
Skype is a good choice if interviews are an important part of your podcast. Skype is free and ubiquitous, and the sound quality is decent. Keep in mind that if your Internet connection is slow, you may find occasional distortion or delays, which can sap the flow of your interview. Plugging your laptop directly into your Internet connection will help, especially if you’re using a public Wi-Fi network.
We found Ecamm’s Call Recorder11 to be the easiest way to record calls in Skype. The one-time fee of $29.95 is well worth it. It also has video recording capabilities if you need that.
After we’re done an interview, we import the Ecamm file (which is automatically exported as a MOV file) into GarageBand, and from there we record our introduction and conclusion and add our sound effects and music. GarageBand has a podcast setting, which makes editing a breeze.
Note: When recording with a remote guest, if at all possible, ask them to record their own audio separately and send it to you as an MP3. The quality will generally be much higher than if you record through Skype; and this way, if your recording fails, you’ll have a backup.
From there, we mix it down to a M4A file and upload it to our web server via FTP. (Of course, you may choose MP3, which is perfectly all right.)
Configure Your Website
If you’re new to podcasting, you might be surprised to learn that Apple doesn’t directly host podcasts, and it doesn’t offer any tracking data to tell you how many downloads each episodes get. It’s all on you.
Third-party services, such as Libsyn12, will host your podcast for you, generate an RSS feed and give you download metrics. Call me a control freak, but I want total control over my publishing and don’t want to rely on a third-party service for it.
For a content management system (CMS), I use Craft14, but you could publish your podcast using WordPress15, ExpressionEngine16, Drupal17 or any other CMS that lets you define your own fields and output them on the page however you want.
Below is what a blog post in Craft looks like for one of my podcast episodes. I’ve set up basic fields for the headline, teaser, main image and content. For the audio file, I simply insert the name of the file and specify in the template the directory in which to look for the M4A file.
You could do this differently and directly upload the file through your CMS. But at 40 to 50 MB per episode, uploading is easier via FTP than in a web browser.
Set Up Fields to Output the RSS Page
Next, you’ll want to set up fields specifically for your RSS feed that iTunes and FeedBurner will display (more on submitting your feed later). Here are the fields you’ll need:
Make this separate from the headline used on your blog. Most podcasts contain a short code to go in the title. This looks good on iTunes but may not be what you want on your blog.
This will appear as the description on the iTunes podcast web page.
This will appear as the description when someone is subscribed to your podcast in iTunes.
Find the length of the episode, and insert the time here (for example, 45:15).
To get the file size accurate, right-click on your audio file and look at the size in bytes. Remove the commas and paste in the size. It should look something like 56288430.
In Craft, I created a new tab to list all of my iTunes fields, so that they’re organized together and separate from my other content.
Notice how this content will appear in iTunes:
On the front end of the website, I designed a simple blog-style page for each podcast episode that outputs the headline, introductory paragraph and audio player with iTunes and RSS links. Below that is an image for the episode and the written article.
Steps for Installing audio.js
Put audio.js, player-graphics.gif and audiojs.swf in the same folder.
Note that you won’t be linking directly to the audio file. Rather, you’ll be linking to yoursite.com/download.php?url=path-to-your-file. This is important for tracking downloads. Trust me on this for now — I’ll explain more in a subsequent step.
Below is what the RSS feed template looks like filled out with static and dynamic content within my Craft template:
Finally, once you’ve finished coding your RSS feed, submit it to Feed Validator33 to ensure it has no errors. Do this even if you’re sure it’s valid. At one point, I wondered why my podcast was behaving strangely in iTunes, and it came down to an invalid feed, which Feed Validator helped me fix.
Submit the Feed to FeedBurner
Not everyone will want to subscribe to your podcast through iTunes or email. To let people more easily subscribe to your podcast using their own RSS reader or a third-party podcast subscription app, using FeedBurner36 is best.
First, submit a new feed and check off the “podcaster” option:
Once you do that, it will read your feed and generate a unique URL. This is the URL you should be linking to when advertising your RSS feed on your website. It will look something like what’s below when users click the link, which is a bit more friendly than sending them to a pure XML page.
Submit To iTunes
Of course, you’ll want to submit your podcast to iTunes to reap the benefits of the free exposure that Apple offers. (That being said, don’t ignore other platforms, such as Pocket Casts39 and TuneIn40.)
Before you submit it, design a beautiful cover to stand out in the iTunes store. This cover is comparable to an app’s icon in the App Store, but you have a slightly larger canvas to work with. Design it at 1400×1400px. It will appear smaller than that in most places your listeners will see it, so keep it simple, bold and free of small text.
I remember thinking I could get away with including my logo and some text in the cover, but this is how it appeared in the iTunes store:
I removed the Proposify logo and text because it couldn’t easily be read.
Ready to submit to Apple? Go to your iTunes app, click on “Podcasts,” and to the right you’ll see a link to submit a podcast.
Click on the button, and it will ask you to submit the feed.
It will return a message if you’ve missed filling in any fields. Once everything is correct, iTunes will notify you within a couple of days that your podcast has been approved and will email you a link to your podcast on the iTunes website. It may take a bit longer to show up in the iTunes app.
Seeing your very own podcast in the iTunes store is a pretty magical experience!
At this point (and probably long before), you should be announcing your podcast to the world.
Email your list of subscribers.
Ask all of your friends and colleagues to share it with their contacts.
Post it on Twitter, Facebook, LinkedIn and Google+.
The “New and Noteworthy” section of the iTunes store offers you much needed exposure, especially in those critical six to eight weeks following the launch. iTunes has an algorithm that looks at a number of different factors to determine whether to push you higher up in the “New and Noteworthy” section. One factor you can affect directly is the number of downloads.
What if you haven’t yet built up a huge audience? Simply put, launch with more episodes. The more episodes you launch with, the more likely you’ll get more downloads per subscriber, meaning you’re more likely to get bumped to the top.
Consistently releasing new episodes on schedule is important, so put one or two months’ worth of episodes on reserve in case an interview falls through, you get sick or you can’t release a new episode for some other reason. Of course, this may be impractical if you are newsjacking or discussing some other time-sensitive topic.
Track Downloads With Google Analytics
This is the last piece of the puzzle, and I was shocked at how few resources exist to do something as relatively simple as tracking downloads.
Apple doesn’t offer any tracking whatsoever. There are third-party apps, such as Lisbyn48, Podtrac49 and Blubrry50, but, as mentioned, many require you to host your audio files with them and to use their CMS and RSS feed. Not what us control freaks want!
If you aren’t overly concerned with getting paid sponsorship of your podcast, tracking downloads yourself is actually much easier by combining a bit of PHP with Google Analytics events.
I came across a free script from Chris Van Patten, Downloadalytics51, which allows you to track downloads as an event in Google Analytics.
After a day of tracking, log into Google Analytics. Navigate to “Behavior” → “Events” → “Overview.”
You’ll notice a new event category, named “Downloads,” which Downloadalytics has generated.
Click on the event category, and you can add it to your dashboard to more easily track by episode.
Hopefully, you’ve found this to be a useful and comprehensive guide to launching your very own podcast. I’m only 10 episodes in at the time of writing, but so far I’ve found the experience to be a great way to build a closer relationship with my customers and fans. It’s a lot of work, and discipline is required to record week after week, even when you aren’t in the mood, but the reward is more than worth the effort.
So, tell me, when do you plan to launch your podcast?
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Robert Cialdini’s famous book Influence: The Psychology of Persuasion is a staple of any business-oriented must-read list. You’ve read the concepts before and you’ve probably even seen the full list of principles on numerous occasions. Reciprocity, Consistency, Social Proof, Liking, Authority, & Scarcity These principles tend to dictate the way we behave in society, and […]
Tips, tricks, and techniques are great, but sometimes you aren’t looking to learn a hundred different marketing skills. Sometimes you just want to plug in something that works and move on to #97 on your list of must-do tasks. If you want to learn the art/science of headline writing, start here… or here, here, here, […]
We’re going to cover a few of the big wins that you need to focus on. These elements are critical if you want to improve your numbers:
Landing Page Copy
What you would might see when setting your Facebook targeting options. My default is country is the UK
Before we do anything to a landing page, we must first take a look at where your traffic is coming from. Though it is rare, it may just be the case that your landing page is fine, but your ad targeting is not.
If there is a mismatch between who you’re advertising to and who your landing page speaks to, it can look as though your landing page is performing badly. What might actually be happening is that you’re targeting the wrong people in your advertising campaigns.
When the landing page and ad targeting don’t align, you’re going to attract the wrong kind of people. They’ll take one look at your landing page, realize it’s not relevant for them and then click the back button.
When setting up an advertising campaign, go through everything with a fine tooth comb. Ensure that there is a sufficient level of coherency between who you’re advertising to and who your landing page speaks to. In doing so you’ll avoid the rabbit hole of forever changing your landing page only to get consistently poor results.
You need to make sure that your landing page headline is the best that it can be. The headline is the thing that most people often look at first. It tends to determine what action people might take next.
If you use paid traffic, you need to make sure that your headline matches the information that was found in the ad that you placed.
Ensure that the benefit promise does not change and that you use the same kind of language. For instance, don’t advertise, ‘lose a six kilos in six days,’ and then have a headline that says, ‘learn this new gym technique.’
In my experience, I have found that as long as you keep some consistency between the ad and the headline, you can avoid some of the problems related to your ad targeting. You can use your ad to prequalify people, avoiding clicks that don’t come from your ideal customer. The consistent headline will then reaffirm to the person who clicked that they’re in the right place.
From what I’ve found, headlines don’t need to be complicated. Be specific and include a benefit. If you see a headline you like, emulate it. Keep a swipe file in an Evernote account and borrow from the best.
Most of the people who operate a landing page have something that they’re giving away in order to build their email list. If you find that your landing page is not performing well, it could just be that your giveaway sucks.
This might be a hard thing to hear, as you might have worked forever on that 50-page ebook. I’ve been in this position before and it can sometimes be tiresome to know that you’ve got to work on something else to give away.
I have found that when this problem happens, it generally occurs because I don’t know my target market well enough.
You need to know what your target market has a burning desire for. If I was marketing to freelancers and had a giveaway called, ‘how to make your website look awesome,’ it probably wouldn’t get that many downloads. However, if I had a giveaway called ‘how to consistently generate clients and avoid quiet months,’ that would have a much better response.
Admittedly, those names suck, but I hope you understand the point I’m trying to make. Freelancers worry about winning their next client. Once their existing contract ends, they might have to put up with a month or two without income. This is a much more pressing problem than having a website that doesn’t look awesome.
Your giveaway does not need to be complicated and should just aim to solve one pressing problem. Search the relevant forums and speak one-on-one with your potential clients. Find out what is going on in their heads and how you can help them.
This concept applies to ebooks, webinars, audio recordings and everything else that might exist as a giveaway.
Check out this fella from Basecamp, pointing to the form. The pointed finger automatically draws your attention.
There’s some debate as to what’s more important, the headline or the image. For me the use of an image generally depends on what your landing page looks like.
Some formats allow for a big image and some do not. The more space an image takes, the more attention it draws, and hence, the more importance it gains.
The image tends to vary depending on what you’re promoting. If there’s a live webinar taking place, you might have a picture of yourself. You might boost the credibility in the photo by having a picture of yourself when you were speaking at an event.
If the image is promoting an ebook, you could just have the cover of the ebook present. This will emphasize that you can help share some insight on a burning problem that they have.
You could just be running a very simple landing page, with a big background image. If the background image includes a person, try to select an image that has the person looking at the optin box. (This tends to direct visitors’ eyes to the box.)
Remember your goal is to get people to sign up. You don’t want to have an image that is so dazzling that it distracts them from their original intention. Keep your image simple and ensure that it’s relevant and serves a purpose. The image should contribute to the overall goal of making a visitor take an action—in this case signing up.
Though not always the case, you might also want to make the ad image match the landing page image. This coherency may lead to a higher number of signups.
Landing Page Copy
Taken from a Hubspot landing page. See how the copy promotes the benefits.
If you don’t have much of an image on your landing page, the copy should save the day.
The text on your landing page needs to be relevant to who you’re advertising to and what you’re giving away.
You don’t want to have a big bunch of text that is hard to read and irrelevant. What you need to do is ensure that everything is to-the-point and easy to read quickly.
Most landing pages use a small paragraph and then some bullet points. The paragraph can be used to qualify people further. Though this will not always do anything to reduce your ad spend, it will help you reach people who are more suited to your business.
The bullet points need to be benefits-rich and scannable.
Bullet points are almost like mini headlines. The golden rule when creating bullet points and headlines is to convey benefits, not features.
Don’t tell them what it is—tell them what it can do.
A hypothetical example: ‘Learn about this fat burning machine that automatically contracts muscle fibres.’ A benefit headline/bullet point would be, ‘Finally a way to burn fat without leaving the couch.’ A curious statement, but hopefully you get the point!
It is also a good idea to make sure the copy stands out from the background. Make sure your text color contrasts the background. If it’s hard to read, the overall quality of your landing page goes down along with its readability. Though aesthetic doesn’t always matter, readability is important. If they can’t read it they won’t know why they should opt in.
And remember, at the end of your copy include a call to action. You need to keep in mind that you have to direct people and let them know what to do next. Tell them to enter their email address and get the giveaway.
This is a button that can be found on an Aweber landing page. Notice how it is tailored to their specific offer. It also changes color when hovered over.
You’ve seen the stories and I’ve seen them too. They tend to go a little like this: local man changes sign-up button color and gets 500% opt in increase.
Whilst that’s not impossible, it’s not something you should be devoting your entire energy towards when improving your subscriber box. There are a few other things that you can do in order to get great results that lend themselves to a better sign-up rate.
Firstly, think about including a note that tells visitors their email addresses won’t be shared or abused. It doesn’t have to be a long message and can simply say something like, ‘We never spam.’
Next, you could experiment with the number of details you’re requesting. Some people have found that when they just ask for an email address, sign-up rates dramatically rise. This depends on your business and what you’re looking to do. Even as small a change as asking only for their first name and email can raise subscriber numbers.
After that you might want to experiment with what the actual sign up button says. Different calls to action can give you varying response rates. Try a few and see which one works. Of course, at this point, you could also experiment with the colors of your button. Just remember, this is often a lower priority than the points we reviewed above.
You need to make sure you’re split testing your landing page. Failure to do so could mean you’re leaving tons of money on the table.
Many times, we think we know what works best on a landing page. As marketers, however, we have to get into the habit of testing our assumptions. A small tweak to your headline can potentially yield some massive results. You’ll never know if you don’t split test. If you can afford it- try things that you think are absurd and let the numbers do the talking.
For me the best tool when it comes to split testing a landing page is Visual Website Optimizer. You don’t need to be a tech whiz kid to get good results, and making changes with their help is really easy. (By the way, I am in no way affiliated with them. I’ve just used their products and like them.)
When split testing, change only one thing at a time. This will let you know what is actually contributing to a change in the numbers. You can then make an accurate comparison to the old original version.
It’s okay to test some crazy changes. You might just stumble upon something that actually works well. The more a/b testing you do, the more you’ll know what works best.
When you’re split testing, remember to give everything a little bit of time. Don’t assume a landing page change doesn’t work after a few visits. Let it run for a day or two (or a month or two) and then see what the numbers say. You need to reach statistical relevance before you can evaluate the results of your test.
Try working on the headline first. Then make some changes to the bullet points or the image. As mentioned before, the headline is a major component of your landing page. Split testing it will help you focus on big wins when improving your numbers.
Other ideas to experiment with
Before we say anything about scarcity, I want to emphasize one point: You should be ethical. Don’t say something that is not true and don’t pretend you’re going to run out of digital ebooks.
However, if scarcity is something that applies to what you’re doing, whether it be webinar seats or product giveaways, consider it. It often works well for businesses that deal with tangible goods, or those who are looking to build anticipation for a release of some sort.
Figure out a way that you might be able to work it into your funnel. But remember—don’t lie.
This Wordstream landing page includes a lot of the elements mentioned. There are also some company logos. These count as social proof too. The video tends to make up for the lack of copy.
Social proof comes in many forms and can boost the credibility of your page massively. If you have the means to do so, the option of including testimonials can help. We don’t want to overcomplicate things, so keep it brief. If you have a testimonial that speaks directly to the people you’re trying to reach, consider using it.
Watch Someone Use Your Website
This tends to work better when testing websites as a whole, though it can still work well with a landing page.
Find someone nearby and ask them to take an action on your landing page. Watch them and see how they interact with your page. Where do they click, even though there is no clickable element? What do they spend the most time doing? What is their opinion?
Crazy Egg heatmaps can help you do some of this. The collated data can provide valuable insight on the actions that people are taking on your website.
With landing pages, you only want someone to do one specific thing. Watching someone (or gathering data on people using your landing page) will let you know if they know what that one specific thing is.
Different Forms of Media
If your landing page only includes an image, try swapping it out with a video. A video will need to be created so that it conveys the right message. Those who use a video on their landing page sometimes set the video to autoplay. Experiment with different video styles and see if it helps.
This would most likely be placed on the bottom of the landing page, and would allow for people to learn more about what you’re offering. If you’re using long copy make sure you’re regularly placing signup buttons throughout the page.
Taking Things to the Next Level
Improving your landing page can give you a chance to take things to the next level. Once you know where to focus your attention, making the changes should be a walk in the park.
The job of improving a landing page is never done. You’ll always want to do some split testing to see if you can drive your numbers even higher. You can experiment with different headlines, images and bullet points. You can even make a radical change to the overall layout. As long as you’re constantly trying new things you should be good.
You don’t always have to be original when making these changes. If you see an idea you like, you can emulate it. Keep your own swipe file and synthesize various landing pages to produce one that is going to be a top performer.
Put some of the tips mentioned into action and see how they work out for you. If you’ve got any questions or suggestions, leave a comment below. Good Luck!