14 Ways to Grow Podcast Downloads (in 2020)

If you are reading this it means you have probably started your podcast and begun to measure podcast downloads. It has been a number of months and episodes but your downloads are actually starting to plateau and even drop as the initial push behind your launch is over. Now what?

We have been in the podcast game with our nonprofit focused podcast – Using the Whole Whale for over 5 years. Here are some of our best tactics and ideas that have worked to drive solid download numbers.

podcast data
  1. Get Good/Popular Guests. Get popular guests and set a subtle expectation that they will also help promote the episode. Choosing people that have engaged audiences on social platforms is an excellent way to have an episode take off – if they share it.
  2. Email Newsletter. Promote each episode in your push notification email messaging. Make the email clean and focused on the CTA to listen. Include links for them to play it on their player of choice giving links to Spotify, Apple, Google, Stitcher and any other popular ones for your audience. This also matters because many people will open this on their mobile device so the link will make it easier to play in their podcast app. 
  3. Personal LinkedIn. Promote each episode with a LinkedIn Post from top staff. Remember to tag the guest and any companies mentioned to increase the potential for engagement and comments. You can also use your business page but the reach will be more limited as will the conversation lift. 
  4. Auto-post on Social. Use Buffer, IFTTT or native functionality on your podcast host (Libsyn/Podbean have this) similar app to plan our your social posts. 
  5. Custom Post on Social. MAKE sure to tag the guests or anyone you think might find the episode. Don’t just rely on auto-post functions as they won’t properly tag the companies and guest(s) involved.
  6. Email Signature. Add to your staff email signature. Each person sends hundreds of emails a week to people in your company’s immediate network. Each email can now act as a mini plug for the podcast. 
  7. Find the Facebook Group talking about your topic with your audience and join it. Remember, listen and respond to others to learn the norms instead of just blasting your message everywhere. 
  8. Be our guest! (put our servers to the test?) Be a guest on another podcast. “Guest podcasting is the new guest blogging” Seth Godin. While this is possibly the most common bit of advice out there it does work. Searching on Podcasts.Apple.com and Podcasts.google.com and Spotify can help you create a contact list of potential list of podcasts (quick hack: most podcasts list the <itunes:owner>  email in their feed). Also, a tool like Presshunt can also make this podcast outreach easier. 
  9. Embed podcast episodes strategically. Embedding your episodes on other relevant pages on your site is a way to capitalize on existing traffic. Look at pages that already get a lot of organic traffic on relevant topics with Google Analytics and add your podcast player to them. If a page like this doesn’t exist, consider creating a new content page around it that is SEO optimized for the topic. 
  10. Partners can Play. Make your full pod player embed available for partners to add to their sites. This will give them more functionality and engaging content that doesn’t force people to leave their site and it gives you downloads. Win win!
  11. Repurpose your content on YouTube as a video. Add some graphics along the way if you didn’t record the video of your interview, remember to add a visual that advertises your podcast site. YouTube can give your podcast a new life especially if you cover highly searched topics. 
    • Also note that YouTube costs less to promote in ads and is better tracked than paying for click to download ads. 
  12. Try Targeted give-aways. You can hide special offers in your episode for the first person to leave a comment or send you a special message. Radio shows have done this for decades with their ‘be the 100th caller’ type of campaigns. A tool like https://vyper.ai/  can make this easier. 
  13. Take questions from the audience. Using a tool like Speakpipe will make it easy for people to leave recorded messages right through your site. This will increase listener engagement and give you more quick content to play with. 
  14. Ride the news! Look for rising trends and consider how you can bring your perspective to it and perhaps recruit an active member of the community to be a guest to talk about it. 
    • We did this with the Sale of .ORG controversy at the end of 2019 and 2020. Our podcast became a quick way to learn about the complex issue and was shared significantly on Twitter. 

Technical Elements

Marketing and audio content can all be wasted if you aren’t managing and distributing your feed correctly. 

Making sure that your feed has all fields like title, icon and description are fundamental to creating a healthy feed. Make sure to also select and prioritize the three main categories that apply to your podcast so it can be found and indexed on various platforms. Try a podcast validator to check your feed:

List on all major platforms with full information and graphics. Tools like Podbean or Libsyn will help make sure you are submitting your feed to all major players. However, there is more data available when you also create accounts natively on major platforms. 

Use a good player to embed on your own site. The Seriously Simple Podcasting plugin for WordPress is one of the most popular. Another one to play with is Fuse Box  – Pat Flynn has created a clever podcast player that will automatically play the next episode in your embedded player on your site. 

Pay-To-Play Podcast Advertising

There are tons of pay-per-click options to play with on Facebook and Google to drive downloads. These can all be expensive and difficult to track downloads vs actual streams of the full podcast.

Another tactic can be to create short audio ads for your podcast and try running them on the self-serve Podcast ad platforms like:

Once you have everything set up correctly, remember to analyze your podcast downloads to see what is working.