You can only launch a podcast once.
Once iTunes approves your podcast, you have 8 weeks to make an impression in the New and Noteworthy section—the coveted spot on the iTunes Store directory that allows you to be highly visible and gain the recognition of millions of users for 8 weeks.
You need to get it right the first time… because the clock is ticking! 🙂
We launched our first podcast, Perpetual Traffic, on July 28, 2015. To our surprise, within 8 hours we were Number 1 in the Business Category on iTunes!
We also hit iTunes’ New and Noteworthy within a week.
We achieved these rankings following a simple and consistent 4-step strategy.
And that’s what we’re sharing today—the EXACT 4-step strategy you can use to launch ANY podcast in ANY market.
We’re also sharing the big mistake we made with our podcast distribution schedule (this was a big breakthrough for us), so you can avoid making it, too!
We’ll start with…
Step 1: Define Your Podcast’s Concept and Style
Successful podcasts have a consistent concept and style.
You need to plan and decide WHAT your overall podcast will be about before you launch, or you run the risk of having a sloppy show.
It’s important to decide what will be unique about your podcast. Think about why someone should listen, why they should care. Also, keep your business’ culture in mind—your podcast needs to align with your business.
A podcast that’s going to hit the top of the charts and stay there needs to be entertaining while providing valuable content on a specific topic that people want to listen to.
You have several options to choose from when it comes to what “style” your podcast will follow. These are some of the examples we considered when planning Perpetual Traffic. Think about which would be the best fit to reach your audience:
Interview Style Podcast
This is the most common style of podcasting.
The host(s) conducts an interview in each episode of the podcast.
For example, in each episode of I’ll Drink to That!, host Levi Dalton interviews a wine expert and names the episode after that particular interviewee.
Location Based Podcast
Here the podcast centers on the location it is recorded in.
For instance, The MeatEater is about hunting and outdoor activities and is recorded on the road from locations around the US Every episode is about a different location and the experience that follows.
Can you guess what flow this podcast follows? 🙂
This type of podcast tells a story.
The first episode of the podcast is the beginning of the story, the last episode is the conclusion of the story, and each episode builds off the last and moves the story forward.
There’s a good chance you’re familiar with one of the more popular storytelling podcasts—Serial. As the first podcast to hit 5 million downloads on iTunes (and that was in April 2015!), Serial is a prime example of this.
Each episode of a Teaching Podcast instructs its listeners on a particular topic.
For instance, in Coffee Break Spanish, the show gives listeners a Spanish lesson in the time it takes to drink a cup of coffee.
A Mix: Teaching/Interview/Case Studies
This style is a cross between…
- Teaching listeners
- Interviewing experts
- Examining case studies
A great example of this is the Barbell Shrugged podcast, which focuses on conversations about fitness, training, and has interviews with athletes.
This podcast served as inspiration for Perpetual Traffic.
Moral of the story… pick a style that works for you and stick to it.
OK, you know what your theme is—now it’s time to get busy recording your first episodes!
Step 2: Record 3 “Pillar Episodes” (AKA… the Foundation of Your Podcast)
It’s important to keep in mind that the first 3 episodes of your podcast will serve as the legs of your podcast and be its first impression. We call these episodes “Pillar Episodes.”
- …are great to reference back to in future episodes. Use your first 3 episodes to build the foundation of your podcast. Reference back to your first 3 episodes often by mentioning them during the podcast and linking to them in your show notes page—which lists all of the episodes and provides links to the resources mentioned in a particular episode. We reference our show notes throughout an episode, so we can send traffic back to the site and pixel high-quality leads.
- …keep you from repeating yourself. Pillar episodes improve the flow of your show dramatically. Instead of repeatedly explaining a fundamental concept, you’ll simply reference a pillar episode. Like, “We explain this in more detail on Episode X. Go back and give that a listen.”
- …are good for your rankings because you’re constantly referring back to previous episodes, so listeners will have a reason to go back and download past episodes. iTunes loves to see that people aren’t just listening and downloading the latest and greatest episode, but are consuming multiple episodes. This will help you maintain consistent downloads (more on the importance of consistent downloads in a minute).
When you launch your podcast, launch with 3 episodes (or more) because it serves as a hook for your audience and gives you the opportunity to create a solid first impression.
You’ll also have 3 episodes for newcomers to download vs one—3x the downloads!
But how do you come up with 3 pillar episodes?
Look to your blog, YouTube channel, or other mediums where you’re creating content.
What are your most popular topics—the foundational posts that really interest people? Content that has resonated with your audience can be repurposed and serve as your podcast’s pillar posts.
People were responding to this topic—so, it was repurposed.
But if you don’t know the best content or the most popular content for you, go to:
These two tools will tell you…
- What’s the most popular content
- What people are searching for the most
- Can serve as inspiration for podcast episodes
For instance, this is what a search for “content marketing” looks like on Buzzsumo…
Based on the Buzzsumo example, perhaps the first few episodes of your podcast about content marketing could explain the tools every content marketer needs.
Step 3: Launch You Podcast with a Contest
When you first launch, you want to create as much momentum and buzz as possible. A contest can help with that and help you rank.
For your podcast to rank, you want people to…
- Go to your podcast
- Download your first three episodes (Pillar Episodes)
- Leave a review
This shows iTunes that this podcast is great, which will help you move up in the charts.
You want positive reviews…
So you can be here…
…so, make sure the content is outstanding.
A contest can help you get the downloads, subscribers, and ratings you need.
Launching with a contest helped us hit Number One in the Business Category. It’s what got us to New and Noteworthy and helped us stay there for 8 weeks.
When you use a contest, make sure the prize is specific to your market. You want the gift to really appeal to your audience.
Your contest prize shouldn’t be something that appeals to the masses because you’re not aiming to attract everybody. You’re working on gathering people who will actually find value from your podcast.
For instance, if your podcast is about fishing, you wouldn’t want to give away a laptop or a tablet. A more specific and appealing prize to your audience would be a fishing rod or tactical gear.
Also, if you don’t have your podcast audience built prior to your launch, giving away a prize that’s really relevant to your prospective listeners will make them more likely to engage.
When launching your podcast…
- Call on your community and market to help you launch this podcast—make them aware of the podcast and ask them to share it
- Ask your friends to share the podcast and its contest
- Ask big media properties in your market to share the podcast contest
- Partner with people in your market that already have an existing audience, and ask them to share your podcast
Here’s a look at the contest we ran when launching Perpetual Traffic. Our contest prize was a ticket to our annual Traffic & Conversion Summit…
Over the course of the contest, which ran 2 weeks, we:
- Called on our current audience and community for support. We told them we were starting a podcast and asked for their help in getting it to rank.
- Asked people to subscribe and leave a review of Perpetual Traffic. After completing those steps, they could enter the contest.
- Sent emails. We sent 3 over the span of 2 weeks. Here’s an example of one…
- Distributed the contest to owned media (like our Facebook page). Here’s how we announced the launch of the contest and Perpetual Traffic on DigitalMarketer’s Facebook page…
- Ran Facebook ads to cold traffic (people who have never heard of you before) like this…
And that takes us to our final step…
Step 4: Continue to Generate Buzz
You can only be in New and Noteworthy for 8 weeks; so, what do you do after the initial 8 weeks?
To continue creating buzz and generating downloads, you need to create a distribution schedule.
When we first launched Perpetual Traffic, we published episodes on Tuesdays, and we distributed that episode via ads, email, and social media that same day.
So, that was our distribution schedule: all on the same Tuesday.
And that’s where we made a mistake. We were getting big peaks in our downloads on Tuesday, and then downloads would fall off drastically the rest of the week.
Peaks and valleys in your downloads won’t help you rise in the ranks on iTunes. To iTunes, consistent downloads are proof of a quality podcast, and that’s what you need to aim for in order to rank and continue to generate buzz: consistency.
You don’t want your downloads to spike, like the image on the left (what we were doing initially). You want a more gradual amount of downloads, like on the right.
We realized we were using the wrong distribution approach, so we diversified our distribution schedule.
- A new episode goes live on Tuesday
- On Wednesday we create a Facebook post announcing the latest episode and boost the post for 3 days. Here’s an example of one of these boosted posts for Episode 84…
- We email our list on Thursday to tell our subscribers about the new episode
- Then, throughout the week we consistently distribute the new episode AND redistribute old episodes using social media, paid ads, and email banners
Before you launch your podcast, plan your diversified distribution schedule.
What does your distribution schedule look like throughout the week to ensure you’re getting consistent downloads? It’s all about being really consistent in your distribution, while also diversifying your distribution.
(NOTE: It’s also important to be consistent with the day your episode goes live, so you train your listeners when to expect a new episode.)
Other Podcasting Tips
Here are a few other ways to keep subscribers and download numbers high after you launch:
- Mini-Series Podcasts: Create episodes that have more than one part: a Part 1, Part 2, Part 3. These are extremely powerful episodes because they essentially leave people hanging. It makes people want to come back to know the end result. That’s a big reason Serial is such a successful podcast.
- Guests or Guest Hosts: Invite guests on to your show that will draw an audience and interest your audience. Also, the guest is likely to share the podcast with his/her audience. For instance, in Episode 44, we invited Amy Porterfield on to our show to discuss how she launches products. After the episode went live, Amy shared this on her Facebook page…
- Reference: Again, continue to refer to past episodes, which will keep downloads on older episodes high, so you remain consistent in iTunes. Throughout each episode of Perpetual Traffic, we reference past episodes that flesh out a topic more than the current episode does. And, we reference the Show Notes to send traffic to the site and pixel quality leads.
- Breadcrumb Future Episodes: Include a little teaser or mention of what can be expected in a future episode. This gives the listener something to look forward to—a reason to not only anticipate your podcast in the future but to also come back.
When you start a podcast, don’t feel like you have to cookie cutter a podcast that is experiencing success. Take bits and pieces from popular podcasts that feel most natural to you and is best for your business.
Valuable content and consistency are the keys to a successful podcast… so, get out there and start podcasting!! 🙂