NOW UPDATED! This post on podcast advertising has been updated with new tactics for 2017. Enjoy!
The proportion of Americans listening to podcasts has nearly doubled in the past nine years and is projected to continue growing for the foreseeable future. And since interest in podcasting has risen so sharply, an increasing number of advertisers are leveraging this trend to promote their products and services.
According to the Podcasting Audit Study by Bridge Ratings, advertisers are expected to spend $500 million on podcast ads in 2020 – a trend that comes on the heels of significant past growth in the sector.
How can advertisers leverage podcasting to get the highest possible ROI? There are two crucial elements to success:
- Create an engaging podcast that supports your brand
- Develop a cost-effective marketing strategy to build an audience
Creating a stellar podcast isn’t easy, but finding ways to promote it can be even more complicated. Fortunately, there are a number of ways that you can get the word out. Here’s what you need to know about podcast advertising.
Why Podcast Advertising Is Growing
There’s one key reason that brands are paying more money for podcast advertising: it works, especially as traditional advertising mediums have become increasingly less effective over the past few years.
Look at the traditional banner advertisement. According to DoubleThink, the average display ad click-through rate is 0.06%. Of course, this figure is a bit misleading, as different ad sizes and placement spots can change this number considerably, but even the best-optimized banner ad is unlikely to get more than one click per three hundred impressions. The banner blindness phenomenon has arisen as Internet visitors have grown wary of banner ads and started to tune them out.
Data shows that podcasting stands heads and shoulders above traditional display advertising.
So why is podcast advertising a more effective way for brands to gain attention? For starters, it offers several unique benefits:
- Podcasts tend to be highly engaging mediums for delivering messages. Given the audio nature of podcasts, listeners tend to hang on to every word, making them an excellent audience for advertisers who are trying to get their brands known. You don’t have to worry about them tuning out your ad like they do in many other mediums.
- People listen to podcasts because they have deep respect for the host. And since they put their trust in the hosts of their favorite podcasts, they’re much more receptive to the brands that these hosts decide to endorse.
Podcasting is a great way to promote your brand and products, but there are also plenty of things that can go wrong if you don’t know what you’re doing. In particular, there are three key steps to a successful podcast advertising campaign that every brand needs to be aware of:
- Finding (or creating) podcasts that appeal to their target audience
- Understanding the nature of the intended audience
- Tailoring the ad to suit the brand’s conversion goals
Brands that understand these practices will likely find that their podcast ads substantially outperform those on other mediums.
Industry Standards for Podcast Sponsorship
There are two types of podcast advertisements that advertisers can run: 1) the 15-second pre-roll and 2) the 60-second mid-roll.
Think about the podcasts you frequently listen to. Usually, the podcast host will talk about their sponsors in one of two places in the podcast — the beginning of the podcast, or the middle of the podcast.
Pre-roll ads are typically around 15-seconds long, and are placed before the “meat” of the show’s content. Before the host actually dives into the podcast content, they’ll talk about the advertiser’s product or service.
Mid-roll ads are placed around the middle of the show, usually after the listener has finished listening to around 40-70% of the show’s content. Around the halfway mark, the host will talk about the advertiser’s content.
Some podcast hosts offer end-of-show ads as well. These typically work well, because they’re the last ad that listeners hear before the show ends. It’s a final call to action in a way, which helps drive more results for advertisers.
Ballpark Pricing for Podcast Advertising
According to John Lee Dumas, podcast hosts charge rates around the following numbers:
- $18 per 1,000 listens (CPMs) for a 15-second pre-roll ad
- $25 per 1,000 listens (CPMs) for a 60 second mid-roll ad
The more likely listeners are to be actively listening to an ad, the more it’ll cost. The advantage of pre-roll ads might be lower cost, but you might get as many people listening to the ad because of the fact that they haven’t gotten into the content yet.
Mid-roll ads cost more, but listeners are likely already engaged with the podcast episode at that point, so they cost more.
Understanding Your Audience
If you’re involved in any type of marketing, you should already have a detailed understanding of the demographics that your brand is targeting. That said, you may not fully get why the customers you think you know inside and out are watching a podcast—and you’ll need to align your efforts with their expectations before you can customize your podcast ad to meet their needs.
To get a sense of how you can better understand your audience, it’s helpful to see how the preliminary podcast advertisers were successful. In the early years of this medium, most of the people who listened were web developers and technology entrepreneurs. The most successful companies that advertised through podcasts focused on this demographic and knew how to customize their message to their specific needs.
Elements of a Successful Podcast Ad Campaign
Once you’ve clearly defined your target audience—as well as grasped why they’re listening to podcasts—you can use this new medium to actively grow your base of followers. In fact, there are a number of different strategies you can use to get the word out and build your audience, including the following:
Take Advantage of Podcast Directories
If you run your own podcast, there are a number of online directories you should explore submitting your show to. It’s a good idea to present your podcast to at least a few of them to broaden your exposure. Here are some directories worth looking into:
Everybody’s familiar with iTunes, as it makes up 75% of the global digital music market. But while some people attribute the start of podcasting to Apple (though the medium does owe its name to Apple’s iPod device), this form of communication actually got its start in the form of audio blogging as far back as the 1980s.
That said, iTunes is still a great way to share podcasts. To get listed, you’ll need to go through an approval process, which often takes a couple of weeks. In order to increase your chances of getting your podcast approved, follow the tips outlined on their podcast specs page, including the following main requirements:
- Viewers must be able to access the content without entering a password.
- It must meet the RSS 2.0 specification.
- You should include the recommended iTunes RSS tags.
- You must set the <explicit> tag to “yes” if you plan on using any profane language in your podcast. Keep in mind that you can’t use explicit language in your title, description or cover art, even if you use this tag.
- You can’t use any images that glorify sex, drugs, violence or other content that may be interpreted as obscene.
- You are prohibited from using trademarked words or images without prior authorization from the trademark holders.
As long as your brand isn’t highly controversial, you shouldn’t have any trouble getting your podcast published in the iTunes listing. Be sure to use appropriate tags in the titles and description because the iTunes search engine uses these tags to help users find relevant podcasts, so it will increase your chances of being found.
Podnova is another popular service for creating, hosting, and listing podcasts. Members of the service can access a number of great podcasting tools such as VLC Media Player and Podcast Studio. And since so many podcast developers use the platform to meet their technical needs, it’s also a great forum for people to find other podcasts to follow.
There are tens of thousands of podcasts listed on Podnova, so you need to be smart to ensure that your submission stands out. Here are some things to consider:
- Choose your category wisely. Podnova has 15 different categories that you can choose from. Some of these categories have many more submissions than others, so being listed in a community with fewer other podcasts will increase the likelihood of potential fans discovering yours. For example, there are about 10,000 podcasts listed in the “Network” category, while only about 4,000 are listed under “Security.” If you’re running a podcast on network security issues, then your best bet may be to submit to the security section so that you won’t be competing with as many other podcast hosts for attention.
- Update your podcast profile fairly regularly. By default, podcasts are displayed by Podnova according to their popularity. However, users have the option of sorting them by the date they were last modified. If you update your podcast regularly, it’ll be shown at the top of these lists, significantly increasing your likelihood of being found.
Odds are, you won’t get as many followers from Podnova as iTunes, but it’s still a good place to get some extra visits.
PodBean is another great platform for both hosting and promoting your podcasts. You can set up your podcasts for free on the service, though you can also pay extra for hosting, custom images, and other features. According to Quantcast, this site receives about half a million unique visitors a month, making it a great place to generate an audience.
Midroll is an example of an ad agency that focuses on podcast advertising. Midroll gives advertisers access to hundreds of shows that target the type of audience that they’re looking for. They target hosts who integrate ads effectively into their own show, so that the ad sounds like it’s natively placed.
Podcasts can drive significant ROI for a business. For example, podcasts became the number 1 marketing channel for Fracture, a photo decor company. The CMO was initially skeptical because podcast ads are hard to track in terms of ROI, but later realized that podcasts drove most of their customer growth (which they tracked through things like coupon codes and referrals).
Get Guests to Help Promote Your Episodes
If you have guests on your podcast, consider asking them to help promote the episode. They’ll probably be happy to do so, since you’ll both benefit from greater exposure.
Scott Britton, the founder of Life-Learner.com, has a podcast with nearly 20,000 subscribers. In his 13th episode, Britton interviewed his friend Mike Hrostoski. While Mike wasn’t one of the most widely-known guests he had on the show, it wound up being the fourth most popular episode Scott ever ran. Why was that?
Mike helped create exposure for the episode by sharing it via his e-mail list, allowing Scott’s show to reach a lot of listeners he wouldn’t have otherwise, while also increasing Mike’s profile within a new audience.
If your guests have a strong social following or e-mail list, ask them to help promote your podcast. You may be surprised by how much traction it’ll receive. (As a bonus tip, check out the promotional email template on Scott’s site that he created to help drive podcast engagement.)
Use Relevant Communities on Reddit
Surprisingly, Reddit is one of the best platforms out there for generating leads for your podcast. The site offers a number of important benefits to take into consideration:
- Reddit has millions of active users, so it won’t be difficult to find people who are interested in your content.
- No matter what industry you’re in, you can easily identify relevant niche subreddits to promote your podcast on (more on this below).
- Users are easy to engage, meaning that it shouldn’t be too difficult to convince them to check out your podcast.
However, there is one rule that you absolutely must adhere to from the start. You can never spam Reddit. Redditors can spot a sales pitch a mile away and are wary of new users who have never added anything to the conversation. Make sure that you provide some value to the communities you’re participating in before trying to promote anything.
Finding the Right Subreddits
There are thousands of different communities on Reddit with whom you can engage, but should find the ones that are best represented by your target podcast audience if you want to use the site to build your subscriber list.
For starters, Reddit has a great subreddit on podcasting that you may want to check out. This subreddit currently has nearly 22,000 members, so it can be a great way to generate some free exposure. However, you have to be very careful to avoid over-promoting your podcast, as this subreddit has strict rules to limit spam. To drive attention for your podcast, create a text post in the “Daily Episode” section and add a link to your episode within your post.
There are other subreddits through which you can try to promote your podcast as well. Scott Britton mentions that he’s had good luck driving traffic to his podcasts through the marketing subreddit. Or, say you’re running a podcast to promote the paleo diet. In this case, you could submit threads to the paleo or alternative diet subs. Any subreddit could work as long as it has at least a thousand members and you’re abiding by the moderators’ rules.
Get a Shout Out from Other Podcasters
One of the most effective ways to draw attention your podcast is to receive referrals from other podcasters. Your best bet is to find podcasters who appeal to similar demographics. They don’t necessarily have to be in the exact same vertical, but you’ll have an easier time getting them to give you a shout out if there is some overlap between your topics.
There are a couple ways you can get other people to promote you. For instance, you can pay them for a mention, or you can exchange favors of some kind (such as promoting them on your own podcast or through your e-mail list). Try to maintain ongoing relationships with these podcasters. If they become active, loyal supporters of your work, they’ll start plugging your podcast on their own, without your even having to ask.
Use Podcast Advertising Networks
If you have a little bit of money to throw around, you might find a worthwhile investment in one of the different advertising networks that exists specifically for promoting podcasts. Midroll is arguably the most popular podcast advertising network, and RadioTail is another great platform worth checking out.
The main purpose of these sites is to help podcasters monetize their content; however, you can also use the platforms to promote your own podcast. For best results, you’ll want to start by browsing the other podcasts that work with your chosen service, and then find those that serve a similar audience as your own. If a match exists, work with your account manager to design a podcast advertising campaign that connects you with the right shows at a budget you can afford.
Use a YouTube Channel and PPC Ads
After all these years, YouTube is still the most popular video-sharing site. In fact, over 17% of all Internet traffic is delivered through YouTube. But what does that have to do with podcasting? YouTube is actually a great place to share episodes of previous podcasts.
Sharing past episodes on YouTube can be a great way to find people who are browsing YouTube, especially those who’ve heard of your podcast and shared it socially in the past. You’ll get even more exposure if you promote your episodes through YouTube Ads as well, since this can be a surprisingly cost-effective advertising channel compared to other online channels.
Related Content: Why YouTube Advertising Is Low-Hanging Fruit for Marketers
You can also promote the YouTube channel for your podcast—or the website for your podcast itself—via Facebook Ads. Jon Loomer, Rick Mulready, and many other marketers have run Facebook Ads to grow their audience.
Here are some guidelines to create a successful Facebook ad campaign for your podcast:
- Before logging into your Facebook Ads account, you need to clearly define your conversion goals. The average Facebook ad costs about $0.24 a click, and that cost is rising. You don’t want to be paying for traffic to have people check out your podcast for only a couple minutes and then bail. Rather, you want to generate leads that are likely to subscribe, download an episode or complete some other conversion goal.
- Next, you’ll need to create a campaign through the Facebook Ads platform. Set “clicks to website” as your conversion goal, since your ad will be linking to your podcast website or YouTube channel.
- Specify the devices that you want to target. Some people will be watching podcasts through iTunes, while others will be using services like Stitcher. Since iTunes is an iOS platform, you’ll need to create a campaign that targets “iOS Devices Only” for your iTunes traffic. You’ll need to follow the same practice with Stitcher in order to target Android users.
- Clearly specify your target audience demographics. Facebook allows you to target people by age, gender, interests, and many other factors. The targeting options you choose, obviously, need to be consistent with your target customer. One specific profile that you may want to target is users who have “liked” a similar podcast.
- Post the link to the URL of your podcast or YouTube channel page. Track the results of your campaigns to determine which option results in more conversions.
- You’ll also have the chance to edit some of the metadata for the page you’re trying to promote, including headline, description, and display URL. It’s strongly recommended that you read these carefully. You need to come up with copy that looks engaging enough to entice your target audience to click on your ad. Provide a clear overview of your podcast and give a good reason why your audience should follow it. Doing so will help qualify your leads so that you’re only paying for traffic from visitors who meet your conversion goal.
Tracking Your Performance
Once your podcast ads are up and running on Facebook, you’ll want to start monitoring their performance.
Unfortunately, it isn’t as easy to track conversions for podcasts as it for other conversion goals. If you’re trying to measure downloads, form opt-ins or CPA leads, you can set your tracking application to fire a pixel when a conversion goal is met. Since you can’t do the same thing with podcasting, you’ll need to get more creative with your analysis to see which conversions goals are worth tracking and which ones are met.
Rick Mulready has stated that he’ll start monitoring podcast downloads as soon as he starts a Facebook Ads campaign. If you know what your daily downloads are like before running your Facebook campaign, you can track how they change when your ads are live. If you take this approach, try not to run any other marketing campaigns at the same time so that you’ll be able to distinguish the effects of your Facebook ads from other factors.
Facebook can be an excellent way to draw relevant viewers to your podcast, though you may need to experiment with it for a while to find a system that works.
Promote Through Your Blog
Your blog can be another great place for driving listeners to your podcast. One of the challenges many podcasters face is that a lot of people still don’t understand what podcasting is. Some industries find it particularly difficult because their target demographics aren’t very tech-savvy and they need a lot more coaxing before they subscribe. It’s a lot easier to convert people into podcast followers if they’re already loyal readers on your blog.
To take advantage of your blog as a medium to boost your podcast, explain to website visitors that your podcast offers even more great content than what’s found on your site. Some of your readers may be uncomfortable with the idea, but they’ll at least be willing to try it out if you’ve already earned their trust.
You obviously won’t want to promote your podcast on every page, but you can come up with several blog posts that can easily be used to plug upcoming podcast episodes.
You can also use these blog posts as landing pages in your podcasting marketing funnel, and then you can use native advertising platforms like Outbrain or Taboola to drive visitors to them. Make sure that both your blog posts and your native ads are carefully optimized to draw only qualified leads to your site. You want to make sure that they’re going to actually subscribe to your podcast if you’re going to be paying for them.
Make Your Podcast Epic
You can have the best podcast in the world, but it won’t mean anything if you don’t take the time to promote it. Promoting a podcast is going to take time, but it’ll be well worth the investment once you’ve built a loyal audience that helps take your business to levels you never thought possible before.
Does your brand run a podcast? What strategies have you used to promote it? Feel free to share your thoughts and recommendations by leaving a comment below: