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What Podcasters Ought To Know About Ranking A Top 100 Podcast

podcasting tips Jun 03, 2018

By now you have realized there are a lot of moving parts when it comes to starting up a podcast.  As if getting the right equipment, figuring out how to record, grabbing guests, knowing where to post your podcast and everything else wasn't enough, you're now worried about getting a podcast ranked in iTunes Apple Podcasts.

Too often I hear from friends and clients alike that they want to rank in the Top 100 or show up in New and Noteworthy.  While I don't have a problem with this, ranking shouldn't be the biggest priority on your podcasting to-do list. 

Today I want to try and set some realistic expectations for the podcaster when it comes to launching and growing a podcast the right way.

APPLE'S MYSTERIOUS RANKING ALGORITHM

For the past 6-7 years I have attended and spoken at conferences/trainings about podcasting and what you can do to make an impact with grabbing more downloads.

During those first few years, the big thing that was being touted was "ranking" your podcast inside of iTunes Apple Podcasts in the New and Noteworthy section within a week or two of launch. 

"Grab as many ratings and reviews as possible."

"Get everyone to subscribe to your podcast."

"Release an episode a day for a month."

"Doing all of these things will get you to show up in New & Noteworthy."

I've heard a lot of things when it comes to ranking a podcast, but none of these assertions are absolutely conclusive.  In fact, ranking a podcast is still nebulous to most podcasters to this day.   

Like you, I've hopped into the Podcasts app countless times, found a podcast on the front page of the app and discovered it only has 1 episode that is less than 10 minutes long--yet it's ranking.

Then I do a search inside of the app for a particular topic and come across a podcast that has hundreds of high quality episodes, is current and is content rich, yet this podcast isn't even cracking the Top 100.

As I have attended these conferences over the years and continued to figure out what makes a Top 100 podcast, no one has quite figured out how Apple is ranking these programs.  For every podcasting conference I have gone to, there is someone from Apple that is lurking in the background, but they aren't revealing the secret ranking algorithm.

There are assumptions and theories, but nothing has ever been concrete as to how to rank.

WHY DID RANKING BECOME A PODCASTER'S OBSESSION?

The whole idea of "ranking" on the first page of iTunes was spawned years back when some podcasters "found" the magic formula for ranking.  Ranking meant more downloads, which meant more listens, which meant potential customers.

As these podcasters shared their "secrets" in these conference sessions, attendees became obsessed with creating a ranking podcast that could generate money.  In order to satisfy this obsession, these panelists were pushing audience members to join a mastermind where they were teaching the "magic" formula for ranking.

Actually, I don't blame these panelists for attracting these people into a mastermind sales funnel, but I couldn't buy into this philosophy because I knew many wouldn't start a podcast.  And if they did start a podcast, they lacked a skill that only those in radio understand. 

In fact, I still know people to this day who dropped thousands of dollars on a mastermind and never started because of the most popular question that is searched on my YouTube channel:

"How do I become a great podcast host?"

or

"I hate how my voice sounds. How do I not sound like I suck?"

My YouTube channel proves this to me every single day when I get comments on this particular video:

 

AVOID APPLE PODCAST RANKING FOMO

Maybe it's just me, but my biggest beef with the podcasting industry is that it's mainly filled with amateurs who waste my time within the first 30 seconds of the program. 

I do understand that podcasting has a sense of charm when it comes to the everyday person looking to start a program.  But the truth of the matter is, unless you don't know how to present great information, you're only wasting someone's time.  

Online marketers/podcasters will tell you to "just start" and not worry about the little details.  I agree with this sentiment about 80% of the time because there have been times when I've been afraid to start something and never succeeded because I never started. 

But when I'm being told that by starting a podcast to rank on the front page of New and Noteworthy is going to reveal riches and faster authority, then I have to question the motive.

Beware of the FOMO (Fear Of Missing Out) that is being touted out there in the marketplace.  Some marketers will do just about anything to get you in their mastermind by telling you that you can get faster results in less time by hacking the system.

Becoming a great podcaster and developing your presentation systems are probably more important than the rank.

CUTTING YOUR TEETH AS A LIVE PRESENTER

When I first cracked the radio microphone back in 2001, I SUCKED.  BIG TIME.

In fact, I remember the first time I got on the radio, I stumbled and stammered all over the place for a minute and thirty seconds.  When I was finished with that break, I accidentally dropped the biggest F-BOMB about 3 feet from the microphone while it was still hot (turned on).  Who does that?  This guy.  

But it didn't end there. 

I had plenty more of those mistakes in my first month as a radio presenter.  I really didn't know what I was doing nor did I have the confidence to command the microphone like I do today. 

Thankfully I had the help of my seasoned co-workers and program directors to teach me how to present with brevity on a microphone.

For a radio newbie, a traumatic microphone experience is enough to discourage the hell out of anyone and make them question whether they are good enough to even present themselves in a "professional" manner--especially if you're doing live radio.

In the case of podcasting, it's a bit different.  Podcasting is treated like you're recording a Grammy-winning album and that frustrates the hell out of me.

In podcasting, you can record as many takes as possible before getting the right one to publish on a podcast. 

This is too time consuming.

Too many podcasters lean on this safety net as a crutch as to why they can't become a better presenter. 

Even though podcasting can be anything you want it to be, the common podcast wants to replicate what radio presenters have been doing since the early 20th Century.  And the last time I checked, radio presenters learn how to present on the fly with some preparation.

Great presenters rank because they cut their teeth through practice.

HOW YOU ENVISION YOURSELF AS A PODCASTER

When I look back on my countless faux pas, yeah they were embarrassing at the time, but they weren't enough for me to quit presenting. 

You see, my dream of being in radio spawned circa 1988 when I heard my local morning show host get on the air and make me laugh.  That was when I thought, "Not only do I want to make everyone laugh, but what if I could share my thoughts with the world and change just one person's perspective based on how I see the world?"

In 2018 when I hear someone say they want to start a podcast, it's usually because they feel they have a unique perspective on the world that no one has seen before.

Their perspective may have been inspired by a podcast they heard and think they could create something more engaging or even better.

Arming yourself with a microphone has always been more than just changing a perspective.  It has always been about envisioning your impact on the world.

As a podcaster, you have to ask yourself:

"How do I want to impact the world with all that I am as the person I am today?"

"What do I need to do to get my point across clearly to my listeners?"

"Which steps need to be taken so that I can become a better orator and presenter?"

"Which technology do I need to learn to help me become a better podcaster?"

"What will help listeners gravitate toward me?"

Before you even think about ranking in the Top 100 in iTunes,  think about the aforementioned questions first. 

Think about your WHY instead of your WHAT.

PERSONALIZED HACKS FOR YOUR OWN PODCAST STYLE

One thing I know for sure when it comest to "hacking" anything is that some hacks are remedied within the marketplace to make the playing field even.  

Sure you can find some hacks out in the world that will help you check out faster at the grocery store or get a better deal on a hotel room, but when it comes to being a top-shelf podcaster, there aren't that many "common" hacks when it comes to presenting.

Being a quality presenter takes tons of time and practice.  I've been in radio for 18 years and I still don't consider myself the best presenter.  But I'm always working to be better than the previous day.

Being a better podcast presenter is no different than starting a new exercise routine, eating healthier meals or creating a new office workflow system. 

As humans we all want to be as efficient as possible in our daily lives.  We all want to save ourselves time so we can become better, right? 

Well, this sentiment includes practicing at becoming a better podcast presenter.

So how do you "hack" your way to becoming a better presenter?

By recording, editing, posting and repeat.

By recording, editing, posting and repeat.

By recording, editing, posting and repeat.

By recording, editing, posting and repeat.

This is all I have done in radio for the past 18 years and as I have gotten better at producing live radio programs, it is now second nature to me. 

I've gotten so good at this game that I can be going to the bathroom, hear 45 seconds of the current song over the speakers, realize I have to finish up, wash my hands, dry up before I walk back into the studio and key the microphone --with 5 seconds left before I have to to talk into my next song--without freaking out.  

I've figured out my groove in this part of the job.

I've also figured out how to get listeners to keep listening to me.

I've figured out how to get them to follow me on other platforms.

I've figured out how to relate to them and I keep doing this over and over.  

As a result of this repetition, I've been able to consistently rank as the #1 radio broadcaster in my demographic.  How do I rank #1 every time in the Phoenix radio market?

I show up every single day.

I set up alerts to give me the news instead of searching news.

I research on how I can connect with listeners beyond the radio.

I connect with listeners in person.

I share value through humor, information and free giveaways.

I set myself up for the advantage every time.

The methodology is no different to podcasting and your potential to rank your podcast in Apple Podcasts.

LEARNING HOW TO BE 10-15% DIFFERENT WITH YOUR PODCAST

There is no "easy" button hack when it comes to becoming "radio ready" when you start your podcast.  There is only practice.  

As you practice, you will learn that you will come up with your own "hacks" to figuring out your own workflow as a presenter, editor and blogger.  

I know this because my method of running a radio station differs by about 10-15% of the other radio presenters that are out in the world.

The same will hold true for you as a podcast presenter.

In other words, you acquire that 10-15% uniqueness over time.  That uniqueness may earn you a spot in the Top 100, but again, ranking shouldn't be your priority.

Even though you hear some stories where some podcasts have suddenly ranked in the Top 100 doesn't meant that yours is going to do the same.  In fact, you may never see any type of ranking for as long as you have your podcast, but it doesn't mean you should quit podcasting.

DEEPENING THE LISTENER RELATIONSHIP WITHOUT RANKING

As I have seen popular ranked podcasts inside of Apple Podcasts, I have learned that a ranked podcast is all value.  It's about the relationship between the host and the listener.

Ever jump into a ranked podcast and notice the program has its shit together with sponsors, sonic bumpers and workflow organization?  It's possible they may have been coached on how to implement strategies into their podcast, but some of those people learned how to do this stuff through trial and error. 

One other thing you will notice with ranked podcasts is that the popular ones typically have solid websites, large social followings, and email list and a means to keep the relationship active. 

Active relationships look like this:

  • Pushing listeners to get on an email list.
  • Pushing listeners to follow social media profiles.
  • Pushing listeners to subscribe to premium podcat services.
  • Sharing new products and services.
  • CONSTANT COMMUNICATION.

A SUCCESSFUL PODCAST THAT ISN'T IN THE TOP 100

Just a few weeks back I interviewed Jamey Jasta, the host of The Jasta Show.  When I pressed him on how he has seen success with listener acquisition, he noted that he has deepened the relationship with premium services and better content. 

But getting a listener to "pay" is not the primary way of deepening the relationships.  Jamey continues to provide the value of a radio-style program in the form of a podcast.  He gives shout outs, features special guests his listeners know and love and communicates with his listeners via social media. 

He said that part of his success is a result of the fact that he was in an international touring band and was able to transition some of those fans into podcast listeners.  He then turned those podcast listeners into paying subscribers to his "ad free" podcast.

But the biggest thing he wanted me to know was that it took years to grow as a presenter to see his podcast get to where the relationship is deepened.

The best part? 

Jasta isn't always in the Top 100.

He's focused on the fans he currently has with the hopes that current fans influence new fans to listen.   

So you see, ranking doesn't necessarily award you the relationship.  It may give you visibility, but the relationship between you and the hardcore listener is more valuable. 

BECOME A BETTER PRESENTER TO GRAB THE SUBSCRIPTION

At the end of the day, if you sound like you are a solid talent that knows how to run a podcast, you will want to to ask your listener to subscribe to your podcast.  Tell them, things like:

"If you found this episode helpful, make sure to subscribe in iTunes or wherever you get your podcasts."

"Don't miss podcasts like this one, so make sure to tap the subscribe button in your app."

  • Grabbing the subscription in the app is the first step to introducing your listener into your universe. 
  • You deepen the relationship by getting the listener to follow you on social profiles and visit your blog. 
  • You reinforce the relationship by getting the listener to grab exclusive content on your email list.

But this all doesn't happen overnight. 

Focus on becoming a better podcast presenter.

Focus on deepening your relationship with new listeners.

Focus on becoming a better editor.

Focus on your research and education for your podcast content.

Focus on becoming awesome in all aspects of podcasting.

If you're lucky, people will notice your program and your podcast may rank.

But...if it doesn't, it's not the end of the world.

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