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Issue #9 • September 2017

How to Land Your Podcast on the iTunes Top 100 List

Content Marketing Podcasting

In the past, if you saw someone with ear-buds in at the gym or the grocery store, you assumed they were listening to music. Now it’s just as likely that they’re catching up on the latest episode of their favorite podcast.

While podcasting isn’t new, we have seen a recent surge in the number of people creating podcasts. It’s almost hard to find an influencer in the blog and business world who doesn’t have their own podcast.

So does that mean podcasting is already too saturated? Not in the slightest.

There’s still enough room for new podcasters to succeed within the audio platform, especially those who focus on creating valuable content for an untapped specific audience.

You don’t need to be a celebrity or household name to rank in the top 100 on iTunes either. Some of the most unlikely, niched down podcasts have jumped to the top of the iTunes charts because of the unique content they offer listeners.

What does it take to increase your iTunes podcast ranking?

The answer isn’t absolute. iTunes has released limited information on how to rank your podcast. And while iTunes is fairly close-lipped about their podcast ranking algorithms, expert podcasters have shared tips they’ve learned from launching successful podcasts. But we’ll get into those in a bit. First, let’s talk about what lists you can even rank on as a new podcast.

New & Noteworthy

iTunes new and noteworthy podcasts

The first list is called New & Noteworthy, the most common list new podcasters try to land on.

There are two main ways to get on the New & Noteworthy list:

  • New: Podcasts that show up in this list are usually within their first 8 weeks of launching. This is why it’s important to spend time promoting and marketing your launch from the get-go.
  • Noteworthy: iTunes will handpick specific podcasts they like based on reviews, subject matter, and guests. They intentionally keep the qualifications broad so they can pick their favorites.

Featured Collections

iTunes featured podcast section

Another iTunes list to focus on is Featured Collections. Each Featured Collection has a central theme that could cover anything from current events, common topics, or a popular “best of” category.

Because the Featured Collections are determined by your podcast category, it’s important to choose the most relevant category from the start. You can see some of iTunes' genres here, which is also important in ranking your podcast in the Top Podcasts list for your specific category.

Now that you know what lists are available to you as a new podcaster, let’s talk about how to rank your podcast.

7 quick tips on how to rank your podcast in the Top 100

There are many factors that go into increasing your iTunes podcast ranking. Some of them are backed and proven by iTunes, and others are inferred from long-time podcast content creators.

We are, however, certain these tips will help you in attracting more listeners. And as you know, more listeners results in more downloads and subscribers, all of which are needed to get noticed and rank on iTunes Top 100 List. In no particular order, here are those tips.

Choose a memorable name for your podcast

This may seem like a no brainer, but it still earned a spot on our list. When you first start brainstorming names, make sure you search on iTunes and Google to see if anyone else is already using the name.

If someone has already taken the name, consider if there’s a variation of the name that’s different enough from the existing podcast that you can use. If you feel like the name is still too close to the original, scrap the name and search for the rest of your options.

Your podcast name should also be concise. Think about a new listener searching for your podcast for the first time. A simple podcast title like “Goal Digger” is better than “How to Be a Goal Digger in Your Business”. A concise name is still highly searchable on the podcast app as long as the name isn’t taken by another podcasts (and this one is already taken by Jenna Kutcher!).

Encourage your listeners to review your podcast

One of the best ways to increase your ranking in the iTunes Top 100 list is by getting quality reviews. Listeners have the opportunity to give your podcast one to five stars (with one being the lowest, five being the highest) and leave a short text response with their rating.

In a perfect world, every listener would take the time to write a thoughtful review, but it rarely works out that way.

Instead, podcasters have to regularly point their audience members to the review section on iTunes and encourage them to leave a review. It may seem redundant, but people need to hear something a few times before it sinks in and especially before they take action.

Of course, the best way to entice listeners to review your podcast is by offering an incentive.

Here are a few creative ideas to encourage listeners to review your podcast:

  • Give them a freebie. Did someone say free? You could give away a free eBook, mini course, or another bundle of goodies. Think about what would offer the most value and use that to encourage your listeners to write unique reviews.
  • Give them a shout out. You may have seen influencers give shout outs to their fans on social media when they share a screenshot of a specific podcast episode. You can do the same by asking your listeners to share their favorite episode with their own audience so you can feature a few of them in your roundup.
  • Host a giveaway. Instead of giving away a freebie to every reviewer, you could enter reviewers in a drawing for a bigger prize. Just make sure you follow FTC guidelines for randomly selected giveaways.

Create attention-grabbing cover art

When a listener is searching on the iTunes charts for new podcasts to listen to, they see one of two things. The first is the title of the podcast, which is why it’s important to choose a memorable name. The second is the cover art since it’s used as the podcast’s thumbnail.

When you’re creating cover art, first make sure it fits within iTunes guidelines. The photo must be square-cropped at a maximum of 3000 x 3000 pixels and minimum of 1400 x 1400 pixels. To optimize the image for mobile devices, iTunes suggests compressing your image files.

Now let’s talk about the fun part– designing your cover art. The best podcasts are those that have a bold, distinct design that’s unlike any other podcasts. The cover art must also naturally support and visually interpret the topic of your show.

In these three examples, you can clearly tell what the podcast is all about. The name of these podcasts and their cover art is perfectly in sync.

Attention grabbing podcast cover art

Promote your podcast on social media

One of the most common questions asked in the podcast creation process is, “How will people find my podcast?” Even though it’s not on the charts quite yet, there are still other ways to help new listeners find your podcast.

One way is by sharing episodes with the social media audience you’ve already built. You can also reach new audiences by using relevant hashtags on social media. Just make sure to change up the copy of each social media post so it doesn’t come across as spammy in the hashtag feeds.

Also, make sure the call-to-action of every social media post mentioning your podcast is always to subscribe to your podcast. This ensures that each episode you produce will automatically be downloaded to their devices, increasing your download rate.

Encourage your local and online community to subscribe and share

Even if you don’t have thousands of social media followers yet, you probably have a circle of family and friends who are interested in your podcast. In the excitement of your launch, they may be willing to share your announcement post on social media or create a post of their own.

If you’re waiting until you have a certain number of followers to start– don't. It doesn’t take much to get the ripple effect rolling…

Never underestimate the power of word-of-mouth marketing, especially when you’re ramping up your podcast. You’ll see your statistics steadily increase as you continue to grow.

Write great copy to increase your podcast ranking

After you attract a potential listener with your podcast title and cover art, you have a chance to seal the deal by including great copy with each episode. The episode description content is your last chance to entice a reader to click the “download” button.

Here are a few things you can add into your description copy:

  • A familiar greeting that explains what your podcast is all about
  • A summary of what listeners can expect from the episode
  • More information about the interviewed guest  
  • Any unique quotes or humorous stories from the episode

Writing engaging headlines for each episode can also help you attract the attention of new listeners. The episode headlines are especially important for mobile users, which makes up about 86% of all podcast downloads.

When searching for episodes on a mobile device, only the first few words show up before the title is cut off so make those words count. For example, instead of using a headline like “Episode 001: How to Find a Great Real Estate Agent”, lead with more information on the topic.

In this example, only the episode number and the first half of the title would show up, giving you zero idea of what the episode is about. You’d want to change the episode title to “Choosing a Real Estate Agent & Buying Your First Home” because the preview is more descriptive.

Another way to write great copy for your podcast is in your podcast show notes! These are usually hosted on your website, almost like a blog post, and break down what was talked about in the corresponding episode. For example, you can see how Marie Forleo and Being Boss use their show notes to summarize their long-form podcast episodes.  

Have a private archive of already produced podcast episodes

Now let’s get into the nitty gritty of the podcast episodes themselves. We recommend launching with three episodes when you’re ready to publish your podcast, but it’s also good to have at least one episode in your queue.

This eliminates the hassle of having to record and edit another episode right after you launch. Then you can spend the first week focused on promoting and marketing your podcast.

The extra peace of mind of having multiple podcast episodes already finished will help you focus on increasing your iTunes podcast ranking, which makes all of the behind-the-scenes efforts worth it.

Ready to increase your iTunes podcast ranking?

We hope to see your podcast in the New & Noteworthy section soon. We’d love to hear more about the podcast you’re creating and what your bigger goals are with it. Let’s talk about it in the comment section below.

Good luck, and may the iTunes podcast rankings be ever in your favor.

Kayla Hollatz

Kayla Hollatz is a copywriter and content creator for creative entrepreneurs who want their words to connect and convert. Few things make her happier than ghostwriting for clients in her studio, aka her four-season porch with a lake view. She can frequently be found fighting Minnesota winters with a mug of hot chocolate in hand.

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