Imagine a road trip without any signs. Not a single indicator for what road you’re on, which exit you’re approaching, or how fast you can go.
Sure, you’d still have your road trip playlist and snacks to keep you company. With the right outlook, it could even be fun. But you can probably forget about making it to your intended destination in good time.
Hosting a podcast without regard to metrics is the same as your sign-less road trip. You’re bound to have an adventure and meet some new friends—but it might take you twice as long to end up where you want to be.
To help you reach your podcast growth goals quicker, we’ve rounded up insights from creators about the most critical metrics for podcasters to track.
Where to find podcast metrics
Before we get into the good stuff, we need to talk about tools. You can track your podcast’s success in three main places: your hosting platform, distribution platform, and third-party data aggregate tools.
Your podcast hosting platform
One of the benefits of using a podcast hosting platform is having a built-in podcast tracker. Tools like Buzzsprout, Transistor, and Simplecast automatically track standard metrics for you. That means you can view downloads, subscribers, listener location, and more from the dashboard where you upload and manage your episodes.
Your distribution platform
Self-published podcasters can still track analytics. Podcast distribution platforms like Spotify, Apple, and Google provide podcast analytics for their channel so you can check performance between listening apps.
Some of the most popular podcast distribution apps are:
Third-party data aggregate tools
A third-party tool like Chartable is helpful when you want to combine analytics across distribution platforms. The app’s free plan gives you analytics, rankings, and reviews, while paid plans include advanced metrics like retention. Since different podcast platforms can have their own terminology for the same or similar metrics, compiling them into one place makes it easier to compare.
7 podcast stats that creators use to track their progress
When I sat down to write this guide, I didn’t want it to be another swarm of stats that made you say, “huh…cool.” and then go about your way. So, I asked creators to share their favorite metrics and offer tips on how to actually leverage them.
Below, you’ll see insights from:
- Sequoia Denise Freeman, the founder and host of Next Steps Media Radio
- Jeremy Enns, podcasting entrepreneur and founder of Counterweight Creative
- Lexie Smith, the founder and host of Pitchin’ and Sippin’
- Pat Flynn, the host of Ask Pat
#1 – Downloads
Whenever someone listens to your podcast, they have to download it first. A download means someone has a) saved the episode to listen to later or b) “streams” it by downloading it to a temporary location on their device.
Downloads are among the most ubiquitous podcast metrics, so pretty much every hosting and distribution platform will have this info. Keep in mind that you may see a difference between “total” and “unique” downloads since the latter eliminates multiple plays by a single person.
Buzzsprout lists that the average podcast receives 28 downloads in the first week an episode is published, while the top 1% of shows received more than 4,300 downloads in the same time.
Pat Flynn, the founder of Smart Passive Income, advises podcasters to use metrics to find places to research deeper. He shared,
The most important thing you can do is talk to your audience. Discover what they like, and do more of that. You can get some of that based on the numbers. Like, you will discover which topics seem to get a higher download count, which is important.
— Pat Flynn
How to use it:
- Measure traffic growth to your podcast over time
- Compare episode downloads to find popular topics
- Show podcast traffic to make a case for podcast advertising opportunities
#2 – Subscribers or followers
If people like what they hear and want to stay in the know, they can subscribe to or follow your podcast. On some apps, new episodes will automatically download for subscribers. At the very least, followers should get a notification when you post a new episode.
Some podcast platforms, like Spotify, will tell you your podcast subscriber number (but only on that platform). Another way to track your audience is by getting them on an email list. Each time someone signs up for a newsletter from a podcast page, you can tag them as “podcast listeners.”
Sequoia Freeman created her podcast in 2021 and has big plans for the future. She shared,
My goal is to have over 100 email subscribers before January 2022. The number is small, but small steps turn into huge goals. Convertkit has made it very easy for me to build an email list landing page, automate my emails for new subscribers, send broadcasts to my current subscribers about new episodes, and draft a waitlist page for my upcoming course I am selling. I currently have a 58% open rate for my emails.
My major podcast goal is to make passive income per episode and for the podcast to be more than just a passion project.
— Saquoia Denise Freeman
How to use it:
- Measure how engaged your audience is and your likelihood of having repeat listeners
- Test your email list as a promotion channel for your podcast
#3 – Month-over-month growth
Typically, analytics have more meaning when you add context or comparison. For example, tracking metrics over time lets you see which direction growth is trending and how quickly. If your growth rate is high (even if your total downloads feel low), it’s a sign that you’re on the right track and are creating something people are interested in.
Before you have your past performance to reference against, it can be tough to know what a “good” number is. Jeremy Enns, the creator of the Podcast Marketing Academy, shared that,
Early in a show's life, the growth rate will likely be much higher, possibly above 30% month-over-month, before slowing down as the show matures.
Typically, I aim for an average growth rate of 10% month over month, which equates to tripling the size of the show every year.
— Jeremy Enns
How to use it:
- Understand growth over time
- Compare monthly growth to past efforts
#4 – Consumption rate
Speaking into a microphone by yourself can already feel like talking into a void. Luckily, podcast platforms measure how much of an episode someone has listened to and report this “consumption rate” back to you. The exact data points vary by platform, but you can expect to see something like average minutes listened or percent of the episode listened to.
When you monitor your podcast consumption rate, you can at least tell that people have listened to more than your intro. Top distribution platforms like Google, Spotify, and Apple share podcast consumption data.
Jeremy Enns likes to compare consumption rates to downloads to understand what worked well about an episode.
If an episode has a low number of downloads but a high consumption rate, I know the content was good, but the titling or promotion of the episode was lacking and didn't get enough people to press play.
On the opposite side, if there are a lot of downloads for an episode but a low consumption rate, I know the topic, title, and/or promotion were solid. Still, the content didn't keep people engaged.
In either scenario, this information helps me understand where the gaps are that I need to improve.
— Jeremy Enns
How to use it:
- Determine where people are most likely to hear an ad within an episode
- See if the content remains engaging through the episode or if you need to tweak your editing or interview style
#5 – Ranking
It’s impossible to tell exactly how platforms rank podcasts (well, unless you work on the algorithms). Generally, though, your place in a popular podcast list depends on things like downloads, subscribers, ratings, and reviews. If you rank higher, you get the added bonus of discoverability.
Having a podcast benefited my business in establishing credibility, furthering my reach, and providing valuable content to both my clients and the larger PR and entrepreneurial community. To date, my podcast ranks in the Top 5% of podcasts globally.
— Lexie Smith
You can find your podcast ranking either directly from the distribution platform or from a podcast analytics tool like Chartable. Keeping an eye on the top podcasts in your category (and where you fall on the list) gives you an idea of what kind of content your audience likes.
How to use it:
- Review top podcasts in your category to find areas where you can offer something unique or try a unique format
- Get a sense of how multiple podcast metrics are working together to affect your rank
- Call out your rank when you want to establish credibility or expertise
#6 – Shares
Wouldn’t it be nice if your listeners helped you promote your podcast? If you measure and optimize for shares, that could be your reality! Tracking shares lets you gauge how many people are passing along your podcast to friends.
A listener sharing your show is the single most important metric to note. Unsolicited shares are incredibly hard to come by. Even one listener caring enough to share an episode, according to Jeremy Enns, is the single clearest sign you’re on the right track:
Shares are hard to track, but I do my best to keep track of them manually in a tracking spreadsheet I've created for myself. While I'm at it, I always make sure to shine a light on that listener and shout them out in any way I can to (hopefully) encourage others to share as well.
— Jeremy Enns
Your podcast hosting or distribution platform might not let you know how many people clicked a “share” button from an episode. There are still ways to measure social sharing, though. For example, you can measure retweets or shares of social posts promoting episodes and aim to increase engagement. Or, you can use a newsletter referral program to incentivize subscribers to share your work.
How to use it:
- Find your most excited listeners by tracking who engages with your social posts
- Ask listeners to share the episode to increase your reach
#7 – Income per episode
If one of your podcast goals is to use content to boost your income, it pays to look at per-episode earnings. In addition to calculating income for the month or year, you can see which topics and tactics had the biggest payoff.
The way you measure income will depend on how you monetize your podcast. For example, it’s straightforward to understand earnings for an episode with a sponsorship deal. If you use your podcast to promote your paid content or services, you’ll need to set up a way to track traffic between channels.
How to use it:
- Analyze which episodes led to the most sales and investigate what worked
- Track income growth over time
Grow your podcast with ConvertKit
Creating, managing, and growing a podcast comes with a lot of moving parts. Working with multi-purpose tools can streamline your workflow, though. With ConvertKit, successful podcasters have promoted their podcast, built relationships with listeners, and earned an income.
Templates and easy-to-use editors let you create landing pages and lead magnets in minutes. Each time you release a new episode, you can share it with your email list to make sure they never miss a beat. ConvertKit Commerce makes it easy to collect payments and automatically send digital purchases when you're ready to sell a product or service.
Ready to grow? Try ConvertKit for free today.