Insights for how to start a podcast with no audience I wish I knew five years ago.
I am coming up on the fifth anniversary of The Thought Card Podcast. While I am incredibly proud of my travel podcast, which has gained thousands of listeners worldwide and won awards and multiple grants, if I’m candid, I would do things differently. Especially when it comes to marketing and growing the podcast.
Since I started podcasting in 2018, technology has evolved. AI is helping us save time with editing and post-production, show notes creation and much more. Trends have caught on like wildfire, and many have faded into the sunset.
Podcasting over the last five years meant experimenting and investing in my professional development.
I’ve attended, hosted, and spoken at podcasting conferences and events. I’ve hired coaches and completed courses like the sponsorship course by Justin Moore, Brand Deal Wizard.
I’ve developed my podcasting marketing framework through trial and error and have supported dozens of podcast coaching clients in growing their downloads and developing authority as expert professionals.
All of these learnings inform this article today.
If I were to start a podcast with no audience, here’s what I’d do differently.
Growing a Podcast Audience From Scratch
1. Avoid following the crowd
There’s a certain extent of following the crowd we all do in podcasting, but it’s also important for us to think critically, evaluate our data, and come to our own conclusions about what will work for us and our shows.
As a new podcaster, I looked to podcasting influencers, gurus, and thought leaders for guidance. I adopted what they recommended without really understanding the reasoning behind it.
Feeling burnt out and unfulfilled, I started making changes, like taking seasonal breaks to rest and recharge, using the flat fee sponsorship model instead of CPM, and making strategic decisions based on listener data and feedback. I also followed my gut.
For example, as a new podcaster, I followed a boilerplate show notes template. It wasn’t until I leveraged my blogging and SEO skills to create comprehensive blog post-style show notes for each episode did I start to see more traffic to my website.
Listen to the gurus, filter the information you’re receiving, and implement what’s relevant to you.
Furthermore, don’t be afraid to branch out and do your own thing. Industry-standard is the benchmark; you can totally outperform.
2. Use your existing website
Despite knowing the importance of having a podcast website, I made a major mistake in creating a subdomain for my podcast.
Instead of creating a page within my existing website, I created a subdomain (subdomain.website.com) and housed all my podcast content there.
As a result, my brand became fragmented with two separate administrative logins and analytics.
Having two websites kept my main site from continuing to grow its domain authority, an important metric impacting search ranking.
For most cases, there’s no need for a subdomain. Create a page on your website dedicated to your podcast or launch a new website if you don’t already have one.
Need help building a podcast website?
Not only do these platforms have easy-to-use templates, but they require no coding experience. Additionally, there are lots of podcaster-specific features to support growth, engagement, and monetization.
3. Write detailed show notes
Speaking of show notes, I recommend creating in-depth show notes for each episode when launching a podcast with no audience.
Podcast show notes engage listeners, help attract new listeners, and can lead to sales, whether your own products or those of affiliates. However, it’s not enough to create brief show notes and expect an ROI.
Previously, I would rush the show notes creation process, but now I know show notes are one of the most important long-term focused marketing assets I can create for my show, which means I take my time and do it right.
For the best results, consider your episode description (found within the podcast players) and show notes (found on your website) as resources for current listeners but also a magnet for potential listeners who may stumble upon your content from search or social.
When show notes are brief, they may not include enough context to convince a potential listener to tune in or relevant keywords and phrases that improve search engine optimization (SEO). This can make it more difficult for potential listeners to find your show which limits visibility and reach.
When comparing episodes with brief show notes versus ones with more details, I noticed a difference in website page views, Google ranking, and subsequent downloads.
Instead of hundreds of page views a year, I receive hundreds or even thousands a month, and those top-performing blog posts usually correlate to more listens.
More in-depth show notes translate to more page views, more time spent on the page, and more listens on those episodes.
While I have a training dedicated to writing podcast show notes, some of the items I recommend for improving show notes include:
- Time stamps
- Links to relevant resources
- Memorable quotes, and more.
So why does this all matter?
With the growth of my website traffic, I qualified for website ads, an additional income stream to support my podcast and business.
As a full-time podcaster, income is an important KPI (key performance indicator) I use to measure the success of my efforts, so dedicating more time to writing show notes furthers my goals.
Worried you don’t have enough time to write detailed podcast show notes?
AI-powered tools like Swell and Capsho can help you save time creating show notes, newsletter copy, social posts, transcripts, time stamps, and more. Upload your audio files and allow AI to do the rest.
4. Email marketing over social media
Five years ago, I used social media primarily to get the word out about my show. I created promotional graphics and audiograms for guests to promote their episodes on social media too. While the results varied, guests typically did not share the episode.
This can be for several reasons: my brand colors didn’t match their feed aesthetics, or they don’t enjoy posting on social media.
If I were launching a new podcast, I’d leverage email marketing to get in front of my guests’ audiences. To do this, ask guests to share the episode with their newsletter and make it very easy for them to do so.
My rule of thumb now is skip social, and use email which offers direct access to your podcast. Social is great for building community and subtly reminding your audience your show exists and is worth checking out.
Email subscribers are interested in hearing from you and checking out what you have to share, so email them information about new episodes and older ones. And get your podcast in front of your guest’s email list too. Similar to podcast guest appearances, leverage email marketing for a warm introduction to a new audience that maybe never heard of you before.
Helpful Tip: Beside sharing links to the most common podcast players like Apple Podcasts and Spotify, share your universal link via Podlink so listeners can choose from various podcast players all in one place.
5. Optimizing episode titles
Finally, when I first started podcasting, I didn’t realize how important episode titles were in promoting listenership growth.
Even thinking about my own listening patterns, I am very selective about the episodes I listen to. Based on the episode title and topic, I decide if I’d enjoy the discussion. If a title doesn’t capture my attention, is irrelevant, or is too vague, it’s an automatic skip.
Episode titles are your first impression. You only have a few seconds to convince listeners your content is worth their time.
To improve episode titles, enroll in my workshop, Write Better Episode Titles: a self-paced training for structuring clear and compelling podcast episode titles and using keyword research to maximize discovery.
As with all journeys, we learn and grow along the way, but if you are wondering how to start a podcast with no audience, these are the things I’d keep in mind.
All of these insights helped me to grow my second niche podcast, Women of Color Podcasters, and will inform any others I launch in the future, so go ahead and read this article for more podcast launch and marketing tips.
For more podcast launching resources, get access to my free audio series where I share ten mistakes new podcasters make and how to overcome them.