With more than 250,000 podcasts on iTunes, it can be hard to get listeners to pay attention to your nonprofit’s show.
You can stand out in this crowded field—and attract new audiences—by ranking high on the charts iTunes uses to track podcast popularity. This puts you in front of people looking for new programs and gives you an opportunity to attract new donors and supporters.
Recently at our sister company, Mac’s List, we launched a show, “Find Your Dream Job,” that hit number four on the iTunes careers podcast U.S. chart and remained in the top 10 for most of eight weeks.
During those first two months, people downloaded our show 19,068 times, an average of more than 300 downloads a day. We also saw an increase in other areas of our business, such as increased newsletter subscriptions.
While iTunes doesn’t disclose how it ranks podcasts, engagement appears to make a huge difference. The more people you can persuade to download your show and leave a rating and review, the higher you seem to rise in iTunes charts.
Here are nine lessons we learned that can help your nonprofit crack the iTunes top 10 chart (and stay there):
Plan, Plan, Plan
Creating and running a podcast from scratch is like producing a new blog, magazine, or other publication. Take the time not only to plan your podcast well in advance, but think through the launch of your show and the six months that follow.
We put together a creative brief for “Find Your Dream Job” six months before our launch. We also created separate marketing and production plans. Each document had goals, timetables, and a budget. We also and invested in podcasting training well before we produced our first episode.
Choose a Compelling Title
Visitors to the iTunes store will glance at your show’s title for just a few seconds. Pick one that explains what you offer and how it will benefit your listener.
As with any headline, keep your name short and to the point, using just a few words. Our show, “Find Your Dream Job,” for example, serves people looking for help finding meaningful work and careers.
Invest in Good Art
Art work matters on iTunes. As with the show title, you only have a few seconds to catch someone’s eye. If possible, it’s a good idea to hire a graphic designer to create your artwork, something that stands out and includes your logo.
iTunes functions as a search engine for podcasts. And, like Google, Yahoo, or Bing, it rewards programs that use targeted keywords. Create a list of the words and phrases that target listeners might use and weave these words into your show description.
We put keywords into our podcast name and description, individual episode titles, and even the author field. All this makes it easier for listeners to find us when searching on iTunes.
Commit to a regular publication schedule and honor it, no matter what, so listeners know they can expect to hear from you regularly and look forward to it.
Encourage Binge Listening
As every Netflix and Hulu viewer knows, on-demand media like video streaming favor binging. This is true for podcasting, too, so use this to your advantage by posting multiple episodes on your launch day. This will boost your download numbers and give you multiple chances to hook listeners.
Build a List
Don’t rely on iTunes alone to send listeners your way. Create and grow an email list that offers subscribers extra content they won’t get from iTunes, such as show notes or special materials for each episode.
Ask for Ratings and Reviews (Early and Often)
Every podcast on iTunes has a ratings and review page. As with downloads and subscriptions, the more engagement the better you appear to do on the iTunes charts. Ask supporters, coworkers, and friends to leave a rating and comment.
Make the Most of Your First Eight Weeks
During your first eight weeks on iTunes, you qualify to be featured in the “New & Noteworthy” sections on the site’s home page. This is an opportunity to get in front of people who might not normally see your show, and get additional credibility and authority for your show. This is where your colleagues, partners, friends and family becomes important — encouraging them to review your show during the first eight weeks helps build momentum and extends engagement to your target audience.
Has your nonprofit launched its own podcast? Share the lessons you learned in the comments below.