If you’ve landed here, you’re probably curious as to how you can make your podcast one of the good ones. The industry has become over-saturated. And with millions of shows already either available, or currently in production, new ones need all the help they can get when it comes to standing out from the crowd.
It’s important to recognise that producing a podcast takes a lot of planning, skill, and experience. You need to be prepared to put in many hours of practice. Because those that do are the ones that reap the rewards. Podcasting wasn’t a thing when US President Teddy Roosevelt was in office, but he was exactly right when he said:
“Nothing in the world is worth having or worth doing unless it means effort, pain, difficulty.”
So to help you out on your quest for greatness, we’ve rounded up 11 expert tips that are key for boosting podcast growth and driving overall success.
But first things first…
What Defines a “Good Podcast”?
You might be wondering what we actually mean when we talk about a “good” podcast?
The answer, of course, is subjective. Because what one person might see as good, another might not. That being said, there are definitely some grounding qualities that can (and should) be incorporated into every show. It’s these basic guiding principles that will increase a podcast’s chances of success.
Arguably one of the most important elements is the host’s presenting skills. This applies whether you’re recording solo or interviewing guests. It’s a skill. And it’s not something you’ll pick up overnight. Chris Williamson, host of the hugely-popular Modern Wisdom podcast, recently spoke to us over at Podcast.co about his level of dedication and commitment to continually improving as a podcast host. He said:
If you really want to be great at podcasting, you have to hone your craft. For example, I recently hired a speech coach to prepare me for my TEDx talk. He specialises in precision with the spoken word. And he came in and honed my diction. It turns out I actually had a lisp, but he helped me with my pronunciation. And that’s what professionals do. They master their craft.
Check out the rest of the interview below:
11 Elements That Make a Good Podcast
Below are 11 great qualities that make for a good podcast. You should aim to apply each one to your own show.
1. An Original Idea
To give your podcast the best start in life, it needs to be different from the rest. And it needs to offer listeners something that other shows don’t. Having a unique premise will help you stand out in the sea of noise. Good podcasts are built around one idea or concept, and they stick to it. They don’t try to please everyone.
When brainstorming different concepts for your show, make sure you know exactly who your target audience is. Do your research and gather your data. Podcasts that speak directly to their desired listenership are the ones most likely to drive engagement and success. Think about what type of format is best suited to your audience as well. Do you think they’d prefer an interview podcast? A solo one? A journalistic exposé? Or something else entirely?
2. Well-Structured and Planned Out Episodes
You know what they say about failing to prepare. Putting a rough episode plan together can make all the difference between a good podcast, and one full of awkward blunders. Maintaining a solid, consistent structure throughout your episodes is key to keeping audiences engaged. Making a bullet point list of talking points will do the job. So if your mind goes blank periodically, you can quickly refer to it to get back on track.
3. Plenty of Host-To-Listener Interaction
Taking the time to actually engage with your listeners is key. Almost all successful hosts maintain an active social media presence. Whether you prefer Instagram, Twitter, or LinkedIn, engaging with listeners helps to build a sense of community around your show, and keeps them coming back for more. You might want to ask your audience for feedback, reply to comments, give daily updates, or just post behind-the-scenes content.
Daniele Bolleli hosts both The Drunken Taoist and History on Fire. Over the years, Danielle has gone out of his way to respond to as many listener messages as he can. He outlined his process for replying as efficiently as possible:
It’s genuinely sad when somebody takes the time to reach out and you don’t reply. It feels ugly to me. I understand if you get too much then it's simply not possible. But as much as humanly possible I would like to avoid that. To make the task less overwhelming, I discipline myself by setting a time limit on it. Each day, I respond to as many messages as I can within a 30 minute window and pick up where I left off the next day.
4. Good Storytelling
Good podcasts thrive off good stories. It’s as simple as that. And by good stories, we mean ones that are genuinely interesting to listen to because of the way they're told. Good storytelling will retain listener attention, and increase the chances of listeners coming back for more. So it's a high-priority skill to begin developing.
Fun, entertaining content will always resonate more with listeners than something that’s stiff and bland. And content that makes people laugh, or sparks debate, is far more likely to be shared on social media. So when recording, always try to think of ways you could inject life and humour into topics that otherwise may be perceived as dry or "boring".
5. Value (And Lots of It)
Whether your podcast’s aim is to educate, inform, or entertain, shows that typically give listeners value are the best ones. What do you want people to take away from your show? And what are they actually coming to you in search of? The better you can satisfy their needs, the more likely you are to win them over.
As the host, you should try to be as entertaining yet informative as you can. Both characteristics work hand in hand. If all you ever do is inform and completely neglect your duty to entertain, you’ll have a hard time reaching and retaining listeners.
Providing listeners with actionable advice in an engaging way keeps them coming back. Good podcasts signpost fans towards free tools, real-world examples, and other sources of insightful information. We’d strongly recommend adding any relevant links into the show notes for each of your episodes (more of that later).
6. Regular Publishing Schedules
If you’re serious about podcasting, a consistent release schedule is essential.
Fans like to know when they can expect new content. So don’t keep them guessing. If you do, you’ll lose a lot of listeners along the way. Decide on a release schedule and stick to it. Are you going to publish weekly? Bi-monthly? Monthly?
The frequency doesn’t really matter, you just need to make sure you can sustain it. Be clear about your publishing schedule, whether it’s every Wednesday, or the 15th of every month.
If you can’t commit to publishing new content all year round, you might want to consider releasing your show in seasons. It lifts the constant pressure to release new episodes every week. And it also gives you time to reflect and plan upcoming content. However, it inevitably slows down the rate at which you can grow your audience. So it’s a tradeoff to weigh up.
7. Appropriate and Relevant Guests
If you interview experts on your show, be very selective about who you have on. In today’s podcasting market, interview-based shows live or die on the quality of their guests. The guests you choose to feature in your episodes are implicitly reflective of the quality of your show. Aim for guests who are experts in their field, and are the right fit for your audience. In other words, who would your audience genuinely be interested in hearing from? And what value will they get from it?
Of course, the bigger the guest is, the harder they are to book. But you should maintain strict standards here. Only interview guests that truly reflect the quality and integrity of your podcast. You’ll have to spend more time pitching and you’ll probably receive quite a few rejections. But booking great quests is a numbers game. A 5-10% success rate is to be expected, especially if you’re just starting out with your podcast.
8. An Engaging and Interesting Host
We mentioned this at the outset, but it’s worth repeating. All good podcasts need a good host. We could spend quite a lot of time outlining the characteristics of a good podcast host, but to quickly sum it up, we’ve listed some key traits below:
- Be knowledgeable on and passionate of the podcast’s subject matter
- Dedicated to finding the right guests
- Driven to research each guest
- Have the ability to make guests (and listeners) feel comfortable
- Encouraging of respectful debates
- Be able to stay authentic, and true to self
If you (the host) can embody the majority of the character traits listed above, you’re well on your way to becoming a great podcast host.
Sit down with our founder, James Mulvany, as he talks you through how to master your presenting skills:
9. Professional Production Quality
An awful lot of podcasts are very poorly produced, and give off a distinctly amateur vibe. The good news is this makes it easier for you to stand out and actually produce a good podcast. If you invest in the right equipment and spend the time required to produce high-quality, professional-sounding episodes, you’ll instantly be ahead of much of the competition.
The best way to produce a good podcast is to invest time into planning, editing, and post-production. Especially when it comes to your audio quality. Bad audio is always magnified when the listener puts on a pair of earphones. For example, we wouldn’t recommend using Apple AirPods to record your show. They have notoriously bad bleeding, and will never be able to deliver studio-quality results. Don’t skim over this. Poor-sounding episodes can cause immediate listener drop-off. Always aim to use a professional microphone where possible.
If you need some guidance in regards to which equipment to invest in, check out the guides below:
10. Effective Podcast SEO
A podcast with a good SEO presence will perform much better than one without. And by that, we mean having an attractive and informative website that you can drive traffic to. It’s here that you can create a resource hub for all your episode show notes, transcriptions, social links, and anything else you deem relevant. If people can discover your previous episodes when searching relevant terms on Google, it gives them a much longer shelf-life and can significantly boost audience growth over time.
An in-depth explanation of podcast SEO is beyond the scope of this article. But if you’d like to learn more about it, check out the article below:
11. Concise Call-To-Actions
Making clear, direct call-to-actions (CTAs) during your episodes is a key factor of having a good podcast. And inevitably, this can play a big part in your show’s growth. Is there something specific you’d like listeners to do? It might be following you on social media, signing up to your newsletter, or joining your community.
Whatever it is, you want to state it explicitly in your episodes (usually in the intros and outros). Don’t go overboard though. Cramming your podcast full of CTAs will make it sound like one long sales-pitch.
So, What Makes a Good Podcast?
And that’s it.
Incorporating each of the 11 elements above into your podcasting strategy is a sure-fire way of setting your show up for success. Hopefully you found each point insightful, and you have a much clearer understanding of what actually makes a “good” podcast.