Creating better episode titles is one of the most important steps to ensure your podcast episodes are discoverable, will stand out and get listens as well as new subscribers for your podcast. But creating compelling episode titles can be hard. And in this episode we will highlight our favorite tool for crafting great podcast episode titles.
But first, a quick reminder about what we are doing in this series of episodes of the Podcasting Strategy Show: We are covering business podcasting from a strategic angle: Specifically, why show notes play such an outsized role for podcasting as a content strategy. And so episode titles should not only be compelling to your listeners, but also work towards a business ROI, meaning SEO presence and discoverability for your podcast.
And while we take on this subject from our perspective as a podcast marketing and production agency and what we do for our clients, the intent here is to be "open Kimono". This means we are sharing our agency methods here, in part to inspire Indie and DIY business podcasters to adopt some of what we cover. And for our clients, these methods account for 65% of their listener growth.
Last time we started to talk about the many tools in our agency workflow that save us a ton of time and allow us to scale podcast SEO show notes syndication. I'm progressing this series by talking through the various workflow phases involved in scalable show notes production from an agency point of view. In the last episode we talked about the crucial role that pre-season and pre-episode SEO research plays, and we also covered some logistics tools. And once you’ve decided on the keyword for optimizing your episode, it is then time to incorporate this into your podcast episode title. And that’s what we are covering today.
First I'd like to highlight the outsized importance of episode titles, and how they contribute to discoverability and growing a listener base.
Some of you might be skeptic about when I make a statement like "outsized importance of show notes" for business podcasting. OK. But don't just take it from me. A little later-on I have some case studies from industry thought leaders at PodNews.net and elsewhere to share, which that basically amplify, if not prove my point.
Three quick answers we as podcasters already know:
A lot of us assume that a major way of having our podcast content found is on podcast listening apps like Apple Podcasts, Spotify and so on. But in order for this to work, people have to search inside those apps.
Technically, this depends on how content is made searchable inside listening apps. In other words, which parts of a podcast are indexed for search.
So I came across a case study and cool, if dorky experiment: Mark Steadman teamed up with James Cridland, the editor of Podnews, to experiment with nonsense words in the name of science.
The idea was to pick a different nonsense word for each relevant podcast-related tag in our RSS feeds, and to see which apps picked up which words.
So here are some of the findings from this experiment, I really want to give Kudos to Mark and James here, since doing this must have been quite labor intensive.
Now James and Mark did not limit their research to just Apple Podcasts, they also looked at Amazon Music, Apple Podcasts, CastBox, GoodPods, Google Podcasts, IVoox, Listen Notes, Overcast, Player FM, Pocket Casts, The Podcast Index website, PodcastAddict, Spotify, Stitcher. This list then represents the most common listening apps, and from my perspective a large enough data set to draw some conclusions from.
So no matter how great a podcast description you have crafted for your show, or for each episode, in Apple Podcasts people cannot find your podcast or any episode based on that content.
What this means is that search for your podcast title or words in your podcast description will likely show up in most apps. But your episodes are much less visible via in-app search, since ONLY the titles of the episodes are indexed for search.
This is precisely why at Polymash we focus on podcast web SEO, because on the web your episodes WILL show up, if optimized correctly.
Hopefully this will at some point get addressed. I am not quite sure why no-one has taken up the challenge of indexing episode descriptions yet. Is it that podcast app makers thing that in-app search is not important?
Imagine if in-app search reliably showed not only new podcasts to listen to (as is currently the case), but also had episode level suggestions to offer to app users. I would think this would be beneficial for listeners, app creators and podcast hosts alike.
Let me just comment here on the term "Podcast SEO", vs "Podcast App SEO". Most people don't consider that there is a difference. There is a common misconception that all Podcast SEO has to do with being found inside listening apps.
And what James and Mark mean here is about "Podcast App SEO": Trying to have optimize your podcast to be found inside apps is severely limited.
Of you've listened to any of our content before, you will know that we focus on Podcast Website SEO as a way of growing a show, especially for business podcasters.
To Mark and James these findings highlight the need for good podcast websites. Compelling titles, rich and meaningful show notes, useful links, host and guest bios; all of these are useful for placement within Google and other web search engines because they’re useful to humans.
I think it’s unwise to put too many eggs in the podcast-app search basket. Search is just not evolved enough within these apps to be meaningful.
Let's consider the structure of how podcast titles are often set up. There are common patterns for episode titles any business podcasters will likely have seen on other podcasts they listen to. For example, listicles are a format, like “The Top 10 Tips to do XYZ”. Or Question-based titles, which often present provocative propositions. Or how-tos that offer tutorials and tips.
There are tons more formulas and formats, and if you'd like to see a fun and insane way to generate a ton of title ideas, here is a title generator to create tons of title suggestions based on a keyword you enter: https://www.title-generator.com/
I did this for this episode, and I’ve put an image of 12 out of 100s in the show notes:
These formulas only go so far, and skew on the "click-bait feel" side of things. So we recommend staying clear of them, other than to generate ideas if you're really stuck.
Instead, here are some questions to ask as you are crafting podcast episode titles:
Consider your own behavior when listening to podcasts, does the title of the episode matter? I would argue in many cases yes, depending on the nature of the show. If I'm listening to a news podcast, perhaps the title will not matter. But for most of my areas of interest, if the title is boring or irrelevant to me, I might choose to skip it. On the other hand, if a title promises something super interesting and then the content does not deliver, count me out.
Personally I prefer clear over something clever or mysterious, and I also think that this is easier to SEO optimize.
My personal preference: “clarity” beats “being cute” every time.
Why does something grab your attention in the first place?
When I’m browsing through podcast episodes on my devices, I prefer short descriptive titles that make it clear what I’m about to listen to.
A title that makes the benefit of listening obvious is very compelling. Thought personally I find this is pretty hard to fit into a few words.
The right episode title length is a subject for discussion. My advice is to err on the side of too long rather than too short. It is challenging though, I think factors like SEO title length, fitting on a mobile screen, covering all the other points on this list and still having enough room for your guest name make it so.
Personally I often find myself coming up with creative episode titles, but then realize my keyword is not present in the title, which from an SEO perspective is a “must have”
I do not like to think of titles in terms of "dos and don’ts". But here are 3 considerations I would offer:
I would ensure the optimal length for SEO presence. Too short is bad, too long is bad as well. The tool we will review later offers guidance on this.
Including your guest's name in the episode title is a matter of preference.
Including episode numbers in the title is another matter of opinion with many business podcast experts.
The only "rule" I would suggest following here is to never place the episode number at the front. I recently saw an example of this where the beginning of each episode title started with "Episode 1, Part 2:" For podcast consumers, It wastes 18 characters of space on small screen, often obscuring what the actual title was like. I've included a picture of this in the show note.
But perhaps the more important aspects here is that this dilutes SEO: Google places the most importance on the beginning of your title, so starting this with "Episode 1, Part 2:" lowers SEO potential.
So I hope that up to this point I’ve managed to convince you that episode titles are important, and also not that easy to create. Which brings us to the tool I want to review in this episode, called “Headline Studio” by a company called CoSchedule. This system delves into some of the science, psychology and language behind what makes titles compelling. It performs analysis of titles based on:
And it offers word banks, SEO analysis and a whole lot of additional features.
Headline studio gives you data-backed suggestions and a roadmap for improving headlines or episode titles you initially think of. It offers suggestions for effective words your title should include, and provides a headline score based on CoSchedule’s criteria on what makes a good title.
Headline studio also have the following features to make your experience in using the tool much more convenient.
Headline Studio shows you exactly how many common, uncommon, emotional and power words your title contains and shows you the best possible way to balance out the words your title should contain. Their recommendations are based on word usage and title patterns proven to be successful on social media.
Headline Studio provides you with their built in thesaurus to find words for each of their categories. Browse through their word bank and discover fitting words and their synonyms to create the ideal word balance.
The tool also provides short breakdowns of what your title contains which includes :
Headline Studio also includes information on how your headline/title would fair SEO wise. It includes the following features :
Headline Studio is simple and easy to use, go to their site, insert your headline/title and click analyze. It will then display the information which we listed above to help you craft a better title. We suggest trying at least 5-7 versions of an episode title you had in mind, it’s not just the tool, but the practice of creating these variations that makes you better at this.
To use the CoSchedule Headline Studio web app, just visit their website here.
Create a free account, and beyond the free version you will also get a trial for several premium features and headlines as well.
Personally we use this tool and its older counterpart, Headline Analyzer, to improve the title of each piece of content we create, get a clear understanding what our titles are missing and to learn how to craft amazing titles.
I should mention that if you are using a Chrome browser, there is also a useful extension available, you can find it here.
I can virtually guarantee that your episode titles will improve through a tool like this.
The reason I'm so confident is not just because it is a great tool: It’s the iterations that count
It is the practice and discipline of iterating — when you create 7 variations of a title, which Headline Studio practically makes you do, you’re bound to improve. It makes you think about your listener, your SEO, your episode topic in a new way. And the end result of choosing one of 5-7 variations will predictably create more interesting episode titles and gain you more listeners.
In conclusion, Headline Studio is a great tool for creating new titles and improving your old ones. It works for your blog and for your podcast episode titles. It provides you with a fair measure on how your title would do and provides you details steps on what to do to increase your own score, which certainly beats figuring out why your titles are not doing well through trial and error.
Disclosure: This paragraph above contains an affiliate link, and we may earn a small commission if you make a purchase, at no extra cost to you.
This was the second of a multi-part series highlighting the workflow tools we use as an agency to produce high impact show notes for our podcast clients. We have seen the success of this approach last and build through several years, as podcasting has become ever more competitive and celebrity driven.
It does not have to be this way, and podcast show notes are the key to ever-green discoverability for any podcast that has a business content strategy intent. And, as we covered in this episode, better podcast titles are key.