Titles are not easy to make, even if you’re an experienced writer. With podcast episodes, the job of constructing the right title becomes even more challenging as you have to consider two (sometimes conflicting) factors: attractiveness to the target audience and attractiveness to the search engine. Every time you construct a title, you have to balance the two and once you’ve done that, try to fit everything within a limited character count! Tapping into her years of experience in podcasting and podcast production, Tracy Hazzard takes us through the basics of creating podcast episode titles that increase your listeners and get them to binge on your content. She goes through some of the most common mistakes that even experienced and top-notch podcasters commit and shares some best tips and practices on how to make your titles go from being so-so to becoming an audience magnet for your show.
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Best Tips for Podcast Episode Titles To Increase Listeners And Grow Raving Fans
I’m going to talk about one of the most important things you can do with your podcast and it has nothing to do with recording. It has to do with perfecting your podcast episode titles so that they become bingeable and engageable so that they increase engagement and people will listen. You can increase your listeners by doing this. Titling is something that everyone struggles with, even if you’re a good writer. It is the number one struggle I had when I wrote my column in Inc. Magazine. It was the hardest thing. They would come back and they would ask me for, “This is the exercise to go put together ten different variations of a title.”
I’m like, “Where do I have time for this?” As I talk a little bit more, I’m going to give you some tools that I used, which are cheats in make it easier to come up with ten different variations of titles until you get to the right languaging. When I audit and review people’s podcasts, I’m looking through their feed, I’m listening and I’m picking episodes to pick, this is the number one thing I see that is going wrong with successful podcasters out there. They aren’t doing a great job of titling. Remember, we have a two-title rule. I want to set that in because this is a Podetize and Brandcasters rule.
You want a certain title that’s attractive to listeners and then you may want another one that serves the AI, the bot part of the process. We try to accommodate both in the title, but sometimes, they conflict with each other. In other words, I put in my keywords because we are not allowed to keyword cram based on AI’s rules, however, if you don’t put the proper keywords in there, then you don’t get noticed if somebody only types in that small phrase, those small things. Podcast monetization might be something that I would normally want to be known for so that if somebody typed that in Apple feed, Google, and anywhere, they would find my episode and my show. We want to have those things going on there so that we can understand how that’s working and that AI is driving people to it.
They do short phrases because we don’t take a lot of time when we’re typing into our podcast app when we’re searching for shows. We don’t type in long convoluted questions. We type in something simple. If we’re going to ask Alexa, we might form it in a question. There’s a difference in how do it and we have to revolve still around the keywords that people want. I look at that as 2 to 3 words that you want to be associated and to lump them together. Make them right next to each other so it becomes a phrase and that’s going to be critical to our blog and to our searchability from an AI standpoint. It’s not necessarily the most common thing that a listener is attracted to.
When you analyze your headlines from a good headline standpoint from a journalist or the editorial integrity, you may look at that and go, “That should have been simpler. That seems weird.” Sometimes what we do is we put that phrase, colon and then the real headline. When we create graphics, we take that phrase off of it and we just put that a headline. We have the ability to utilize our headlines in three ways. We can utilize a portion of it on the graphic, which is always shortened because the graphic doesn’t have a lot of room. We want to have the keyword somewhere because that’s critical to the search engine that’s finding us. We may also want to have a longer title or what I like to use more often as the subtitle because that’s searchable within our blog posts. We want to combine those things together.
I’m going to go through the three things, but the number one thing that I find happening in people’s titles that is wrong is they simply put the name of the person they interviewed. I don’t know why I’d want to hear from the same person again and again so many of these guests go on different shows when I don’t know what they’ve talked about that’s different. When you’re only putting the name of a person, either I’ve never heard of them or I’ve heard them somewhere else, your chance of someone listening to that show is slim. You have decreased the ability for someone to find that interesting and listen to the episode.Create a title that gives your listener a reason to drop everything and listen to your podcast sooner. Click To Tweet
You’ve done a good job by putting their name in to increase your searchability. If someone searches that name because they were on another podcast and your podcast shows up and it’s more interesting and more relevant to me, I’m more likely to click on that one and listen to that person on your show. We do still want their names in there, we just don’t want it at the beginning and we don’t want it as the only thing. That’s the number one mistake I see successful podcasters and those digital marketers who are only using the podcasting for backlink strategy, this is where they go wrong. They could be doing so much more by giving it some keywords, titles and actual reasons to listen to the show. Why do I want to listen to that? That’s the number one thing I see.
Number two, I see is it’s is we put episode numbers and stuff at the beginning of them. When you do that, you shorten the number of characters that people can see. You’ve taken up by putting redundant things like your show name, your name, or your information at the beginning of this. If I’m already clicking into your show on Apple, on Google Podcasts, Spotify or whatever, I know who you are. I know the name of your show. For the most part, there are numbers already in there. If you have a numbering strategy for a specific reason because of your coaching lessons or whatever, put them at the end so that people can still find them. They’re clearly there. They’re going to show up well on your website, but they’re not making it so that I can’t figure out what your title is about.
The third thing that I see typically goes wrong here is that you try for the catchy cute name, but it doesn’t give you an idea of what I’m going to get from listening to the episode. That’s where my tips and my lessons for you on creating great titles are going to focus on. The structure, the feelings that you evoke in this thing are cutesy. While that works on TV, on a Netflix series, it doesn’t work so well in that edutainment world where most of you live as businesses, coaches and people trying to transact from your podcast, not just entertain from your podcast.
There’s a different world there. We want to make sure that people are checking these things out then they are compelled to listen to it right away. If it pops up on my feed and I see it, you want to give me a reason to drop everything and listen sooner. You don’t want me to go, “I’ll come back to that later.” It sounds okay. You want me to drop everything and listen to it right now because I must listen. I want to listen. That’s our goal with our titles. I’m going to talk about some of the structures of it. When we talk about titles, we need the AI to find us first. That’s the first thing I talked about. We don’t want to keyword stuff, but we do need to have those phrases in there because the algorithm depends on it.
What we most want to get across is a heart and the voice. What makes you special? Why your show is good? You want to keep that consistent throughout everything. If you’re the scary coach, the one who’s saying, “You can’t keep doing this. You need to stop.” You’re in their face, the Susan Powter model. When you think about that, you’ve got to have that consistent throughout your voice, your messaging, your heart, your soul needs to come across in the consistency of your title. Mine is very transactional. I want to create an immediate result for people. I want them to listen, learn something and put it into action. That’s the energy that I bring into every title.
I’m going to talk about some of my titles here. You can hear the changes in them. I’m going to talk about some that are on Inc. and some that are on The Binge Factor or here on the show. This is tip number one. The structure of them is that we want to focus on time period, speed, or something like that, where it gives it that sense of urgency. We want to address any objections that they might have in the process or the doubts that they have. We want to focus on an end result or an outcome. We want to focus on what they can gain by reading yours or what they can avoid. That might be something too. We’re focusing on what that end result might be. That’s the basic structure we’re always going for in a headline. I’m going to give you some examples so you’ll be able to know it.
Tip number two is we want to focus on the narrow. We don’t want to focus on the trees and not the forest. We don’t want to look at the forest for the trees. We want to look at the trees, but not only that, we want to look at the bark and the leaf on the trees. Remember that our episodes in podcasting are micro-focused. We’re trying to get one thing across each time. We’re trying to move them in little steps forward. We want them to consume our entire libraries. We want them to binge on us, to become our friends to believe that we’re their guide because we’ve served them. If we’re doing that, we got to keep that micro-focus in. We’re focusing detail on the leaves, not the forest.
We’re not just focusing on the stuff on it but on that feeling of it. We want to evoke how we make them feel in this place with this success if they take action. That’s our focus as well. The other thing is we want to add superlatives. This is our three. We want to use words like best and worst. We want to reveal the unknown secret, hidden. We want to give it sensory. We want to have these adjectives and adverbs. We want to bring them into our titles to make people feel things. We want to evoke that emotion. We want to get out of this neutral zone. You have an opinion. You have a viewpoint on the world.
You want to increase your impact. You want to do all of those things. Don’t muddy your message by giving them so-so titles. We want to make them believe that this is worth clicking on that. You have the energy, the interest and that you care deeply about this. That’s what we want to do. Tip number four is to make your audience feel smart. We don’t want to just make them look smarter. We do want them to eventually be smart, but we want them to feel smart along the way. We don’t want to talk down to them. We don’t want to have this. We want to inspire, inform and educate, do all of those in one day. The inspiration and information side of things requires us to put them into a feeling of being a part of this, not that we’re lecturing them. Your titles need to reflect that as well. They don’t need to feel like the titles making them feel dumb.
Tip number five is we want to be clear, concise and confident. We don’t want to use words like sometimes, many, usually. For you scientists out there, for those who are professors, this is a hard area. The preciseness of your language has to be different in titling. We want to remove these terms, even though you don’t mean this as a universal truth to every single person out there. We also don’t want to be over-eager about it and say, “Everyone should do this.” We want to also do that. With clarity, we want to use words that people understand.
The perfect example is leverage. People use leverage in titles all the time. Transformations and another one. We’re using these terms all the time but people prefer to read the word, use and you want to do I do that because the best length for a title is 55 characters long. That’s not a lot. You waste space with transformation, leverage and these kinds of long words when you could be using words like use. You don’t have a lot of room to create power in the other words that you need. Also, we want them to be less than ten words in total. The optimum’s right around is nine, which is why I say sometimes we have to use a subtitle strategy. We utilize that at The Binge Factor because I need to incorporate the podcast hostname and their podcast show.
Typically, on a subtitle, we put with so-and-so, host of whatever the show is. We’ll put that there rather than in the title. It doesn’t matter when you do it on Apple or any of those players because they will cut it off anyway so they won’t see it there. The length of the title doesn’t matter as much, except in Google on your blog pages. This is where we might take the title to have it along with all of that information because you want to use your maximum character length. It’s still searchable in Apple, but it won’t show it because of the shortened character length that appears and you keep your main title up to that 55 character length.Don't muddy your message by giving your episodes so-so titles. Make people believe that your podcast is worth clicking on. Click To Tweet
The other thing is that people only remember the first three words and the last three words of any title that they read. That’s what they look at. They look at the first three words and the last three words and the stuff in the middle disappears on them. You want to make those first three words your best and you want to be concise and clear with them. You want to make your last three words confident and concise as well.
Let’s talk about the exact proper mix. I use a tool called CoSchedule/Headline-Analyzer. It is a free tool. In fact, there’s a little extension that you can put on your Chrome browser and you can use it to analyze any headline. It’s super easy and quick to use. It gives you a numerical. It tells you why you should fix it. You don’t want to overthink it because you can get into the weeds playing with it. You can spend hours and hours doing it. I like to do it quickly to get a sense of where I am. Here are some of the headlines I’ve created by using this tool. This is a headline for Inc. Magazine. It is not one of my best headlines. It’s right around the mediocre mark according to this, but it is one of my best-clicked articles. This is why I’m sharing this one with you because it has the right power and messaging, but it didn’t quite do as well because of a few things on their rules.
The title is, Media and Advertising are Changing Fast: Here’s How to Survive the Challenge. It rated a 57 out of 80 or something like that. Typically, what the tool is looking for is 20% to 30% common words. There’s not a ton of common words here. There are a few uncommon words. It’s looking for 10% to 20%. These aren’t meant to make people feel dumb. These are meant to surprise them. That’s how we want to look at these uncommon words. They’re not things we come across every single day. They interest us and surprise us. In the podcasting industry because this article, in particular, isn’t for that, but we want to use some terminology.
This is where you might bring in some terminology that is used in your industry where you might want to say monetization or alternative monetization. Those are surprisingly uncommon words, but some keywords would tap into a podcasters head, who’d say, “I want to check that out.” We wanted to use words that would intrigue our core audience in that uncommon, surprising word area. If you’re saying 10% to 20%, you want to use 1 to 2 words like that. We want to have 15% or more of emotion expressed here. I use the word, survive because it’s a little more emotional challenge and it has a little more power. We also want to have at least one word or phrase that has power in it. These are the mixes that they’re looking for. You also want to make sure your stuff. Is it too neutral?
That was part of the problem with how this headline got a little muddied down because the more aggrandized words you use, the more Inc. would shut them down. We had this constant battle with trying to create cool titles, but not make them clickbait. They would get muddied down over time. Here’s one of my favorites that did well, The Multibillion-Dollar Value of a Good Night’s Sleep. Doesn’t that sound cool? There are power words in there. There’s intrigue in there. The surprising thing is the multi-billion dollar value comes from a good night’s sleep. That seems simple. That one is scored a 73. It’s high on the score in the Headline Analyzer.
This is another one of my favorites, Stealing the American Dream, One Invention at a Time. I was talking about a book called As Stolen On TV. If you’re an inventor, it would have caught your eye. It’s the American dream. This is really emotional at the same time, stealing. We’re talking about a power word there and an emotionally charged power. This is why this one does well. Let’s talk about a few podcasting ones, Simple Podcast Shortcuts: The Experts are Hiding From You. If you all are podcasters out there, doesn’t that sound like something you’d want to click on? Doesn’t that sound like something you want to hear? You want to check out to read because you said simple. It means it’s not complicated for me to do.
You said podcast shortcuts so the first three words I remember are simple podcast shortcuts. Why wouldn’t I want that? Why would I want to check that out? The Experts Are Hiding From You, that makes me mad. I want to find that out. I want to find out who are these experts? Why are they hiding from me? What are they doing with this? This is an interesting model of how we look at things. I was on Pat Flynn’s Smart Passive Income Podcast. I noticed that his title wasn’t a killer. It wasn’t amazing. He comes from a blogging world originally and I thought, “Let me see if I can jazz up his title.”
The title that he gave for our episode in our interview. I’m interviewed on his show. I have no control over what the title is, but our interview title was, For Episode Number 440, How to Create Bingeworthy Content with Tracy Hazzard. I’m pretty glad most of his listeners already know he means podcast content because it’s a podcast about podcasters. When you’re within the app or if you’re already within his feed and your listener, you’d be going, “I’m going to check that out.” There’s probably enough information there. To then move that same title and utilize it on the blog, you’re missing some of the points here. I put it through the headline analyzer and through my process of coming up with multiple headlines. I came up with, How to Record Bingeworthy Content That Builds Massive Trust. That’s a much better title that will get more clicks and engagement that follows the rule that powers it.
Build Massive Trust is the end of it, How to Record at the beginning of it. If you’re in that how-to learning mode, as most of his listeners are, you got something to listen to. It’s attracted you but build massive trust. That’s the outcome you want. When we say how to create binge-worthy content, there’s no outcome. There’s no result in there. There’s also no timeliness in there. None of that is like, you can add the word builds massive trust fast. It starts to get a little long by the rules, but it then creates that sense of urgency. The last title is, Why This Podcaster is Crushing It and Taking It Up a Notch? That is one where I then would put, “With so-and-so, the host of whatever podcast.” That’s the exact model of titling we utilize on the show all the time. This is our model for it.
These are some of the things that I thought I would bring you, giving you an idea about why these titles matter the most and why you should pay more attention to them. To review a couple of things, I said 55 characters. I don’t believe that includes spaces. I could be wrong on that, but I don’t believe that it does. Ten words or less probably close to nine is right about the right structure point. You need to still deal with the AI and being searchable and found. You have to find a way to work that in. You want to focus on the end result, address objections, building speed and timeliness in some way, and shape or form.
You want to focus on the narrow and the emotional and making people feel something in your titles. You want to give it lots of superlatives and secrets. You want to give it lots of that excitement and surprise. You want to make your audience feel smart in the process and feel smart if they click this and listen to it. The last thing is you want to be clear, concise and confident in the titles that you put out. CoSchedule/Headline-Analyzer. That’s the tool that I’m recommending for you out there to do this yourself, but also remember that we can structure formats for you as a part of your template.
If you want a particular structure like, “I want a certain one on my headline. I want a certain one in my podcast feed. I want a certain different style in my blog,” we can do that too. You need to sit down with your client success manager, in our case, it’s Christina or Alexandra. Those might be one of the two people you want to reach out to do that. For all of you out there, this is Tracy Hazzard on Feed Your Brand talking about perfect your podcast episode titles for higher engagement and listenership. Thank you all for reading. I’ll be back soon with another great episode.
- Inc. Magazine
- The Binge Factor
- As Stolen On TV
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