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PodSchool Podcast | How to write great episode titles

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How to write titles that will make people listen

You should think about your episode title like the headline of an article.

It’s the thing that makes people click, so you need to pack as much information as possible into a small number of words. 

But you also want to be truthful.

The rules of click-baiting apply like they apply on blogs and websites…don’t do it, unless you want to suffer the consequences.

If you want listeners to keep returning to your show, week after week, you have to build a relationship with them.  And just like in real life, the best way to build a relationship is through trust.

That starts from the moment they engage with your content.  So if you’re promising to deliver something, you’d better dish it up.  Otherwise, your audience won’t stick around for long.

So what do you put in your episode title to make them want to press play?

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Shorter is always better

This isn’t just because people don’t have time to read your 700-word titles, it’s because they won’t see them.

Most people will be looking at your podcast on their phone and if your title is too long it’ll cut off or they’ll get that annoying “…”

Ideally, you want a title that will catch people’s attention as they’re scrolling quickly through, so try and be as succinct as possible.

How to choose your podcast name

Read

Don’t forget to use keywords

Including keywords people are searching for will help your episode stand out when they’re flicking through the feed.

It’ll also help your show turn up in search.  Especially if you’re including those keywords on the show notes pages for each episode.

This can be a way to get your show noticed even when you’re small.  Since you probably won’t be able to compete on the charts, if you’re putting keywords in all the places they need to be, you’ll increase your chances of being surfaced in a search.

This is also why it’s a good idea to play in categories and niches that are less overcrowded because the competition isn’t as fierce.

How to write great podcast descriptions

Read

Don’t waste space with words like “episode”

I’m not sure a single person has listened to a show because of an episode number in the title.

You want to make sure you’re kicking things off with killer content not administrative details.

This isn’t just best practice from a user perspective, it’s also the approach iTunes recommends.

If you want to add information about the episode number or whether it’s a bonus or trailer you can do that in the back end of your podcast host…

Under “type” you choose full episode, bonus or trailer.  A full episode is a regular show, a bonus is a piece of additional content or something your listeners weren’t expecting and a trailer is audio you might drop before the launch of a new show or season to give people a taste of what’s coming up.

Highlighting the type of episode in your podcast host is a much better approach than writing words like “episode” or “bonus” in the title.

Should you include episode numbers in the title of each show?

Read

Should you be descriptive or clever?

This will always come down to personal preference and will depend on the vibe of your show.

For my interview series, You’ve Gotta Start Somewhere, the main thing people are interested in is who my guest is.

So in my episode titles, I just give the name of my guest…

For shows like our flagship show at Mamamia, Mamamia Out Loud, the titles are much more in keeping with the tone of the show.

They don’t always give you an immediate sense of what’s in the episode but we know our listeners come for the chemistry between the hosts rather than what they’re talking about.

So the show titles don’t need to be literal…

And if you’re doing an educational podcast like PodSchool, it’s best to be descriptive because that’s what people searching your show will be looking for…

There are plenty of places outside the title of your episodes you can place keywords, like your show notes.  So if a more creative title suits your show then go with that.

You want people to feel like the language you use in your titles matches the language you’d use in the episode.  So if you’re overly formal in your titles but really relaxed in your show, it probably won’t make sense.

Should you launch your podcast with episode 0?

Read

Make each episode title unique (unless it’s part of a series)

You want people to scroll through your episodes and feel like there’s a range of content there, not like they’re getting the same thing on repeat.  So think about that when you’re crafting your episode titles.

Ideally, you want people to look through your episodes and for it to seem creative, interesting and diverse.  That’s what will make them stick around.

Got a burning question you’d like answered on the podcast? Send me an email.

Want to start your own podcast but need a little help?  Download my “How To Start A Podcast” guide or sign up for my online podcasting course, PodSchool.

Read full show rundown

Hello and welcome to the show. We're at the end of the trilogy. I've done a couple of episodes now around how to come up with a name for your podcast. And also what you should be putting in your podcast description both for the show and each individual episode. And today I am talking about the title of your episode. This is very important and you should be thinking about this like the headline on an article. Think about headlines and how important they are in whether you click on a story or not and the same rules apply for podcasts. The same rules also apply when it comes to click bait. We are savvy savvy consumers because after clicking on things became a way to make money there were a lot of media organisations and blogs that started to lie in their headlines just to get the clicks. Of course, once everyone caught up with that strategy that behaviour has been penalized by Google. So it is super important, to be honest in your headlines. You want to be exciting, engaging, compelling and entice people to click. But you also want to make sure what you are promising in that title is what they're going to get in the actual episode because it's going to piss people off and that never works in your favour.

So what do you put in your episode title? The first thing I want to say is that shorter is always better. Not only because people can't be bothered reading your 700 word titles but also because most people are going to be checking out your show on a mobile and the titles get cut off. So you have to make sure the title is going to be seen and that they'll be able to be read. Rather than the user seeing three words and then "..." before they can make it out. You want to make sure you're keeping those episode titles super short so people can get a sense of what they're going to get quickly. That means putting keywords up near the front so that the stuff that people are searching for they can see right away. That also means you shouldn't be putting your episode numbers or the word "episode" into your title. I've got another episode of this podcast where I go through some of that in more detail and I'll pop a link to that in the show notes. You can find that at PodSchoolPodcast.com and search "episode title" in the search bar.

Not only are you wasting valuable real estate there iTunes doesn't like it. I know we don't want to let iTunes control everything but the truth is the majority of people still listen to podcasts on iTunes. Their charts are very influential and they are curated as are the new and noteworthy sections so they are looking into whether or not these things are implemented on people's podcast before they're going to champion them or feature them in the new and noteworthy. I've spoken to the people at iTunes and they say they don't want you to put episode in the title. I also think it's a good idea because everybody knows it's an episode. It's a podcast. What else would it be? And it's pretty rare people will listen to your show on the basis of what number the episode is rather than what the content is. So putting "episode" in your title is pretty useless.

You'll notice in your podcast host there is an option when you create a new episode for you to put the metadata in there. It will ask you to put in the "episode number" and also the "season number." And then there's also another option that says "type". You can highlight whether it's an episode, a trailer (which is something you would release before you were starting a season like a "coming soon" episode) or a bonus. A bonus is a bit of something extra your listeners wouldn't expect you to drop in the feed. So you can tag all those things in your podcast host rather than listing that in the podcast title and wasting space.

I mention putting keywords at the front of your episode. This is obviously for search but also for people who are looking for that to see immediately the stuff they're interested in is going to be in that episode. You should always be making show notes for each of your episodes as well. You want Google to be searching for your podcast and you want people coming through to find your podcast that way. A lot of people's first port of call when they're searching for things is Google. So for example, if you've got an interview podcast and you've interviewed somebody really significant you want to make sure there's a show notes page for them and every other episode of your show is properly SEO'd. So you've used the right keywords and you've made sure it's optimized so if anybody goes into Google and types in your guest's name, your podcast could pop up. This is the thing that's quite difficult with iTunes - it's hard to rank and compete with other high profile shows but what you can sometimes compete on is search if people are looking for specific keywords.

So you might not be able to be found in the iTunes charts but maybe if you've got a guest people are interested in and you've got the right SEO on your show notes page and on your podcast, people searching for that guest might find your show. So it's always best to pop the right keywords in but also have an accompanying show notes page so you can get people to find your show via Google rather than purely iTunes or whatever podcast app they use.

You want to make sure in those few words you've got in the title you are as clear as possible with your audience about what they're going to get. I mentioned click baiting earlier. You don't want to be click baiting because it doesn't serve a long-term purpose. You really should be thinking about all this stuff as a long-term strategy to make sure your show has a long life. You want your audience to get a sense, from those few words, of what they can expect when they click. If your title is speaking directly to them and telling them "this is something you should be interested in" they'll be more likely to check it out.

Sometimes it's a bit of a toss-up between whether you should be descriptive in your epsiode titles or clever. Ultimately it comes down to your personal choice. Especially since the title of your episode isn't the only place you can optimise for SEO. So if you want those episode titles to be clever rather than descriptive that's totally fine but just knowing about these tips will help you make more informed decisions. But the ultimate decision is always up to you.

Finally I would suggest you try and make each episode title unique. Some podcasts I've seen use a template and it'll be the same thing for every show. Ideally, that's not great. Of course, if you're just putting the name of your guest as the title of the episode that's a format that's repetitive but it's different because each guests name is different. What I mean is if there's a sentence you use or something like "This episode is about..." or "Today on the episode I cover..." That sort of stuff should be in your description, not in your title. Ideally, you want people to look through the titles of your episodes and for it to seem creative and interesting and fun. You want them to get a sense of what your shows are about individually but to not make it feel like it's boring because if you look at a list of titles that are in the same vein it's not very enticing or exciting. It doesn't make you feel like the contents are going to be new or interesting or engaging.

So just try and be as unique as possible. Again having all the knowledge about how this stuff works is going to help you make better decisions about what you do. But the final decision will always be yours and it's always best to make the decision that is best for your content. I hope that's helped you think a bit more about your episode titles and what should be in them and how to make people listen. If you want a bit more help with your show or to be taken through things like editing, idea generation etc then why not sign up for my online podcasting course? You can find it at PodSchool.com.au. If you have friends that need help with their show please send this podcast their way. I'm always happy to have more years on the show. I'll see you next week and until then, happy podcasting.

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