(By Todd Cochrane) Imagine today that you had to launch and build your podcast without Apple Podcasts, Google Podcasts, and all the social tools out there. At the dawn of podcasting, we were truly on our own. From there, we explored and implemented advancements many podcasters nowadays don’t need to think about.
I am going to share with you some opinions that are not only based on my own podcast but on my belief that your brand and intellectual property are as important as the words you speak on your show.
I learned early that in having my own website the amount of search traffic coming to my site from the search engines helped drive new listener subscriptions — I had new content on the site almost daily and as a small percentage of visitors subscribed over time it added up. It’s part of the larger strategy I have spoken extensively on for years about my 13 plus-year sponsorship by GoDaddy.
To this day I protect my brand fiercely and it is why I was so outspoken last summer when a podcast mobile app was caught hijacking RSS feeds (having found mine hijacked among the others), causing potential listeners to subscribe to the hijacked RSS feed as opposed to my site’s RSS feed. The resulting indexing by Google caused issues for weeks and impacted my brand.
The subsequent outcry led to a public relations crisis for the company and, although they resolved the issue, tens of thousands of shows were impacted for many weeks, losing valuable subscribers to feeds that were pulled down. It’s impossible to say how many listeners subscribed to those hijacked RSS feeds versus the podcaster’s own feed, which still resulted in lost subscribers when the mobile app provider removed the hijacked feeds.
Apple Podcasts provides a link in their platform that is designated by the podcaster if their host allows it. Those with control of their feeds can choose what they’d like it to be. However, there are thousands of active podcasts, sadly, whose show-listing link goes back to their podcast host’s podcast page. I have never understood why podcasters allow this to happen; my goal has always been to get potential and existing listeners, sponsors, etc. to come to my website. This has allowed me to build my brand, build newsletter signups, court sponsors, promote other podcasts, and countless marketing initiatives whether it be special content, promoting show donations, or just about anything else you can think of.
If your shows do not have their own .coms, in most cases you’re severely limited to what functions your hosts allow on their platform within your podcast page. I have no such limitations. If I want to launch a new show on my site I can do so with ease.
My team and I have always believed that podcasters should build their show and brand on their own website, and control all of the shows and the site’s intellectual property to include their podcast feed. While I understand not everyone is technical enough to do this, some podcast providers have turnkey solutions to this end.
I have been mocked on occasion for this stance. But time and time again, I have been vindicated when a hosting company pulls the plug or has a change in business plan. The worst of those was a number of years ago when a podcast hosting company that controlled the sites and feeds announced on December 23 that it was closing, then shut down the service on Christmas Day. Thousands of shows were instantly made extinct.
So, what is my model? It’s simple: You need to have your own website. I don’t care if it’s WordPress, Squarespace, Joomla, or Wix. New potential listeners have a chance to find your site and subscribe without your podcast host’s brand interference or being pulled to a show that is on your podcast host’s site. Your existing audience will have a home base to interact with you beyond social media. As a side benefit, you won’t be negatively impacted by any Google penalties from a rogue site on your podcast host or face other technical issues.
Recently, I did some examinations on my own site of things as simple as page-load speeds as ranked by Google and compared them to some of the shows I compete with head-to-head content-wise. I had to make some changes. Those changes resulted in my page rank jumping to No. 1 from almost being on the bottom for certain search terms. Because I control my brand, I could put those fixes in place. The competing shows could not.
If you are satisfied with doing your show and having it on Apple Podcasts, Google Podcast, Spotify, etc., and have no desire to build a lasting brand (as I have for my personal show), give it a second thought. Look at your show, site, and brand and make sure that it reflects the image and goals of getting discovery traffic to your site versus that of your hosting provider.
You are welcome to examine my show and branding at GeekNewsCentral.com. I remain absolutely convinced, based on my 14-plus years of experience, that owning and controlling your brand on your .com is a big part of a podcast’s long-term success and viability.
Todd Cochrane is the CEO Blubrry.com and can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org