Understanding Your Podcast’s Most Important Growth Metric
If you want your podcast to grow, obsessing over downloads, trying to influence social media metrics, or fretting over when people bail on your episodes won’t move the needle much. To track growth, you have to understand your show’s Conversion rate. Here’s how.
This is the culmination of a miniseries of episodes about better podcast metrics. I’ve already told you to avoid obsessing over downloads and why relying too much on social media metrics that are less-than-perfect is bad. But I also told you why you should care about (and pay attention to) how far along people get when they are actually listening to your episodes.
To wrap up this metrics miniseries, today I’m going to talk about the single most important podcast metric if you’re trying to make your show grow. That metric? Conversion rate.
What the heck is a Conversion rate?
Depending on how deep and geeky your marketing skills run, the concept of Conversion rates might be alien to you. But it’s a very simple calculation that tells you the percentage of people that took the action you wanted them to take.
For podcasting, the likely action we want people to take is listening to our show. Seems easy, right?
While tracking Conversion rate is a straightforward process, you’re not going find that number provided by your podcast’s media hosting company. You won’t find it anywhere in your podcast website hosting company’s dashboard. You can’t find it in your favorite podcast listening app or player. Sorry, but nowhere is there a quick, easy report you can kick out to see your current Conversion rate.
You have to do some math. 😱
But before you run away in fear, the math required is simple division. In fact, the math is the easy part. It’s tracking the action that’s a little — or a lot — more complicated.
How do I calculate the Conversion rate for my podcast?
Let me use an easy (and silly) example to help illustrate this. Let’s say that you have a very simple e-commerce website and you sell a single product. I don’t care what that product is, so let’s pretend your website is MyFaceOnAnAcrylicBrick.com and you sell… your face on an acrylic brick. Hey, maybe you’re famous and people really want that? 🤷♂️
To calculate the Conversion rate for this website, you need to only know two things:
- How many people visited your website in a given time frame
- How many people bought an acrylic brick with your face on it in that same given time frame.
Let’s pretend that in the month of June you had 300 visitors to your website. In that same month, you sold 30 acrylic bricks with your face on it. Congratulations! That is a Conversion rate of 10%. 30 divided into 300 = 10% Conversion rate.
It’s the same math to figure out the Conversion rate of your podcast. All you need to know is:
- How many people visited your podcast’s website in a given time frame
- How many people took a “listen” action on your website for that same time frame
And then the math is easy.
What’s not so easy getting those two numbers so you can do the math. But if you use a service like Google Analytics, you can get that information.
Google Analytics is a free, high-end tool that businesses large and small use to track website activity. Not only is it free, but it’s very lightweight, requiring a simple code placed on the pages of your website. At least it’s simple to get started. It’ll get more complex, and will likely require you to hire out a freelancer to get it setup up properly. Sorry. 😢
With Google Analytics installed, you can easily get the number of unique visits to your website in a given time frame. Getting the number of “listen” actions those people took? That’s a bit tricker. And no, you cannot know how many people subscribed to your podcast that month. You can’t know this because no service tells you that. Not even Feedburner, no matter what you thought in 2007 when you started using it. Get rid of it. Feedburner hasn’t been touched by Google in years and the algorithms Feedburner use to report total subscribers are suspect at best.
Also, you don’t only want to track subscribers. Not every listener is a subscriber. So to really track actions that indicate someone is listening, we have to do more. And here’s where things get complicated.
With some advanced tweaking (you may need professional help with this), Google Analytics can tell you every single time someone clicks “play” on your embedded player. Google Analytics can tell you every time someone clicks “download file” from your episode pages. Google Analytics can tell you every time somebody clicks the buttons/badges for Apple Podcasts, Google Podcasts Spotify, or whatever “listen on” buttons that you have on your website’s pages. Even if you expose your raw RSS feed — which you absolutely should do! — it’s possible to set up Google Analytics to know when somebody copies that URL.
Each one of those actions I just mentioned is a conversion action. And it’s the total number of those conversion actions you’ll divide into the number of unique visitors you received for that slice of time. If you had 300 visitors and you counted 30 different “listen” actions on your website… great! That’s a 10% Conversion rate.
Is 10% a good Conversion rate? Maybe. Maybe not. Honestly, it’s going to vary a lot from show to show. But once you know your current Conversion rate, you can work on improving it.
You can fix your website, fix your email marketing, or fix your other marketing campaigns and measure how those fixes impact your Conversion rate. Because a higher Conversion rate means that you’re driving more of the right people to your site and that you’re making it easy for those people to listen to your content.
If you want to grow your podcast, you have to understand the actions people take once you’ve pushed them to your podcast.
Your podcast probably isn’t going to grow sitting on its own in the various podcast apps and directories while you hope someone discovers it. That’s not going to do it.
In order for you to make intelligent decisions about marketing activities you’re doing and their direct impact on the growth of your show, you must understand the number of people that you’re driving to your show to your website and the number of people that are taking a “listen” action. That’s why Conversion rate is the most important metric for you to understand.
And it’s worth repeating: This isn’t easy to implement. It is straightforward, and there are an unlimited number of Google Analytics professionals out there who can help you do this.
But it’s up to you to take the first step of making a commitment. Not everything in podcasting is going to be easier. This is something you can do to make your podcast better.
Sure, my team can consult with you on this project if you don’t have someone at the ready. Get in touch with me: firstname.lastname@example.org. Also, you can go to PodcastLaunch.pro to get a list of all the services that we’re currently offering our clients.
Since you got this far, how about mashing that 👏 button a few dozen times to let me know you dig the written-word version of my thoughts on these podcasting topics? I’d sure appreciate it!
This article started life as a podcast episode. The 198th episode of my four-times-a-week short-form podcast called, oddly enough, Podcast Pontifications. It’s a podcast for working podcasters that’s focused on trends in our growing industry and ideas on ways to make podcasting not just easier, but better. Yes, you should listen. Here’s an easy way: 👇
Evo Terra (hey, that’s me!) has been podcasting since 2004, is the author of Podcasting For Dummies and Expert Podcasting Practices for Dummies, and is the CEO and founder of Simpler Media Productions, a strategic podcast consultancy working with businesses, brands, and professional service providers all around the world.