When podcasters think about ways to get more listeners, their mind usually jumps to things like marketing and advertising. Podcasters might be willing to spend great deals of money to get better numbers for their podcast when really, what's most helpful is free things you can do to improve your listener's experience.
It's not that marketing and advertising don't work. It's that usually, those things will lead to momentary surges of listeners who leave as soon as their experience doesn't meet their expectations.
Inexpensive methods of improving your listener's experience might seem too good to be true, like they're going to take great deals of time or energy that you don't have.
In reality, though, improving your listener's experience can be incredibly simple. Here are five tips that should help you reach that goal.
1. Drink some water
One of the things that turns me away the fastest from a podcast is hearing their mouth noises. It's gross, distracting, and easily preventable.
Drink water before you record. Drink water while you record. Drink water regularly. Drink a whole bunch of water.
Put that soda down. I didn't say soda. I didn't say milk or coffee, either. I said water. Drink some water.
If you grew up in a terrible desert like I did, you know that you can tell if someone's dehydrated by what their mouth sounds like. All of that is amplified so much when you hear that person's voice in your head via earbuds.
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It's such an easy, free fix that so many podcasters get so wrong. Just drinking some water will make it so that your listener can focus on what you're saying instead of all of those gross noises your mouth is making.
If you want to go the extra mile, by the way, it's an old voice actor trick to eat a green apple before you record–something about the enzymes in the apple inhibit saliva stickiness, apparently.
2. Learn some basic editing
If you're worried that I promised easy tips and now I'm telling you to edit, don't worry. I promise I'm not asking for full sound design or something the likes of Radiolab.
What I mean when I say “some basic editing” is learning how to remove long pauses, people saying “um” too often, or jokes and tangents that go nowhere. Even if you never get into editing anything past deleting some chunks, this will be a huge improvement to your listener's experience.
Your listener doesn't want to be dragged through parts of your audio that don't need to be there. Remember that your listener's time is valuable, and you are always competing with a ton of other podcasts to take it up–so take it up wisely.
Edit out noises like drinking from the water bottle you should be using plenty, as well as coughs, sneezes, or any minor interruptions. These sound unprofessional and amateur.
If you're worried about editing, we've got plenty of articles on how to go about it at many different skill levels.
Or, you could try out intuitive products like our own Alitu, which can help make editing easier than programs like Audacity or Audition.
3. Remember that your listener only has audio
One of the most common complaints I hear about podcasts is that the hosts continually referenced things they couldn't see. This is especially pervasive for comedy conversation podcasts, but it applies to many more genres than that.
Your listener is not in the room with you when you record. If you make a funny facial expression and your co-host comments on it, that will never be as funny to the listener as it is to you.
If something funny happens in the room when you record, it probably will not be funny to the listener unless they can hear it. Did your cat curl over into a goofy pose? Your listener does not care. Did your cat knock something over and then meow really loudly, with great comedic timing? Your listener might care, but it's still a stretch.
If you're debating on having an episode that discusses something heavily visual, you'd better be as talented as the minds behind 99% Invisible or Accession to pull it off. Make sure you've got lots and lots of detail, or use it for some posts on social media instead of making an audio-only work for it.
And if you want to discuss something visual, be precise. Remember, beauty is in the eye of the beholder–so if you just say, “It's beautiful!”, that will mean different things to different people unless you're extremely specific about how it's beautiful.
4. Get excited to record
Your listeners only have your voice to convince them of your enthusiasm. That means that your listener will always be able to tell if you're not thrilled to record.
If you're not exited to record, your listener will not be excited to listen to your podcast. If you're not invested in your own work, why should they be? To improve your listener's experience, you have to actually be enthusiastic so that they will be, too.
Easier said than done, I know. Recording can be exhausting. Podcasting can be thankless. But you need to find the tricks that work best for you to get excited.
If you have a co-host, try coming to recording sessions with a funny video to show each other before you get going. If you record alone, reward yourself after recording with a picture of a baby pudu deer. Save copies of the nice things people say about you and your podcast, and read them before each session.
Remind yourself why you're doing what you're doing. Remind yourself why you love podcasting and, more importantly, why you love your podcast. It'll help your listener remember, even if it's only through the tone of your voice.
5. Be more accessible
One of the most important ways you can improve your listener's experience is to remember that not every listener can hear or process audio in the same way. You will have fans who are d/Deaf or hard of hearing. You will have fans who have auditory processing issues. And you will have fans who–like me–have sensory filtering issues sometimes.
All of these audiences can be given the listener experience they deserve with transcripts. Transcripts are an important way to make sure you're not just serving one audience, but all of your audiences equally.
It should be noted that transcripts can also help your podcast's growth and SEO. In my opinion, though, accessibility should be important enough for everyone that you shouldn't need to be sold on the importance of transcripts for your SEO.
Transcript might seem daunting or expensive, but there are plenty of automated services out there that can transcribe your podcast episodes for low costs. Check out Temi or Trint. You can also make your show notes more accessible for your listeners. We talked about both in an episode of Podcraft in which Colin spoke with “accessibility evangelist” Nicolas Steenhout, so be sure to listen for more on why accessibility is so important for your listener's experience.
Help your listener experience only the best
Improving your listener's experience is not only a great way to get new listeners, but also a great way to maintain your listeners. There are plenty of easy, inexpensive ways you can make your listeners happier for every single episode you put out.
First, drink some water so your mouth doesn't make awful noises.
Second, edit out simple things like coughs, tangents, or stumbles. It's easier than it seems.
Third, remember that your listener only has audio. Take a step back from all those references from visual things, especially if they're just happening in the recording room.
Fourth, get genuinely excited about recording. If you aren't enthused, there's no way your audience is going to be.
And fifth, increase your accessibility. You never know who you're excluding when you don't take steps to be more accessible.
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