Creating Great Podcast Shownotes: What Format Should I Follow?
Podcast shownotes are one of those tasks that you KNOW is essential, but you can never bring yourself to love it. After all, you've done the fun stuff: planning content, playing with your kit, recording a show.
That should be it, right?
‘Fraid not! Here's a question we got last week to kick us off.
Can you advise me on the podcasting website – How should the show notes work? Do I just set them up like a blog? Unsure how this works. Don't want to set something up only to have to re-do it.
The short answer is, yes. Podcast shownotes are nothing more than a blog post with an audio file attached. But, they're also so much more than that. Let's delve into a little deeper – what are podcast shownotes for, and how do we put them together?
What are Shownotes For?
Shownotes serve three main purposes. The first two serve existing listeners:
1. To offer a summary of the show content – either to persuade someone to listen, or to remind a previous listener what was covered.
2. To offer links to resources, people or products that were mentioned. You can't link within the show itself, so you offer the links on the shownotes.
The last serves you, and those who have yet to listen:
3. To attract new listeners through search traffic.
That last one is the one most podcasters neglect. You'll find a lot of podcasters throwing up shownotes that are nothing more than a very quick introduction paragraph, and then a list of the resources that were mentioned. That's fine, as a minimum. It serves your listener, covering #1 and #2. But, if that's all you do, you're missing a trick in growing your audience.
How Shownotes Can Grow Your Audience
A good set of shownotes can attract legions of potential new listeners by appearing in the search results.
How do you do that?
By writing a blog post that covers the same topic as the podcast.
That blog post acts as a written version of the show. Not a direct transcript, but something created to be read. It contains the same valuable information as the podcast, and encourages readers: “If you liked this, then listen to the podcast episode for even more.”
Often in the podcast you'll tell more stories about it, give more examples, and that might be the extra value that gains you a new listener. Even if you don't add anything extra, many people will appreciate being given an audio version to listen to at another time.
A Good Podcast Shownotes Format
An effective format I advise is to offer a 1 or 2 paragraph introduction, summarizing the episode. Then below that we'll have the audio player, generated in whatever host you normally use. We normally use the default BluBrry player which works brilliantly, but others use Soundcloud since it's player is just so damn pretty.
Next, below the player, you go into full detail, covering the main points of the episode and a little explanation around them. Within that extra detail, link to resources mentioned within the show. That means people can easily find anything you mention in the audio.
Or, you might have a resources link list at the start or the end of that section so that links are all nicely collated and easily found.
You can go further than this, turning your podcast shownotes into a massive fan-building, conversion-creating multi-media experience. Read about that full content stacking approach here. If you can put the time into this, it can be a game-changer for your business.
Brief Show-Notes: Sacrifice Content for Sustainability?
Some people just can't find the time to do full blog-post style show notes every week. An alternative is to keen 'em shorter and forget about the search engine benefits.
In this case, just do the 50 word intro paragraph and then some resource links and related description. You could even dispense with the descriptions altogether, and just list links, as I've seen Andy Brown do recently.
Comparing the two, the long blog-post style format offers a lot more value in terms of content marketing. The show notes, acting like blog articles, start to gain traffic, since they're much more likely to be found and indexed well in the search results. On the other hand, there's no point getting that extra value if it's unsustainable.
If the effort of full-blog shownotes stops you podcasting altogether, then you get absolutely no benefit at all. In that case, it's better to do less and get the show out regularly. This is a balance between time and total benefit.
I think it can depend a lot on the context, particularly whether the podcasting website is brand new, or whether the podcast is being added to an existing website. In the case of a brand new podcasting website, the show notes are even more worth investing time into as they'll start to build out the written content and give the site some meat. Adding very thin podcast show notes pages to an already thin website is unlikely to help the site gain any type of authority.
In contrast, a well established site can stand to gain a few thin pages and you can spend time on your wider blogging instead for that content benefit. On the other hand, if you tie your blogging and podcasting efforts together through a content stacking approach, I'd argue that you can do both for more benefit and less effort in the long run!
What about Transcriptions?
Here's a third possibility. If you're really short of time, it might be worth considering transcriptions. You can pay around $1 per minute to have a full transcription done of any show. If you're doing quite short, focused episodes, these transcriptions can be very useful and readable for your listeners. As a bonus, they provide nice, long, meaty content for the site with little extra time effort. Just a bit of cost.
If you did that, you'd only have to write a 50 word intro para yourself, then add the transcription after the player. You can go through the transcription and add links where appropriate as well, to make sure the listener can find the relevant resources. Although, in this case, a collated resource link list may be useful so the reader doesn't have to trawl a long transcription.
On the downside, the spoken word often doesn't translate well into a written form. Unedited transcriptions can often be long, rambling and made up of terrible English. It's surprising how often we don't speak in complete or correct sentences! In this case, a transcription might not offer much value.
It depends on your speaking style, though, and how you present. Solo shows tend to provide more useful transcriptions, while a conversation can just look like a confusing mess on paper. It's an approach worth trying, but it wont work for everyone!
Need More Help With Shownotes?
Check out The Podcast Host Academy where you can download The Podcast Shownotes Cookbook – your ultimate guide to writing podcast shownotes of all kinds.
On top of that, we hold regular live Q&A sessions, run a community forum, and offer access to every video course, checklist, and ebook we’ve ever made. We'd love to work with you in there!