How can brands top the (podcast) charts?

Whilst appearing in podcast charts shouldn’t be the only marker of success for a podcast, it can really help open it up to new ears, and let’s face it, who doesn’t like seeing their name in a list?

With Spotify announcing some exciting new developments to the way in which their charts work (they’re claiming ‘more – and better – chances to chart’) we wanted to share some thoughts on what brands should be thinking about to be in with a chance of featuring in the top flight (Apple and Spotify podcast charts).

Think about where your audience is

Now that the Apple Podcast charts aren’t the only show in town it’s worth considering where to focus your attention to maximise your chances of charting. Remember that both Apple and Spotify podcast charts only reflect the activity happening in their own ecosystems so if you know your audience and Spotify’s user demographic go hand in hand then you might want to think about directing all your podcast traffic to your podcast on Spotify. If not then send them to Apple Podcasts.

Depending on which market you’re looking at Apple still has the leading podcast listening app, but with Spotify (whole platform) reporting 345 million listeners, the gap is closing, and in the US at least, they’re expected to take the lead this year.

Like what you hear? There’s more where that came from…

A word of caution though, as with anything, it’s give and take, by only giving your audience one option to listen to your podcast you’re potentially making them jump through more hoops to find your podcast if they don’t use, or like that app (especially if you’re gunning for Apple and they’re an Android user). So, if you’re not going all out for chart success we always recommend using smartlinks (check out Podfollow or Chartable) that give the listener choices.

Encourage listeners to ‘follow’

“Please subscribe, rate and review” – You’ve probably heard that a million times by your favourite podcast hosts. Well time to change your script, now Apple has changed ‘subscribe’ to ‘follow’ (subscribe has connotations of being billed), bringing things in line with other apps and social channels.

Oh and should you still be asking for ratings and reviews? Apparently not according to an interview Apple gave to podcasting’s James Cridland.

Apple’s algorithm is a bit of a mystery but we know that subscriber (follower) rate is important, as well as total number of subscribers as well as completion rates. Likewise, with Spotify’s new charts, number of Spotify followers and number of recent unique listeners are important. So, if you can make a splash and amass a big number of followers in a short space of time then the algorithms may well be your friends!

Be strategic, think about what topics and trends really matter to people

Be relevant and tap into trends

Listeners can discover individual episodes much more easily with Spotify’s new Top 200 Episodes chart. Create a single podcast episode which really hits a note with a large number of people, that’s ‘of the moment’ and super-relevant, and you stand a chance of appearing here. That could be amazing exposure for a podcast which may not usually have a huge listenership.

This is where being strategic with your content really helps:

  • Think about what topics and trends really matter to people
  • Plan ahead, keep a content planner
  • Don’t miss opportunities to promote individual episodes and think about how you can create a buzz around a particular episode.

Be in the right podcast categories

As well as the overall podcast charts, there’s a whole range of categories, each with their own chart where listeners can discover your podcast, but only if you’re listing correctly in those categories. You can check or amend your podcast categories within your hosting platform. There’s a couple of things to bear in mind:

Some categories are more crowded than others

Dan Misener of Pacific Content recently found out that as of 2020 ‘Education’ is the most crowded category for instance, have a think if there’s a less crowded, but still completely relevant category you could be in. You can select up to three categories for your podcast, the more categories, the more chance to appear in those charts, but just remember to keep them relevant. It might be the case that there is only one relevant category, in which case, that’s fine too!

Make use of sub categories

You can select sub categories as your primary category, and we recommend you do, it’ll make it easier for your podcast to be found and chart. For instance, if your podcast is about mental health in the business world, don’t just select the business category, make sure you’ve selected Business AND Mental Health.

Select up to 3 categories for your podcast, more categories, more chance to appear in those charts

Keep listeners listening

It’s easy to get hung up on numbers of people listening or numbers of followers but something we talk a lot to clients about is the importance of keeping those listeners engaged right through until the end of the episode. Never has that been more important now the Apple and Spotify charts are taking it into account!

So, keep a close eye on those completion/consumption rates, either through your Spotify dashboard, Apple Podcasts Connect account or by using a third party like Chartable. Would you prefer to have 100,000 listeners who turn off before they get to the half way point? Or 10,000 or even 1,000 listeners who listen to every minute and keep coming back for more?

What’s the secret to keeping your listeners’ attention?

  • Have a plan and go into your recording well prepared.
  • Have a killer format – how can you split your episode into easily digestible segments?
  • Tease what’s coming up later on in the episode (just like your favourite radio presenters do).
  • Don’t underestimate the power of good editing – the best podcasts are edited so only the gold remains, if your attention drifts when you listen back, chances are your listener’s does too.
  • Keep monitoring those completion rates and if you spot patterns in drop-off rates you know where to focus your attention.

Appearing in the charts isn’t the be all and end all, having genuine engagement with your listeners, taking an ‘audience-first’ approach and aiming for the best, most relevant content should all take priority. But get all that right and you’ll probably find you’re on your way to the ‘Top Of The Pods’ anyway!


We’d love to help you get your podcast out there to the ears that matter, drop us a line.