Podcasts are just one of the handful of ways to consume information in this digital age. And just like news, the title needs to tell the story of the episode at one go. Based on proven journalistic, the best podcast titles are short, precise, engaging and educational. Learn the techniques to writing engaging and compelling podcast titles that will pull people in to listen to your stories and lead to more powerful conversions, actions and sales results.
Listen to the podcast here:
The Best Podcast Titles: Engage, Educate and Encourage
We’re going to take a deep dive into a subject that a lot of podcasters wonder about, and that’s really about their podcast titles. We’re going to talk about how to really write the best ones, some of our thoughts on best practices for that.
This is a hard thing. I can tell you that it’s agonizing for me to title my Inc. articles. Every time I got go to do it, I write like three or four, and they suggest, “Write ten of them and then choose the best one.” I can never do that because it’s hard enough to come up with one or two. You want it to be clickable. You don’t want it to be clickbait because that disingenuous and people will unsubscribe to you a lot faster if you do things like that, mislead them. You want it to be something that intrigues people. Also, you have a lot of issues because there are a lot of technical issues around titles as well. There’s SEO power, search engine optimization that happens from the one that’s on the website. There’s truncation or shortening that happens when you look at it on apps or you look at it in the iTunes library where sometimes you only see the first two to three words. You have to have a balance here.
Let’s talk about something that we really don’t recommend right off the bat. I think that might help. We see a lot of people put an abbreviation of their podcast name, episode number whatever and then the actual title. We really don’t recommend doing that. First of all, in a list of a podcast player or on iTunes or Stitcher or anywhere, your title is almost always truncated. We’ve seen some people do like their podcast is abbreviated by three initials instead of the whole name. We did this in the beginning. We used to do it. We used to say, “WTFFF number whatever,” and so you have this whole list of just that same thing over and over again, which really isn’t going to attract. People aren’t going to respond to the number of the episode as easily as the title being really descriptive of what it is. It seems like really good in the early days, but if you were looking at the iTunes library for instance of it, the numbers are all there. Everyone says number one and then a list. When you get to hundreds of episodes, it drops down and your list is different. When you’ve got over 300 episodes, the number on iTunes of the actual listing of the episode will not match the episode number. That confuses people. It’s just better to take it off.
The other thing that often happens is a very common thing that happens with podcasters. It happened with a new customer of ours who transferred to our production services. They ask me the question, “Why in the podcast player does it say episode 47 when it’s actually episode 46? All of my episodes are off by one.” This is a common problem with a lot of podcasters especially new comers to podcasting, is that they did their first episode, their introductory episode and didn’t call it episode one. They either didn’t give it an episode number or they called it episode zero which, inherently right from day one, throws off your episode numbers from the count on any player. We really don’t recommend doing that. We recommend, regardless of what the introductory episode is, that’s episode one, not episode zero. In that way, at least for a while, your episode count and the count in players will be the same; just a little side tip there. It’s taking up space. A title is valuable space. We don’t want to mess with it and use words that are unnecessary, use characters like this that are unnecessary. Although some of our clients really do want the identity of the show abbreviation and the episode number in the title. If they do, if they insist on that, we recommend it’s at the end. Have your show title, your descriptive title with your keywords up front and then the name of your show or the abbreviation of it and any reference to the episode number at the end.
Let’s talk about title differences. It is actually okay to have a different title in iTunes than you have on your blog post. It’s acceptable. I actually encourage it because podcasts players or iTunes library or Stitcher, it doesn’t matter which one you’re using, the truncation is so strong that you really need some of your activating words right up front or if it’s an interview with someone of high value. Here’s the thing, I also disagree with those who always put their interview subject first. Sometimes they’re not as big a draw as you think they are and you’re wasting space. If I knew that this Jane Smith was an SEO expert, maybe I’d want to click on it. You should say SEO Expert Jane Smith Talks About whatever; your title might be something like that. SEO expert might all that shows in the little Stitcher description or the little iTunes description, and that’s what you want. It’s like, “I’m interested in SEO expert. I’ve heard of Jane Smith before. Okay, great.” That’s it. If you just put Jane Smith, “I don’t know which Jane Smith that is.” That’s where when you don’t have someone at the level of like, “I just interviewed Elon Musk,” or somebody who rises to that level. You’re in your industry and you think all these people are famous, but they’re not to someone who’s new and learning. That’s what a lot of podcast listening is about, someone who’s getting educated in the process. Leading with them is not necessarily the biggest draw. There are definitely exceptions to that one, like you said, Elon Musk or Kevin Harrington or somebody who’s a TV celebrity also is an exception. There’s also another way. Sometimes some of our clients are interviewing CEOs of very big companies. If you are interviewing the CEO of Coca Cola, then their name might not be very well-known but Coca Cola sure is. You can say, “Coca Cola CEO” upfront or their name after that potentially. You want to put the most recognizable part upfront.
On our show, we like to do ‘with’ or mix it into the other places because the guest that we’re going to have is going to be featured prominently in our leading paragraph, in the very first paragraph, or the description. If somebody wants more information, they’ll be able to easily get that. They can see more about that person. In our particular industry, it’s such a niche industry and people are learning new about it. Unless it’s a major company player, we really rarely mention their name upfront. It’s just one of the ways that we like to make sure that we’re going into topic first, problem first because that’s what people are searching for and that’s where they’re coming from. It’s also, on the blog post side, what Google is powering.
One of the things I want you to think about is think about it like TV show titles or Netflix listings, whatever it is that you look at it like that’s exactly what you want. You want short episode names in the iTunes library, in the podcast player libraries because they are very short. That’s all that shows on the scroll. If they want to read more, they can read a longer title, they can read the leading paragraph, they can read the description. You want to make sure that is as compelling as possible. You just skip words like, and we get this all the time, “In today’s episode, Tom and Tracy talk about,” these are things that people put into their titles or the descriptions for sure. These are mistakes that you don’t need to make. This is wasted character space. Think of it like a tweet. You’re getting to the point quickly. Your titles need to get to the major point quickly, “SEO Learnings, Keyword Titles,” whatever that might be. Really getting through either the benefit, the problem, whatever is the biggest draw to this episode, thinking about that should definitely be in your podcast player title. You can do those separate. Our team knows to do that for our clients if they choose to or if they have trouble because the title is too long. It just can be a really long title, there’s no other way around it. They know to find a way to shorten it by taking out words like ‘the’ and ‘and’ and just a few extra things like that, just so that the title of a podcast reads better when you’re in the player.
When you go into then the blog post side of things, the power of it has to be an SEO. That doesn’t necessarily matter as much on the podcast player side. People search genres and topics on a podcast player. They don’t search keyword phrases. Plus, the reality is the search engines in every podcast player and every podcast distribution channel are different and are not a part of Google. They’re searching more than the title when they serve up a podcast episode. They’re searching that whole description. They’re going to serve it up if it’s in your description anyway so you don’t have to worry about it. I think about it more as like compelling title in podcast player that excites someone and goes, “I should listen to that,” enough to stop someone and get them to listen. On the blog post side, it’s got to stop Google. It’s got to get Google excited about your site. It’s less about the person and more about what Google is going to serve up for you on the blog post side. Your title needs to be packed with your keyword phrases or packed with the words that are going to be the problem, the answers, whatever it is that’s drawing in and that it needs of course match what your blog post and what your podcast is about. It shouldn’t be misleading again, but you want to pack that in.
Again, we’re talking about writing editorial titles. This is something that they learn at journalism school and copywriters learn as well. It’s an art and it’s a skill. You can do both. Some people are really good at just catchy titles that sound so good that you just want to know more about them. Others are really good at just informational titles. It’s really giving you the powerful information you need and getting you there. I found that the wittier they are, the worst they do. I think it’s unfortunate. Sometimes you want to do a play on words or something like that and it just doesn’t’ work out as well as it does because Google doesn’t serve it up. Google doesn’t have a sense of humor, it doesn’t get it. On a podcast player, someone clicking through might get that wittiness and that humor. There’s a place for it there; that’s how we look at it. It’s really like the podcast title is more of a human draw and the blog post title is machine-learning draw.
Then of course, there’s the featured image which is the title, at least with everyone that we publish, is on the featured image visually. In all of these things: the featured image, the title, the description, you’ve really got to think about how people are going to engage them or notice them. It’s different in every situation. On iTunes, on your computer, there’s a scroll of all these names you’re scrolling through looking at all these titles. You want to jump off of that screen. As people are scrolling through, “What’s that? I want to look at that.” It’s not going to be visual there, it’s definitely more of the words, same thing in a podcast player. Google is going to index just the words and doesn’t care about the image so much. There are some tags in it and they’ll index, but Google doesn’t care what the visual is. People who are looking at a feed on social media, on LinkedIn or Facebook or something, are going to scroll through and this is where that image is so critical so it jumps off the page, “What’s that? That caught my visual eye.” In this case, we also recommend doing that podcast player title. The shorter title is better because think about it like a book title. When you search on Amazon for a book, it’s the main title or the big words of the show. That subtitle that might be more descriptive, you can’t read in the thumbnail. It’s the same thing thinking about it in the feed. Always shorten your title. Keep the shorter title if possible in the visual image. That way, what happens is now you’ve got this written title that Google is responding to. The visual is matching the podcast player. If they heard it on the podcast player, they know they’re in the right place because those titles match. You always put your episode number in the corner because they may look for that as well. Those are the ways that we match it up.
Let’s talk about good titling, good copywriting. A good title has a compelling draw. It’s drawing you in with either presenting a problem or presenting potential solutions. Out of all of the articles I’ve written, the ones that have done the best are the ones that say, “The one thing you should do,” “The three ways to,” or “The most common this.” These are the kinds of words that people respond to. If you put those in the title that you’re going to put in your podcast player, they would look like you had 20 million episodes about “The Three Ways,” and you wouldn’t cross all of it. These are the things you do throw out of that podcast title, but you do want them into the blog post title. If someone wants to know that they’re going to have an actionable solution, actionable analysis of a problem, they want something that is going to give them something to make it worth their while to read that blog post. That’s where those types of words really help. The other thing is I throw out throwaway words, words that are overused, over-hyped words like leadership. Unless they’re a part of your keyword phrase and your flanking them with something else that makes them unique like “Sustainable Leadership,” that’s a topic that probably didn’t come up that often. I haven’t heard those two words together super often. That would intrigue me. Just always having something about leadership because your business happens to be called Leadership Growth or whatever, that’s a mistake. Those words about leadership are going to come through in that blog post again and again. It’s something you’re always mentioning, about being a leader, because it’s what your drive is. Putting those things and thinking you need to cram them into every single title is a mistake.
Taking the take of what is the most unique and original thing that relates to that word, relates to your core topic, relates to your core business, those are the things you want to hit in your keywords. Those are the things that you want to make sure and put in. Overused things like ‘disruptive,’ I write about disruptive technology and I rarely actually put them in the title. Sometimes I do. I did this past week because I was writing about X reality. I didn’t put Virtual Reality in my title, I put X Reality, so Disruptive X Reality. That’s a new phrase. I’ve lumped that word that might be overused with something new that they may not have heard before. They have a sense, “It’s about disruptive, which I’m interested in or disruptive technology, but I don’t know what this X reality thing is.” Then it can serve you well. Thinking about the words that you’re choosing, “Are these the most original versions of the word?” If not, qualify them. Add a qualifier.
You can tell, Tracy is the writer among the two of us. She has dealt with this a whole lot. Sometimes I’ll think of a title and think, “Yeah, that sounds good,” then she’ll tell me, “That’s a terrible title.” It’s a tough thing. Some people are better at it than others. It’s not my area of specialty or not my forte. That’s why we’ve hired a copywriter on our staff to help. Some of our clients give us titles. They know exactly what they want it to be and they’re very happy with it. Certainly, we’re happy to follow that lead. Other times they’re like, “I have no idea what the best title is. Can you figure that out?” We actually do and we have a team that’s charged with doing exactly that, researching, figuring out what the best title is and thinking about the keyword value of that. Leadership is a great example because, especially in business, it is an often used word, but there is always a way to get a little more creative. If you combine that with the right word before or after it, you’re going to get something unique. That’s really the trick.
I struggle with it because I write a column in the Innovate Section. They like us to work innovation in so I’m always struggling with that. What I’ve started to do more often is put the uniqueness there and use a subtitle. In the case of your blog post, you can do it where you have the main title and you have a subtitle above your graphic. You have the option to do that above the header that you might use as a graphic, or you can put the graphic and then put it right below the header. You have the option to do that and maybe it makes sense. You can mess with it per blog post. It could be different every time. If that subtitle is so powerful it really needs to qualify the title, push it up. That’s a great way to do it.
I’m going to go with the pickiness of titles now. When you title something, every single word in there, including ‘in,’ ‘the,’ ‘and’ every time you use them, you need to have a capital. This is the rule. Titles are not a sentence. This is not good journalism. It’s a headline. It doesn’t have to be a proper sentence. You don’t have to make it into a proper sentence. It’s a longer phrase that always has a noun and an action, a noun and a verb. You’ve got to have that happening in there and you should have good adjectives that really make them exciting. It should be doing that. Compel them. The subtitle very often, and most publications do this, is treated like a sentence. The subtitle doesn’t have capitals every other word as well or every word and then end in a period. You can’t do that. It should be a normal sentence that you’re doing. “Three Things You’re Not Doing In Your Blog Post Today” and then the sentence below might be “What you didn’t know about SEO is hurting you.” The second one is going to be a sentence and proper grammar and punctuation, but the title would be all caps. It’s a headline, its marketing. It doesn’t matter if it’s not proper grammar. You can sometimes do colons and then a second part of it, or do a question and then have a phrase after it. I do that sometimes in the title, “Afraid To Take The Leap? Try this,” or “Try these three techniques,” or “Try these three fear busters.” You might try something like that, you can do that. Keep in mind that also in it, ampersand, question marks, periods, dashes, colons, all of those things freak Google out a little bit. If you can avoid them in your title, do. Use them in that subtitle instead. When it comes to Google, you absolutely have to leave those characters out of the permalink of the blog post, in terms of the web URL. It can’t be there anyway. That’s something to consider.
I don’t want you to be scared off by the idea, “I’m agonizing over my titles.” Don’t agonize over them. Just put them out there. Thinking about it and looking from the outside in, does it make sense? Is this something that’s going to attract the right people and into it? Is this all in your industry head? Does it have too many industry terms that are not well-known, or is that okay because you have the industry terms? I throw ARVR, 3DP and all those things into them all the time because they’re okay, because we are already talking within our industry. That’s the people we attract, advanced listeners. Those are okay too. Be thinking about it, making sure that you’re filtering that through. Is this making sense for what someone would type into Google who’s either a novice or in my industry, or looking for what I have to sell or what I have to talk about? That’s really the whole point of them. Don’t be afraid to mix them up. Try some things. Try different titles. I highly recommend you go through and find your favorite columnist, your favorite blog about whatever subject you’re in maybe even your competitors, and check out what they’re doing. There’s a method to so many of them that you’ll see that they have a pattern. Follow their pattern. Try it that way. Don’t copy the titles by any means because that will hurt you more than it will help you, but follow the pattern of their titles. If they say, “Three Ways,” you try “Three Things.” If they use the number five all the time, try five for a change. Going through and following and seeing what’s going on there really will help you the most.
I know this is a nitpicky little dive-in, but these things are the things that make you clickable, make you listenable. We want to give you as much power and as much opportunity for success in that as possible. We hope this was an interesting episode for you. We’re just trying to help you get the greatest return on the time and money you’re investing in creating your podcast and your digital content. This is a big part of it actually. We spend a lot of time in educating and training our team to make sure that they have these good practices and that they learn this. When we train them, this is something else that we do, is I monitor them for the first month or two and check all that they do, and then actually go like an editor with a red-line pencil. Red-line through it and show them how it could be better so that they learn quickly how to make it a better sentence next time, how to make it a better phrase, how to make it a better title.
If you have any questions about that or any comments, feel free to reach out to us anywhere on social media, @FeedYourBrand. You can go BrandcastingYou.com and also leave a comment there. Thanks again for listening. This has been Tracy and Tom on Feed Your Brand.