Podcast Tracking: Why Monitoring Your Analytics Matters
Podcast analytics are a key indicator of a podcast's success. Data is essential for guiding strategies, making strategic decisions and monitoring return on investment (ROI). Understanding how to track podcast stats and data can help you make informed decisions regarding your podcasting efforts.
The keyword here is "confirmation." Has creating and publishing a podcast been a worthwhile investment of your time?
From a personal standpoint that may well be the case. You might feel a great sense of achievement with the final product.
However, if the purpose of your podcast is to create brand awareness or increase lead generation, you need an objective viewpoint to guide you. Metrics will confirm in no uncertain terms whether or not your time has been well spent.
Podcast Analytics Overview
Podcast analytics provide data points that help podcasters understand how well their podcast is performing. This can include episode downloads, performance on listening platforms and apps, play-through rate, top-performing episodes, listener demographics, etc.
Data points present the trends within your metrics. For example, say your downloads are trending down or you have more listeners within a specific app. By analyzing those trends you can make informed decisions on what to change (or not).
Where can you find this data? Apple Podcasts tracks some in-app metrics, while Spotify quantifies others. You can also look to your hosting site for clues on how well you’re doing. The bottom line is that you won’t find the data you need to make concrete decisions in one place.
Podcast Success and Stats: What to Ask Yourself
Monitoring and using your data correctly allows you to better serve your podcast listeners and expand your overall impact. How do you gather the correct data to make that happen?
Start by considering what success looks like for you. Understanding how to measure podcast success comes down to answering three questions:
What is your overall goal(s)?
Who is your target audience?
Why are you creating a podcast?
Podcast success can take many different forms, whether that's to draw in more leads, build trust among a new audience, gain brand awareness or just tell a story. It’s different for everyone and only you can say what it is for you.
Your goals and the key performance indicators (KPIs) that help you reach those goals will give you an idea of which podcast analytics need to be tracked and measured.
If the aim of your podcast is to increase your brand's reach, how will you know if you're achieving that goal?
One way would be to see how many downloads, reviews and subscribers each episode yields. You could also compare the number of email subscribers before and after a certain amount of podcast episodes.
Once you’ve determined your goals, the next step is to view and track your podcast analytics. Let’s take a look at why that matters.
Why It's Important to Track Podcast Data and Insights
Tracking data and insights is an integral part of any marketing effort. With good data, you can see what’s working and what isn’t. Analytics enable you to gain deeper insight into what's resonating with your audience and in turn help you to create more meaningful and valuable content.
This applies to paid advertising and organic marketing (SEO, etc.) as well. Analytics and data drive all of these efforts and determine spend and strategy.
Measuring your data allows you to:
Monitor your listener base, streams, downloads and subscriptions to see how much they have increased or decreased.
Adjust your content or episode release schedule according to listener numbers, reviews and overall engagement.
Sift through your content to identify quality issues and rectify them accordingly.
Create highly targeted ads to monetize your podcast by using listener demographics, device and location data.
Use your actual, real-time listener data to help market yourself to paid-ad sponsors or podcast networks.
Assess if you should be creating additional value in the form of transcripts, videos or repurposed content.
Bolster marketing campaigns by utilizing your positive reviews.
Until fairly recently, podcast analytics and data has been difficult to find and decipher. By looking across the proper channels you can now track the metrics required to gain insights into your audience as well as your overall ROI.
Podcast metrics can include how many listens a downloaded episode gets, how many listeners a podcast has per episode, how long people listen to specific episodes and more.
Populating your reports with the relevant numbers is no longer the headache it once was. This is especially beneficial for marketers who need to highlight their efforts to relevant stakeholders.
Understanding Your Audience
As the number one asset of any podcast, an audience's wants and needs must be a priority for podcast creators. Podcast tracking and analytics helps you better understand your listeners’ interests and habits, enabling you to align your content and podcast marketing strategies accordingly.
Podcast analytics reveal everything from the number of listeners, their location and time of listening to the devices used for listening, listening duration and even the stopping point and highest ranked episodes.
With so much useful information at your fingertips, coming up with podcast ideas that resonate with your audience and are more likely to gain traction is that much easier.
Measuring Podcast Growth
For almost every podcaster, growth is a key indicator that your show is healthy and doing well. Brands, marketers and even the average creator, can tap into growth measurements by carefully reviewing their analytics.
Reviewing your analytics on a regular basis provides the most up-to-date and unbiased estimation of performance. A growth indicator, for example, could be a rising curve of audience numbers, downloads or subscriptions across a period of 30 days.
Estimating Monetization Potential
Podcasts are excellent for community building and increasing brand awareness. As your audience grows, so does the potential to begin monetizing your podcast.
Analytics tell target sponsors how popular a podcast is, which is often the defining factor for whether or not they want to partner with you.
The analytics found on Spotify, Apple Podcasts and Google Play are also useful. These platforms can provide you with relevant audience demographics, such as countries/regions they're listening from, age ranges, gender, careers and yearly income. Gathering this kind of information can give you enough scope to start refining your sponsor options.
Remember to include the downloads per month in your media kit or advertising content when pitching to podcast sponsors.
Measuring Your Podcast Performance
Depending on where you host your podcast, you may have access to various podcast analytics and data that will assist in measuring your podcast's performance.
The three primary data sources for podcast analytics are:
The podcast media hosting site where you upload your episode MP3 files.
Distribution platforms such as Google, Spotify and Apple.
Third-party podcast analytics tools (free and paid).
Let's look at how you can measure podcast performance using each of these tools.
1. Podcast Media Hosting Sites
It’s important to note that podcast media hosting sites are not podcast analytics tools. That being said, they still provide value.
Podcast hosting platforms (Buzzsprout, Castos, Transistor, Captivate, etc.) host and store a podcast's media files and update other podcast directories, such as Apple Podcasts and Spotify, when new content is published via an RSS feed link.
Depending on the podcast media host you choose, you may have access to multiple sets of data, including:
Total number of subscribers for the month.
Number of all-time downloads.
Number of downloads for 7, 30, 60 and 90 days from episode publish date.
Number of episode downloads within a specific period.
Where people are listening from geographically (countries and cities).
Device used (smartphone, tablet, smart speaker, etc.).
The app used to listen (Apple Podcasts, Castbox, PocketCasts, etc.).
2. Distribution Platforms
While a podcast media hosting site is where your podcast lives, distribution platforms like Apple Podcasts and Spotify drive visibility. As such, they provide a different set of analytics altogether. Specifically, they highlight a podcast's performance. Metrics include the number of listeners, reviews and ratings as well as episode consumption rate.
Apple Podcasts: Apple Podcasts’ Connect Portal provides an overview of all your podcast trends within the app. Along with the number of followers and listeners you have, the portal also shows you how engaged your audience is. Other metrics include plays, total time listened, top regions/countries by device, reviews and ratings and finally, average consumption per episode.
Google Podcasts: Google's Podcast Manager also offers useful data regarding your podcast's performance. With multiple metrics available, gauging how listener engagement evolves over time is easy. You can look at activity across recent episodes, retention analytics, listening duration, minutes played and more.
Additionally, Podcast Manager segments your audience according to the device listeners are using to access your content: smartphones, tablets, desktop computers, smart speakers, etc.
This data can help podcasters better understand and respond to changing listening behavior. For example, you might discover that most of your listeners access your show on a smart speaker. This might mean you add shorter form content for listening on the go.
John Ciancutti, The Keyword: Google
Spotify: Not to be outdone, Spotify, too, offers an in-depth overview of listener activity from within the Spotify podcast app. The dashboard provides you with stats on starts, streams, listeners and followers. The audience section offers a window into the age, gender and location of your listeners. Tracking each episode individually allows you to gauge listener retention and drop-off.
Chartable is one of the most trusted podcast analytics tools around. IAB and SOC-certified, the platform focuses on collecting relevant statistics to help podcasters grow their audience. You can track podcast charts along with all your podcast reviews from Apple Podcasts, Spotify and Stitcher, from as many as 150 countries.
With Chartable’s Smartlinks and Smartpromos, advertisers and publishers have all the tools they need to track the monetization and growth of their podcasts.
SmartLinks automatically routes listeners to your podcast in their favorite apps via a shareable, trackable URL. This allows you to track both clicks and downloads anywhere you post one of these links.
SmartPromos monitors your podcast-to-podcast (host-read ads) attribution using a trackable analytics prefix within your podcast's RSS feed. Once your ads start running, Chartable will provide a report across your entire campaign, with stats updating every hour.
Let's Talks About Downloads
Download stats are immediately accessible via your hosting site (literally from the minute you launch your first episode), making them one of the most commonly used metrics to determine how successful a podcast is.
Within 7 days of its release, if your new episode gets:
more than 26 downloads, you're in the top 50% of podcasts.
more than 72 downloads, you're in the top 25% of podcasts.
more than 231 downloads, you're in the top 10% of podcasts.
more than 539 downloads, you're in the top 5% of podcasts.
more than 3062 downloads, you're in the top 1% of podcasts.
But, while they're an obvious way to measure a podcast's success, download stats alone aren’t enough to quantify how well your content is faring. Social media has trained us to worship numbers, but it’s important to remember that likes and shares aren’t the same as downloads.
Of course it’s gratifying to see that a particular episode was downloaded hundreds of times, but it’s far more important to keep listeners engaged than it is to worry solely about the stats.
Downloads Vary According to Niche
Another reason that downloads aren’t the be-all and end-all is that numbers vary greatly from niche to niche. If you surveyed the world’s population, how many people would be interested enough in your topic to actually download each episode?
Podcasts in popular niches like health or fitness might warrant downloads in the hundreds of thousands. However, if your show is about basket weaving in the Andes, your reach will be much smaller.
That’s fine. Forget the numbers and turn your attention to how your ideal podcast listeners interact with your content. In particular, the consumption rate. Are they listening to an entire episode or tuning out at a certain point?
Do some podcast topics have more traction than others? Getting clear on these things can guide you towards setting realistic goals and stop you from comparing your podcast with your more successful counterparts.
All of that being said, let’s look at how to track podcast downloads. You know, so you can cast an occasional eye on them in-between learning how to be a good podcast host and coming up with even more podcast promotion ideas.
How to Track Podcast Downloads
Most podcast hosting sites will collect your download data. Depending on the hosting site you use, you may see multiple columns or graphs on the homepage highlighting the number of downloads within a certain time frame.
Most hosting sites will allow you to view the average number of podcast downloads per episode 7, 30, 60 and 90 days from the episode publish date.
A wise podcaster syndicates or links their show across several podcast directories. Your hosting site can the collect the download numbers from Apple Podcasts, Spotify, Stitcher, Google, etc.
Audience Engagement: Play Through Rates
Analyze your listener drop-off rate. Are people skipping over your intro or ads? The podcast play-through rate shows creators how much of an episode people listened to. After examining the data, NPR found most podcasts can lose up to 35% of their listeners within the first five minutes. Make sure your content is relevant and has the potential to get new listeners hooked and keep them listening.
As mentioned earlier, Spotify and Apple Podcast Connect are great tools to get an idea of consumption rate. Their dashboard offers an episode-by-episode breakdown, where you can review episode consumption percentages, the point at which listeners are tuning out and whether or not those numbers pick up again.
Listening to clips of where listener drop-off occurs will give you an idea of what content caused their loss of interest so you can improve on that in the future.
Listener Demographics Matter
Listener demographics help you get clear on who your audience is. Factors such as age, gender and geographical location allow you to connect with your listeners on a deeper level. Once you understand who your audience members are, creating content is much easier. Demographics can also inform your decisions when creating podcast advertising campaigns and other marketing strategies.
For instance, if you have a solid following in a younger age bracket, market your ad or create your podcast content with them in mind. A business-tech podcast might bring in a younger guest who is already successful within their field.
How Are Listeners Tuning In?
There are plenty of apps and devices that people can use to listen to your podcast. But have you ever considered how and why they've chosen them?
Knowing your audience's primary listening habits is a goldmine when it comes to podcast content planning. If the majority of your fanbase uses mobile devices, that could indicate that they're on the move a lot and may therefore enjoy shorter content.
If we saw an increase in listeners using Chrome and desktop browsers, it would be worthwhile to work on our podcast website, provide transcriptions, and up our podcast SEO efforts to boost discoverability and audience engagement.
Analytics Should Serve Your Audience
Tracking podcast analytics effectively can be incredibly time-consuming. The data collection you need depends on multiple variables, such as your podcast media hosting site, the alternative tools you're using (Chartable, Apple Podcasts Connect, etc.) and your overall goals and KPIs. But, regardless of the charts and numbers you have at your fingertips, it’s important to keep in mind that podcast analytics are first and foremost a tool to help you better serve your audience.
Analytics give podcasters the power to create better content.
Ultimately, utilizing podcast analytics equips you to serve your listeners and craft content that is better suited to them. Collecting relevant data allows you to evaluate which aspects of your podcast need refreshing. It also gives you valuable insight into your marketing approach. Remember to refer back to these analytics regularly as they will continue to evolve and change over time.
Final Thoughts on Podcast Analytics
Without podcast analytics to guide you, you won't be able to make informed decisions on how to best market, advertise, monetize and even produce your podcast.
Defining and refining your podcast's data and then tracking those all-important KPIs using the correct stats, is only one piece of this constantly expanding puzzle. When you combine your analytics with other performance metrics (listener reviews, social media engagement, etc.), you'll start to form a more detailed picture of your audience, their behavior, their ideal content and how that influences your podcast's growth.
Remember though, as much as it's important to focus on analytics, make sure you don't get too hung up on them. This is especially true when you're just starting out. Spend your time and effort creating worthwhile content that you know your audience enjoys and the numbers will take care of themselves.