There’s a lot of hoopla about iTunes podcast rankings: “We are the number 10 business podcast in iTunes!” It sounds impressive.

And for those of us who have never shown up on the iTunes “Top 10” chart in our category (me included), it can make us feel a bit insecure. Are we really accomplishing much with our podcast after all?

This episode is an expose of what I’ve discovered about the iTunes podcast rankings: They say NEXT TO NOTHING about the impact your show is having, the number of true listeners you have, OR about what you should be focusing on as a podcaster.

In fact, I think the iTunes podcast rankings everyone points to as a measure of success is the WRONG thing to be focused on entirely. It’s a ladder leaning against the wrong wall. Listen to find out why I believe that.


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Main Points : Why iTunes Podcast Rankings are NOT All That

  • [1:17] The iTunes/Apple Podcasts confusion and what it has to do with rankings
  • [3:02] What IS the metric the iTunes rankings for podcasts are tracking?
  • [4:42] Does the ranking say anything about the popularity or benefit of the podcast?
  • [6:49] The only benefit of the iTunes podcast rankings is discovery – and not much of that
  • [8:27] A better use of our time and energy: make your podcast exactly what your listeners need and want
  • [11:08] We podcasters have to learn where our target market is. It’s called market research & content marketing
  • [12:24] The 1000 true fans theory and why it’s pertinent to this issue

itunes podcast ranking don't matter

iTunes Podcast Rankings: A rolling average of subscriptions over the past 24 to 48 hours

When somebody claims that their podcast is the top podcast in their category they are likely omitting a very pertinent fact out of ignorance. What is that? They are not telling you exactly what they’re podcast is top at doing?

Is it the most listened to? Is it the most popular? Is it the most hated? You don’t really know, do you?

The claim itself is ambiguous and if we are going to make the most of the metrics that iTunes provides to us we need to know exactly what does metrics mean.

When you go into the iTunes app on your desktop and navigate to the category that your podcast is in, you will see a list of podcast in the right-hand column that are known as the top podcasts in that category.

Here is the truth: those podcasts are not the most downloaded. They are not the most popular, necessarily. They are the podcast with the most subscriptions within the past 24 to 48 hours.

Now that sounds pretty significant, after all we want subscriptions, don’t we?

Yes, we do, but subscriptions alone don’t tell us much because anyone can subscribe to a podcast and never even listen to it. That means the podcaster Is having no influence on the person who subscribed other than getting on their radar.

The only benefit I see two shooting for one of those top category lists is the value of exposure. When people searching the category notice the list and see your great podcast in the list, they may, they might, it’s possible they will check out your podcast. But I don’t think it’s likely.

From what I have experienced most people do not use the iTunes application that way. The faster and easier method of finding a podcast is to insert keywords into the search field and hit the search button. The podcast that are listed in the top 10 list in that right hand column may or may not show up in the search results.

Do you see that being in those lists isn’t as advantageous as people assume?

So what should we be doing? I’m glad you asked.

itunes podcast rankings are about vanity (1)

Vanity metrics are only to prop up a podcasters ego, not to help his/her fans

I think more important than trying to get into the top 10 lists in any category within the iTunes rankings is to stop thinking about us and the success of our podcast.

I mean, give it some thought. Being in that top 10 list makes you feel good, but it doesn’t really benefit anyone else, does it?

You can legitimately say that your podcast is in the top 10 within your category as shown within the iTunes app, but you’d be misleading your listeners into thinking that means something that it doesn’t.

Don’t you think your listeners deserve something more than that? I do, so let me tell you exactly what I think is a better strategy.

delighting your listeners matters more than iTunes podcast rankings (1)

A better focus than the iTunes podcast rankings: Your ideal listeners

I believe that every podcast in existence should have the goal of benefiting its listeners. That could be through instruction or it could be through entertainment. But whatever means is used, the listeners have to be the final consideration in everything that we publish.

Not iTunes podcast rankings.

Not exposure and expert status in our niche.

Our listeners. Our listeners are what matter most.

Every podcaster needs to figure out why his or her listeners could potentially be considering their podcast.

What are they looking for? What help do they need? Is there a pain or fear that they are trying to address for seeking out the topics you speak about?

When you know the answers to questions like those you will be able to craft your content to specifically answer those questions, and sometimes it will be very financially profitable to do so. As Zig Ziglar once said, “The way to get what you want is to help enough people get what they want.”

That statement has been misconstrued quite a lot over the years but what good old Zig was trying to say is that the only legitimate to make money is to serve the needs of other people. That is how you produce something of value that others are willing to part with their hard-earned cash in order to receive.

So if you have dreams of monetizing your podcast, I would encourage you to stop thinking about iTunes podcast rankings, and to stop thinking about podcast sponsors altogether for that matter.

You need to be thinking about providing maximum to the people who listen to your podcast. That is how you become a vital resource to them that they view as a high-value exchange for their time.

Once you’re able to do that, all kinds of financial opportunities will open up to you.

3 steps to engage with listeners instead of focusing on iTunes podcast rankings (1)

3 steps to engaging with your ideal podcast listeners

Once you get your focus off of the iTunes podcast rankings in on to the needs of your listeners, you will need to do some very hard work. It’s work that every business owner, every marketer, every sales person in the history of the world has had to do in order to be successful.

We podcasters need to take a page from their book. Here are three steps to engaging with your ideal podcast listeners in an effective and lucrative way.

#1 – Learn to do market research

Market research is a fancy term for learning about the things your target audience is really looking for. It really is that simple.

For example, as I’ve been running a podcast production and show notes creation service I have had to figure out exactly what podcasters are looking for in a service like that. Do they want quality audio production? Undoubtedly. Do they want SEO Rich Show notes? Absolutely.

But those are not the most important things they want. It took me awhile to discover this but the thing most podcasters want from a service like ours is Time Savings. They are tired of spending so much time doing the production on their podcast. When the pain gets to be great enough, they’re willing to part with some of their cash for the value of having their time back.

That’s an example of discovering the real things that your target market desires from you.

What is it for your podcast listeners? What are the most painful issues they’re dealing with and how can you best meet them?

You need to do the listening, the question asking, and the observing that answers those questions for you. Then you will be equipped to move on to the next step.

#2 – Learn how to get involved in your market

Very few new businesses these days are able to purchase advertising or simply make their product available and have masses of people come to purchase it. The same is going to be true with a new podcast.

People won’t listen or take your advice about the things you share until they build up some level of trust for you. That trust is gained as you get involved with your target listeners.

That means you have to find out where they hang out and go there. It could be online groups, it could be old-fashioned bulletin boards. It can also be in physical locations in your city or town. And don’t forget about conferences that have to do with the topics You cover.

All of those are great places to meet the actual people who would be interested in your podcast. As you get to know them, as you become their friend, as they learn to know, like, and trust you, you will get your foot into the door of opportunity that comes from being a resource to them.

That kind of involvement with your Niche audience is required in order to expect any kind of trust-based relationship with them that leads to success for your podcast.

#3 – Learn how to do good content marketing

It is entirely possible that you have never thought of your podcast as a Content marketing tool, but it is. You are publishing content for the people you are trying to help.

That in itself is a form of marketing. It is demonstrating to your listeners what you are capable of providing them in terms of help, resources, insights, experiences, and all the other things they may or may not have in dealing with the problems you address.

You probably do that very well for your podcast. But you need to expand a little bit further than just hitting publish on your regular episodes.

You got to take the great content you’re creating and make it available widely, everywhere that your particular audience hangs out. Remember the previous step? Those are the places.

But don’t go into those communities or locations with a megaphone blab blab blabbing about your podcast. Be a little more strategic than that. Compile a mental list of the topics your podcast episodes cover and be ready to offer those as a resource as people bring up those conversations. And make it easy for them to find those resources. Create short links to them, memorize those links so you can spell them off immediately as needed. Don’t let yourself be the barrier to providing resources to the people you were trying to help.

You can also do fairly effect of content marketing by enlisting Advocates. These could be people have already listened to your show, or people you know who are interested in the same topics.

Ask those people who are already interested in what you were doing to help you spread the word anytime they come across the topics you cover in natural conversations. if you are providing the kind of value you should be, they will be eager to pass along your resources chances are, they simply haven’t thought to do so.

what do you think about iTunes podcast rankings (1)

Over to you!

What changes will you make sure your podcasting strategy now that you understand that the iTunes podcast rankings really aren’t all they appear to be at first glance?

I would love to hear. Contact me and let me know.

And a real-life conversation WITH Kevin Kelly about his post and the theory behind it

Leave your question for me to answer!

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