Podcast episode titles might be an afterthought to many creators. But they are vital to the success of your show as a whole.
You can pour time and energy into creating the best content humanly possible. But if you don’t put a bit of thought into the naming of that content, you’re going to put severe limitations on its overall reach and impact.
So how do you go about coming up with good titles for your episodes? What considerations are there? And are there any “rules” to be aware of?
It Starts With Your Episode Content
One way to prevent the name of your episode from becoming an afterthought is to have a clear plan and aim behind your content.
For example, some of the most effective types of episode titles are things like “how to…[do something]” or “7 tips for… [achieving something]”.
These kinds of episodes basically have their titles in place before they are recorded. It’s all part of the planning.
So if you’re doing things like lists, comparisons, reviews, or case studies in your episodes, then the titles are basically going to write themselves.
If it’s an interview or a monologue, though, you might need to retrospectively decide what the most valuable part of the episode was, and create your title around that.
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Target Audience, Search Engine Optimization, & Keywords
Search engine optimization isn’t simply about choosing a title for your episode. It’s about deciding what your episode will be about, and why.
When planning your next batch of episodes, think about your potential audience – the podcast listeners who haven’t discovered your show yet. Ask yourself the following questions:
What sort of terms are they searching for?
What questions are they seeking answers to?
How are you positioned to help them?
Make it as clear as possible in your episode titles that this is precisely what they’re looking for. Remember, it’s not “clickbait” if you’re delivering on your promise in the episode itself.
Podcast directories are essentially just search engines, so make sure your titles are the sort of things that’ll appear in a search on that topic. It helps to add the odd relevant keyword or two, but don’t go overboard into the “keyword stuffing” realm.
Of course, your podcast episodes aren’t limited to being found in listening apps, either. If you run a website or publish your episodes on YouTube, then that’ll go a long way to helping your show’s discoverability, too.
Test Your Titles: What Do Listeners Love?
There’s no need to guess how effective your titles are in the long run. By looking at what existing listeners are already hitting play on, you’ll know how compelling they’ll be to potential listeners.
Looking over your stats will show you at a glance how many people are hitting play on or downloading each episode.
You can compare individual episodes with others released in the same period and look for patterns. Check to see if certain types of titles perform better than others.
For an even deeper dive, you can look at your Apple Podcast Connect data to get a sample of listener completion rates for your episodes.
If your compelling titles are doing a great job enticing people to hit play, but nobody is listening for very long, it’s possible you aren’t delivering on what listeners feel you’re promising them. If that’s the case, you might need to rethink how you introduce each episode and get to the content as quickly as possible.
Interview Podcast Titles
Adding a descriptive title to any non-fiction podcast episode is good practice. But what about interview shows? Should you add the name of the guest to your title?
If your guest is “famous” (even within your niche), this is beneficial as folks might search their name for content they’ve been involved in. You can still get a bit of description in there, too. For example:
Taking aaaaages to finish a book series, with George R. R. Martin
Meghan Markle on how to monetise your podcast on Spotify
But, after publishing these two episodes, you’ll face a dilemma next time you have a guest nobody has ever heard of. John from next door might have an interesting topic, but will he get offended if his name doesn’t make it into the title? These are the tricky “no right answer” decisions you sometimes have to navigate in podcasting.
What About Non-Industry Podcasts?
This advice so far is definitely geared towards “industry” podcasts. But there are a lot of other types of shows out there too.
If you run a fiction podcast or a more experimental type of human interest series, for example, then these literal titles won’t necessarily work for you.
With this branch of podcasting, most listeners discover their favourite shows through means other than search. Word of mouth, audience relationship, and community building will be more important than episode titles here.
Of course, it’s still a good idea to get certain keywords related to your content in there over time. If your show had a Lovecraftian theme, then the odd nod to the Cthulhu Mythos in your titles won’t do you any harm at all.
Overall though, you have a lot more creative freedom here than someone who podcasts help and advice topics as an industry leader or content marketer.
Space to Be Ace. How Long Should My Podcast Episode Titles Be?
Just like your episodes themselves, shoot for “as long as it needs to be, and no longer”.
Consumption takes place on a vast number of different podcast listening apps. These apps vary with how many characters in your title they’ll show before cutting it short.
If your title exceeds around 60 characters, then you’ll start to find it cut short on certain apps, so that’s a good ballpark maximum length to shoot for.
Laying Out Your Title
Some things are worth avoiding when typing out your title in your podcast hosting account.
First, consider leaving your podcast’s name out of your episode titles. This can be redundant and waste valuable space.
All listening apps will display the name of the show alongside the episode title when it’s found in search, so there’s no real need to add it anywhere else. But if you’re creating your episodes in WordPress alongside other blog post content, you might still want the podcast name in there. If that’s the case, stick it at the end.
Also, avoid pre-loading your episode titles with numbers or codes. If you want to put these in, put them at the end too.
Here are some examples (good and not so good) of how we could lay out the title of an episode of our own show, Podcraft.
Let’s say the episode topic is our top 10 USB mics for podcasting.
Good Examples of Podcast Episode Title Layouts
Top 10 USB Mics for Podcasting
Top 10 USB Mics for Podcasting | Episode 25
Top 10 USB Mics for Podcasting | Podcraft Episode 25
Top 10 USB Mics for Podcasting | PC025
Not-So-Good Examples of Podcast Episode Title Layouts
Episode 25 | Top 10 USB Mics for Podcasting
Podcraft Episode 25 | Top 10 USB Mics for Podcasting
PC025 – Top 10 USB Mics for Podcasting
Case Study: Pocket-Sized Podcasting
Another show of ours, Pocket-Sized Podcasting, gives listeners one short sharp tip every single day of the week. The episode titles don’t leave anyone guessing what’s being covered.
iTunes/Apple Podcasts Optimisation
A few years ago, most podcast hosting providers introduced a way to optimise your episode titles for Apple/iTunes.
The idea was that Apple wanted to “clean up” their directory, and improve the user experience, as well as the overall consistency and accessibility.
I’m not sure this ever took off in the manner we all thought it might because these extra details would only appear in Apple’s podcast app and nowhere else.
Even so, Apple Podcasts is still one of the biggest platforms podcasts are consumed, so there’s no harm in catering to them if your hosting provider gives you the option.
Apple optimisation tags let you assign an Apple-only title and episode number to your episode. This will appear in place of your “main” episode title.
Here, you can see an example from inside Libsyn.
Apple doesn’t want anything in your iTunes Title other than the title of your episode. So in our case, based on the examples above, we’d simply enter Top 10 USB Mics for Podcasting in there. We’d then put 25 in the Episode Number field.
This means we could have the episode name display as one of the examples we’ve listed above in all other directories (Spotify, Stitcher, etc), whilst taking advantage of these features for appearing inside Apple Podcasts.
AI-Generated Podcast Headlines
While the average podcaster might still be sceptical of Artificial Intelligence, some AI tools can offer you a helping hand in your workflow.
You’ll find a deeper dive on this in our Best ChatGPT Prompts for Podcasters guide. But, interestingly, Katie observed there, that:
What’s really interesting about ChatGPT’s response to this prompt is that it didn’t just produce title ideas, but also gave me some inspiration about the direction I’d want to take the episode in.
Summary: Podcast Episode Titles
So naming your episodes really shouldn’t be complicated. Here are the key takeaways to keep in mind:
Create content your target audience will find valuable.
Title it so it shows up clearly in search.
Don’t waste space – be as succinct as possible.
Avoid putting episode numbers, your podcast series name, or the word “Episode” in there. Unless it’s at the end.
Monitor your stats over time to see how various titles are performing.
And if you’re a non-industry podcast, you can be much more creative with your titles. If your show is good, people will discover it in other ways.
Need More Help With Your Podcast?
If you’re looking for more direct support or guidance, remember to check out the IndiePod Community where you’ll find courses, live Q&A sessions, and a bunch of enthusiastic, passionate, and curious creators just like yourself.
Try for yourself right here:
And speaking of audio editing, if the very thought of it gives you the fear, or if you’re simply looking to save time and money, be sure to check out Alitu. Alitu is our ‘Podcast Maker’ tool that makes recording, editing, producing, and publishing your content as simple as humanly possible. All that’s left for you to do is choose a good podcast episode title!
Originally posted on June 20, 2023 @ 1:27 am