Manipulating The Apple Podcasts Charts

I feel like James Cridland of Podnews is my co-host on Build A Big Podcast right now. Just this week, I’ve used statistics from his newsletter to talk about How Podcasters Can Win Over Hardcore Radio Listeners and his research on how people are (trying to) manipulate Apple Podcasts’ charts was helpful in my episode, Yes, Podcast Charts Can Be Rigged.

Yes, the charts on Apple Podcasts can be manipulated. I know this because I’ve seen their music charts, which are based on the same system, manipulated dozens of times.

People are always looking for shortcuts to the top of sales/downloads charts, not just Apple, but Amazon, Billboard, Wall Street Journal, New York Times, and any other chart. And James just shared an interesting job posting about how one guy is attempting to do it on Apple Podcasts…

Am I the only one who doesn’t see the big deal about this? Yes, it’s a curiosity. Yes, it’s manipulative. But it’s also pretty ingenious. And the basis behind what this guy is asking people to do could certainly be used to legitimately get your podcast in front of new people.

As far as whether it works to move a podcast up the charts on Apple Podcasts, I don’t know. It could work. And it could work to expose the podcast being added to hundreds of new people who use various devices on display at The Apple Store.

But will it work to get listeners who will continue to listen? That depends on how good the podcast being “promoted” is.

Without knowing anything about “Darren H.” or his podcast, even if what he’s asking people to do affects the charts or gets more exposure for him, if he doesn’t have the basic foundations of great audio, solid hosting, and compelling content, any chart movement or exposure won’t mean a thing in the long run. This is why most people are better off working on hosting skills and content than trying to figure out shortcuts.

When you build a great podcast, you don’t need to manipulate (or try to manipulate) podcast charts like this.

Should You Change The Name Of Your Podcast?

I did a podcast episode on this topic a couple of months ago. Last month, I wrote an article on Lee Silverstein, who’s had success with a podcast that gets 1000 (or fewer) downloads per episode.

This week, Lee changed the name of that podcast from The Colon Cancer Podcast to We Have Cancer.


Each year, more than 12 MILLION people will hear the same three DEVASTATING words: “YOU. Have. Cancer.”

As many of you know, I myself am a survivor of pediatric kidney cancer and Stage IV colon cancer.

My AMAZING wife Linda has taught me that *WE* have cancer, because every one of us is affected by it in some way — survivors, family, friends, and medical and support team members…

And we ALL have a story worth telling.

And this is why The Colon Cancer Podcast is transforming to a new name, while sharing the same inspiring stories.

Should You Change The Name Of Your Podcast?

If we waited to have everything perfect before recording and releasing our podcasts, we’d never release anything. There is no “perfect” when it comes to podcasting, because you, your audience, and the world around us is always changing. Beyond this, as we get deeper and deeper into our podcasts and more connected with the people who listen to us, we discover that our initial assumptions were wrong or no longer work for us.

I did this recently with my podcast for podcasters. I started to think about my ability do record and release a new episode every day. So I changed the name from Big Podcast Daily to Build A Big Podcast.

If changing the name of your podcast is going to help you reach more people, or reach more specific people, or create better quality episodes, by all means change the name of your podcast. And do it now rather than later. Build A Big Podcast, for example, is still a daily podcast and its content is the exact same as Big Podcast Daily. Lee is still sharing the same inspiring stories as before his name change, many of them about colon cancer. Changing the name of your podcast doesn’t mean you have to change anything about the content of your podcast, it may just help you explain what you’re already doing in a better way.

I have more thoughts on the subject on this episode of Build A Big Podcast called Why I Changed The Name Of This Podcast

Podcasting Lessons From Rush Limbaugh

Below is some tape of Rush Limbaugh from the early 1970s, back when he was a Top 40 DJ playing Elton John and Stevie Wonder.

Whether or not you agree with his politics, Rush is a great talk radio host — smooth on the mic, witty, and calm (compared to Sean Hannity).

As you’ll hear, he wasn’t always as good as he is now…

How do you get better a podcast host? Spend more time podcasting!

The more focused time you spend outlining, recording, and editing episodes, the better you’ll be. It’s the reason I suggest podcasters start a daily podcast.

Podcast Casting Call

casting call podcastCasting Call is a reality audio series that documents the search for the next great podcast. The podcast is produced by Gimlet Creative and funded by Squarespace.

There is an open casting call for aspiring hosts through May 21st.

Host Jonathan Goldstein and a panel of judges will select three applicants to fly to New York and produce pilots. One will be awarded a mini-series produced by Gimlet.

You can subscribe to Casting Call via Apple Podcasts and submit your application here.

The Secret To Great Podcast Episode Art

One of the biggest issues podcasters face is “banner blindness” — visitors to a website or subscribers listening via a podcast player consciously or subconsciously ignore a graphic if it appears too often. Or more often in the case of podcasting, listeners confuse episodes of the same podcast because each has the same graphic.

The more podcast episodes you release, the more likely you are to have this issue. As an example, my marketing podcast for podcasters, Build A Big Podcast, is currently published daily. Not using episode art would mean subscribers see the same image in their feeds 31 times per month.

And the “black and white” cover art image for Build A Big Podcast isn’t very exciting…

BBP Cover Art 3000x3000

Black and white imagery can stand out when compared to full-color graphics, which is what 99% of other podcasts have and why I’m using it. But if you any image more than a few times, especially a single-color image, it’s easy for it to get lost.

The Secret To Great Podcast Episode Art

To help episodes of Build A Big Podcast stand out from other podcasts and differentiate themselves from each other, I have more than 60 episode graphics.

Images like these…


All have the same motif. And it’s obvious from looking at any of them which podcast they belong to. These things are key — when somebody looks at your episode art, he needs to know which podcast the episode is from. Random graphics, even though they may stand out, don’t do this.

Here’s a example of episode art from Collected Clan:

collected clan episode art

Again, all have the same motif and it’s obvious which podcast they belong to when viewing them in a feed.

Resources To Create Podcast Episode Art

Obviously, a program like Photoshop can handle this job. I prefer Canva for podcast episode art though due to its simplicity. It’s also free (for the basic version) and quicker to use than Photoshop. As a bonus, Canva has dozens of great “CD Covers” templates that work well for podcast art and will get you started on a great design.

Want another option? RelayThat that will take the basic elements you want to include in a graphic, such as your podcast’s logo, podcast name, and episode title, and automatically “remix” them to generate dozens of different design options. This is a great tool if you want to generate individual episode graphics not just for your podcast episode itself, but for social media outlets and other places where you promote your podcast.

Podcasting Success With 1000 (Or Fewer) Downloads Per Episode

ColoncancerpodcastIn 2011, during a routine physical, Lee Silverstein’s doctor told him, “You’re 50, go get a colonoscopy.”

He did. The results came back positive.

The cancer was caught early enough that the recommended treatment was surgery. Chemo wouldn’t be necessary.

A second doctor agreed.

The surgery was a success and Lee moved on with his life, but continued to monitor his situation. He got married. And just 17 days afterward, he found the cancer had spread to his liver.

Once again, Lee was recommended surgery, this time with six months of chemo.

He successfully completed both. Then his life really changed…

While working at a career college, Lee got a call from a friend who needed meeting space and wanted to use an empty classroom. Being a good host, and being curious about the meeting, he sat in on it.

That’s how Lee Silverstein learned about podcasting.

“It was like a lighting bolt hit me,” he says. “I had to start a podcast. I needed to help people who had heard the three words that I’d heard, ‘You’ve got cancer,’ to give them hope and let them know that this isn’t an immediate death sentence.”

Today The Colon Cancer Podcast has dozens of episodes, interviewing cancer survivors (caregivers/med professionals), educating people about colon cancer, and sharing stories of hope.

Lee isn’t doing “big numbers.” In fact, he’s never had a single episode get more than 1000 downloads.

Yet he has three paying sponsors. To them, the number of downloads Lee gets is an afterthought to reaching some people in a very targeted market.

What he talks about isn’t always pretty. Colon cancer isn’t exactly the kind of thing most podcast listeners are interested in.

But those who are interested in what Lee has to talk about are really interested. Which is why he gets feedback like this…

“While I lay there after my first infusion of this very strong medicine, sad, depressed, scared, I began searching for … hope online, and I came across something I had never tried before, a podcast called The Colon Cancer Podcast. So I listened to my first podcast ever, and hope really was activated inside. Stories of Hope and Survival!  Exactly what I needed to hear. Around this time I was also learning about the benefits of exercise, how it can possibly slow recurrence. I felt I needed to get up and move all of a sudden, maybe this was my ticket!! My second infusion of (chemo) came, and when the pump came off 46 hours later, I loaded up some episodes of The Colon Cancer Podcast and began my new favorite hobby…walking. I walked. Slow, very slow. And I sent a message on Facebook to the guy running it to say thanks. His name is Lee, and he helped to save my life, and I’ll always love him for that. Lee, I love you man, you helped save me, and I will never forget. I hope to do like you, and inspire others to help keep them alive, and in turn they will do the same. Thank you for all you’ve done.”

This is what success looks like. It’s also getting 1,000,000 downloads, making six-figures per year, and being famous.

Success with your podcast is whatever you want it be. And it’s attainable.

So figure out what your version of podcast success is and work your way backwards to make it happen.

Good luck!

Podcast Keyword Stuffing – An Easy (And Risky) Way To Try And Grow Your Audience

Keyword stuffing is the practice of inserting a large number of keywords into descriptions, titles, and other content in the attempt to artificially increase the ranking of your podcast in search results. It’s common to see this done within a show’s title, description, or author field.

For example, a podcast author will labeled not as “Jimmy Johnson,” but as “Jimmy Johnson | Marketing Expert similar to Seth Godin, Guy Kawasaki, Eben Pagan, Frank Kern, and Marie Forleo.” Or, “Jimmy Johnson | An comic alternative to Marc Maron, Aisha Tyler, Adam Carolla, Joe Rogan, and Grace Helbig.”

In other words, it’s not uncommon to see somebody trying to boost his own credibility, notoriety, and search numbers by attaching himself to somebody with a lot more credibility, notoriety, and search numbers.

This happens within titles of podcasts all the time as well. For example, “Jimmy Johnson Podcast: Internet Business | Entrepreneurship | Make Money Online.” Or ““Jimmy Johnson Podcast | Interviews With Celebrities Like Kim Kardashian”

Does it work to get more search traffic? It can. It can also piss people off and make you look like an amateur.

Something Smells Fishy

Scent is our most powerful sense. It can bring back memories or warn us of danger.

The global perfume industry generates over $30,000,000,000 per year. That’s 30 billion. And it’s not slowing down anytime soon.

One of the ways companies are getting into this industry is by designing knockoff fragrances. For example, Designer Imposters’ “Primo,” a knockoff of Giorgio Beverly Hills. You can get a huge bottle of it at Wal-Mart for around $10. The body spray is only $3.

Every successful fragrance has been copied…

If you like Calvin Klein’s Obsession, you can get “Confess” instead.

For Vera Wang’s Princess, there is “Goddess.”

Victoria Secret’s Love Spell is “Swept Away.”

Most people can’t tell the difference between the imitation fragrances and the real thing. But the perfume industry didn’t get to the $30,000,000,000 level by selling $10 bottles at Wal-Mart. People who use perfume want the real thing, not a knockoff.

Podcast listeners want the real thing too. You may get some initial traffic by keyword stuffing, but people want what they’re searching for, not a knockoff. Because of this, they’re unlikely to stick around.

The way to build a real business around your podcast is to focus on creating something (or being somebody) people will search for specifically.

Google Bulletin – A Great Tool For Local Podcasters

google bulletinI think “hyperlocal” is the future of podcasting. People want to know not just what’s happening in their cities, but in their neighborhoods.

Google agrees and has launched a new app, Bulletin, to facilitate this.

Bulletin allows you to publish hyperlocal stories directly from your phone. According to its website, “Bulletin makes it effortless to put a spotlight on inspiring stories that aren’t being told.”

Bulletin is currently in a limited pilot and available only to users in Nashville, TN and Oakland, CA.

I just got access…

Everything on Bulletin is public and can be accessed through Google search, shared on social networks, and sent via emails and messaging apps, making it easy to discover and share with others. If you’re doing a hyperlocal podcast, this is a great opportunity to reach out to people in your audience with text, video, and photos in addition to your audio content.

If you’re in Nashville or Oakland, you can request early access here.

3 Ways To Create Podcast Episode Notes Listeners Will Actually Read

I do episode notes for my podcasts in one of three ways:

1. Bullet Points

The episode notes for RED Podcast use the following formula:

  • intro paragraph describing the episode
  • bullet points about the specific content (usually done in a “curiosity” style to encourage people to listen)
  • a list of links for things I mention during the episode
  • a sponsor mention and link
  • links to the Android and iPhone apps
  • a link to Apple Podcasts within a paragraph that encourages the reader to subscribe

I edit my own podcasts and it’s during this time that I write the bullet points. The reason the only “subscribe” link within the episode notes points to Apple Podcasts is because I want to focus all users there in order to maximize chart positions. If somebody wants to subscribe via another method, those links can be found under the player, which is above the episode notes.

2. A Summary Paragraph (Or Two)

As Build A Big Podcast is a more focused podcast then RED Podcast, it’s easier to get a potential listener to take a chance on it. The short episode length also doesn’t provide the volume of content to use for bullet points.

Because of these things, the episode notes for Build A Big Podcast are simply a one or two paragraph summary, followed by a call-to-action that encourages people to subscribe.

3. Written Notes On An Interview Outline

Below are episode notes from my broadcast radio show, Music Business Radio. All episodes are interviews and recorded “live-to-tape” as if they were going out live.

While I could do episode notes for this show that are bullet points, like I do for RED Podcast, or a summary, like I do for Build A Big Podcast, a scan of my “interview plan” and notes added during the interview shows listeners a different perspective on how episodes are created and my thought process during interviews. In many ways, a scan isn’t as clear as a rewrite of bullet points designed to sell the episode or a summary that boils the “big idea” of the episode into a couple of paragraphs, but it’s far more compelling for many listeners, especially hardcore fans who are familiar with me and the show.

About the process:

I start with some basic questions and topics I want to cover, thinking ahead to how things could go. After the first question is asked though, the interview becomes something completely different.

This is from an interview I did with two well-known graphic designers. Notice the “4th” marking above the third question (actually the fourth question — number mix up) on the list below. Each episode is divided into four sections (with commercial breaks in-between) and that’s a note for me to begin the fourth section

Other markups…

  • The top notes are how the guests wanted to be introduced as well as my notes on their locations and contact information
  • “Julie” was a third (and unscheduled) guest on this episode, which is why her name was handwritten
  • The “boxed” notes are answers/topics I wanted to refer back to in followup questions



Here are notes from another episode, this one with a legendary producer and session musician. The first page is basically a bio I can refer to when introducing him and coming in and out of segments (remember — this show is primarily distributed via broadcast radio, not via podcast, so new people are tuning in as its playing).

You’ll notice last-minute notes I wrote regarding his first recording session as well as a project I wanted to get the story of. There are also a couple of quotes that came up during the interview, which I put on this page simply because I didn’t have room elsewhere.


I went into this interview having done a previous interview in 2013. I’d also read his book, so all I needed were a few bullet points to help me guide the discussion.

This is my outline for this episode, which was scheduled to be 54 minutes of finished tape. He had so many great stories, we ended up talking for about three hours and it will likely be made into two 54-minute episodes.


Will this format of episode notes work for you and your podcast? Maybe.

If the people who listen to your podcast know the names you mention and are curious about the topics covered, yes — this is a compelling way to share this information. If you’re trying to attract new listeners though, most will find the “bullet point” option mentioned above more persuasive as that copy is designed to persuade.

How To Improve Your Podcast Interviews – 3 Things You Should Do, 4 Things You Should NEVER Do

Nashville mayor Megan Barry had an affair with the police officer in charge of her security detail. She got caught. Now she’s trying to save her job.

I like what Megan Barry has done for Nashville, but somebody needs to get her some media training ASAP if she wants to keep her job.

Here’s the interview, which has a lot of great lessons for podcasters on both sides of an interview:

A few suggestions on how to improve it…

  1. Slow down.Being hurried during an interview makes it, at best, look like you have somewhere else to be, and at worst, look like you’re trying to avoid what’s being asked.
  2. Give complete answers.This entire interview is one soundbite after another, which adds to its fast pace. Sooner or later, you have to “land the plane” when answering questions, but the questions being asked here are not closed-ended and deserve more detailed answers.
  3. Pause slightly before answering a question.Give your answer a little breathing room. Pausing before you speak helps your words to stand out and makes it easier for people to pay attention to them.
  4. Don’t talk over the guy asking questions.At best, talking over the guy asking questions makes it look like you’ve got a prepared answer or aren’t listening. At worst, it makes it look like you’re trying to shut him up.
  5. Don’t make excuses if you want to be seen an a leader.Megan Barry had an affair. There was international travel involved, some with just her and the police officer with whom she was having that affair. Her “aggressive schedule” isn’t the issue here.
  6. Don’t try to change the subject when you’re guilty — own it.

    Megan Barry had an affair. She wants to move on and the city of Nashville wants to move on. It’s up to the city when that happens though, not her. If she wants to speed things up, she needs to answer the questions people are asking her.

  7. Don’t respond to multiple questions with, “As I just said…”You sound like an asshole.
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