Podcast Analytics

Conversion Rate Optimization for Podcasting – The definitive guide

How can I attract more listeners and generate more downloads? This question keeps podcasters awake at night.

In reality, a better way to look at it is to split it into two separate problems:

  • How can I get more people to discover my podcast?
  • How can I turn more of these potential listeners into actual downloads?

Most podcast audience growth-related content on the web deals with the former. What social media channels should I use? How do I submit my podcast to directories? How do you do ad swaps? Etc.

The latter deals with a concept called podcast conversion rate optimization (CRO, in short). It is the one you need to take care of first.

Why? Suppose you spend time or money promoting your podcast, but only one person in ten who discovers it ends up listening. You are wasting resources trying to fill a leaky bucket.

You need to patch the holes before worrying about podcast promotion. The good news is that it’s relatively easy to do once you know what to fix and how. This is what we’re going to explore in this article.

Table of contents

What is Podcast Conversion Rate Optimization?

Conversion Rate Optimization might sound like an abstract and even intimidating concept. In reality, it is relatively easy to grasp if you approach it the right way.

Before downloading a podcast, a potential listener will go through many steps:

  1. Finding out about the podcast (podcast app search, ad, etc.)
  2. Evaluating if the podcast is worth their time
  3. Deciding on which episode they will first listen to
  4. Downloading their first episode
  5. Repeat downloads

In simple terms, conversion rate optimization is the science of moving people from one step to the next as efficiently as possible. By efficiently, we mean losing as few people as possible at each step.

This succession of steps can be called the listener’s journey. CRO experts like to use the image of a funnel to depict this journey.

Here’s our version of the funnel for the listener’s journey

Podcast Conversion Rate Optimization Funnel

People enter the funnel at the top, and, at each step, a certain percentage of them is lost while the rest moves on to the next step.

Now the million-dollar question: how can I increase the percentage of people who decide to go all the way down the funnel and download my episodes?

This is what we’re going to see now.

What levers can you pull to improve the efficiency of your funnel?

Let’s go back to our funnel. We’re going to start from the top and look at which levers you can pull each step of the way.

Top of the funnel – Discovery


If you’re not running ads for your podcast, you can skip directly to podcast covers.

The topic of podcast ads is worth an entire article. Also, the variety of ad formats and genres (especially fiction vs. non-fiction) makes it tough to define best practices that apply across the board.

That being said, there are three basic principles that can guide you when crafting your ads:

Leverage your strengths. 

  • If you have a famous host, guest, or voiceover actor, be sure to feature them in the ad.
  • If you also release your podcast in video format, don’t use audiograms.

Tell potential listeners what’s in it for them.

  • Who’s the show for?
  • Tell them why they should listen.
  • If the show is educational in nature, what are they going to learn?
  • If your content has the potential to change lives, sell the transformation.

Leverage human emotions and psychology

  • Use open loops if you have a fiction or true crime show. Humans are curious and have a natural need for closure.
  • Include hilarious moments.
  • Ask questions to engage potential listeners.

By the way, almost all of the advice above applies to social media posts, whether for the show in general or specific episodes.

Podcast covers

“Don’t judge a book by its cover .”Despite the saying, humans are visual creatures. For instance, it’s been demonstrated that app icon changes can result in increases in downloads of up to 44%!

A good podcast cover should convey what your podcast is about. Let’s look at eight covers I found in the same search.

Can you guess what word I typed in the search bar?

Bad podcast cover examples

Not so easy, right? Now let’s see another cover for the same search request.

Good podcast cover example

I found all these covers by typing ‘nutrition,’ but only one of them really informed me about what I would find if I tapped on the cover. Naturally, I’m more inclined to tap on that one.

As podcasters, we’re so deep in our own podcast that we sometimes lose the ability to see things from the listener’s perspective. They have limited time and will only give your podcast a fraction of a second before deciding to explore further or not.

Make sure your cover delivers all necessary information in that brief moment.

Do you want to see the podcast covers of all shows competing for your main keywords? You can do that with our Keyword Explorer.

Podcast title

After the cover art, the title is usually the second piece of information about your podcast people see. It’s the logical reading order as we tend to read from left to right and top-down, plus we tend to be more drawn to images than text.

nutrition podcast spotify search results

Many of the points I made about podcast covers above apply to your title, too. Make it dead easy for potential listeners to grasp what your podcast is about.

Sometimes, podcast titles can be obscure.

  • Named after the host when the host is not a household name or celebrity in the niche
  • Making use of puns
  • Vague

If your podcast title fits into one of these categories, you can simply append a descriptive phrase after a hyphen.

For instance: 

  • Podcast P with Paul George -> Podcast P with Paul George – All about Basketball
  • Betrayal -> Betrayal – A mom’s fight to protect her children from the man she loved

Doing so will help clear any misunderstanding about the actual topic of your podcast (while also helping with your visibility). By making things more transparent and easier for potential listeners, you increase the odds they will choose your show over another.

Just to be clear: the appended text doesn’t need to be included on the cover, just in the title tag.

Middle of the funnel

You’ve captured the interest of a potential listener, and they are now checking out your show page. Before listening to an episode, they will keep assessing to see if the content is worth their time.

To do so, potential listeners usually look at the following:

The show description

The first paragraph of your description is the elevator pitch of your podcast. It should finish convincing the reader to give your show a listen. You can basically use the same principles highlighted in our section about ads:

  • Tell potential listeners what’s in it for them.
  • Leverage human emotions and psychology.

Apps clip the description after around 120 characters, so the most enticing piece of information needs to go first. It’s there to get people to tap on read more/see more.

Our article about podcast metadata has a comprehensive section about show descriptions. I highly encourage you to check it out.


Another common human psychological bias is the social proof bias. Social proof is a cognitive phenomenon where individuals seek assurance from a group’s collective wisdom to guide their own behaviour. 

In the context of choosing a podcast, potential listeners are more inclined to trust and select a show with a larger number of positive reviews. The number of reviews is also used as a proxy for quality, even if the two or not always related.

Let’s compare two basketball podcasts:

podcast ratings comparison

Two thousand people can’t be wrong, right? 

There are two learnings here:

  • Don’t neglect your ratings and reviews; actively ask your audience to rate and leave reviews.
  • Starting shows are at a natural disadvantage. Having a unique angle and well-crafted description is a must to stand out and compete against more prominent podcasts in your niche.

Podcast teaser

We recorded an episode of the Audience Growth Podcast with Arielle Nissenblatt, where she delivered fantastic insights about what makes a great podcast trailer and what are the biggest mistakes to avoid.

How do you measure success?

As the saying goes, you can’t improve what you don’t measure. If you are testing a new podcast cover art to see if it can increase your weekly downloads, you want to collect data and track the performance metrics associated with it.

In the CRO space, people usually refer to the metric they optimize for as conversion rate (CR, in short). To calculate the CR, you simply compare the number of desired events to the number of users who could have performed said event.

In the case of podcasting, we want people to download our show. Let’s call our conversion rate the download rate (DR). To calculate our DR, we want to compare the number of people who downloaded to the number of people who clicked (or tapped) to find out more about our podcast.

Podcast download rate formula

Important: we don’t want to use the number of downloads as a comparison point. Why? A single listener can download several episodes. This means that heavy users can skew your conversion rate. Let’s look at two cases as an example:

Case 1:

Person A finds your show and downloads 0 episode
Person B finds your show and downloads 0 episode
Person C finds your show and downloads 0 episode
Person D finds your show and downloads 0 episode
Person E finds your show and downloads 10 episodes

Looking at downloads, our DR is 10 / 5 = 200%

Amazing, right? Well, this masks the fact that only 1 user in 5 downloaded your show. Our true download rate is 20%. Certainly not bad, but it paints a very different picture.

Case 2:

Person A finds your show and downloads 1 episode
Person B finds your show and downloads 0 episode
Person C finds your show and downloads 0 episode
Person D finds your show and downloads 1 episode
Person E finds your show and downloads 2 episode

If we run the same calculations as above, we get the following numbers:

  • CR based on downloads: 5 / 5 = 100%
  • True DR: 3 / 5 = 60%

Some might object that case #1 is more desirable because we got ourselves a true fan who binge-listens to our podcast. True fans are great but remember: what we are measuring here is our ability to turn potential listeners into actual ones.

What happens after the first download is important, too, but it requires a different measurement method. Let’s call it the…

Repeat Download Ratio

The repeat download ratio measures the percentage of listeners who have listened to 2 or more episodes.

Here’s the formula :

Repeat Download Ratio

The Binge Listening Ratio

In case 1, our true fan is not just a repeat listener; he’s a binge listener! We need another metric and formula to measure that, which we cover in our podcast analytics guide.

What tools can you use to measure and optimize?

Unfortunately, Apple Podcasts and Spotify don’t share data about user behavior. For that reason, what happens in the middle of the funnel is not something we can directly measure.

To go around this black box, we have to deduce by looking at what we can measure directly.

  • We know how many clicks enter our funnel
  • We know how many downloads we generate

To measure this, you need a measurement tool that can track clicks and downloads. Moreover, it needs to be able to precisely match a download to a click.

Why? Two main reasons.

First, your downloads could increase for a number of reasons. It might be that you were mentioned in another podcast, a podcast ranking, or a radio show. A podcast app might have featured you or changed its algorithm.

Second, you can’t measure the DR for all users, only the ones you tracked when they entered the funnel. For instance, we can’t track how many people find our podcast by using the search bar of a podcast app.

For this reason, you can’t just go off your total number of downloads. You need to look at your tracked clicks and tracked downloads.

Voxalyze can do just that. The best part? We have a free tier with 50 tracked downloads included, so you can start measuring right away, even if you’re on a budget.

If you want to know how Voxalyze can measure your DR, read our podcast attribution guide.

Testing best practices

Gather historical data

Before making any changes, you want to gather a couple of historical data so you have numbers to compare to.

Don’t make several changes at once

If you change your title and cover art in the same week, you won’t be able to isolate which of the two led to an improvement (or worsening) of your DR.

Look at your DR channel by channel.

If you look at aggregate numbers, a change in the make-up of your traffic might skew the data. For instance, say your TikTok traffic has a lower DR. All things being equal if the proportion of clicks coming from TikTok increases, your DR will go down.