Podcast Attribution

A Comprehensive Guide to Podcast Tracking Prefixes

What is a podcast tracking prefix?

A podcast tracking prefix is a short URL code added to the beginning of a podcast’s episode media URL. This code enables third-party analytics platforms to track downloads and user devices without interfering with the content distribution process. Podcasters can use this valuable data to understand their audience better, measure the effectiveness of their marketing efforts, and tailor their content to their listeners’ preferences.

What format do they follow?

The prefix code may vary depending on the analytics provider, but the structure remains consistent. The tracking URL is the web address of the analytics provider, and the prefix is a unique identifier for the podcast or podcaster. In the case of Voxalyze, the prefix provided will look like this https://a.pdcst.to/youruniqueshowid/

Voxalyze prefix format

How do they work technically?

Tracking prefixes are added to the beginning of media URLs at the RSS feed level. When a listener clicks on a podcast episode, their podcast app sends a GET request to the episode’s media file. This request is directed to the analytics provider’s server. The server then logs the relevant data, such as the listener’s IP address, user agent, and timestamp, before redirecting the request to the original media file. This process is generally seamless and does not impact the listener’s experience.

If you prefer less boring, technical jargon, you can think of how telephones worked in the early days. You had to call an operator, tell them whom you wanted to reach, and they would then put you through. Now imagine that operator noting your name, address, and phone number and storing it in a file cabinet.

The tracking prefix works like that operator, except the information collected and stored on the analytics provider’s server consists of the listener’s IP address, device, and timestamp.

Why use a tracking prefix?

A tracking prefix can serve two purposes.

1) Get a better understanding of your audience’s profile and listenership growth.

More often than not, podcast hosting platforms provide limited functionalities. Specialized podcast analytics platforms such as Voxalyze offer a more comprehensive and accurate understanding of listener behavior and preferences.

2) Let advertisers track the success of their podcast ad campaigns.

Tracking prefixes are instrumental in demonstrating your podcast’s value to advertisers. They tend to invest in channels when they can prove the return on ad spend is positive. This is especially true of direct-to-consumer brands, which are highly performance-driven. Tracking prefixes allow advertisers to match a purchase to a podcast download. This is true for both baked-in ads and dynamically inserted ads. For more detail on this, read our guide on podcast attribution.

How to implement a tracking prefix?

If you are a Voxalyze user, head over to our prefix setup guide.

Otherwise, you must first sign up with a tracking prefix provider. Once you have an account and obtain your unique prefix, you can add it to your podcast’s episode media URLs. Some podcast hosting platforms will allow you to paste the tracking prefix once in the general settings of your show. In contrast, others may require manual editing of each episode’s URL. Be sure to follow the specific instructions your tracking prefix provider and podcast host provides.

What will happen if I add a tracking prefix to my podcast?

From an end user’s perspective, nothing in particular. The tracking process is generally seamless and does not affect the listening experience for your audience. As long as you’re not using a string of 4 different prefixes, the end user shouldn’t experience any latency, and the episode should load almost immediately.

What mistakes should you be careful not to make during the implementation?

To ensure a successful implementation of podcast tracking prefixes, consider the following potential pitfalls and best practices:

a. Double or multiple prefixing

Be sure to add a forward slash between each prefix. Failure to do so will create issues with episode playback.

b. Inconsistency

If your hosting provider forces you to implement the tracking prefix at the episode level, make sure to apply it consistently across all your episodes to ensure uniform data collection. Failure to do so may result in incomplete or inaccurate insights into your podcast’s performance.

c. Following Instructions

Carefully follow the implementation guidelines provided by both your tracking prefix provider and podcast hosting platform. This will ensure the tracking prefix is correctly applied and functioning as intended.

d. Monitoring Performance

Keep an eye on your podcast’s performance and listener feedback after implementing the tracking prefix. This will allow you to identify any potential issues that may arise and address them promptly.

Choosing the Right Tracking Prefix Provider

A wide range of podcast analytics and attribution providers leverage podcast prefixes. Some popular providers include Voxalyze, Podtrac, and Chartable.

It’s important to consider factors such as pricing, features, independence, customer support, and ease of use. Most of all, you should make your decision based on your primary goal. Do you want to gain a better understanding of your audience, or do you want to let advertisers track conversions coming from your audience?

Voxalyze is a publisher-first analytics provider. Its main goal is to provide podcast publishers with valuable insights about their audience.

Other providers, such as Chartable or Podsights are advertiser focused. If you choose to implement their prefix, it will help you prove the value of your audience and monetize your show.

Make sure your chosen tracking prefix provider is compatible with your podcast hosting platform. Some hosting platforms may have specific requirements or limitations when it comes to implementing tracking prefixes.

Differences between podcast prefixes and website pixels

Podcast tracking prefixes and website pixels serve similar purposes in that they both collect user data, but they differ in terms of implementation and the range of information they can track. Podcast tracking prefixes are added to the beginning of a podcast’s media URL and function at the server level. They can’t be loaded through a container such as Google Tag Manager or be implemented server-side.

In contrast, website pixels are small pieces of code embedded in a website’s HTML, which can be easily managed through containers like Google Tag Manager and server-side tagging solutions.

In terms of tracking capabilities, podcast tracking prefixes primarily monitor listener behavior related to podcast episodes, such as downloads, user devices, and geographical distribution (IP). They are limited by the nature of audio content and their reliance on the podcast app’s cooperation to gather data.

On the other hand, website pixels can track a broader range of user interactions, including page views, clicks, form submissions, and even user behavior across multiple websites through the use of cookies. This provides website owners with a more comprehensive understanding of user behavior, which can inform their marketing strategies and website design.

Integrating Tracking Prefixes with Other Analytics Tools

To better understand your podcast’s performance, consider combining tracking prefix data with other analytics sources such as website and social media metrics. If you publish your own listening app, getting a full picture of your downloads in first and third-party apps is essential. This is where a tool like Voxalyze shines with its unified analytics offering. It marries up data collected via the prefix and an SDK placed in your app.

This comprehensive approach will enable you to identify trends, measure the impact of marketing efforts, and make data-driven decisions to grow your podcast audience.

What data points can’t be tracked directly by tracking prefixes?

Several data points cannot be tracked directly by a podcast tracking prefix due to the limitations of audio content and the reliance on podcast apps for data collection. Some examples of these untrackable data points include:

Listener Demographics: 

Podcast tracking prefixes cannot directly collect personal information about the listeners, such as age, gender, or occupation. While this information can be valuable for understanding and targeting your audience, it’s not accessible through tracking prefixes alone.

User Actions within Podcast Apps: 

Tracking prefixes are unable to monitor specific user actions within podcast apps, such as subscribing to a podcast, adding an episode to a playlist, or sharing an episode on social media. These in-app actions can provide insight into user engagement, but tracking prefixes cannot capture this information.

In-Episode Listener Behavior: 

Podcast tracking prefixes cannot track granular listening behaviors within individual episodes, such as listening completion, rewinding, fast-forwarding, or skipping specific segments. This level of detail could help podcasters understand which parts of their episodes resonate with listeners and which parts may need improvement.

Listener Sentiment: 

Podcast tracking prefixes can’t capture qualitative data such as listener feedback, reviews, or podcast ratings (link to stack). These data points can offer valuable insights into the aspects of your podcast that your audience enjoys or dislikes, but they cannot be collected through tracking prefixes.

To gather some of this untrackable data, podcasters may need to employ additional methods, such as surveying their audience, monitoring user reviews and ratings, or leveraging other analytics tools and platforms.

Are there alternative technologies?

Any functioning podcast-tracking technology needs to be compatible with RSS; the primary method used is podcast tracking prefixes.

While other tracking technologies, such as JavaScript-based tracking and web beacons, are widely used for tracking user behavior on websites, they are not directly compatible with RSS.

As a result, podcast tracking prefixes are the primary tracking technology compatible with RSS for collecting listener data and understanding audience behavior in the podcasting industry.

The Future of Podcast Analytics and Tracking Prefixes

As the podcasting industry continues to evolve, so too will the technologies and trends surrounding podcast analytics. Emerging innovations such as AI-driven insights and predictive analytics may offer new opportunities for podcasters to understand their audiences and optimize their content. Additionally, alternative tracking methods may emerge, challenging the dominance of tracking prefixes in the podcast analytics landscape. Stay informed about these developments and adapt your strategies accordingly to ensure your podcast remains competitive and continues to grow.


Podcast tracking prefixes have become an indispensable tool for podcasters seeking to gain insights into their audience and improve their content. By understanding their history, technical workings, and implementation process, you can harness the power of tracking prefixes to optimize your podcast’s performance and cater to your audience’s preferences. Be mindful of potential pitfalls and follow best practices to ensure a seamless and successful implementation.