Podcast Visibility Optimization

The Importance Of Podcast Authority


Is your show not ranking high enough for your desired keywords in the search results of listening apps? If you’ve followed all of our recommendations on improving your podcast metadata, then you might have an authority problem.

Podcast authority is one of the 2 pillars of podcast visibility, yet its influence on search results is often underestimated.

In today’s article, we’ll be covering the following topics:
– What is Podcast Authority?
– What role does it play and why is it so important?
– What criteria are used by listening platforms to evaluate Podcast Authority?
– What are free and paid ways to improve your show’s authority?

What Is Podcast Authority?

To determine which shows and episodes to display in their search results, Spotify and Apple Podcasts’ algorithms rely on 2 main parameters: podcast metadata and Podcast Authority.

Each of them plays an essential but distinct role.

When a user types a word in the search bar of their favorite podcast app, the algorithms must execute 2 tasks.

Step 1: finding relevant shows

The metadata of a podcast tells the algorithm what the show is about. If a user types ‘marketing’, they don’t want to listen to content about recruitment or business news. Including the word ‘marketing’ in tags such as the show title and show descriptions helps the algorithm understand your podcast is topically relevant and should be considered for evaluation.

Step 2: assessing shows and ranking them by order of quality

Now that irrelevant results have been filtered out, the algorithm will look at a set of metrics that signal quality. Podcast Authority is a composite of all these quality metrics.

By performing this 2-step analysis, the algorithm can suggest shows that are both relevant AND high quality.

Podcast search algorithm

What Quality Signals Are Used By Listening Apps?

How do podcast platforms know if a show is good or not? Simple. They collect and analyze engagement data from their user base. Before suggesting a show or an episode to someone, the algorithm will first check how other users have engaged with it.

Let’s take a closer look at the metrics that algorithms interpret as signs of quality and the logic behind using each of them.

Download Volume: a high download volume is used by platforms as a proxy for quality. It’s far from perfect because publishers can purchase cheap downloads to signal popularity. This is why there is a need for supporting metrics.

Download volume trend: a show with a steadily rising number of downloads could be the next big thing. On the other hand, a declining number of downloads tends to indicate fading popularity.

Episode completion rate: are listeners engaging with the content or tuning out rapidly?

Followers/Listeners ratio: when users subscribe to a podcast, they signal that they want to listen to more in the future. Users might subscribe after listening to only one episode, so it’s not a perfect metric, but it’s at least a sign that the content made a strong first impression.

Episodes per listener: the more episodes a user listens to, the higher the chance that the show consistently brings value.

Ratings: this is self-explanatory. A show with a 4.5-star average rating is probably more interesting than a show with a 3-star average rating.

Reviews: when someone takes the time to write a review, it shows that they care about a show.

Freshness: a show publishing new episodes regularly has a higher chance to stay relevant thus freshness gives an authority boost.

Please note 2 important things here:

  1. There is no official communication from Apple or Spotify regarding these metrics. We are making educated assumptions based on how we’ve seen these parameters affect rankings for our clients.
  2. It is safe to assume that all the above metrics probably have different weightings in the algorithm’s calculation. In other terms, they are not all equally important. However, we don’t know what metrics are most important.

Here’s a cheat sheet to easily visualize all visibility factors and what category they belong to:

Podcast Visibility Factors

And if you want to dive deeper into the topic of podcast metrics, read our article on podcast analytics.

What Does It Mean In Terms of Search Rankings?

Based on the above, we can establish a couple of mental shortcuts to help you understand why your rankings are the way they are:

  1. If 2 shows have the same metadata, the show with the higher authority will rank higher.
  2. Simply adding a new keyword to your metadata doesn’t mean that your show will rank high for it. Your Podcast authority needs to be higher than that of other podcasts that have that keyword in their metadata.
  3. Podcast authority trumps metadata. If a podcast with low authority includes a keyword in its show title (the most important tag) and a show with high authority includes it in a tag with lesser weight like an episode description, the high-authority show will likely outrank the other.
  4. However, if a show doesn’t mention a keyword anywhere in its metadata, it will most likely not rank for it, even if the show has a high authority.
  5. Podcast authority is not static. As it increases, you will be able to compete for more competitive keywords.

Free Ways To Improve Podcast authority

You can increase your Podcast authority by improving its quality signals. There are paid and free ways to do this, let’s first focus on the latter:

  1. Improve the first 60 seconds of your episodes. Don’t kick off your episodes with the intro music fading into a regular introduction. Instead, you need to deliver value right away. Insert the most fun, insightful or intriguing passage of your episode before launching the intro. This acts as a sort of trailer that makes listeners excited.
  2. Make sure listeners keep listening past the 60-second mark. Tease the content of the episode. For instance, you could tell them to stick around because crucial information will be revealed.
  3. Encourage your listeners to leave ratings and reviews as a free way to support your show. Let them know it will help you produce more quality content. Again, you need to deliver value beforehand. Don’t ask for ratings and reviews right at the beginning of episodes. Don’t explicitly ask for a 5-star review either, this is against the TOS of platforms.
  4. Stay consistent with your pace of publication to keep freshness high.
  5. Regularly refer to previous episodes in new ones. This will prompt users to explore your content.
  6. Be diligent with the promotion of your show on social media. Repurpose your content by slicing your episodes into exciting short snippets of 8-10 seconds and publish them on TikTok, YT Shorts, and IG Reels.

How To Rapidly Increase Your Podcast authority (Requires A Budget)

  1. Running a paid campaign driving users to your episodes. By using the right targeting, you can maximize the proportion of new listeners who will become actual fans of your show. Stephanie Arakelian from CurtCo Media recommends running a campaign on other podcasts belonging to the same genre.
  2. Running incentivized campaigns in gaming apps to drive users to your content (grey hat tactic). The difference with 1. is that users get rewarded with in-game currencies for performing the action. The quality of users coming from such campaigns is usually low. As a result, there is a high risk it will affect other quality signs such as the completion rate or episodes per listener. Despite this, heavy hitters such as iHeartRadio have been caught using this tactic.
  3. Buying ratings and reviews (black hat tactic): we disapprove of this tactic because publishers abusing it will eventually erode the trust that listeners have in them. This is bad for the podcast industry as a whole. There are a number of services that you can find with a simple google search but beware, they are not all trustworthy.

Paying for authority is a bit of a cheat code because not every podcast publisher can afford it. That being said, if the content doesn’t live up to the expectations of your newly acquired listeners, they will not stick around for long.

This means that it will be hard to recoup your investment and it will also hurt your other quality signals. Your sudden spike in authority will be short-lived.


How can I find out what the Podcast authority of a competing podcast is?
You can look at its Visibility Score in Voxalyze and compare it to yours