When we think about success in the podcast industry, we often think about originality and the power to educate and entertain.
Under the surface, however, a silent revolution is underway. One where data literacy is now on equal footing with creativity as a predictor of success.
Despite this context, the podcast industry is still not as data-driven as the web and app ecosystems. A major limiting factor has been the sophistication of platforms like Apple Podcasts Connect and Spotify for podcasters (or lack thereof).
Don’t get us wrong; the metrics they share are very insightful. No doubt about that. But in many ways, these platforms lack the depth needed to A/B test and optimize your podcast assets based on data.
Let’s take podcast on-platform discovery, for instance. There are best practices to help your show rank higher in search engines and improve your cover art so more people feel compelled to give it a listen.
The problem was that you could not directly measure the effects of your changes and tests. Sure, you could extrapolate the data. We’ve shown how to do this in our beginners’ and advanced guides to measuring the impact of PVO.
The downside of all these measurement methods is that they can’t match the level of precision you’d get from getting the data directly from the platforms.
Spotify for Podcasters’ latest update is a gigantic step in the right direction. On the surface, you might not think much of it. They just added a new metric: impressions. In reality, it’s kind of a big deal.
So many new possibilities open up to podcasters, thanks to this update. We’re excited to explore them all with you.
Where to find the new dashboard
Step 1: Log into Spotify for Podcasters
Step 2: Click on the cover art on the home
Step 3: Check your total impression data
Step 4: Click on the audience tab to get to the meaty part
There, you will find the two charts.
Impressions by day (last 30 days – represented as line chart)
Impression by source (last 30 days – represented as a bar chart)
They’re both equally important in their own right, and I’ll tell you why in the next section.
By the way, if you need more insights on the metrics provided by Spotify for Podcasters, be sure to read our article on the topic.
PVO impact measurement
If you are not familiar with the concept, PVO stands for Podcast Visibility Optimization. As the name lets on, it’s a set of practices whose goal is to help your podcast capture more search volume in podcast apps.
These practices range from metadata optimization to tactics seeking to increase podcast authority.
Metadata is a rich topic in itself, and we encourage you to check out this article to go deeper when you have the time.
That being said, we know your time is precious, so we’ll give you a mini crash course so you can get the most out of this article without getting overwhelmed.
PVO: the basics
- Podcast app users look for new content by using the search bar.
- App algorithms decide which podcasts appear in the search results based on the words included in their show title and description (aka metadata).
- Including a certain word in your metadata increases the chances that your show will be shown in search results when people type that word in their search bar.
Alright, now that you’re up to speed, let’s see how this new Spotify for Podcasters feature can help you measure the impact of PVO.
Let’s assume your podcast is called Food for thought, but you want people to find your show when they type “cooking” in their app search bar. You’re smart, so you change the name of your podcast Food for thought – All About Cooking
You let it simmer (pun intended) for a couple of weeks and log into Voxalyze. You see:
- Your Visibility Score has improved.
- Your podcast is now ranking in 5th position for the term “cooking.”
- Your downloads also went up.
Neat. But the question remains: how many extra downloads came from the changes you made to your show title?
In an ideal world, everything else would remain unchanged, and you’d be able to simply chalk it up to the metadata improvements. In reality, podcasting can be messy. You might have published more episodes than usual, resulting in a surge of automated downloads. You might have appeared as a guest on another podcast. Or maybe your show got mentioned in an industry newsletter.
Now, you can track more precisely by combining Voxalyze’s Promotion Analytics with Spotify’s search impressions data. I’ll show you how step-by-step. To make it as easy as possible for you to follow along, I have created a free template that does the math for you. You can get it here.
Prior to making metadata changes
Start keeping track of your search impressions. Log into Spotify for podcasters and enter the daily number of impressions in column B of the free template.
Now, make your metadata changes and gather at least 30 days of impression data before going to phase 2. If you can wait longer and extend the period to 45 or even 60 days to gather more data, even better. In that case, change the number in cell H6.
Measuring after changes
- Open Spotify for podcasters
- Open the template. Fill out the impression numbers provided by Spotify.
- In the Raw Data tab, fill out cells L1 and L2 with the numbers available in Spotify’s audience tab.
- Fill out cells L5 and L6.
- Log into your Voxalyze console and head to the Analytics tab.
- Select the date range. Start date = cell L8 in the template. End date = cell L9 in the template.
- Select Spotify as platform. Click “Apply”.
- Download the daily download data by clicking the icon in the upper right corner of the line chart.
- Open the Excel sheet, copy the daily download data, and paste it into column D of the template. Make sure the date ranges match.
- Go to the marketing filter, select all Smart links, and apply. Download the daily data and paste it into column E of the template. Again, make sure the date ranges match.
You can now check how closely your metadata changes correlate to the evolution of your download numbers by comparing the percentage increase in average daily search impressions on Spotify vs. the percentage increase in daily non-tracked downloads.
If you keep filling out the template regularly, as laid out above, you will be able to observe that correlation over a longer period of time when consulting the “Charts” tab.
Interpreting results and troubleshooting
What to do if downloads increased much more than your search impressions
1. Check your publication pace
We’re currently working on a way to track and exclude auto-downloads from the analysis. Until then, a significant difference in the number of episodes released over equally long periods will lead to a weak correlation between search impressions and downloads.
2. Check for a spike of untracked downloads
You might get a spike in downloads because of promotional factors that are both hard to track and out of your hands. Your show could have been mentioned on TV, the radio, or another podcast. In that case, it’s better to exclude these days from the data set.
What to do if impressions didn’t increase as much as your Voxalyze Visibility score
A low impression-to-download ratio can have several causes:
1. Wrong set of primary keywords.
Just because a show ranks for a given keyword doesn’t mean users will think it’s relevant and answers their informational needs. Try to change the set of main keywords you try to rank for.
2. Low keyword rank
Search is a winner-takes-all game. It’s true of Google, where the first organic result receives about 30% of clicks, and it’s true of podcast apps, too. Ranking in 5th position might not be enough to unlock substantial amounts of downloads. To climb ranks, work on your podcast authority.
3. Poor asset optimization
When people browse search results, they will decide what podcast to explore further in a matter of seconds. Make sure your podcast title and the first paragraph of your show description are optimized to entice users to click: clear, concise, and answering the question ‘What’s in it for me? The cover art must also convey what the show is about and be visually appealing. See the next section for tips on how to improve it.
Cover art A/B testing
When we launched our show, the Audience Growth Podcast, we decided to apply best practices.
- Readable font size, even when the cover art is displayed as miniature.
- Colors that appear clearly for light and dark mode
- Design that stands out from other podcasts in the niche
Now, that’s not to say the design in its current form is perfect. There’s certainly room for improvement. Potentially, testing different options for our cover art could lead to an increase in the impression-to-download rate.
We could change the color, use different shapes, put my face on it, etc.
Now, admittedly, we have a very niche podcast. The keywords we rank for don’t have a high search volume in podcast apps (and that’s okay). A 10% increase in our impression-to-download rate wouldn’t move the needle that much.
On the other hand, a podcast on a popular topic targeting high search volume keywords could massively benefit from a 10% increase.
How to measure the results of your tests
Basically, you can use the same template as for the PVO measurement, with a minor twist. You can follow the exact steps laid out in the previous section, but the results you want to observe here are different. To verify your hypothesis that your new cover art is the winning variant, you want to see a medium-to-large increase in your impression-to-download ratio.
Pro tip: If you have a marketing budget, you can test and iterate on podcast cover options much faster. Promote your podcast with Meta Ads and test different versions of your podcast cover to see what clicks best. It doesn’t translate precisely 1-to-1 to click rates in podcast apps, but it’s directionally correct.
Testing best practices
Only test one variable at once
Both your cover art and metadata can have an impact on downloads. Only change one of these elements at once to reduce the noise in the download data. Once the test has started, give it enough time to gather data. Once your test is conclusive, you can move on to the next one.
Avoid periods of high seasonality
Seasonality will lead to natural increases and drops in search volume and, thus, search impressions. If you run tests during these periods, the results of your changes will be mixed with seasonality effects, skewing your data in the process.
Examples of high-seasonality periods:
- Summer break (impressions will naturally decline)
- Seasons where topics become hyper-relevant. For instance, people tend to look for content on fitness, language learning, or quitting smoking in January.
Current data limitations
No impression-to-stream data
This would have been a true killer feature in Spotify’s dashboard. The ability to precisely match streams with search impression data would have been the simplest, most reliable way to measure the impact of PVO. Streams and downloads are not the same event, but calculating your stream/download ratio would have been the only extra step required to get a clear number of downloads.
Only 30 days of rolling data
There’s currently no way to recover historical data that is not shown directly in Spotify’s interface. We hope that Spotify will soon release a beefed-up version of the dashboard but, for now, it only shows data for the last 30 days. Create a weekly reminder in your calendar to get the data from Spotify, and fill out our free template to keep track of the daily data.
No data export feature
Unfortunately, you can’t just conveniently download the data and open it in Excel or Google Sheets. This means you have to enter data manually in our template.
No data export feature
Alright, we’re nit-picking, but since we just released our new episode-level keyword view, it would have been so great to see search impressions data at the episode level and compare it with Voxalyze Visibility Analytics data.