Podcaster, Guide, Marketing, Branding

The 8 DOs and DON'Ts of Creating Great Podcast Episode Titles

One of the most important parts of producing a stellar podcast – maybe even more important than recording the podcast itself – is creating good titles. Titles are fishing hooks in the large sea of audio streaming platforms. Episode titles with a lot of bait will catch more hungry fish. Those with less bait? Well, it's going to take longer to reel in listeners.

Below are 8 DOs and DON'Ts for deciding on your episode titles. Some of these tips may seem like common sense, while others are more advanced tricks known to experienced podcasters. Each one is crucial to hooking in new listeners. Let's get to it!

1. DO Keep Your Title Short

By "short", we're talking 7-8 words at most, or 36 individual characters. You may think wordier episode titles are better because the more keywords you can stuff in, the more it will help with SEO on the web. While longer titles may help in a technological sense, they do not help at all in a human sense.

What do we mean by that? Well, if a prospective listener is scrolling through your episode titles on their phone and they're looking at a really long title, chances are the platform your episode is on will cut off part of the title because it's too long. And then your potential fan will skip past that episode simply because they can't read the whole title without tapping on it! (Yes, humans really are that judgmental.) We know you're worried about SEO, but make life easier and keep your titles short and sweet. We'll teach you how to get SEO on your good side later on in this guide!

2. DON'T Put Your Podcast Name in Your Episode Titles

Unless it's for trailer purposes, there's really no good reason why you need the name of your podcast in your episode titles. It's just redundant. "But what if someone finds this episode in a Google Search?" you may cry. It's okay – once your searcher clicks on the search result, they will be able to see your podcast name and all the details.

Podcasters putting their show name in their episode titles is a more common mistake than you might think. Your episode titles are like precious real estate. Don't waste the space with information your audience already knows!

3. DO Put Keywords at the Front of Your Title

Back to SEO discussion! So while you don't want to clutter your episode titles with words, important keywords are an integral part of getting your episode discovered on the internet. A good rule of thumb is to craft titles where your most important keywords land somewhere in the front.

For example, let's say you and your co-host/guest (we'll name her Sue) will be reviewing Harry Styles' latest album on the episode. A not-so-great title would be "Sue and I Review the Latest Harry Styles Album." It's okay, but all the juicy words are in the back. A better title would be, "Harry Styles' New Album: Bop or Flop?" The big topic of the episode – Harry Styles' new album – is the first thing prospective listeners see when they are skimming through titles. For people interested in that topic, seeing those words right away will hook them immediately. And putting SEO keywords right in the front will allow your episode to rank higher in searches related to your topic.

4. DON'T Include the Episode Number in Your Title

We touched on this in a recent blog post about starting up a podcast during the new year. Just like with putting your show's name in your episode titles, you don't want to put the number of your episode in its title, either. We realize this may be a bit of a hot take, as podcasters well-established in the biz sometimes include episode numbers in their titles. But our retort is this: just because they do it doesn't mean you should, too...at least not while you're a new podcaster with a following that's a fraction of theirs.

We get it: it's cool to show off your episode numbers in your episode titles. It displays how long you've had your show running and how much effort you've put into it. But episode numbers in titles are like repellent for curious people deciding to listen to your show. Seeing episode #1, or #2, or #3 won't do much damage. But once they see numbers in the double digits or higher, they'll probably choose to keep scrolling through Spotify and find another podcast to binge. Why? Because getting through a podcast takes a bit of time and effort, and knowing that you have to sit through 99 episodes in order to reach the latest episode 100 can feel like a daunting task. It's much easier just to find another podcast.

So yes – unless you already have millions of podcast followers who will listen to your episodes no matter what the titles say, beware of episode numbers in titles! If you really feel inclined to show it off, just put the episode number in your episode's description box! It saves you the valuable space that is your episode title: that all-important headline that needs to attract, attract, attract!

5. DO Consider Framing Your Title as a Question

Why should you frame a podcast episode title as a thought-provoking question? Because your audience will be intrigued by the thought-provoking answer you will dive into during your episode! We know some podcasts that choose to frame all of their episode titles as a question. You don't have to make all of your episode titles questions, but using a question every now and again doesn't hurt.

Keep in mind that when you do use a question for your episode title, your audience will be expecting you to answer that question throughout your podcast. For example, if you run a science podcast and your latest episode title is "Why Is the Sky Blue?" your audience is going to want to hear you talk about the specific air molecules that make the sky blue, how scientists were able to learn about those molecules, and why the sky isn't any other color like purple or green. If you get off-topic and don't answer the question in your episode, your listeners won't sit through the whole thing.

6. DON'T Make Your Title Too Mysterious

While posing your podcast episode as a question can be a valuable tool to get more listeners, there is such a thing as going overboard with it. Let's say you were able to book famous Hollywood actor Brad Pitt as a guest on your podcast. (Good for you!) It would be a huge mistake to title the episode he's featured on as, "Guess Which Actor I Interviewed This Week?"

You may think that title will intrigue people enough to check it out, but it won't. That actor could be anybody in the world. It could literally be your roommate who takes improv classes every Saturday night. Your audience will be more intrigued by specificity. So titling that episode, "Brad Pitt Talks About the Price of Fame" will get a lot more clicks than that other title. Specificity is key!

7. DO Think of Your Title as a News Headline

If there's anything we want you to take away from this article, it's that you should think of your episode titles as news headlines. What makes a news headline good? It's short, informative, and attention-grabbing. That's basically everything your podcast episode title needs to be.

When you're reading a newspaper or scrolling through a news website, you choose to read the articles whose titles pique your interest the most. Always strive to make your titles flashier, more engrossing, and memorable. Sometimes this means several hours of brainstorming, and that's okay. That's actually pretty normal in the world of content creation.

Don't just put in a makeshift title once you're finally uploading your podcast episode. You should have your title in mind before you even record your episode. Really put effort into your titles, and you will see results.

8. DON'T Forget to Deliver on Your Title's Promise

Clickbait: it's not a fun thing when you're a listener trying to find a good podcast episode to binge. Every episode title – especially if it's a title with a lot of specificity – holds a promise. The title "5 Best Methods to Save Money This Year" holds the promise of introducing 5 new and resourceful ways for listeners to save their money over a period of 365 days. The title, "Why They Always Lose Interest in You After Dates" holds the promise of revealing what mistakes you're making when it comes to the early stages of dating a potential mate. There's always a reason why someone clicks on your title: they want to be transformed in some way, or learn something new.

The title should inform your audience about what they're going to hear. If your episode barely delivers on the promise presented in your title, you're in hot water. Those listeners who just wasted their time hearing you go on random tangents and talk about things other than money or relationship advice will leave and never come back. Value your listeners' time. Trim the fat when it comes to editing your episode. You can't keep everything you record, no matter how good it may seem to you. It needs to be part of your episode's promise.

You know what kinds of shows where losing the promise of the episode title is a common mistake? During chumcasts. Unless your chumcast show is designed to be about ranting and raving across various topics every episode, it can get pretty annoying when two are more friends start the show on topic, but then get too lost in jokes and other elements that it feels like the episode's title doesn't matter anymore. We're not saying every sentence out of your mouth needs to be about your topic. Sometimes it's fun to sprinkle in entertaining anecdotes and related facts. But they should stay sprinkles, NOT bucketfuls of outside discussion. Go with the flow of the conversation, but STAY. ON. TRACK.

Those are our 8 DO's and DON'Ts! Happy podcasting!

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Article Image: Woman next to a podcasting microphone setup smiles and writes something down in a notebook. (Peopleimages.com via DepositPhotos.)

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About Kathryn Milewski

  • New Jersey