Podcast ads: it's all in the execution

In our last post we covered the basics of podcast advertising. Today we're covering how to execute on a podcast strategy: creative and measurement.

Create a baseline

When you run a test campaign, there are two numbers you want to watch:

  • Unique traffic to a specific landing page
  • Conversion rates

Podcasts have wildly different performance rates based on their audience size, type, and your fit. After some experimentation you'll get a baseline for podcast ad performance, then you can start doing one-off tests for audience fit.

From my experience, with niche shows B2B marketers can see about 1-5% of listeners visit your site, and 3-5% of those convert into leads. It really depends on product/podcast fit.

Components of an podcast ad

Pre-roll and post-roll

Pre-roll and post-roll ads are fairly limited in breadth. You'll want to include your company name, tagline or CTA, and maybe a link – that's a mouthful in 15 seconds. Don't overthink it.

Mid-roll reads

get the right Length

Mid-roll reads range from 60-120 seconds, but you should err on the side of shorter. Since the ads are read live, the ad can easily stretch to 4-minutes if the host goes on a tangent. You might be saying "Yes! I've capture all the earballs!" but if the listener gets bored and fast-forwards past your CTA, you're wasting your money.

get the right Structure

Podcast ads are like a story told around the campfire: there's a slightly new spin to it every time the ad is read. That's part of what makes the medium great.

Typically you'll want to provide bullet points and the host can create the in-betweens. Here's a basic outline to get you started. You usually only need to supply the bold parts.

  • This weeks show is brought to you by Company Name, the Short Summary.
  • With Product Name you get Feature/Benefit 1, Feature/Benefit 2, Feature/Benefit 3.
  • To learn more, visit Short Link and get Offer.

work with the hosts

You can work with the podcast host or ad networks to write the ad copy, but you'll need to educate them on your product or service. If they have a trial or sample of your product, you can ask them to talk about their experience. If they have domain expertise in your industry, get them to talk about past products they've used for comparison. This can be very effective.

Riff off the show

Some shows are produced well-ahead of their publish date, and others are made week to week. Knowing this context of the show gives you creative flexibility. For shows produced week-to-week, you can reference the last episode, or a current event, to anchor your message for the listener.

If there's an in-joke that fits your brand, use it to your advantage. It shows the audience you care which makes them much more receptive to the ad. This extends to all your interactions, from the read to your landing page.

Be contextually appropriate for the listener: if they're technical, get nerdy about your tech. If they're business-focused, talked about how you'll help their team. For example, you might not want to reference the Gartner Magic Quadrant in a show where the host makes fun of analysts (or if you do, act like you're in on the joke.)

Read it out loud

This one is obvious: podcast listeners will hear the words, not read them on a screen. Listen to where you stumble and edit, edit, edit.


When you're new to an audience, you'll want to do a few shows in a row to get your brand to stick. If you're sponsoring a podcast network, you'll usually find listener overlap between shows. This can be really helpful for building your brand awareness fairly quickly.

Keep it fresh

Repetition is key, to a point. After you've established your brand with the listener, you'll want to pop up once every month or so. Remember, the needs of your customer change often. While a listener might not have a need for your product now, they might in 3 months. This helps you be top-of-mind when the search begins.

Like the length of your ad, there's a line between having your message stick and annoying the listener. If you plan to block an entire quarter of a single show, you'll be rewarded by having fresh creative each week. This is a great opportunity to go deep on use cases, product features, or case studies.

Audience exhaustion

When your brands gets to an "ugh, another Squarespace ad?" moment, you know it's time to take a break. You'll see this when your traffic numbers drop. They'll come back eventually, but for that show it's time for a breather.

Measuring success

Podcasts can be tricky to measure. You're going to get a lot of numbers and you can safely ignore most of them:

  • Average downloads per episode: this is used by the ad network to calculate CPM. You can use this to estimate conversions (but it will likely be wrong). Treat each new show as an experiment, and remember that large audiences do not guarantee large conversions.
  • Downloads for individual episodes: you can request this information, and depending where the podcast is hosted you can get downloads at the state/province level. This can be useful if you're focused on a specific geography.
  • Podcast surveys: You can get audience metrics from some ad networks; these are based on opt-in surveys. While they aren't totally scientific, they give a somewhat accurate representation of demographics.

Those numbers are useful for rationalizing a decision but they don't always correlate to success.

Send listeners somewhere

You're like going to spend a few thousand dollars on a show. Your ROI hinges entirely on your read and your landing page. If you have a trial program, use that here. If you don't, try doing a contest. I used to gave away Sodastreams to great effect.

Use Short links

These aren't bit.ly links; they're shortcuts on your website. From there you can build a redirect with UTM parameters to attribute the campaign. You should be able to make these inside your CMS. If not, ask your friendly neighbourhood web developer.

You want three things out of a short link:

  • It should be memorable
  • It must be spelled in an obvious manner
  • It makes reference to the specific show you're sponsoring

Always remember that people can't spell. Your best bet is to make multiple links in your CMS to ensure people get to the right landing page (i.e. /analog, /analogue).

use promo Codes

Promo/coupon codes follow similar principles: people won't use them right away, so they have to be memorable. Use the shows title or an in-joke, ask the host to embed it in the show notes, or use the month of your sponsorship.

If you use Stripe to power your e-commerce platform, adding in new codes and special offers for each show is dead simple.

Ask your Sales team

There's something to be said for good old fashioned asking. You'll see above there's a lot of emphasis above on making simple, memorable links. People will still forget them and they will Google you. You won't be able to attribute that to a podcast, but you can ask your leads.

(If you're a podcast listener, always tell the Sales rep if you heard about a product or service on a podcast. It'll help your favourite shows continue to be supported.)

Web Analytics

Podcasts have a big burst and a long tail. You'll see a spike the first two or three days of the show, and a slow trickle for a couple of months to a year. 

For your short link, there are four metrics to watch:

  • Unique visitors: a high amount (relative to your business) means your ad read resonated with the listeners. Good job.
  • Time on page: If this is reasonably high, your landing page was interesting to the audience. If you have a high time-on-page and low conversion rate, your CTA needs work.
  • Bounce rate: If your bounce rate is high, this means your landing page didn't match the promise of your ad read. If you had high unique visitors and and a high bounce rate, your landing page is broken.
  • Conversion rate: focus on the conversion from unique visitors to leads/purchase, not the conversion from listeners to your landing page.

You can also look at user paths segmented by referral source to understand if listeners want to explore your product before giving up their information. If you want to get granular, you should look at the quality of conversions and how far they progress down your funnel.

Referral traffic and show notes

Show notes are an important part of the podcast experience. These notes appear inside iTunes, on the web, and inside podcast apps (like the exceptional app Overcast). Within show notes, there is typically a link to your landing page, your tagline, and your promo code if you have one.

Podcast hosts will share new shows on their channels: their blog, Twitter, or Facebook. If you're using UTM parameters in your links (and the hosts use your links), the referral sources should resolve to the campaign. If you're not, you'll want to map things back together.

For example, John Gruber, an independent writer and podcaster, hosts The Talk Show. John links to new episodes on his blog, Daring Fireball. If you sponsor The Talk Show, you might not expect Daring Fireball to appear as a referral source – but since John links directly to sponsors, Daring Fireball will show up as a referral source. Plan accordingly.

Check the links

Make sure you listen to shows after they go live and make adjustments if the link is read incorrectly or they use the wrong promo code (it happens). This is your chance to make sure the show's most engaged audience gets to your landing page If you're using a short link, check Google Analytics for pages with high bounce rates – people are likely to mistype.

Up next

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