Download: MP3 (41 MB)

The title of your podcast episode is important because it is what’s going to convince a brand new listener to check out your show. Word of mouth recommendations are another way to get new listeners, but if someone hears about your podcast from a friend, they are still going to go look at the titles of your episodes which will help them decide if it’s a show they’d be interested in.

Your title is a chance to convince someone who’s never heard of you to listen to your episode.

Here’s the scary truth; no one cares about your podcast, they only care about what your podcast does for them. So what will your podcast do for your listener? This is one of the questions your title should answer.

In today’s episode, I’m going to talk about what makes a good title, what makes a less than ideal title, and I’m going to share some tips to help you write better titles. After the show, I’m going to answer any questions from the Community about titles and also a couple great questions about how to get into editing podcasts and finding work as a podcast editor, and where to find help with branding and logo design for your podcast.

Highlights, Takeaways & Quick Wins

  • If you don’t have a large following, using inside jokes or funny things you say in an episode as titles will prevent you from getting new listeners, so be careful.
  • Your title should be memorable and it should give an idea of what the episode is about. It should be easy to say and not embarrassing or problematic for someone to say aloud to their friends.
  • Sometimes a simple title can be just as effective as a clever title.
  • Ask yourself if your title is something your audience would search for on Google. Ask yourself, “Would I click on this title if it was on someone else’s site?”

Show Notes:

  • 2:04 I was talking with Sean McCabe yesterday and I sent him a couple ideas for titles for this episode. He asked me three questions in response:
    1. Why does it matter?
    2. What does writing a better title do for me?
    3. Why does the right title for my podcast matter?
  • 2:227 I told him that I thought that writing better titles would bring new listeners to the podcast by catching their attention, and also through search engine results. I told him that I thought that a good title would help the content stand out in an overwhelming amount of content that people see every day. His response was: “How to Write Episode Titles That Attract New Listeners.
  • 2:57 I love Sean sometimes. He’s so good at writing titles. I asked him if he had some tips about writing titles that he’d like to share with my listeners. He responded with three things, the first two of which are questions that your title should answer for your listener.
    1. “What’s in it for me?”
    2. “Tell me why should I care about this?”
    3. “Speak to the desires I already have, but deliver what I need to know.”

What Makes a Less Than Ideal Podcast Episode Title?

  • 4:21 1. Doesn’t give any idea about what the show is about. 2. Too link-baity. This might work for people who are just casually browsing, but I’d argue that titles that are pure click-bait are going to turn off the smart people in your audience. Avoid them. 3. Too generic, or exactly the same as something else that is more popular. For example, if you call your podcast episode “Top Gun”, I’d doubt that your episode is ever going to show up in search engine results. 4. Something that your audience will not be interested in. If you have a show about web design and you have a title like “How to Effectively Clean Your Garage on the Weekends”, most of your audience is probably going to skip that episode.

Examples of Less Than Ideal Podcast Episode Titles

  • 5:25 I have to start off by saying that the first few on this list are from a show that I really enjoy, Systematic. The host, Brett Terpstra, is someone I consider a friend and a great human being. That being said, some of his titles are less than ideal. For example, Systematic 135: Top of the Rollercoaster with Kelly Guimont, and Systematic 131: One-Way Ticket with Evan Lovely. These titles just don’t tell me anything about the show.
  • 6:32 Back to Work is another example of a show that has less than ideal episode titles. I’m a big fan of Back to Work, but the titles do nothing to explain to new listeners what the show is about. They are all inside jokes for the people listening to the show. This probably helps create a deeper connection with those listening live and voting on the titles, but it doesn’t help with SEO. The hosts of the show (Dan Benjamin and Merlin Mann) do this because they both already have large followings.

If you don’t have a large following, using inside jokes or funny things you say in an episode as titles will prevent you from getting new listeners, so be careful.

  • 7:56 Another show that I really like is the Mac Power Users podcast. I’ve learned a ton of great things from this show, but some of their titles could be better. Example: Mac Power Users 247: The Onslaught Revisited. What? Listeners of the show know what this means, but I bet you don’t. If you read the description, you’ll see they are talking about RSS readers and the overwhelming amount of content we have coming at us all the time. The title itself doesn’t give that any indication of that, though.
  • 8:43 I’m going to put myself in the hot seat here. The Podcast Dude 13: How to Choose the Right Format for Your Podcast. I don’t think this was a good title. One, it doesn’t tell my listeners why it’s important. Two, the word “format” is too vague; format could mean many different things. It’s too late to change now, but I’ll work on coming up with better titles in the future.

What Makes a Good Podcast Episode Title?

  • 9:27 Over the past week, I did a lot of research about writing titles. Here’s what I found. A great title grabs your reader’s attention. Garrett Mickley gave a great example in the chat from a show that I’ve seen a few episodes of, Parks & Rec. “Bobby Newport’s Never Had a Real Job in His Life.Sensationalism sells.
  • 10:35 Kyle Arbuckle gave an example: “This Guy Invented a Solution to a Problem That Has Been Around for Over 100 Years.” That’s interesting, right? What is the problem? What is the solution?

Your title should be memorable and it should give an idea of what the episode is about. It should be easy to say and not embarrassing or problematic for someone to say aloud to their friends.

  • 11:21 You should ask yourself, “Would someone type this into a Google search?” What is the most important or interesting thing about this episode? What is my audience interested in?
How to Write Titles for Interviews
  • You should include a takeaway in the title, not just the name of the person you interviewed. If the person you’ve interviewed is famous enough, you may not have to do much more than put their name in the episode title, but if you can augment their name with a takeaway from the episode, that’s even better.
Use Title Case When Writing Titles
  • 12:35 When writing a name or a title, it is a common convention to only use capital letters to start the principal words. This is called title case. The principal words in a title are all the words which are not:
    • Articles (a, an, the)
    • Conjunctions (e.g., and, but, or)
    • Prepositions (e.g., on, in, with)
  • 13:17 Here’s a link to an article about how to write title case. Get familiar and check out titlecase.com if you need additional help.

Examples of Good Podcast Episode Titles

  • 13:28 seanwes 189: Finding Your Passion. This is a great title, because we all struggle with finding our passion. Sean’s audience especially, because Sean’s thing is helping people make a living with their passion.
  • 14:02 seanwes 186: How to Self Promote Without Feeling Like a Loser. If you’ve ever created something and then tried to promote it to strangers, you’ve probably worried about annoying someone. This title promises to teach you how to promote your thing, which is something a lot of people want to know how to do.
  • 14:27 seanwes 162: They’re Going to Put You in a Box. This title has a little suspense to it. They’re going to put me in a box? What does that mean? It makes you curious.
  • 14:42 Systematic 126: Procrastinate on Purpose with Rory Vaden. Since Systematic is a show for people interested in work and productivity, I’m sure nearly everyone in the audience has struggled with procrastination. This is a title that will catch their eye because it’s an interesting concept. Who has ever heard of procrastinating on purpose?
  • 15:32 Mac Power Users 264: Workflows with John Gruber. This is a good combination of a famous person and something the hosts of the Mac Power Users know that their audience is interested in—workflows. Geeks love hearing how other people get their work done.
  • 16:20 A few other examples of great titles from Mac Power Users; Mac Power Users 224: The Email Problem and Mac Power Users 210: Task Management. Task Management is a simple title, but it works, because managing to-do lists is something a lot of people struggle with.
  • 16:47 I’m going to use my podcast as an example again. The Podcast Dude 3: Introduction to Recording Audio. According to iTunes, this is my most popular episode. My guess is that it’s my most popular episode because a lot of people Google search “Introduction to Recording Audio”. Even though there’s nothing clever or attention grabbing about that title, it still works because it’s something a lot of people are interested in learning and I’ve used a phrase that they might type into Google.

Sometimes a simple title can be just as effective as a clever title.

  • 18:08 There’s a blog that I really enjoy called Without BS. The author of this blog, Josh Bernoff, is a really good writer. His titles are fantastic, but this one really stood out to me: Please Stop French-Kissing Your Site Visitors. That article is about website marketing and the pop-ups that so many sites use. I don’t like popups, and neither does the author.
  • 18:58 I recommend checking out his site but especially his article titled How to start a blog post: Can you intrigue me in 50 words?. In it, he starts off by saying, “In my view, the title and first few sentences of a blog post should:
    • Intrigue the reader.
    • Promise what’s coming, accurately.
    • Incorporate a clever or counterintuitive turn of phrase.
    • Be natural and inviting.
    • Avoid clickbait. (Clickbait means attracting clicks with false promises.)
    • Use a few keywords that will attract searches.”

Additional Tips for Creating Better Titles

  • 20:00 1. Google your title ideas. See what else is out there. You might find some good information to include in your post or episode.

Ask yourself if your title is something your audience would search for on Google. Ask yourself, “Would I click on this title if it was on someone else’s site?”

  • 20:39 2. Brainstorm 10-15 titles. This will give your creative muscle a workout. Eliminate the terrible ones when you’re done.
  • 23:07 3. Ask a trusted friend for feedback about your titles. I’m lucky to have a good friend like Sean to ask about my podcast titles, but I’ve also got a lot of other friends in the seanwes Community that are willing to give me feedback and help me brainstorm. That’s one of the reasons I love the Community so much.

Q&A:

  • 27:35 Noah Camp asked: How should you title a subject that seems to have been covered a thousand times before?
  • 27:48 If you can put a unique spin on it, that’s great. But keep in mind that someone is born everyday who hasn’t heard Merlin Mann make the Flintstones joke. What I mean is that just because you are familiar with a topic doesn’t mean other people are. It’s better to write a straightforward title that really communicates what your episode (or blog post) is about rather than try to do something unique or crazy. Don’t let coming up with the perfect title keep you from publishing something.
  • 30:22 Zach Simms asked: I am a freshman in college and I am planning to major in a field of business, right now finance. If I am interested in doing freelance work as an audio editor, how would you suggest I go about learning enough to be hirable? At the moment I have plans to eventually start my own company or move out east and work for a bank, but the more I learn about podcasts, the more I am interested in them and the more I want to learn. During college I wouldn’t mind possibly doing some work on the side as an audio editor and that’s how that question came up. Another question I have is how does the pay look for the average podcast/ audio editor? I want to live a dapper lifestyle making 250k+/year and that’s why I am swayed towards the finance and asset management industry. I’m just curious how much podcasters and audio editors make.
  • 31:29 First, congrats on going to college and having big dreams! If you’re interested in learning audio post production and podcast editing, get some professional software, learn it, and start studying post production. Learn about recording, editing, mixing and mastering, EQ, compression, and noise removal. Learn how to write good show notes. Learn Markdown. You’ll also need to learn business things like how to setup a website and market your skills, how to work with clients, and how much to charge.
  • 33:11 My advice for you is focus first on doing something that you really enjoy. I really enjoy working with people and helping people make things. Money isn’t quite as important to me. If you enjoy making money, that’s fine. Figure out the best way to do that. I don’t know that anyone makes $250,000/year editing podcasts. I certainly didn’t, I was making closer to $50,000. I googled “salary for audio engineer” and got results from a few websites that said $43,000 and $90,000. Salary will also depend on skill level and location.
  • 34:09 There are other perks to my job besides money;
    1. Being able to work remotely.
    2. Setting my own hours.
    3. Freedom to travel when I want.
  • 34:57 It’s important to think about what kind of work you love doing and what’s important to you. If you don’t know what kind of work you love, you’ll need to spend some time trying different things to figure that out. You’ll eventually find that you like certain kinds of work better than others.
  • 35:07 Now, to make $250k/year, you might have to work 70+ hours a week. If you do, you won’t have much time to spend that money. You won’t have much time to do anything else but work, really. I know because I’ve done 70 hours a week before. It’s brutal.
  • 36:24 Focus on finding work you love doing. Life is so much better if you can do work you really enjoy. I don’t know how you guys felt about math class in school, but I always hated it. It was so boring to me. I wanted to be outside exploring or reading books. To me, that’s the difference between work I love and work I just do for money.
  • 37:18 Oliver asked: Do you have any recommendations for podcast art/logo resources?
  • 37:32 Let me start by saying that I’m not a professional designer, so take what I say with a grain of salt. It’s tempting to focus on just a logo, or just a website (one thing at a time), but you really need to think about the overall branding of your show. There needs to be consistency in fonts and colors that you use in your website and logo. I happen to know that Oliver is starting a podcast about Healthcare IT, so he needs design that communicates that to his audience. The design should give the audience visual cues about what the show is about, and who it’s for. Colors and fonts will play a big role here. Think about the design that you see in both the tech world and the healthcare world; it’s clean, professional, modern, and techie. There are colors and fonts that we associate with those things. If your design is playful or retro, you might confuse your audience. Just like the 80’s have a very distinctive look (bright neon colors), so does healthcare and technology.
  • 38:59 I talked about this in Episode 6, so go check that out, but if you can afford a good designer, it’s a great investment if you are dedicated to doing your podcast for awhile. If podcasting is something you’re just trying out to see if you like it, you may want to put together something simple yourself or hire an affordable or less experienced designer from a website like Craigslist, 99Designs or fiverr.
  • 40:10 If you want to invest in a professional designer, check out Dribbble or Behance. Good designers are not cheap (My guess is that you’ll be investing four to five figures for their services), but they are a good investment because they will ask the right questions and provide you with the best solution.
  • 43:55 An amatuer designer will try to ask what you like; which is the wrong question. The design for your artwork and website needs to communicate something about your show to your audience. It’s not just about making something look pretty.