Are Podcasts Worth It? Evaluating the ROI of Podcasts

evaluating the ROI of podcasts

Have you considered evaluating the ROI of podcasts? The pandemic has started an explosion of new podcasts in the creative entrepreneur space. As a result, many industry pros are wondering how this fresh medium fits into their existing marketing strategy. There are so many podcasts available on both B2C and B2B sides. And it’s easier than ever to be a guest on a podcast show regardless of your end goals.

It’s also easier than ever to spend your time and energy producing content for someone else’s podcast without seeing a return on your efforts. It’s time you start evaluating the ROI of your podcast strategy. Podcasting is an advantageous space. However, it’s critical that you ensure you’re getting a strong ROI from your guest episodes. Easier said than done, right? After all, the podcast doesn’t belong to you. Plus, as an audio medium, it can be difficult to track how many listeners convert to inquiries and, ultimately, booked clients.

With some careful planning and deliberate data tracking, you can find these answers and determine the true return of your podcast push. However, before you can start crunching numbers, you need to first get strategic and identify what you hope to accomplish with your guest episodes.

You may be looking to attract new clients or increase brand recognition for a new endeavor, for example. There are podcasts about every topic under the sun that can help you progress towards your goals. There are generally two ways to select podcasts. You can select from topic-specific podcasts and audience-specific podcasts. Let’s talk about evaluating the ROI of podcasts with those two types.

Evaluating the ROI of Podcasts: Topic-Specific Podcasts

If you are a creative entrepreneur offering a product or service, you can often draw attention on a podcast where you talk about the business of what you do. For example, you might run a stationery company. However, you can speak to operational processes, marketing, leadership, team building and other business topics. You can talk about these topics from the context of the product or service that you’re offering. Therefore, you’re not necessarily speaking only to your target audience. Those who are interested in your products and services may visit your website. Others may just be seeking business tips.

It can be challenging to track ROI for topic-specific podcasts. You can’t ascertain how much of the audience is actually interested in your business. The easiest way to track ROI is typically to offer the podcast host a freebie to share with their audience. This is usually a lead magnet or download that captures email addresses. If your lead magnets are all centered around stationery, it wouldn’t hit the mark with a general business audience. Instead, consider creating a basic lead magnet. This could be a checklist or template based on the episode’s topic for the podcast audience. Then mention the usual freebie that you have specific for your audience which might have its own distinct landing page that is not indexed by Google (more on this later!). You can then follow up with that audience later to seek referrals for your business.

This helps to distinguish your real fans from the podcast fans. However, you may still struggle to accurately track ROI. You’ll have to keep an eye on your web traffic and extrapolate from any spikes around the time that podcast airs, perhaps within a 3-7 day window after publication.

Evaluating the ROI of Podcasts: Audience-Specific Podcasts

Another way to take advantage of podcasts is to seek out those that already appeal to your ideal client. These tend to be more effective than topic-specific podcasts. You’re going right to the source of your business. If you’re selling marketing services, get on a marketing podcast. If you’re selling wedding services, pitch to podcasts that speak to engaged couples. You get the gist. Rather than hoping to appeal to a percentage of a podcast’s audience, you can be fairly certain that everyone listening falls into your target market.

With audience-specific podcasts, you can offer targeted lead magnets that you know will appeal to your listeners. Engaged couples will be interested in a wedding to-do list. Business owners will want to know how they can optimize their marketing funnel. You can skip the pretenses. Instead, you can get right to business tracking your conversions through that downloadable.

But, first, you have to make sure your funnel is in place. That’s where the tracking magic happens.

Tools for Tracking and Evaluating the ROI of Podcast

A great lead magnet will draw attention to your website and lead to inquiries. However, by itself, it cannot tell you how many people converted from a single podcast episode. This is especially true if you’re using the same lead magnet as a freebie for all podcasts. Evaluating the ROI of podcasts goes a step deeper. There are three ways to effectively track traffic specific to each podcast:

A custom landing page:

It can be as simple as creating a new page on your website. Use a URL that only listeners will follow. For example, any traffic that goes to a simple link like yourwebsite.com/podcastname can be linked directly to a specific episode. You can track how many people visited the page. You can also track how many converted and signed up for your lead magnet.

A text-to-subscribe service:

Another way to measure ROI is to have people text you to receive their download. There are plenty of online platforms that offer text-to-subscribe services, like Textiful or Txtra. The great thing about text messages is that your listeners can quickly connect with your brand and get their freebie, even if they are walking their dog or running errands. You can then easily add them to your email marketing funnel and start tracking how many signups you have through the texting platform.

A vanity URL:

For a fancier method, you can also buy a vanity URL that is specific to each podcast. It does require a bit more setup and will cost some money, but you can typically get vanity URLs at a very low rate for the first year (and you can always cancel it once traffic dies down). The big benefit with vanity URLs is that they’re easier to remember for listeners. If you choose to go this route, you’ll need to redirect the URL to a tracked link on your website with UTM parameters (i.e. campaign, source, medium, etc.).

Once you’ve determined the method of tracking you want to use, you can start to reverse engineer your marketing funnel with Google Analytics to ensure that you’re gathering the data that matters when you’re evaluating the ROI of podcasts.

Tying Google Analytics to Your Podcast Approach

Google Analytics is quite robust and there is a lot you can learn within your dashboard and your reports. Data overload is real, though; so, for this purpose, it’s best to keep things simple. You will need to set conversion goals in Google Analytics to track the traffic and inquiries that result from a specific URL.

The easiest way to do this is by having them sign up through a standard form on your website, likely one that is similar to your existing contact form. They hear your website, type in the URL and fill in the form to get their download — simple. Once they do, you can then deliver the download on a separate thank you page.

Having a separate thank you page allows you to create a destination page goal in Google Analytics that tracks only the visitors that have completed your form. Since the form is podcast-specific (remember: yourwebsite.com/podcastname), you’ll be able to determine how many actual inquiries you’ve captured from each episode simply by looking at your thank you page’s traffic.

Pro tip: When creating your thank you page, make sure it is not indexable by Google and avoid using a basic URL like yourwebsite.com/thankyou. Instead, make it a little funky so people can’t just find it elsewhere on the internet, as that would distort your conversion values. The only way to reach that page should be by clicking ‘submit’ on your podcast-specific form.

Set Up Auto-Responder Emails

From there, you can set up an auto-responder email sequence for users that have downloaded your lead magnet. I recommend starting with three basic emails: the first speaks to the client’s problems and what a solution looks like, the second is to share your expertise (i.e. “The biggest mistake I see clients making…”) and the third is the call-to-action, whether it’s to purchase a product or service or hop on a strategy call with you.

You can then measure open and click rates for each email, as well as conversion rates for the final email. When you step back and do a bit of math, you can determine a few things:

  • Traffic-to-download rate: This is how much web traffic you earned from a podcast episode and the percentage of that traffic followed through to share contact information and download your lead magnet.
  • Lead-to-conversion rate: This factors in how many people signed up to download your lead magnet and the percentage of that group that actually converted as booked clients or paying customers.
  • Traffic-to-conversion rate: This skips the middle step of the lead magnet and looks directly at how much traffic you saw from a podcast and the percentage that converted. This will give you an idea of how well that podcast drives traffic, turns it into leads, and converts leads into sales.

Turning Data into Decisions

Your traffic and conversion rates are only valuable if you put them to use; otherwise, they’re just numbers. However, once you start to pair these numbers with notions, you will start to see the most effective avenues for your podcasting efforts. When you began evaluating the ROI of podcasts, you’ll see the podcasts that drive traffic, leads and sales to your business.

Beyond that, you’re also learning what topics are driving traffic, leads and sales to your business. Look across all of your podcast pitches to see how well similar topics perform. If you understand which topics and podcasts drive conversions, you can start experimenting with similar podcasts and additional topics around your core content category for other pitches.

Additionally, the lessons you learn from podcasting can also inform the content strategy you use with your own channels. If you know a topic has worked well to convert listeners on a podcast, there’s a good chance it would perform well on your own blog or social media. A podcast can help you amplify your message and get the word out to new audiences, but it can also serve as a proverbial test kitchen to identify the topics that result in the best ROI.

Simply put, podcasts are an impactful addition to every marketing strategy. A few guest appearances can increase brand awareness and position you as an industry thought leader, while also helping you to refine your business and niche down in a way that is both meaningful and profitable.


Christie Osborne

Christie Osborne is the owner of Mountainside Media, a company that helps event industry professionals brands develop scalable marketing strategies that bring in more inquiries and leads. Christie is a national educator with recent speaking engagements at NACE Experience, WIPA, and the ABC Conference.