If you want to be seen as an authority, your podcast topic needs to be timely, on-point and relevant. So how do you choose the right topic? In this episode, Tom Hazzard and Tracy Hazzard get into podcasting 101 as they delve into how to plan and choose a podcast topic. They share the process they follow in finding and choosing a topic and talk about why you want your topic to be search engine optimized. Tune in and learn more podcasting tips from Tom and Tracy.
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Build Your Authority By Planning A Podcast Topic That Sets You Ahead From Your Competitors
We’ve got a good topic to talk about, especially another good end-of-year topic, I think. A lot of people, I’m sure, are thinking about topics for upcoming episodes, especially if your show maybe isn’t brand new. If you’re newer, I don’t know if this is going to be as useful for you, but I think it’s good to think about. Tracy, share with us what we’re going to talk about.
Lots of people ask me every year, “How am I going to come up with topics? Where do I get my ideas for topics?” There are a couple of different ways and we talk about them all the time here. When we’re initially starting out, we brainstorm a list of the questions that people ask us the most because that’s where we want to start. We want to build a foundation. These are ideas around topics. Sometimes we’re only taking guests on our shows, so the topics don’t matter.
However, I like to make the matter because I like to make sure that I’m focusing the conversations on a topic area that is of interest to my audience. For instance, if I’m doing a show on podcasting, which ironically, I am once in a while, I might have a list of things that I want to discuss, like getting celebrity guests or something like that. When I find a podcaster that I want to interview on my show, that’s the topic that I match that person to.
I may have a list of topics that I then match and guide the conversation to because they happen to be an expert in it or better at it than others that I’ve seen. That’s one of the ways that I’m always keeping a topic list, even though I’m doing all interviews in a particular show. We want our titles and all of those things to have a keyword focus and not just general stories and conversations. That’s one of the things. Those topics do matter.
When I’ve done 25 or 100 episodes in a particular area, I’m at the point at which I need to figure out what the next topic should be. That’s one of the cases of what we do here on the show all the time is that Tom is like, “What are we going to talk about?” I’ve got a list. What is the most appropriate topic off of that list? Let’s talk about how we might get that list by trolling the competition. That’s one of the fastest and best ways to get good topics.
It’s a good thing to do. I talked to a customer that has a subject matter that’s so niche-y, there are not many podcasts out there. Someone in the chemical industry, I’m talking like Dow Chemical, that type of industry, not too many podcasts, a few.
You control the blogs though. That’s another thing. If you’ve got chemical companies that are your competition, or soda companies are your competition, you control the topics of what they’re covering. That’s another way to do it. Because it doesn’t happen to be a podcast, it doesn’t mean there’s not a YouTube channel or a blog out there that’s in the subject matter. You can do the same thing. This is a little bit easier than trying to do a Google AdWords model of where you’re trying to find the key and the trending topics and things like that.
If you’re not experienced in how to search for long-tail keywords, that can be an extremely difficult thing for you to do. Let’s assume our clients don’t know how to do that. You’re going to be looking at how to do this. We’re going to be talking about how you can do this yourself. The first thing to do is in the podcast search engine, whatever your favorite search engine is, pick the one you’re comfortable in because you’re comfortable using the search there.
If it’s Apple, Google, Stitcher, it doesn’t matter. Use that and search in your main topic category. If ours is podcasting tips, that might be the first thing we do or how to podcast, we would type those into that search engine and see what shows up. What we’re looking for are both podcast shows and episodes. We want both because sometimes people have shows that are on digital marketing, but they have episodes on podcasting in particular, in this case, or they might have episodes on the topic you’re looking for. That’s a way for you to find out what the most common and popular topic is. If they’re handling on a show that’s not about the niche area, it’s more likely to be something that most people want to know.
If you have a show focused in the cannabis industry, there might only be a certain number of cannabis podcasts out there. If you are then searching episodes, you’re going to find episodes in general business-related or marketing-related or investing that have an episode here or there related to cannabis. If those are coming up in search, they’re popular and relevant episodes. Serving those would be helpful.
Check out their titles and the topic. You don’t have to listen to them. This is the point. If they’re not doing a good job of titling them to begin with, they’re not enacting a good strategy themselves. They’re not a podcast worth following, listening to or modeling. If they put great titles on their episodes, you know they’re putting effort into their keywords and topic development. Those are the ones we’re going to match and model.
What I like to do is go down the list and copy the titles. Screenshot, copy and paste them, whatever it is. I go and I make a spreadsheet of the titles. I pull through those titles. I look at those titles and I say, “What is the likely keyword, podcast, guests, tactics or a podcast cover art?” They might be those topics. I would put a list together and pull out those keywords to the side of it. I have a column that all has titles in it, and I have a column that has what I believe the keywords are out of that.You don't want to copy your competition. You want to be uniquely you. You want to be different. Click To Tweet
I start to look at search and storage. I can resort my spreadsheet and find all the duplicates. If I find like there are ten in podcast cover art, and I see all the titles are overlapping, they’re not differentiating themselves, then I will keep one. If I see them over differentiating, so some might be about the visuals, titles, fonts. There are some different ideas there. I might change that keyword and make it even longer.
Podcast cover art fonts, colors, you can see how I’m building on that topic and saying, “I might have multiple niche areas.” If I’ve covered this before and I’m definitely sure that I’ve covered it, then I will skip those ones and delete them. The next thing that I do is once I look at that, I don’t listen to the episode. Here’s why I don’t listen and read their posts is that I don’t want to influence the way that I would talk about that topic. All I wanted was the topic.
I need to do it in my format, my way, bring my unique edge to it. Even if it’s a topic I might disagree with like someone is outnumbering podcast episodes, which I think is stupid in their titles. Even if they make that the topic about numbering your episodes, I know that when I do that topic, why you shouldn’t be numbering your podcast episodes. I know my twist on the topic might be counter to general public opinion, and that’s okay. That’s a great way to address a topic to address it but in the negative.
Being controversial is a good way to get attention, certainly, and get a lot of people talking about your episode and your show. That’s one tactic, but definitely, looking at your competition and not listening to the episode, I want to emphasize this point that Tracy said. It’s a good one. Who the heck has time to go listen to a whole lot of competitive episodes? Plus, you’re giving them a lot of your time, which you don’t have.
The point is a good one. You don’t want to copy your competition. You want to be uniquely you. You want to be different. The best way to be different is not to have a detailed awareness of exactly what they talked about. Being aware of the topics and making sure you’re covering those important topics is very important.
If you’ve never heard their show before, in other words, you’re finding the competition for the first time, definitely watch their trailer, teaser, check out one of their episodes so that you have a basis for what their show is like compared to yours. That’s always a good way to understand how you are still differentiating and what’s working for you. That’s a good plan. If you’ve never heard their show before, don’t ignore it altogether, but don’t let it influence the topic decisions that you’re making here.
Your purpose for reviewing them is to simply review the topics and to get some new ideas for the next year. We build this list together of all these great topics. We built it off titling. We pay attention. The reason I saved the titles is that if they’re doing a good job of titling, I may want one that comes up similarly. Think about it from this perspective, if someone is searching for that particular title and I’ve titled mine similarly, not exactly the same word for word, then my episode will pop up as well.
People don’t type in the whole thing exactly. They would never copy it. They’re going to get 3 to 5 of the words that are in that title. If mine are patterned in a similar way, I have a good chance of showing up when someone is searching for that other episode, which might be more popular than yours because it was older than yours. It’s been out there longer. They do a better job of promoting their show.
This is where we can draft off what’s going on in terms of publicity and marketing that somebody else is doing. We can draft off that and still be our original selves and attract our audience to our topics instead. Maybe they liked the title of our show better. Maybe they want the angle or the twist that we put on it, like why you shouldn’t do something.
I like that, Tracy, is to putting a different perspective on a title that may be in opposition or a negative. You still got the keywords but a different perspective. It’s going to pique curiosity and get people to listen. What we’re talking about is modeling what other people either have done or are currently doing. While we’re all for originality and stepping out and being yourself, you have your unique perspective, your point of view on your subject matter. That’s absolutely true, but we’re not trying to take anything away from that or to minimize the importance of that.
That is all very important, but there’s definitely something to be said for modeling what others have done that has been successful or popular. Remember, when you look at any show, at least in the Apple Podcast apps, you look at all the episodes of a show, they do give you an indication of the popularity of each episode. They won’t tell you exactly how many plays each episode has gotten, but there is a rank of popularity. It’s in a bar graph.
It looks like it’s got more dark bars and more little hashes than the others. That’s a good way for you to tell this is popular or not. I don’t always pay attention to that because when you start to see a prevalence of things, a lot of people do a terrible job of promoting their episodes. A lot of great people with great topics do a terrible job at promoting their episodes. You’d skip something that might be important in your industry if you only went by popularity. Popularity might help you rank something out of the list of, “Which ones do I tackle first? I now have a list of 100 topics. How do I decide which one to do first?” You might use popularity as a way to decide that.
That’s my point is it does give you an indication if you’re looking at another show’s episodes. To look at this, you have to click into that show and view all their episodes. You can look at by popularity, what their most popular episodes are. It tells you what topics people have listened to the most or episodes they at least listened to all the way through versus listen to a portion of it. Apple, uniquely compared to other podcast apps, does notice that. They pay attention which episodes have people listen to 10%, 15%, 20%, and then they left it, or ones that listened to all the way through. That popularity is an indication of that. I do think it’s one thing to consider and look at.
What about shows that are podfaded? I’m a fan of looking at the podfaded shows because 9 times out of 10, it was something on their end how they viewed podcasting and not necessarily their topics. Unless the show is terrible, and I take a quick listen to it and I go, “This is an awful show. They phoned this in. They didn’t know what they were doing. This is not worth duplicating.” The reality is that if you make sure that you’ve covered something that was in a podfaded show, especially a popular one or one that maybe went 100 episodes and then podfaded, you could find some great topics that you need to make sure you have because you’re continuing on.
If I’m searching for a show and I’m interested in a topic, I see this one over here that has 100. They don’t have anything new or even if they have 25 episodes, but they haven’t posted anything new. Their topics sound more interesting or sound more relevant to what I’m looking for, foundational learning elements, I might choose them and then come back to yours. If you had both, I’d rather choose yours. If you had both those topics, plus you’re posting frequently and currently, I’m totally choosing your show. That’s a way to attract a binge listener.
That’s very important because when they listen to shows, search on a subject, they’re going to look at all these different shows. It’s very clear, “They haven’t published since 2018.” If they see you’ve got episodes, the same topics, and you’ve posted within the last month, a couple of weeks, they’re probably going to give yours a try first. That’s our great way you can draft off of another show. It’s still competing with you for plays, even though they’re not publishing recently. That’s a good point, Tracy. I like that one.
The last thing I want to mention is social media competition. There are a lot of Facebook groups out there that are in your niche that are run by podcasters and organizers. In the podcast industry, there are twelve different podcasts groups that are run on Facebook. They’re run by someone who does have a podcast on how to podcast or to sell a course on how to podcast. It’s easy for us to go into those groups because most of them are open. They don’t restrict who goes into them.
Most of them are open and they allow us in. We can look through that and see the questions most commonly asked by people. If they’re being commonly asked within these groups, they’re not finding the answer out there. They’re not finding it with the coach that’s there. You can fill a gap that’s happening before that coach gets around to filling that gap with an episode as well.
That’s a great way for you to do that. If you can get into some of those competitor groups, the ones in the financial management, there are lots of them that are open groups. The investing real estate groups are open. Going out in there and seeing what questions people are asking can help you hone in and get to a great new topic list. That can get you the more current topics. What’s going on that people are interested in and concerned about? How does such and such apply to my developing my show now? It’s more a timely and relevant topic.
Another tip I’d like to add to this, Tracy, is to don’t underestimate the power of Google. It’s not that difficult. If you’re wondering, “What questions are people asking in my topic area?” or you have an idea for a subject, maybe you found a podcast episode from a competitor and their topic. You’re wondering, “How relevant is that? Are people asking that question? What other questions are the people that are interested in that subject also asking?” Go to Google. I don’t know if you’ve looked at this, but when you type in a question to Google, or even you put in a subject like launching a podcast, frequently asked questions or FAQ, Google will pull up a lot of options of other commonly asked questions that people that asked that question also asked.
It’s by relevance. Google knows. I wanted to make sure we understood this. When people search on topics on Google, it not only pays attention to those specific topics that they searched on. They also rank, understand, and will share what other questions the same people asked that question also asked within the last month. You can start to dig and dive a little deeper into some of these topics and see what other topics did those same people also search on?
This is a great way. If you’re still seeing and you feel like, “I have to address this question again, but I don’t know what angle to address it in.” This happens all the time. When we were doing the New Trust Economy, we would get constant questions about cryptocurrency wallets. “How do you get one?” is our most popular episode, “How do you get a cryptocurrency wallet?” We did it early on.
It was because of this thing where we tried typed in cryptocurrency wallets because we discussed it before. How to get one was one of the top questions that we saw coming up on Google. If you’ve got your keywords that you’re noticing these topics that you’re pulling, but you’re like, “I don’t know how to create a new angle on it. I did talk about this a year ago or in my first 100 episodes, but now I’m in my 200.”
It’s a great way to figure out how to discuss it again without duplicating what you did the first time is to type those keywords into Google and see what other questions come up or more common and typical questions are happening. That might help you develop how to handle that keyword section again. You already did it, but it’s worth bringing up into the next 100 episodes.Don't discount your ability to be knowing, to be that curator, to be that expert who knows what questions people are going to ask next. Click To Tweet
That was a great example, Tracy. I appreciate that. It’s something that I always remember in digital marketing and the different events we go to. We hear other experts speak on subjects, how much they focus on modeling others, and that’s what we’re talking about now. There is definitely this balance to be struck between modeling others, seeing what they were doing, make sure you’re covering some of those same topics, but also charting your own territory, approaching it from another perspective. Balancing that I think is important.
I want to mention this. What we discovered when we did the 3D printing podcast is that it was such a new topic area. There was not enough information. People didn’t even know what questions they were going to have at any given stage. If you’re dealing with an advanced stage of things, like when we talk on The Binge Factor, I’m talking about advanced podcasting tactics. We’re all testing brand new stuff out. We don’t know if it’s going to work.
If I were to skip talking about the topics because they weren’t on the popularity list, on the newbie list, I would be missing out on serving my advanced audience. Don’t discount your ability to be that curator, that expert who knows what questions people are going to ask next, and to be addressing that at the time. That’s important to go with your gut on that one.
If you say, “I want to address this topic. I feel it’s important in our industry. It’s important in my topic area. It’s going to be important to my listeners.” Paying attention to what you believe your listeners want most, you should cover it. In the end, we found it rewarded us tremendously with traffic. We didn’t model any of the other podcasts only because they were focused on the news and too techie. We were creating a niche for ourselves that was separate.
For us, it was important to go into those newbie groups and to ask those people who are figuring this stuff out to ask them what they wanted and to watch what questions they put in Facebook groups. We couldn’t get it from the other podcasters because what they were doing was so in the zone, and we were trying to be counter to that.
There can be times where you’re going to chart your own course. I’m not saying you should be like everybody else, but I think you should be aware of what others are doing. That can help you make smart decisions for how you’re going to be different.
I know topic planning is big on everybody’s lists. We’ve got to think about our episode topics. It’s always a constant, “What do I talk about now?” Having a running list and spending a little bit of time making that running list. I do this regularly, about once a month. I will sit and search through a series of podcasts that I have saved into a list. I don’t listen to them. I’m not subscribed to them, but I have them saved into a playlist.
I’ll go through that and check out their episode topics and see what new came up. I do it straight on my phone, and I add it right into my Google Doc and add another topic idea. Once you’ve built up the list, maintaining it and coming up with 4 or 5 new ideas every month should be simple. It shouldn’t take you more than 30 minutes.
Tracy, I think it would be great at some point for you to do a little screen share on your phone to show how you make that playlist. I have to be honest with you, I wonder if that’s unique to the app you used to listen to because I don’t remember being able to save a playlist in my Apple Podcasts app. I know you’re an Android user.
It’s a Stitcher thing. That’s what I use. I particularly use Stitcher for that purpose. You can save it to a playlist. You have a bunch of created playlists. We talk about some of these topic-building things. If you’re still in the foundational stages, you want to know how to search Google and have visuals on that. There is a topic planning masterclass in our resources area. You can check out the masterclass that I did in 2020. The way that we do it is timeless. None of that has changed. That could give you, especially if you’re in that early stage, a start out of planning your topics for your first year in podcasting. That is a great place to start.
That’s in Podetize.com within the Feed Your Brand podcast blogs, is that right?
That’s right. You’ll be able to find exactly the right video without having to search for it.
Thanks so much for reading, everybody. This has been a great topic. I enjoyed it. I hope you did too. We will be back next time with another great episode. Until then, this has been Tom and Tracy Hazzard on Feed Your Brand.
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