Why do you need a podcast website?
You already have a podcast, or maybe you’re planning to start one. You know that you can reach listeners through the major podcast distribution channels like Apple’s iTunes, Spotify, Google Podcasts, and Stitcher and you can host your content using Anchor, SoundCloud, Podbean, or Buzzsprout. So why do you need a website?
Firstly, search. As far as I can tell Google is not indexing audio content within Podcast episodes — yet. I think it’s pretty likely that search crawlers and indexers will do this at some point, but currently if you want to have your podcast content visible in search engines, then you need a website.
Secondly, content ownership. Sure, you can host your podcast using a third party service, even providing access to episode transcripts. But when your podcast content is indexed on the third party service’s site, it’s that site that gets the ranking for your content — not you! This may not seem like a big issue since the search traffic will be directed to your show, but if you ever change services then that ranking is lost.
Thirdly, fundraising. This isn’t for everyone, but if you ever decide to set up a fundraising page on Patreon or a Buymeacoffee, you’ll want a website to showcase your content, and from there you can direct them to your fundraising page.
How do you build a podcast website?
Just like with hosting your podcast content, there are many options for setting up and hosting your podcast website. I’ll run through the steps here, using some of the best services in my examples.
For any website you need a domain name, a place to host the site, and your content, right? Yes! And no! While you can certainly get started, and get by, with those at a minimum, there are many more pieces to consider if you want to increase and measure your audience and interactions.
Domain and DNS
This is easy, right? Just go to GoDaddy and register your domain. Sure, but GoDaddy is famous for turning the simple purchase of a .com domain into a few additional domains, privacy protection, multi-year registration, and email and website hosting. Pretty soon your order is in the hundreds of dollars.
My personal favourite for registering a domain name is Google Domains. There are no upsells, privacy protection is free, and it is super easy to add Gmail, Google Analytics, and Search Console access (see below) for your domain.
What is domain privacy? When you register a domain, your name and contact information is added to the domain registry – publicly accessible database containing all the registration information for domains using the same ending (e.g. .com). Most registrars offer a domain privacy service that replaces the information submitted to the registry with contact information allowing the registrant to remain anonymous. In some situations, like the dispute over a domain name or legal action being taken against the operator of a website, the registrar is required to release the registrant’s actual contact information to the appropriate party.
There are lots of other domain registrars out there, but make sure you know what you are buying when you checkout. The email and web hosting in the upsell might not match your needs.
Do you need domain privacy? The biggest benefit of having domain privacy is that your contact email address is not publicly available in the domain registry. Spammers collect email addresses published in domain registries, so having domain privacy can reduce the amount of spam you receive at that email address. However, if you plan to accept credit card payments on your site, some payment processing services require that you do not use a domain privacy service.
Once a domain is registered, the Domain Name System (DNS) must be updated to direct traffic to your website. Most domain registrars provide a DNS management service that allows you to set the IP address of your webserver and your website hosting provider will have instructions for you to follow.
Once you have a domain name, you need a place to host your site. Just like with registering a domain, there are many hosting options. To choose the best option for your needs, consider if you want to:
- Simply identify your show and how to access the episodes
- Regularly update your site with new content
- Let your listeners contact you
- Share audio or video content
- Accept tips or donations
- Avoid having to update your website software
While most of the main website services can support all of these activities with varying levels of effort on your part, consider which of these are most important to you now, or will be important in the future. This will help you find the one that best fits your needs.
For example, if you only want to share information about your show and you aren’t interested in updating the content on your site very often, then a simple, low-cost Squarespace site might be the best option. If you want to publish written content as well as share your episodes, then a WordPress blog might be the way to go. If you plan to blog, but really don’t want to manage your own site, then a fully managed option might be right for you.
Do you need security? It’s important to have your traffic served securely to instil trust in your visitors and for your site’s search ranking (Google search started giving preference to sites with HTTPS as far back as 2015). Fortunately, all these options support TLS-encrypted traffic (TLS is the protocol that makes HTTPS traffic more secure than HTTP). Depending on your hosting service, the TLS (sometimes called SSL) certificate may be included or might result in an additional fee.
Your website design helps you present your podcast to existing and new listeners. If you already have a logo and some artwork for your podcast, you will want a design that looks great with those elements. Fortunately, there are many resources available for creating a great-looking website while not spending a lot.
First, there are free themes and templates for every web hosting service. It’s usually easy to customize the colours and fonts for any site using a free template or theme, but they likely won’t be designed for a podcast site and will be limited in the page layouts that are included.
Next, most website hosting solutions have networks of designers and developers that create and sell website themes. It is quite likely that you can find a podcast-specific theme that you like through one of the many theme marketplaces. For any theme you buy, it’s important to understand what level of support is provided, how quickly the developer responds to support requests, and how long the theme is likely to be supported. Buying a theme through your hosting service can help ensure better support, but the theme options will be fewer.
Finally, you can hire a theme design/development service to build you a custom site. This will be the most expensive option, but you will end up with something unique and, potentially, a differentiator for your podcast. As with buying a theme, it’s important to find out what type of support is available for the completed site and what the costs will be to continue receiving support.
Over half of all internet traffic is from mobile devices
Regardless of which route you go for your website design, it’s incredibly important that your site looks great on mobile devices. Themes that work well across different screen dimensions are generally referred to as being responsive, and they adjust the size and layout of elements on each page depending on the size of the visitor’s screen.
Sometimes you may want to create an audio file with highlights of your content as an introduction to new listeners. This requires some audio editing, but once the file is created it can be added to your site in the same way.
Since having your podcast content available for search engines is one of the main reasons for having a website, once your site is live you want it to be indexed quickly. To do this, you will submit your sitemap to the major search engines for indexing.
What is a sitemap? A sitemap is a document on your website that tells search indexers what pages are available on the site. A sitemap allows the owner to include additional information about each page, like when it was last updated, how often it changes, and how important it is in relation to other pages of the site. This gives the owner of the site some control over which pages are indexed and how they appear in search results. Using a sitemap is the best way to inform search indexers of new pages or content on your site.
How do you make a sitemap? A sitemap is a text file and is readable, but it is written in a format called XML (for eXtensible Markup Language) and needs to be correctly formatted to be considered valid by search indexers. Website hosting services may automatically create a sitemap or you may need to add the sitemap functionality to your site. For WordPress sites, my favourite sitemap plugin is Google XML Sitemaps.
Once your sitemap is available you can submit it to the Google Search Console (and Bing Webmaster Tools) for indexing. You will need to verify that you own the domain, which is usually done by adding a code (provided by Google or Bing) in a custom DNS entry for your domain. You will create the verification records using the DNS management tools provided by your registrar, and both Google and Bing provide directions for the major registrars. Google’s search console will automatically verify your domain if you used Google Domains as your registrar.
Google Search accounts for over 90% of all web searches
Once you have verified your site, you will start to see how your site is being indexed, which search queries are matching your site, and your site’s performance for these queries. You will also be notified if any errors are encountered while indexing your site, giving you the ability to make sure your site is being indexed correctly.
If you plan to communicate with any of your listeners via email, you will want to have an email address for your website domain. It’s quite inexpensive to set up a custom domain email account with either G Suite or Microsoft 365, with plans starting around $8/mo per user account. For either service there are some DNS changes required to add your website domain to the service and get it working. With both services you can create email address aliases (e.g. firstname.lastname@example.org) without having to pay for an additional account monthly.
Marketing and newsletters
Do you plan to communicate with your listeners on a regular basis? Setting up a newsletter is a great way to send updates to your listeners who might not be automatically downloading your episodes. Mailchimp is the go-to service for many websites that want to send marketing messages and newsletters and all the major website hosting services support integration with it. This makes it quite easy to let visitors to your website signup for your newsletter.
Analytics and advertising
Understanding your website traffic will give you insights into how your visitors are finding your site and, if you’re doing any online advertising, which ads are most effective. It’s very straightforward to set up a Google Analytics account and get your tracking code. How you add the tracking code to your site will depend on which hosting service and technologies you use, but all major website hosting services support the use of tracking codes. The most important thing to remember is to have your tracking code on every page of your site.
If you plan to do any advertising on Google Search, Facebook, LinkedIn, Reddit or any other platform, it’s best to set up Google Tag Manager to help you install and manage the tracking code for each of these platforms.
Once you have finished setting up your website, there are a few final checks to make sure that everything is working properly:
- Does your security certificate work if you go to https://yourdomain.com in your browser?
- Do you get redirected to the https version if you use the http address?
- Does Google Analytics track visitors across all the pages of your website?
- Is your website being indexed by Google (and Bing)?
- Are there any search indexing errors?
- Is new content being indexed?
- Is your page load time okay?
- Does your email signup and/or contact form work?
- Can you listen to your podcast episodes using the embedded player?
When you’re ready to set up a website to promote your podcast, Podmotion can help!