How your website functions is highly influenced by the features you add with plugins and coding. Here are my general recommendations for podcast websites.
1. Podcast players
Your podcast website needs to be as easy as “Visit website; press play.” Your site's design makes the players prominent, but the plugins or embed code are what put a player on your site.
Here are the podcast players I like best for WordPress.
If you're not on WordPress, or you are okay with pasting code in each post, then consider these embeddable players that work anywhere HTML and iframes are accepted.
- Libsyn's embeddable player (included with your account)
- Spreaker's embeddable player (included with your account)
Choosing a podcast player for your website is a commitment. Consider how easy the player is to integrate with your existing tools, what kind of workflow it requires, and whether it is templated and retroactive.
Keeping your site and information backed up is crucial. I think it's even more important than security because if your site is compromised, you could still restore from a backup.
You can manually backup your site by copying folders and exporting your database. Your web hosting company may provide regular backups (but understand what their policies are before you rely on them!). If you're running WordPress, my favorite premium backup solution is BackupBuddy.
Security is important for your site and your audience. Ensure your web host takes the appropriate measures to keep the server secure. Managed hosting providers (such as WP Engine) will also keep your site secure.
But remember that security starts with you! Use secure passwords, don't install questionable themes or plugins, don't click on malicious links, don't give out your admin password (if a trustworthy company legitimately needs access to your site to fix something, make a temporary admin account for them). In other words, be smart; don't be dumb.
4. Contact information
You need to be accessible enough that someone can contact you from your website. This should be at least a contact form (I recommend Gravity Forms) or email address. There are more ways you can be contactable, but start with the essentials and add what you're comfortable sharing.
A vital place you should double-check is the email address listed in the <itunes:email> section of your RSS feed.
Out of 320,000 rss feeds going to iTunes, 42,000 feeds contain 1 of 25 email contact addresses from podcast providers that have more than 500 feeds submitted to iTunes.
Which means 42,000 Podcasters can never be contacted from the email address in their podcast feed. This means they will never get notices from iTunes when there is an issue with their feed, and with syndication providers.
So whose email address is in your podcast feed?
—Todd Cochrane [source]
The biggest offender is SoundCloud. If you use SoundCloud's RSS feed for your podcast, check your content settings and ensure “Email address displayed” is set to your email address.
Make your content easy to share by including social-sharing buttons. Appendipity themes already include these, or you can add basic buttons to any WordPress theme with Shareaholic and other social-sharing plugins. But my absolutely favorite social-sharing plugin is Social Warfare, which allows me to customize the images and text that go to Twitter, Facebook, Google+, and even Pinterest!
6. Search-engine optimization (SEO)
Make your podcast findable with quality SEO. While some WordPress themes include SEO features, I recommend Yoast SEO (formerly WordPress SEO by Yoast). This maintains your SEO if you ever switch themes.
Make sure whatever is generating your podcast RSS feed also gives you control over the SEO.
I'll talk more about search-engine optimization in my next episode about website optimizations.
What do you know about how people consume your content and how many there are? This what stats are for. Google Analytics is really easy to integrate with any kind of website.
For podcast stats, use Blubrry Podcast Stats or host your media on Libsyn.
Podcast and website stats will be worthless if you don't integrate them properly, so make sure you follow the instructions!
8. Speakable URLs
If you ever need to refer to something on your website, it's easiest if you have a familiar and speakable URL. For example, these show notes are accessible at TheAudacitytoPodcast.com/websitefeatures. You could use episode numbers, names, topics, or other keywords. It's most important that your spoken URLs be memorable, relevant, and unambiguous.
I love Pretty Link Pro for making all of my speakable URLs. The Pro version makes it faster and easier to create additional URLs for my pages and posts. Plus, the Pro version can automatically hyperlink customizable keywords with my own links. For example: HostGator, TextExpander, Spreaker, Appendipity. Those were turned into links automatically with Pretty Link Pro.
While thinking of the features your site needs, don't forget to keep your site fast! Reduce the number of images, optimize your image file sizes and resolution, and remove unnecessary plugins.
Listen to my past episode about speeding up your website, and I'll talk more about website speed in my next episode about website optimizations.
How much engagement you allow is your own decision to make. Many of the following methods can be enhanced or added with plugins.
- Post/episode comments
- Real-time chat
- Polls and surveys
If your content helps people with things (and is not only for entertainment), you may need the ability for people to search your website. WordPress has a basic search widget you can add, but you can get a lot better results and enhanced features with SearchWP.
But search will be almost pointless if you don't have searchable content. Ensure you write some basic show notes and use tags on your site to build relationships between similar posts.
12. Podcast RSS
There are reasons you may want to host your own podcast RSS feed, as well as reasons you may not want to host your own podcast RSS feed. If you decide to host it at the same place where you are managing the rest of your content, then you need a plugin to make that podcast RSS feed possible.
PowerPress is the only podcasting plugin I recommend for WordPress users. Some others may be okay, but PowerPress has the stability, maturity, features, and quality support behind it that you can rely on.
If you're on a content-management platform that doesn't provide good podcasting tools, then consider using FeedBurner with SmartCast. (Otherwise, avoid the SmartCast feature. It and stats are what make FeedBurner horrible, unreliable, and sometimes damaging to your podcast.)
13. Email opt-ins (optional)
Growing an email list is vital for online businesses, but having an email list also provides many benefits for regular podcasters.
It's best to offer an incentive for people to join your email list. Consider these different ways of providing the opt-in form.
- Embedded form—You can get the code from your email service provider, or use a form plugin like Gravity Forms.
- Offsite link—Make a simple icon, link, or button that takes people to your email service provider's hosted form for joining your email list.
- Intelligent opt-ins—Use LeadPages, OptinMonster, or Rapidology (free from LeadPages) to make smart and ethical popups, buttons, and more features that are scientifically proven to get more opt-ins. I use LeadPages and I've grown my email list more than 1,000%!
14. Monetization (optional)
If you choose to monetize your podcast, you may need features on your site to make podcast-monetization possible.
Here are some recommendations if you're going to keep your monetization on your own site (as opposed to using off-site tools).
- Donations—Use a simple PayPal button or get more advanced with Gravity Forms.
- Selling—Easy Digital Downloads and WooCommerce are the most popular WordPress ecommerce plugins. You may also need a security certificate for your site if you accept payments on your site.
- Affiliates—I love Pretty Link Pro for easily promoting my affiliate links, and AAWP for easily making internationalized Amazon affiliate links.
- Affiliate program—If you sell stuff, have you considered offering your own affiliate program? I recommend AffiliateWP for that.
- Display ads—If your site receives a lot of page views (more than 100,000 per month), you may wish to monetize with display ads from Amazon CPM, Google AdSense, and such. I recommend AdRotate Free or AdRotate Pro to manage those ads.
What website features are crucial to your own podcast? What features do you love from other websites?
Thank you for the podcast reviews!
- Join me and Troy Heinritz for a live, free webinar on February 18, 2016! We'll share “Amazing Ways to Promote and Grow Your Podcast.” Click here to register!
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This post may contain links to products or services with which I have an affiliate relationship and may receive compensation from your actions through such links. However, I don't let that corrupt my perspective and I don't recommend only affiliates.