“Long tail” is when a podcast episode has a long life of relevance and consumption. Learn what you can do to keep your old episodes alive and use them to grow your audience.
1. Create timeless content
If your older content doesn't have continuing relevance, there's not much sense in promoting it. By definition, timeless content doesn't refer to and is not restricted by any specific time. Timeless content from years ago could be equally helpful or entertaining today.
So if you want your episodes to live long and prosper, they must be designed as such.
Think about the movie industry. Old movies like It's a Wonderful Life are certainly “dated,” but the story of love, friendship, and hope will be forever relatable. That's why so many people continue watching it! (It's actually a Christmas Eve tradition in my parents' home!)
Instructional content can sometimes be difficult to make timeless, depending on the type of instruction. If it's technology based, you have to assume it will change someday. But if your instructions are based on principles, they can transcend technologies.
Unfortunately, not all content can be timeless. Podcasts about sports, news, politics, and other current events are inherently timely. Fan content, such as for movies, TV shows, music, and books are part timeless and part timely. If the content you base your show on has its own long tail, your podcast could, too. But the time of that content's release will usually be the best days for your episode about it.
As much as possible, try to keep the bulk of your podcast timeless and then it will actually make sense to promote old content later.
If your content can't be timeless, you might not benefit as much from this episode. But don't fret, because my next episode will be about better promoting timely podcasts!
2. Keep the information updated
As the world and your own perspective change, the information you shared may need to be updated. This form of maintenance is especially beneficial if your content attracts a lot of people from searches.
For example, I recently updated the show notes for episode 126, “How to Change Your Podcast Information in iTunes/Apple Podcasts,” to include relevant information for the Libsyn RSS feed. I might also update the notes to reflect other changes in PowerPress and the podcast feeds in general.
Updating your show notes is easy, and that should be the first priority. Updating the podcast may be a little more difficult, because you may want to edit in the new information or re-record. But there's a simpler method!
First, as much as possible for instructional content, refer your audience to your show notes for the most updated information. If your instructions have changed enough that your recording may be overly outdated, you could simply prepend an announcement. For example, you could say, “Due to updates, the information in this episode has changed. So please [visit the show notes / visit this updated link] for the latest information.”
If you edit the episode, you'll need to re-upload it, with the same filename, to your media host. On Libsyn and most other monthly-upload-limited services, replacing an old file will probably use up some of this month's upload allotment. But Blubrry Media Hosting offers “Long Tail Podcasting,” which allows you to replace any episode you've already uploaded with another by the same name and it won't count against your monthly limit. (The replacement must be within a 10% difference from the original file.)
If you decide the updated information is important enough to record a new episode, then consider redirecting or at least linking the old episode to the new one.
3. Cross-reference your content
If your content remains relevant to your audience, you should have plenty of opportunities to cross-reference your previous content.
When you do this, don't assume your audience remembers the old episode. You may need to remind them what it was about, quote from it, or mention it as a more in-depth resource. For example, now that I have an episode all about redirects, I can reference that episode anytime I talk about redirects, like I did in my episode 306, “How to Move Podcast Hosts and Your RSS Feed.”
In my clean-comedy podcast, there are certain jokes or stories we reference, and we can tell our listener what episode to revisit to hear that full story.
You can even plan this to your great advantage! Make a “cornerstone” episode (or even a series) that's so focused and core to your content that you reference it frequently. It could quickly become one of your most popular episodes.
Anytime you can get your audience to engage more with your content, and it meets their needs (to be helped or entertained), they become more connected to you and your podcast, and thus more loyal.
This kind of relevant cross-reference also helps your search-engine optimization (SEO) by showing the relationship between high-quality pieces of content. It could also help connect influencers with other pieces of content they may want to share, too, and thus further increase your ranking and reputation!
If your older content has a descriptive title, consider using that for the hyperlink. For example, “Redirects and How to Use Them in Podcasting.” You hyperlink a description of the episode and its relevance, if the title isn't descriptive or doesn't flow well in the sentence. For example, “Learn more about the different kinds of redirects from my episode 280.”
Whatever you do, don't merely paste the URL in your show notes or link it with simply, “Click here.”
When you reference the old episode within your content, I recommend giving the episode number (if you use numbers) and point your audience to the your current episode's show notes for the link to the old episode. For example, “To hear that story, listen to episode 270, or click on the link in our show notes for this episode at [simple show notes URL].”
4. Add your best episodes to an email autoresponder sequence
If you have any kind of an email list, consider making it valuable to your audience with an autoresponder sequence (sometimes called “automation” or a “series”). This is a series of emails that send sequentially to every subscribe from when they first subscribe or take some action. So everyone receives email 1, then email 2, and so on, regardless of when they're added to the sequence.
You can make these sequences be anything you want, and they can even do some automatic marketing for you! And you can also use this to promote your timeless episodes, especially those that are so far back your audience may have forgotten or maybe never even heard them.
Here's an example of an email I'm adding to my own sequence:
Hi, [First name]!
You may hear people talk about “redirects.” This can be a URL—either memorable or simply hyperlinked somewhere—that redirects people who use it to somewhere else.
The two most-popular redirect types are 301 permanent and 307 temporary. I recommend you use a permanent redirect for anything on your own site, and use a temporary redirect for anything on someone else's site (like /amazon) or that may ever change (such as /live).
If you'd like to learn more about redirects and how to use them, I did an episode all about that!
Daniel J. Lewis
Notice that the email gives value first? That makes it more likely someone will read it, stay subscribed, open future emails, and even click the link!
But your emails could be simpler. For example:
Hi, [First name]!
Have you ever been confused by “redirects” and which one you should use?
I have an episode all about that! Click here to listen!
Daniel J. Lewis
Sprinkle these kinds of reminders of your timeless content throughout an email sequence and it will help your audience engage more with your older content. It may even point them to the exact thing they needed but didn't know you had!
If you need an email service provider, here are my recommendations, in this order:
5. Automate recurring shares
Automation can save you time and help you engage your followers. It's not evil! For example, if you live-stream on a consistent schedule, why not schedule a recurring message to remind your followers that you're going live and give them the link to join? That will remind them of something they want, and it will save you the time and distraction when you're trying to start your show.
If your content is timeless and thus still relevant today, why not reshare it? This could expose people to content they may have never known even existed. It can also bring new people to your podcast!
I use a tool to automatically reshare my old but timeless content. From my personal Twitter account alone in the last month, 197 people viewed that old content. For 75 of those people, it was their first time visiting my podcast site! And I continue to see results like with almost no extra work on my part.
This works by loading up a queue with compelling messages and links, and then an automation tool cycles through that content, publishing it for me on a set schedule.
From my episodes about Internet- and WordPress-based automation, here are the tools I recommend:
- Social Jukebox (save $10 through June 7, 2017 with promo code “SUPERJUKE10”)—My preferred social-automation tool. It's more affordable than the alternatives and I think it packs some better features.
- Edgar—Probably the most-popular social-automation tool. It has a beautiful design and simple usability, but it's a bit pricey.
- Revive Old Post / Revive Old Post Pro or Tweet Wheel / Tweet Wheel Pro—These are similar to the previous tools, but they're tied directly into and managed from your WordPress website.
- Missinglettr—This is a new service I've signed up for. Give it your RSS feed and it will automatically pull shareable quotations, images, and make quotation images. Then, it can create a recurring campaign to share that old information for you. It's like the previous tools, but with multiple messages from and for the same content!
6. Manually repost when relevant
Even if you set up an automation tool, there may be times when your old content may be more relevant. For example, if your podcast reviewed the original Star Wars trilogy, then people might be interested in it when a new Star Wars movie is released.
Or, continuing the movie example, you originally published your review when the movie was released in theaters. Now, it's being released on disc or download, so it's a good time to remind your audience of the original review.
Thank you for the podcast reviews!
- Michael Larsen (“Mkltesthead”), producer and frequent commentator on The Testing Show, wrote in iTunes USA, “Never Too Late to Learn/Refine Your Podcast. Even though I've been podcasting for years in various formats, as the producer of a niche technical podcast, I like to hear of ways/techniques to make my podcast the best it can be. Danel J Lewis ‘The Audacity to Podcast' is a terrific broad brush show that covers a lot of ground. If you are a new podcaster, you will learn so much to get off on the right foot. If you are a seasoned veteran, you will still learn a lot, as there is so much to the process of podcasting, including all of the “isms” and “ities” of your podcast to consider. Thank you, Daniel, I've really appreciated the content. Thank you for helping an old dog learn a few new tricks.”
- My Zoom H6 for Podcasters course is almost complete! I shared the draft preview in Podcasters' Society and already heard from one member, “This is stellar. You're a freaking rockstar dude.” It will be available for purchase soon, but subscribers to my email list will get the opportunity to preorder at a discount!
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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.