Your podcast's title might be the single most important text for your podcast. The best titles will clearly communicate your subject to potential audiences and stand out in relevant search engines.
Yes, there are plenty of highly popular podcasts with less descriptive titles. But they became successful despite their titles because they had a lot of good marketing. However, even a look through the current top charts in Apple Podcasts left me having to do very little guessing about the subjects of most of the top shows because of their mostly descriptive names and relevant cover art.
Most of us podcasters don't have vast marketing budgets to compensate for “bad” titles. But there are some words I suggest avoiding in your podcast title, to help you optimize for search, uniqueness, branding, comprehension, and usage.
The following are only guidelines not “laws.” So if you break these, break them intentionally and with good reasons!
1. Ambiguous cuteness (01:39)
It can be cute to replace words like “to” and “for” with the numbers 2 and 4, but that cuteness can cause confusion, especially if your current or potential audience will need to type it in. Or maybe you get cute with the spelling, like “Wut Nuw wit U?” or replacing C's with K's or S's with Z's.
If you do cute things with your title, you might have to always clarify it, like saying, “That's the number 2,” or having to always spell it out.
I'm not suggesting avoiding all forms of cuteness—although you should still consider it—but avoiding what would be ambiguous to a listener.
If you do go with cuteness, try to get the other potential understandings of your titles as domains and social-media IDs (where you promote) and point those misunderstood or “typo” versions to the correct place.
If you're worried about your cute title being used uncutely by someone else, then the best protection will come from claiming it as a trademark and registering that trademark where you can.
2. Easily misunderstood made-up words or mashups (03:53)
Similar to being cute, it seems the “dot com era” made it popular to make up new words or mash parts of words together—the latter actually being called a portmanteau. For example, I could mash up “entrepreneur” and “father” to get “entrefather” or “fatherpreneur.” Or I could mash up “investment” with “analytics” to get “investalytics.”
However, the key is to avoid easily misunderstood things. I actually think these mashups might be easy enough to understand. And made-words or mashups are much easier to trademark because of their distinctiveness. (I have a pending trademark that leverages this same idea.)
Language changes, and some portmanteaus are so popular that they've been defined in the dictionary, spellchecks don't flag them, and most people wouldn't even have to wonder what you're talking about. For example, “smog” was a combination of “smoke” and “fog” that started way back in the 1800s! Everyone knows what “brunch” is. “Infotainment” is inherently clear that it is combining information (or “info”) and entertainment. And, of course, our own word “podcast” is a portmanteau of the words “iPod” and “broadcast.”
So it's not inherently bad to make up words or portmanteaus; it's only bad if it's easily misunderstood.
For example, “BuyFryer”—a podcast about purchasing air-fryers—could be misunderstood as “ByFriar”—a podcast critiquing the writings of a past friar. (Even the word “fryer” might be commonly misspelled as “frier” like “whoa” is commonly misspelled as “woah.” And it delights my heart to see my spellchecker still flag “woah.”)
When you have a title for your podcast, try speaking it to someone unfamiliar with your podcast to see if they properly understand what you're saying and can even correctly guess what your show is about. And if there is still potential confusion, either consider a different title or follow the same tip from #1 to get the alternative versions for domains and social-media IDs if you want to catch misspellings.
3. Starting with “the” (07:05)
I've seen many strong brands weakened with a simple, unnecessary “the”! For example, consider the hilarious conservative satire site with “bee” in the title. Is it “The Babylon Bee” or “Babylon Bee”? Their own website isn't even consistent with it! The logo and social IDs have “the,” but the website domain and copyright line exclude “the.”
I'm a bit of a stickler for this. If an official title has a “the,” then I will speak that title no matter what! That's my own style choice, and you might have your own preference. For example, how would you refer to their website? “The Babylon Bee's website,” or “the The Babylon Bee's website”? Or try verbal gymnastics to avoid that wording problem?
Using a “the” seems to de-emphasize the rest of the title. In this same example, it makes me think there are other kinds of “bees,” as if it's a well-known genre of content or publishing style, and this is merely the “Babylon” one.
There are, however, some times when “the” is still good for clarity. I consider my own show title to be an example of this: “The Audacity to Podcast.” And I debated the inclusion of the word “the” when I first created the title in 2010! Because I always wanted to emphasize “audacity” to mean guts, courage, boldness, and the like, I could not hear that as much with “Audacity to Podcast.” Plus, you've might have noticed that I've been emphasizing it stronger in how I say it in the audio podcast, too.
Starting with “the” might still be a good practice if your title must include the word “podcast” or “show,” like “The Katie Smith Show.” And that leads into my next suggestion!
Just if you do have to start with a “the” in your title, make sure you also get domains and branding without the starting “the.” (Which The Babylon Bee has done.)
4. “Podcast” or “show” (10:44)
Let me address the potential elephant in the room, since I brought up the title of my own show, “The Audacity to Podcast.” I'm using the word “podcast” as a verb in my show title. You could replace that word with any other verb and the title would still make sense. For example, “The Audacity to Bake,” “The Audacity to Invest,” “The Audacity to Read,” or “The Audacity to Think.” You could also replace it with a verb phrase, like “The Audacity to Cook Dinner” or “The Audacity to Drive Cars.” But replace “podcast” with a noun, like “The Audacity to Movie” or “The Audacity to Carrot” and you'll see the title doesn't make sense anymore or it sounds even childish. Thus, if I used “The Audacity to Podcast” as a bigger brand name, my audio podcast could accurately be referred to as “the The Audacity to Podcast podcast.”
Yeah, that's weird. Don't do that to yourself!
But most of the time I see podcasters want to use the words “podcast” or “show” in their titles, their usage would be as a noun and probably unnecessary. On top of that, they're usually combining it with an unnecessary “the” at the beginning, too!
Consider which title sounds stronger as a brand: “Impactful Living” or “The Impactful Living Show”? I think the shorter, cleaner version sounds better. Imagine the podcast openings: “Welcome to Impactful Living” versus “Welcome to The Impactful Living Show.”
I suggest also considering your search-engine optimization (“SEO”). Searching in podcast apps is still not the best experience at this time. While some apps might smartly search for “and” when you type “&” and vice versa, and even handle different forms of words and some misspellings, they can also be dumb sometimes.
However, I think it might be untrue when some people say that adding the word “podcast” makes your podcast suddenly less findable because it's competing with all the other podcasts that have the word podcast. At least that's my observation with my own show in Apple Podcasts. It really depends on how the search is treating each word.
With an even deeper, technical aside, this is a difference between “AND” and “OR” boolean operators. Using “The Audacity to Podcast” as an example, the words “the” and “to” might be considered irrelevant or stop-words by some search engines, so that leaves “audacity” and “podcast” as the only search terms. The “AND” operator would show results that have both “audacity” and “podcast.” But the “OR” operator would show results that have either “audacity” or “podcast” (or both).
You don't have to type these operators in most searches anymore, but some search engines automatically use one or the other. A simple way to find out would be to see if adding more words gives more results (that's “OR”) or fewer (that's “AND”).
For example, the Podcast Index search currently shows 11 results for “The Audacity to,” but only 3 results for “The Audacity to Podcast.”
So it's not a universal rule that adding the word “podcast” makes your show compete in the search results for all other podcasts with “podcast” in the title. Nonetheless, it's usually an unnecessary word for your title.
Where it's good to break this rule is when the podcast is using a recognized name from a bigger brand. For example, if Microsoft started a podcast, it would be better to be called “The Microsoft Podcast” than simply “Microsoft” because the brand is so much larger than the podcast. However, even in this case, I would suggest a completely different name, like “Microsoft's Bussiness Computing” or even move the brand name to the artist field, which is also already searchable in all podcast apps I've tested.
Also, I still think it's fine to use “podcast” or “show” to help you get a domain that fits your podcast title. For example, I hosted a fan podcast about Disney's TV show Once Upon a Time (note that I didn't say “the Once Upon a Time show”!), and we called our podcast simply “ONCE” but we used the domain and social branding of “ONCEpodcast” (and “ONCEshow” just didn't sound right).
5. Publishing frequency (“daily,” “weekly,” “monthly,” etc.) (19:38)
This one is easy! If you add a publishing frequency to your title—especially the end—then you're binding yourself to that frequency. If you ever want to change your publishing frequency, you would have to change titles. And if you ever skipped a normal publishing cycle, then the name has essentially become a lie.
There seems a noteworthy difference between using the term at the end of the title versus anywhere else in the title. For example, “Daily Bible Reading” versus “Bible Reading Daily.” Maybe it's only me, but putting “daily” at the end sounds more like it's a news broadcast reporting on something daily, while putting the frequency anywhere else sounds like it's helping to do that thing daily, even if the podcast isn't published daily. For example, “Improving Your Daily Health.”
So it's not the frequency word itself that's bad, it's really how you use it.
6. Obscenities [21:05]
Apple Podcasts used to forbid obscenities in show and episode titles or descriptions—really any text in your RSS feed. But they've since removed that rule (except for podcast cover art) because their system can automatically censor written obscenities. Nonetheless, I recommend avoiding them in your title because it will make it easier for other people to talk about your podcast, and reduce some friction some people might have in creating content promoting your podcast or in even following your podcast.
For example, you might have noticed that I never refer to Marc Maron's podcast by its name. This is because I don't use profanity, and I consider even his show name's abbreviation to be obscene because nearly everyone knows what it means anyway, so abbreviating it really isn't cleaning it up or making it family-friendly. It's similar to if I censored the word “p*dc*st” by removing the vowels—you still know I'm saying or writing “podcast” so it wasn't really censored.
And before you say, “Having an obscene title hasn't hurt Marc Maron's show!” Consider that you really can't know that for sure. His show could very easily be even bigger under a different name. Also, I know of some people who will not listen to or recommend his show exactly because of its name, even if the content was the same!
Plus, other podcast apps and directories might have different rules, especially in other countries. Even if your content contains obscenities, it might be prevented from being featured or included only because of the name. I actually do this same thing when I feature podcasts—I won't feature anything with obscenities or profanity in the title or cover art.
And back to Apple Podcasts, which does censor the text automatically under certain circumstances, they do not censor images and they have a specific rule that there must not be obscenities in images. So if your podcast name uses obscenities, then you would have to censor your cover art in order to not get kicked out of Apple Podcasts. And then that's weakening your visual branding to not have your cover art accurately reflect your title.
7. “with [your name]” (24:21)
To clarify, I'm referring specifically to adding your name to the end of your title, like “with John Smith.” I'm not referring to building your show title around your personal brand, like “The Joe Rogan Experience,” “The Mel Robbins Podcast,” “The Charlie Kirk Show,” or “Conan O'Brien Needs a Friend.” Instead, I mean tacking “with [your name]” onto the end of your great show title.
Several years before Apple Podcasts, there was a glitch in iTunes that prevented podcasts from being found by their artist names. So if you searched for “Daniel J. Lewis,” The Audacity to Podcast would not show up. So a popular podcast consultant back then advised everyone to put their names in their podcast titles so they could still be found. That would heave meant renaming my show to “The Audacity to Podcast with Daniel J. Lewis.”
But that was a temporary glitch! (I think it lasted for only a few weeks at most.)
Unfortunately, that bad advice's damage was already done and a wave of highly popular podcasts redundantly included the host names in the show titles.
This is unnecessary for several reasons:
- Your podcast's artist text should already contain your name and it's almost always displayed prominently with the title of your podcast.
- Every podcast app I've tested already searches the artist/author text, returning podcasts with your name.
- Voice-based assistants from Apple, Google, Amazon, and other assistant tools will often speak or return both the title and author of podcasts when you ask for them. So Siri, for example, might respond, “Now playing The Audacity to Podcast with Daniel J. Lewis, by Daniel J. Lewis.”
This is similar to when Apple started cracking down on keyword-stuffed podcast titles back in 2018. Podcast-publishing tools have multiple fields intended for specific content, and the content should not be repeated where it's not supposed to be. The title field should have only the title, the artist/author field should have only the artist/author names, the description should have only the description, episode titles should have only episode titles (and not season or episode numbers), the copyright field should have only the copyright, and so on.
I asked my podcast lawyer, Gordon Firemark, about trademarks. (I earn no commissions by referring his personalized legal services.) He said that putting your name in an otherwise non-distinctive title, like “Daily News with Jane Smith,” does not make the title any more trademarkable because it's still highly descriptive, not distinctive.
If your title is so generic that there are many other podcasts with the same title, this might be a good case for putting your name in the title, just like “Daily News with Jane Smith,” even though that can't be trademarked. The non-distinctness of the title allows other people to do the same but adding your name to this kind of title can help your audience be more confident they're picking the right podcast.
8. “Pod” and “cast” (30:02)
Please avoid the cliché of stabbing your podcast title with “pod” or “cast.” Your show doesn't need to be “PodCooking” or “CookingCast.”
Other than “pedia” from “encyclopedia,” I couldn't think of any time the media or distribution format term was chopped and stabbed into another word in the title. Can you imagine trying to make mashups with the word “movie” in titles like “StarMov Wars” or “Indiana JonesVie”? Or making portmanteaus with “music” and the latest music album titles?
I think this meta/cliché/portmanteau practice is fine when you're making a product or service for podcasting. For example, PodMatch, Castopod (2 points for this one!), and Pod Decks. Clichés aren't always bad, but you should try to avoid them like the plague.
9. Emoji 😮 (31:15)
While emoji can be fun for your cover art or even episode titles, avoid them in your podcast title. Some podcast apps still can't display emoji correctly. They might either omit the emoji altogether, or they would replace each emoji with “??” in the title, which can cause some unintended meanings. Any place that generates a URL for your podcast might also have problems or make a really messy URL in order to properly encode the unicode necessary to display an emoji.
If you use emoji in your title, you might have to always remind your audience not to type the emoji as part of your domain or social-network IDs. Nonetheless, they might try to search for your podcast with the emoji anyway, and how would someone even be sure they're using the correct emoji?
10. #Hashtags (33:33)
Hashtags like “#podcasting” are pointless in titles and descriptions. They do nothing for your SEO and they will look weird (but not as weird as emoji). The only place hashtags are currently of any use is when you post on social networks, like Twitter, Facebook, LinkedIn, Instagram, Pinterest, Mastodon, and even YouTube descriptions (but not titles). Each of these is a place where you would post about your podcast, not your full podcast content itself. So while it is good to hashtag the appropriate keywords from your title and description in messages you post on social networks, don't put the hashtags in your podcast title.
A good exception to this is when your podcast is about something known by its hashtag, and it's primarily known by that hashtag. For example, while Podcast Movement 2022 had its own hashtag, #PM22, that podcasting conference was not primarily known by that hashtag. But titling a podcast “#MeToo Survivors” would be instantly recognizable because it was known as the “#MeToo movement,” and thus this would be a good reason to use a hashtag in the title.
But don't start hashtagging keywords in your title merely because you think it will help your SEO; it won't.
11. Words that aren't your actual podcast title (36:57)
I hope this is obvious by now: your podcast title should be only your podcast title. It shouldn't be a tagline or a list of keywords in attempts to manipulate SEO.
This was very popular before 2018, and even I had recommended adding keyword-optimized taglines to your title and author tag. For example, The Audacity to Podcast‘s full title was “The Audacity to Podcast – how to launch and improve your podcast” and my author text was “Daniel J. Lewis, podcasting industry expert and how-to-podcast teacher.” That was an effective SEO trick back then, but some people caught on and then abused the system with titles that would look like “My Awesome Podcast – Entrepreneurship, Marketing, Passive Income, Relationships, Bitcoin, Business, SEO, and Vanilla Cream Soda.” That simulated title is 127 characters long, but I've seen some that were longer than 250 characters!
Apple cracked down on this keyword-spamming in 2018 and I shared some observations and testing around it. Now, I think it's actually quite nice to see concise titles that are only the titles!
There are some exceptions where you can include a short sort of “expansion” of the title. For example, Apple allowed our podcast about Once Upon a Time to remain under the title “ONCE – Once Upon a Time podcast,” and you can find some other, even high-ranking podcasts with similarly formatted titles. But if your title has to be explained, then it might not be a good title!
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I ended up having to expand the title of my White Collared podcast and ended up including the word podcast and a colon because the original two word title did not show up if someone searched for “White Collar”, even though those two words are literally contained within the title of my podcast. Thanks Apple for your lousy podcast search. 😠