If your podcast is listed twice in Apple Podcasts or another podcast directory, STOP! Don't do anything about it until you read or listen to this!
And if you want to avoid this problem, do not resubmit your podcast if it's already listed!
How duplicate podcast listings happen
There are two common reasons you might end up with a duplicate listing of your podcast, either by your own actions or by automation.
Reason 1: a secondary feed was automatically discovered and indexed
You might have used several different podcast-publishing tools, like your own website, PowerPress, multiple podcast-hosting providers, and such. Or you might have used some automation tools for crossposting, like Spreaker, AudioBoom, Podpage, and such. Or you used a feed proxy to mirror and rehost your RSS feed, like Feedburner or Podcast Mirror.
Any of these tools might have created another RSS feed for your podcast and may even be actively updating it. They could even be serving the exact same feed from multiple URLs, like HTTP and HTTPS (although not so common anymore), or from different subdomains.
Podcast Index, Google Podcasts (rest in peace), and maybe a couple of other systems search the web looking for podcast feeds to include and they'll often find those duplicates. Podcast Index has a fairly smart deduplication process, but Google Podcasts was a little annoying, often switching to the newly discovered feed (even if was only a redirect!) and requiring you to verify ownership of that new feed before you can switch back to your desired feed.
A couple of my own podcasts have had as many as 8 different RSS feeds discovered by Google Podcasts! And even though some of them were proper 301 redirects, the automated system still wanted to change to them instead of the feeds I had intentionally submitted for Google Podcasts to use. But at least that didn't create duplicates and it didn't interfere with my audience.
But other discovery systems might add the extra feeds as new podcasts, resulting in duplicates. (At this time, none of the most popular podcast apps use automatic discovery to build their catalogs.)
Reason 2: the podcast was resubmitted
Do not resubmit your podcast if it's already listed!
I see this problem happen far more frequently lately. When podcasters switch podcast-hosting providers, like from Spotify for Podcasters (formerly known as Anchor) to a provider such as Captivate or Blubrry, the podcasters sometimes submit their new RSS feeds as new podcasts instead of simply redirecting the old feeds.
This sometimes comes from bad advice, or from an attempt (albeit the wrong method) to reclaim ownership of a podcast in Apple Podcasts or another directory, or it might even be from thinking that you had to resubmit after changing the title or cover art. Whatever the reason, this usually results in listing the same podcast twice, even if you later properly redirect the old RSS feed. Apple Podcasts used to prevent the same feed from being submitted twice, but I'm seeing indications that system either isn't working, or isn't used anymore.
Again,do not resubmit your podcast if it's already listed! (And don't tell your long-time audience to follow your new listing, either!)
The duplicate podcast listing problem gets worse, especially in Apple Podcasts
When your podcast is listed multiple times in the same podcast directory, you risk splitting your ratings, reviews, chart and search rankings, and even your followers.
In most podcast apps, simply redirecting the incorrect RSS feed to the correct one will at least merge your split audiences. But it won't merge the other catalog features if they exist.
Before iOS 14.5, your audience was connected directly to your podcast RSS feed. So regardless of what happened in the Apple Podcasts catalog, your audience would get whatever you put in your feed and would follow wherever that feed URL would redirect. Back then, you could simply redirect the duplicate listing and then delete it, and you wouldn't lose any of your audience.
But not anymore! This changed with iOS 14.5.
Now, even if your duplicate listing gets switched to your correct RSS feed, everyone who followed your podcast through that duplicate is connected to Apple's proxy of your podcast feed, and not connected directly to your feed. In other words, people in Apple Podcasts, Spotify, and maybe only a couple other proxy-based podcast apps subscribe to the catalog listing of your podcast in that app, not directly to your RSS feed. So if you delete that duplicate listing, you will lose its followers!
Even if you're okay with losing any ratings, reviews, and rankings that duplicate listing might have accumulated, I suggest that you should not accept losing your audience!
How to fix your duplicate podcast listing in proxy-based services like Apple Podcasts and Spotify
If the podcast app in question behaves like Apple Podcasts and Spotify, where your audience is connected to the platform's proxy of your podcast or the catalog entry of your podcast instead of directly to your own RSS feed, then the solution is a little complicated and incomplete. But these steps should help!
In all of the following steps, the “correct listing” will be the oldest one that has the majority of your followers, ratings, reviews, and rankings. That's the one you want to keep, even if it still has the wrong RSS feed.
Step 1: Ask the platform to merge your listings
While this is most likely not possible at this time, these platforms need to know how frequent these problems are. So here's what I suggest you send them (feel free to copy and update this for your own use):
Dear [Apple Podcasts/Spotify/platform],
My podcast, [Podcast Title], is listed multiple times in your catalog and that's negatively affecting me and my audience. If possible, would you please merge these listings so I don't lose any of my audience or earned engagement or rankings?
Correct listing: [URL or ID]
Correct feed: [feed URL, which may actually be different from the current listing]
Incorrect listing[s]: [URLs or IDs]
It's crucial for my audience's experience to ensure none of them are disconnected from my podcast through this merge process. Even if I have to lose other earned engagement or ranking, I need a promise that I won't lose any of my audience.
Thanks in advance!
If they actually can merge your listings and promise you won't lose your audience, great! But most likely, they'll come back saying either they can't merge the listings, or they might even give bad advice suggesting to delete the duplicate(s). Do not delete the duplicates, yet!
Please be kind in whatever interactions you have with the platform's support team! You should probably assume they won't be able to give the correct help, but I do still recommend asking anyway.
Since these proxy-based platforms (like Apple Podcasts and Spotify) most likely can't provide the correct solution, and deleting the duplicate listing will harm your audience, your only other option is to ask your audience to refollow the correct listing. But there's a clever way so you don't need to ask your whole audience!
Step 2: Redirect properly
Unfortunately, it seems most of these duplicates happen where the old-but-correct listing is using the “wrong” RSS feed, and your duplicate incorrect listing(s) might be using the new, correct feeds. So I know this will seem a little confusing.
The old listing most likely has more followers and reputation, so it's the listing you want to keep. Get that old feed URL to redirect to the new feed URL using a 301 permanent redirect. Ideally, that redirect should remain forever.
A redirect happens before the contents of the feed are loaded. So it really doesn't matter what's in the feed you're redirecting, or if it's even a feed anymore! It's the URL that's important.
It's just like forwarding mail from your old address to your new home. It really doesn't matter who lives in the old home because your mail will be forwarded before it even gets delivered.
Any half-decent podcast-hosting provider should be able to permanently redirect your old feed URL to the new one. Even bottom-of-the-barrel SoundCloud can do it!
If you control the URL of your old feed, you might be able to use tools from your website, web-hosting provider, or domain registrar to redirect the URL to your new feed. You could even use a third-party tool like Cloudflare to put a redirect on the domain's exact path and you wouldn't need web-hosting at all because the contents at that URL don't matter; it's only the URL that needs a 301 redirect to your new feed URL.
Step 3: Make a new RSS feed with a single announcement episode
Start by creating a new RSS feed with most of the same podcast information. The easiest way to get this would be a separate category feed from your publishing tool, if available.
If that won't work, you could open your RSS feed in your browser and save it as a file on your computer.
Change the title slightly by adding “DUPLICATE” or something similar, and you might want to add a “duplicate” banner in the cover art, too. The point is to make it easy for anyone to see that this is the duplicate, not the actual podcast you want them to follow.
Give this new RSS feed only a single episode explaining what you need your audience to do and link to your correct listings in all the affected apps. This announcement will be seen and heard only by those who actually need to do something. Feel free to copy the following script for your notes and spoken announcement.
Hi! We're changing some backend stuff with our podcast and that, unfortunately, breaks part of my/our podcast. I/we would love to keep you in our community, so I/we need you to do a couple of things to continue receiving my/our podcast.
First, refollow my/our podcast in your podcast app, but it needs to be the one without “DUPLICATE” in the title and cover art. You can probably get there from the link in this episode's notes, or by searching for the same title.
[Include your correct Apple Podcasts, Spotify, or other proxy-based platform links here in the notes.]
Then, when you can see that you're following the correct podcast with all the episodes, please unfollow this duplicate podcast and remove it from your library.
Make this new RSS feed available online (even if you merely upload the new XML file to your web hosting), but you will not be using any regular redirects to it or from it.
Step 4: Change the feed URL in the platform's portal
Apple Podcasts, Spotify, and other proxy-based platforms offer portals for you to manage your podcast listings. These portals sometimes allow you to change the source RSS feed for your podcast listing without having to redirect your feed URL. This is the thing that in the past, I've urged podcasters not to change in Apple Podcasts Connect, but now you do need it for this one purpose.
Log into each portal that has your duplicate listing and change that source RSS feed to the announcement feed you created in step 3. This will change the feed for only your followers on that platform. If you change this in the Apple Podcasts catalog, it will change the source RSS feed for any apps that use Apple's catalog in their app, but it won't change the feed for anyone's library using those other apps. And that's okay, because nearly all other podcast apps connect your audience directly with your RSS feed. So your audience would go wherever it points in those other apps. And if that duplicate listing is using your correct RSS feed, then your audience will get your podcast from that feed instead of from the app proxy.
Updating your source feed in these few proxy-based apps should then add the “duplicate” information and push that announcement out to only those who are affected.
Step 5: Redirect and delete after a few months
Leave this announcement feed online for at least 3 months. You can start shutting it down after that.
You need to do only two things with the announcement feed:
- 301 redirect the announcement feed URL to your correct podcast feed.
- Delete the duplicate listings through the podcast portals.
Once it's redirecting, you don't need to keep the announcement feed or episode online anymore.
Unfortunate conclusion: it's messy and you might still lose some numbers
I believe these steps are the current best way to do things if the platforms use their own proxies and can't merge your listings.
It's still possible and even likely you'll lose some numbers through the “cracks” inherent with this process. You might see your download stats drop, but it will most likely be disengaged audience members. And that's why I say you might lose some numbers, but maybe not people who were actually listening. After all, if those people don't follow you to the correct podcast listing, were they really that engaged with your podcast anyway?
I really wish this wasn't an issue at all! But bad instructions and platform limitations make this complication necessary if you hope to keep most of your audience.
Important reminder: do not resubmit your feed!
As much as I'd like to bring in Smokey the Podcast Bear to tell you that only you can prevent duplicate podcast listings, the unfortunate reality is that it's still possible for some hosting providers—most likely the unknowledgeable ones—to make this mistake and tell you to resubmit your podcast with the new feed, or even worse, they submit it for you.
DO NOT LET THIS HAPPEN!
The only exception is if you've completely lost control of your old RSS feed and it's absolutely impossible to get it back (but it usually is). Even in this case, it's still better to change the source feed of your podcast in all the podcast apps your can instead of resubmitting your podcast with the new feed.
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