People are listening to, watching, and subscribing to podcasts more on mobile devices than anything else. Here are nine things to make your podcast mobile-friendly.

1. Use a mobile theme or responsive website design

Having your site simply work on mobile devices isn’t good enough. Your website needs to be optimized for small, touchscreen devices.

The easiest way to do this is to use a WordPress plugin like WP Touch or a similar plugin. This will detect what kind of device is being used and completely change the website’s look to work well with that device size.

The better way is to use a theme with “responsive web design.” This makes your website design respond to the size of the browser by changing sizes, hiding elements, and adjusting layouts. I recommend WordPress themes from StudioPressAppendipity (requires the Genesis Framework from StudioPress), and now Elegant Themes.

Not only do such optimizations improve the experience for mobile users, but Google now takes mobile-friendliness into consideration for your search-engine ranking for searches from mobile devices. Thus, your Podcast SEO does depend on your website design!

2. Embed modern media players

Mobile web browser will usually appropriately handle a direct link to a media file by playing the media in the browser. But this isn’t an optimal experience for mobile users.

Instead, you need a modern media player that uses Javascript, HTML5, and has a list of fallbacks for the greatest compatibility on all devices. I recommend PowerPress‘s built-in MediaElement.js player, Simple Podcast Press, or Pat Flynn’s Smart Podcast Player.

Such players will make it easy for mobile users to consume your media by displaying the players in your web page and having finger-friendly buttons.

3. Keep the files small

Mobile devices have three restrictions you should remember when encoding your files.

  • Storage—Most mobile devices offer 8 to 128 GB of built-in storage. But this can quickly fill up with apps, music, photos, and videos.
  • Bandwidth—Most cellular service providers don’t offer unlimited bandwidth anymore. Thus, it may not be possible for subscribers to download large episodes when they’re not on wifi. Sometimes, there’s even an imposed file-size limit regardless of the allowed bandwidth.
  • Internet speed—LTE connection speeds are great, but they’re not always accessible, especially outside the USA.

Because of these restrictions, it’s best to keep your files as small as possible, but also without sacrificing too much quality. If you want to offer high-definition (HD) video, consider offering a standard-definition (SD) option as well. Yes, this can split your ranking in iTunes to have multiple quality listings (a problem I hope Apple fixes someday), but it also gives you more opportunities to dominate the iTunes search results.

Audio encoding is easy.

  • Nearly all spoken-word content: MP3, 64 kbps CBR (constant bitrate), 44.1 KHz, mono—about 1/2 MB per minute or 5 MB for ten minutes
  • Music reviews and audio-dramas: MP3, 128 kbps CBR, 44.1 KHz, stereo—about 1 MB per minute or 10 MB for ten minutes

Video encoding isn’t so easy because it has more dimensions than audio but it’s based on a basic rate per second. Because of this, 24 FPS (frames per second) could produce a better picture than 30 FPS at the same encoding rate. It’s especially not cheap to host. Here, you need to make the decision based on your visual resolution.

  • SD: MP4 (h.264), 640 × 360, .6 MBps VBR (variable bitrate) target, 24 or 30 FPS, 64 kbps mono or 128 kbps stereo audio (44.1 or 48 KHz)—about 36 MB per minute or 360 MB for ten minutes
  • 720p HD: MP4 (h.264), 1,280 × 720, 2.4 MBps VBR target, 24 or 30 FPS, 256 kbps stereo audio (44.1 or 48 KHz)—about 150 MB per minute or 1.5 GB for ten minutes
  • 1080p HD: MP4 (h.264), 1,920 × 1,080, 5+ MBps VBR target, 24 or 30 FPS, 256 kbps stereo audio (44.1 or 48 KHz)—about 300 MB per minute or 3 GB for ten minutes

4. Include podcast app links on your site

When a mobile user visits your website, you need to make it as easy as possible for them to subscribe, especially since they’re already on a mobile devices.

For iOS devices (iPhone, iPod Touch, iPad), this is as simple as including an iTunes link. It doesn’t even have to be specially made to launch iTunes. iOS 8 will recognize the link and open it in the Podcasts app. Even a couple apps on Android will recognize iTunes links!

Android is a much harder platform for podcasters because there’s no official podcast app. Thus, I recommend including a Stitcher link plus a link to your podcast RSS feed. Having the RSS feed linked on your website also helps your podcast be more visible to the Microsoft Podcasts app on Windows Phone 8.1 and later.

PowerPress 6.0 and later now allow you to create a few subscription buttons. My own premium plugin, Social Subscribe & Follow Icons, contains many more options, and a future version will make this even more awesome with automatic platform detection!

5. Get a standalone app for your podcast

There’s currently nothing more mobile-friendly for your podcast than having a mobile app! This makes your podcast more findable and accessible. Most people with smartphones already know how to install and launch apps—more than those who know how to subscribe to podcasts.

Currently, the two best places to get a standalone mobile app for your podcast are Libsyn and Spreaker. I like Libsyn’s app offer the best (watch this walkthrough video, because they’ll make an iOS, Android, and Windows Phone app for your podcast! Speaker also offers custom apps, but theirs will end up being more expensive than Libsyn’s, and you don’t get a Windows Phone app.

6. Speak memorable links

When subscribers consume podcasts on mobile devices, they’re often not in a place to write down long URLs or even visit them right away. This is why I recommend that any link you must give in your podcast be something easy to say and remember. The simplest thing to do is send your audience to your show notes with a worded URL, like this episode’s /mobilefriendly (but /215 still works, too).

I still recommend Pretty Link Pro as the best tool for making these links, but Better Links Pro is also a good solution.

7. Include show notes in your RSS feed

More podcast apps are starting to display the show notes along with the podcast episode. The Podcasts app for iOS even lets you manually hyperlink text for URLs, phone numbers, and email addresses; but it also automatically hyperlinks any of those that are in plain text.

If you use Libsyn to create your RSS feed, simply hyperlink the text you want in each episode’s Description. PowerPress can already adapt your rich-text-formatted show notes to display URLs in plain text, but version 6.1 will support hyperlinking text, too.

However you do it, this makes it easy for your audience to tap on the relevant links and feedback information directly from their podcast app.

8. Write front-loaded titles

Because mobile devices have small screens, episode titles are usually truncated. It’s okay to have long titles, but the most important part should be in the beginning so it’s readable before the title is truncated or scrolled. This also helps with SEO.

9. Standardize your volume levels

Podcast consumption, especially with mobile devices, happens in a variety of environments—quiet, noisy, distracting, and more. One of the best ways to make your audio more consumable (even if you’re publishing in video) is to reach standard volume levels.

We can now measure this is “LUFS” (loudness units to full scale). The ideal targets are -16 LUFS for stereo and -19 LUFS for mono (this is because most players give a 3 dB boost to mono audio). Auphonic (online and the desktop Leveler app) and Adobe Audition’s “Match Volume” tool are the most accessible ways to reach these levels.

I will have a loudness-reaching video tutorial (or several tutorials) coming soon!

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About the Author
As an award-winning podcaster, Daniel J. Lewis gives you the guts and teaches you the tools to launch and improve your own podcasts for sharing your passions and finding success. Daniel creates resources for podcasters, such as the SEO for Podcasters and Zoom H6 for Podcasters courses, the Social Subscribe & Follow Icons plugin for WordPress, the My Podcast Reviews global-review aggregator, and the Podcasters' Society membership for podcasters. As a recognized authority and influencer in the podcasting industry, Daniel speaks on podcasting and hosts his own podcast about how to podcast. Daniel's other podcasts, a clean-comedy podcast, and the #1 unofficial podcast for ABC's hit drama Once Upon a Time, have also been nominated for multiple awards. Daniel and his son live near Cincinnati.

12 comments on “How to make your podcast mobile-friendly – TAP215

  1. Mark Deal says:

    Wow Daniel! This was great stuff. I really appreciate the awareness and link to Simple Podcast Press. It looks great and will save some time too. You may also want to link to the Appendipity themes that you mentioned.

  2. Stephanie b says:

    This list was really helpful. Thank you!

    Do you know if the PowerPress update to the iTunes description to allow hyperlinking will make it more compatible across podcatchers? I use Castro, and it doesn’t display your custom iTunes summaries currently with the show notes, feedback info, etc., just the excerpt for your post. I didn’t know you included that in your descriptions until listening to this episode. (Podcast feeds that are generated by Libsyn include hyperlinked text in Castro.)

    1. I think it will update. I’ll have to test this, as I now have Castro, too.

  3. Kim Slusher says:

    You mentioned Auphonic.com a couple of times in the episode. I am very interested in clarifying your thoughts since I just started using Auphonic for the noise reduction and loudness standardization. I am letting them create my MP3. Do you think it would be a better practice to export from Auphonic as a .wav and have iTunes encode my MP3? I was wanting to save that step in my work flow. Thanks for all you do. Love the information!!!!

    1. iTunes is the better MP3 encoder. Surprisingly, Auphonic still uses LAME, which isn’t as good for spoken word podcasts at 64 kbps mono.

  4. Great episode as always.

    Do you think the length of the domain makes a difference for podcasts these days? For instance I’m debating going with a 9 letter domain vs a 17 letter that describes the podcast better. My fear is that typing in a 17 letter domain plus a pretty link (example.com/aup or something) will be harder on mobiles and tablets. Do you find a lot of traffic comers from your “memorable links” Daniel?

    1. That’s a great question! I think the complexity of the domain (not just its length) is an important thing to consider for mobile users. That’s where perhaps having them text in to join your email list or get the URL sent back would probably be a good idea. Check out Call Loop or LeadPages for great options to do that.

      Unfortunately, my Pretty Link Pro stats don’t measure what kind of devices are using my friendly links. But I can see from my Google Analytics that The Audacity to Podcast gets about 23.5% of its traffic on mobile devices (smartphones and tablets).

      1. That’ usually why I prefer generic word and terms. Most tablets and smartphones auto complete real words.

        You must have some idea of the amount of clicks that go through those shortlinks though right? Those are only used in the podcast?

        1. Oh, right. I do measure those.

          Looking at this episode as an example, /mobilefriendly had 32 unique uses and /215 had 29. When I use keyword URLs like that, those are only used by podcast listeners. But my embedded notes in the iTunes description use the numerical URL.

  5. Victor Velmo says:

    This is a very good piece it’s going to help me grow my podcast.

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