Where do you tell your audience to go for the actions you want them to take? I suggest that should almost always be based on your podcast's own domain name.
Here are 5 reasons your podcast needs its own domain, even if it's merely a redirect (which I'll explain below).
1. To simplify your most important call to action
Most podcasts have at least one call to action—often many more. But the most important call to action is the one that gets people to your show: “Follow the podcast—” where?
You might tell people to listen on Apple Podcasts, but what about Android users?
You might tell people to find your podcast in their favorite podcast app, but how much can you trust that your podcast will be the first search result?
The only guaranteed way to ensure people arrive at your podcast is to give them a method that will always work, no matter what else happens with podcasts and apps. That guaranteed way is with your own domain.
So instead of saying, “Find the podcast on Apple Podcasts, Spotify, Google Podcasts, Amazon Music, … or wherever you get your podcasts”; you can simply say, “Follow the podcast at MyAwesomePodcast.com” (or whatever your domain is).
Then, let your website provide the appropriate options for them to follow your podcast. (And if you have trouble making those options, then you could make a “/follow” URL point to your FollowthePodcast.com page given to all members of My Podcast Reviews.)
Yes, many potential listeners might simply open their preferred app to search for your show. And this does, of course, put you at the mercy of your findability and search ranking within that app. But these experienced listeners really don't have to be told how to find your podcast anyway or what apps you're in—because you are in all the podcast apps, right?
2. To promote your brand, not someone or something else's
I recently shared why you should stop saying brand names in your podcast, and what to do instead. This comes down to using your own domain for any calls to action. For a quick review, this simplifies your calls to action, reinforces your brand, defers the details, and future-proofs your calls to action.
This is all possible when your podcast has its own domain. You can make “/whatever” URLs for pages or redirects for whatever you want.
It also means that when people visit your site, they are visiting your site—even if you're using the site from your podcast-hosting provider.
For example, consider one of my favorite podcast-hosting providers, Captivate (for whom I served on the board of advisors until Captivate's acquisition). If you use Captivate's well-designed website for your podcast, the default URL will be yourpodcast.captivate.fm. This would be very similar for most other podcast-hosting-provided websites.
You would also get something similar if you hosted your website with WordPress.com: your site would be at yoursite.wordpress.com.
But all the good hosting providers (for websites or podcasts) will allow you to “map a domain” to your site (and yes, I'm saying that if they don't allow this, then they're not a good provider). So when people enter your domain into their browsers, they'll land on your website and still be your website URL instead of a subdomain of Captivate.fm, WordPress.com, Libsyn.com, or anything else.
There's also the added benefit that it's far more likely your own domain will properly handle WWW and non-WWW versions. But on a provider's subdomain URL (like “myawesomepodcast.captivate.fm”), adding a “www.” to the beginning will be far less likely to work. And many people do still unnecessarily or even wrongly type (or speak) the “www.” part.
If you use a website from any other service, ask them about mapping your own domain to the site, and they'll help you configure the CNAME in your domain's DNS records (this is essentially just a specifically formatted field). Some providers might charge a little extra for this, but it's not going to be very much, and it's definitely worth it!
Then, if you ever switch podcast-hosting providers or switch website-makers, everyone can still get to your website from your same domain.
Even if you change your branding in the future, you can very easily redirect an old domain to a new one, so your visitors will end up in the right place every time.
3. To make your own email addresses
It's fine if you use Gmail or whatever for your podcast email account (or multiple accounts). But I highly recommend against ever giving your @gmail.com address.
Like my previous point, this adds yet another brand name your audience needs to remember. And it simply looks amateurish (and not in a good way!).
With your own domain, you can make your own branded email addresses that reinforce your brand and look far more professional. So instead of “firstname.lastname@example.org,” you can have “email@example.com.”
Plus, this can boost your reputation with stuck-up corporate groups you might have to work with. For example, a “press@” email account might be all that's needed to be official enough to get press access to something or someplace.
Many domain registrars will let you create multiple email accounts for no extra charge. But you might want to simply make forwarders instead—which are far more likely to be free.
An email forwarder passes all emails that were sent to the forwarder address on to another email address or more addresses. This is an extremely simple way to ensure your cohost(s) also receive all feedback emails. And this is actually how I've done it with all my email addresses for years: they all forward to the same Gmail account. This lets me use Gmail's great tools for spam-protection, filtering, and more, while sharing only my brand with my audience.
Even with a forwarder, you can configure Gmail and other email apps to send from your podcast email address, so no one will ever have to see your real address.
4. To redirect wherever you want
As I've mentioned in a couple of these points, using your own domain gives you the power to point it wherever you want. You can make path redirects from that domain, like making “/giveback” forward to Patreon; and you can redirect the whole domain to wherever, like your hosting-branded website, a temporary landing page, your own website, or carrying over people from your old name to your new one.
This gives you the ultimate future-proofing ability.
I've previously taught in detail about redirects, but here's my general guideline: use 301 permanent redirects for destinations you own and control and that will probably never move; use 307 temporary redirects for destinations you do not own or control (like affiliate links), and that could change in the future (like YouTube live-streaming pages or meetup information).
5. To keep you in control
Last, but certainly not least, using your podcast's own domain keeps you in control. Whether you switch technologies, get kicked off platforms, or willfully change your branding, you are in control when you own the only domain your audience hears from you.
Your domain is portable. You can take it with you no matter what technology you use and no matter where you go. You control it. You are the “master of your own domain.”
Resources: where to get and customize domains
If you don't have a domain, yet, first review my past tips for picking a good domain for your podcast:
- Get your own domain, even if it just forwards
- Keep it short and simple
- Get the .com unless alternatives fit
- Make it easy to spell and understand
- Beware of forming new or unwanted words
Then, there are many places you can get a domain. The most important features to look for are:
- Full DNS management
- Included or low-cost email accounts or forwarders (depending on your preference)
- WHOIS privacy protection (sometimes a small, additional expense)
- Redirect options
I used to offer domain registration for podcasters, but now I recommend Namecheap because they have good prices and features. I've also heard great things about Hover, but I've never personally used them.
(As an affiliate, I earn from qualifying purchases through these links. But I recommend things I truly believe in, regardless of earnings.)
If you need a little extra control over DNS or path-forwarding than your domain registrar offers, you could point your domain nameservers to Cloudflare and use Cloudflare's extensive tools (that are even free for personal use). This is how I manage the DNS for all my actively-used domains, but I use my registrar to forward my other domains.
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How important do you think it is to have the podcast feed itself be based on the domain?
ex: podcast . yourdomain . com vs podcastname . podcasthost . com
I assume with the former, you would need a (wildcard or multi-domain) SSL certificate so that subdomain meet modern https spec. If that’s the case, I guess this route would be a sizable investment.
I think the podcast’s feed URL, alone, is essentially irrelevant to anything. But there is a good case to NOT let it be podcastname[.]hostingprovider[.]com: privacy.
Your Internet service provider and wifi networks can see domains you use. So if the podcast subject might get someone in trouble, then it’s better to have the URL be a subpath, not a subdomain. So “BADTHING[.]domain[.]com” will show up in logs, but “domain[.]com/BADTHING” will show as only “domain[.]com.”
This is all moot if you use your own domain for your feed URL, because that will be clearly branded regardless.
Thanks, Daniel. I wasn’t even thinking much about that aspect. I was thinking more about ownership/control of the feed, or the situation where a host might not give a redirect, or long enough one. (So one would lose a lot of ‘followers’ in the transition.)
In regard to your answer, I guess you’d have to host your own feed (ex: PowerPress) to put it on a subpath. I was thinking the subdomain because then it could exist at the host or a cloud solution, but still be under my control and easily redirected via DNS. (The privacy angle, or even a future where ISPs might filter traffic, given this would be a Christian apologetics podcast, is scary, but maybe should be considered.)
I still don’t have my podcast going (hangs head in shame), but for one of my bigger clients when I did websites, their podcast feed ended up being something like 70% of their overall web traffic, pushing them into higher paid hosting tiers. So, I’m kind of leery about self-hosted RSS… though maybe also being a bit over-optimistic about a problem I might never have. 🙂