Beginning podcasters often groan at the mention of writing show notes. If I wanted to write, I would have started a blog, not a podcast. Ouch, sound familiar?
Skipping this crucial step may not only be costing you listeners, it may also be frustrating the few you’ve succeeded to attract. Especially, if those listeners also follow podcasters who actually take the time to create ultra helpful show notes for them.
The benefits of writing show notes far outweighs the time it takes for you to create them. If you’re only transcribing your episodes, you’re missing out on a huge opportunity to take your podcast to the next level.
Today we’ll show you exactly how to generate great podcast episode notes, so you can grow your audience and get more downloads.
What’s So Great About Show Notes?
Show notes have the amazing ability to help both you and your listener. Writing them out and posting them on your website or Facebook page is literally a win-win situation. Why?
They Boost Your SEO
When you do a simple Google search, you get a list of sites mentioning the specific keywords you typed in the search box. Since we can’t search audio files for keywords yet, you need to write out keywords from your podcast in your show notes, so potential listeners can find your website when they’re searching the web.
A show about finding hidden gems in national parks would rely on keywords such as best picnic spots, hidden hiking trails, or best places to birdwatch. If the episode mentioned a specific brand of hiking boots during the podcast, or awesome rest stops along the way, it would also get traffic from people searching for those terms, independent of a general national park search.
You’ll rank higher in searches with a steady flow of written content on your website, so it really pays to consistently post your show notes. Then, all you need to do is turn this extra traffic into episode downloads.
They Create Shareworthy Content
Every podcast wants to grow, but is yours using social media effectively? If your listeners want to share quotes from your podcast on social media, they can head over to your show notes and copy and paste key phrases that you’ve highlighted for them.
Plus, your written content can be repurposed as tweets, Instagram posts, or newsletter teasers for your email subscribers.
They Encourage Interaction
Engaging show notes will keep your visitors on your site longer. The notes can also lead them to past episodes to download. They can showcase your social media pages to interact with, and can even link out to other interesting content you have on your site.
Your listeners can comment on your show notes with their feedback, help to inspire new topics, and interact with you one-on-one about the show with other listeners.
Now that you know why you need show notes, let’s talk about how to keep them from being boring.
Great Show Notes 101
Some people won’t have time to read long blocks of text to find out if you’re worth listening to, so aim for show notes that stay under 300 words, or roughly the size of a short blog post update.
This is easy to manage for you (i.e. not a ton of work) and still provides enough information for your listener to quickly judge if your content is relevant or useful to them.
Think of your notes like a movie trailer: you’re enticing listeners with the basic points of your show, and teasing them with a few memorable sentences, but you’re leaving enough out so they’re eager to download the episode and hear more.
Think Outside the Outline
You probably already outline each episode before you’re ready to record, and include major talking points, notes about your guest, and ideas for discussion. You probably even have it organized in a thoughtful hierarchy with headings and subheadings. Congratulations—you already have the backbone of awesome podcast notes!
Now expand your outline by using brief summaries of what was discussed during your episode. Include quotes from your guest, thoughts that were shared, and tidbits that make readers want to listen to the episode.
As award-winning podcaster Daniel J. Lewis says, write a short excerpt of your episode that answers the questions:
- Why should I read/listen?
- What will I get from it?
Lewis recommends answering this question with an excerpt that’s under 160 characters so you can also use it in your SEO description field. Multitasking win!
Make them Easy to Read
If your listener just wants to skim the main talking points to determine when (or if) they feel like listening to your podcast, they’ll be looking for clearly marked headlines or separate paragraphs to define topics, guest appearances, and chunks of information. Create your content in alignment with how we read content across the web. Follow our lead and use headlines to split up topics like this article does.
Keep your paragraphs short; large bodies of text can be intimidating, but paragraphs between 3–4 sentences are easy to digest (especially on mobile devices).
If you want to go above and beyond with your audience, you may want to consider adding time-stamps to your show notes. Note the time before each segment starts so listeners can tune in at exactly the right moment.
It’s also perfect for sharing key segments with friends or followers.
We all like shiny pictures to look at along with our information. They catch our eye and grab our attention. Adding a few images to your show notes will make the post more likely to be shared and will also increase engagement. There are tons of free stock photographs you can use online.
Ask your guest for an image you can feature in your show notes to connect your listeners with the person behind the unfamiliar voice. Your guest will also get a nice boost from this extra exposure.
Link Your Sources
Add links at the end of your show notes for content you mentioned in the episode. Whether it’s a paper you cited, a movie your guest referenced, or a few products you raved about. Your listeners want easy access to what you’re talking about since they can’t see it.
Don’t forget to credit your guests by linking to their website and social media pages. Think about what you’d want them to do if the situation were reversed.
Make it Shareable
Always include your social media, subscription, and feedback links in your show notes. Even though these links are probably somewhere on your website, placing them in each post means your viewers won’t have to search for them if they’re reading via email update or RSS.
Make it easy for your listeners to share and they’ll do it without hesitation—and it works like free advertising for you.
Here’s a general idea of how your show notes should flow, courtesy of the podcast On the Media:
Notice how they start with the catalyst for the episode: the anniversary of a profound literary work, mentioned their guests and their achievements, and even included their Twitter handle and website. All of their sources are linked and there’s also nine specific keyword tags.
Though just a short overview, you can instantly understand what the episode is about and still want to listen to the full episode to hear more.
Publishing your show notes will help search engines find your website and rank it higher in the search results, which means more traffic will be directed to your podcast.
These visitors will want to know if your podcast episodes contain useful/relevant information for them, or else they’re probably not going to download your show. Give them a taste of what you do—make your show notes interesting and they may download the episode to hear more.
Don’t forget to tweak your show notes and use them as Facebook or newsletter updates for your followers and subscribers to maximize your marketing efforts while doing very little extra work.