How to Measure Podcast Success: The 12 Key Metrics to Use

Not sure how to measure podcast success? Use this guide to learn the 12 key metrics for tracking performance & progress towards your set business goals.
June 5, 2024

Tracking the success of your podcast isn’t as straightforward as it sounds. Nor is it as easy to monitor as the other online media platforms out there. There’s little ambiguity when it comes to YouTube views or Instagram likes. But as for tracking podcast metrics, it’s a little harder to get hold of precise performance indicators.

So, in order to get an accurate readout on how your show is doing, you first need to know which podcast metrics are most important and what they actually represent. But before all that, let’s take a look at the what and why of measuring podcast success.

What Makes a Podcast Successful?

You might be wondering what we actually mean when we talk about a “successful” podcast?

The answer, of course, is subjective. Because what one person might see as successful, another might not. Plus, it’s totally dependent on what you set out to achieve in the first place. For example, if your number one goal is to create a chart-topping show, you’re probably not going to be 100% satisfied with an increase in website traffic only. This is why it’s important to define your objectives early on in the process (more on this shortly).

That being said, there are definitely some grounding metrics that can be applied to every show. It’s these measurements that will enable you to track your show’s growth and progress over time.

To have the best chances of making your podcast a success, check out the below article:

What Makes a Good Podcast? 11 Expert Tips for Success

Why Is It Important to Measure Podcast Success?

For brands, podcasting is more than just a hobby. It's a strategic endeavour to achieve specific goals. What these goals are will depend on the business, but for example, they might consist of one or more of the following:

  • To promote a product or service
  • To grow a loyal, dedicated, & invested audience
  • To attract & generate new leads
  • To convince warm leads to convert
  • To improve overall conversion rates & boost sales
  • To drive website traffic & improve SEO

Whatever a brand’s podcasting goal is, the critical question inevitably becomes - how well have they managed to accomplish these objectives?

The necessity to measure podcast success arises from the need to gauge the attainment of your goals. It’s important to recognise that 'success' in podcasting is not just a numbers game. Many brands will purely fixate on sales statistics and download figures to measure how well their podcasting project has done. And whilst these are some of the key metrics to consider, they’re not the be all and end all. Instead, the success of a podcast is a multifaceted concept that varies as per a brand’s unique goals and aspirations.  

As a result, before embarking on the journey of understanding how successful your branded podcast is, you must first define what success means for you and your brand. So, what are your goals and objectives? Once you know these, it’ll be much easier to determine which metrics to track. Tracking the right ones will offer a more precise and meaningful measure of your show’s success.

12 Ways to Measure Your Podcast’s Success

A podcast’s success can be measured through a number of podcast metrics. Each one offers different insights into audience behaviour, content relevance, and overall engagement. We’ve highlighted 12 of these below.

1. Total Number of Downloads & Listens

The total number of downloads and listens your podcast gets is a fundamental indicator of how well it’s doing. However, there's a crucial distinction between podcast downloads and podcast listens.

Downloads represent the number of times your episode is downloaded using an app. But this doesn’t mean the downloader has listened to it. You might now be asking why people would download an episode if they’re not going to listen to it. And the answer is simple. Most listening apps will automatically download content for the user, based on their past behaviours and interests. The choice is then theirs if they press play or not. To put this into perspective, Podnews recently reported that:

13% of podcast downloads are never listened to.

Because of the reasons above, podcast downloads can’t offer a perfect measurement of listenership. But it’s still a metric worth tracking. Why? Because it gives a rough estimate of audience size. Given these inconsistencies, it can be more beneficial to focus on the amount of podcast listens.

Podcast listens refers to the number of people that have actually played your episode. This metric gives you a better idea of your show’s popularity, and gifts you the ability to dive deeper into audience engagement and loyalty.

2. Episode Downloads & Listens Over Time

Furthermore, tracking your episode downloads and listens over time sheds light on the lifespan of your content. So, if an episode continues to see steady or increasing interest long after it’s published, you can rest assured your content is evergreen. And if an episode is only engaged with when first published, you’ll know your content has become outdated and unable to connect with new audiences. From there, you can take action.

3. Listener Retention Rate

Listener retention rate is a significant podcast metric that illustrates the stickiness of your content. It provides insights into how long listeners stay tuned into your show, or how many episodes they go onto consume after the first one. A higher retention rate signifies your content resonates with listeners, and keeps them engaged and eager for more. A lower retention rate signifies audience drop off, disengagement, and general disinterest in your content. Again, if you find yourself in this position, don’t ignore it. Revisit your content strategy and try to find other topics or themes that will keep listeners listening for longer.

4. Chart Ratings

Chart ratings, like those from Apple Podcasts, reflect the popularity and visibility of your podcast amongst a sea of competitors. If your podcast consistently ranks high, it indicates your content is being well-received by a significant number of podcast listeners. High chart ratings can boost your podcast's credibility, too, attracting more listeners and fostering growth.

The Apple Podcasts chart homepage

5. Audience Reviews & Ratings

Audience reviews and ratings are direct feedback from your listeners. Meaning they’re a testament to your podcast's impact. Positive reviews and high ratings often signify your content resonates with your audience. It also shows they’re engaged and like what you’re creating.

If your show is receiving negative reviews, however, try not to be disheartened and throw in the towel. Instead, think of the feedback as constructive criticism. By being open to their thoughts and opinions, you’ll get some excellent insight into what your audience actually wants from your content, and which areas could be improved. If you then take action off the back of it, you’ll have a solid second chance of making your show a success.

In addition, acquiring more ratings and reviews helps you attract more listeners. They provide an effective form of social proof and legitimacy, plus generally signal to directory algorithms to make your podcast more visible on the platform. Don’t be afraid to politely ask your listeners to leave a rating and review during each episode outro.

A collection of example podcast reviews

6. Website Traffic

Tracking the amount of traffic your podcast is driving to your website is crucial to understanding its reach. Increased traffic signifies your podcast is successfully connecting with and engaging your target audience. It also confirms you’re incorporating an effective call-to-action in your episodes that’s resonating with the right people.

If you’re consistently releasing new episodes and not seeing a rise in website traffic, this may be a sign that things could be improved. Figure out who’s listening to your episodes. Are these the people who would genuinely benefit from what you’re selling? Are they your desired target audience? If the answer is no, you might need to revisit your content strategy. Are you talking about the right topics? Is your podcast in line with your brand values and messaging? What changes can you make to start attracting the right listeners to your website?

If you’re directing people from your podcast to your own website, monitor your traffic with tracking URLs. Analyse visitors’ interactions with your website, the technology used to get there, and the total time spent on your site. It’s also worth checking to see whether there is any spike in your web traffic on the day you release a new episode. As far as podcast metrics go, this is great for gauging how well your podcast is performing as a marketing tool.

A Google Search Console graph showing an incline in website traffic
Use Google Search Console to track your website traffic

7. Number of Leads

This one’s pretty simple, but we’ll cover it anyway. If driving sales is your ultimate podcasting goal, monitoring the amount of new leads your episodes are bringing is the obvious metric to measure. This will tell you how much business your episodes are generating, and if they’re influencing listeners.

The 7-Step Guide to Generating Leads & Sales From a Podcast

8. Listener Participation

Listener participation (such as comments, questions, feedback, or discussions) sparked by your new episode can serve as a valuable podcast performance metric. Active listener engagement suggests your content is resonating with listeners, provoking thoughts, and encouraging interaction. It can also provide direct feedback, enabling you to better understand your audience's interests, concerns, and preferences. This interactive relationship can help you create more engaging content, leading to a stronger podcast community.

Again, like with reviews and ratings, don’t be afraid to ask for episode feedback in your outro. You could say something like:

Do you have a question or thought relating to the topic in this episode? If so, I’d love to hear from you. Email me at [enter email address], or you can find me on Twitter or Instagram using the handle [enter handle].

9. Social Media Engagement

Tracking social media engagement, including likes, shares, and comments on your posts can help measure your podcast's popularity. High engagement rates indicate your content resonates with your audience, compelling them to interact and share. These social signals can also extend your podcast's reach, attracting more listeners and promoting audience growth.

If you’re struggling to drive social media engagement, try repurposing your podcast episodes into attention-grabbing social posts. Doing so will ensure you’re getting the most mileage out of your content. You can learn more about this here.

10. Brand Awareness

Brand awareness refers to the familiarity and recognition your podcast has achieved amongst your target audience. It measures how well-known your brand is, and the strength of its reputation in your relevant industry.

But let’s not sugar coat it. Measuring brand awareness can be tricky. There’s no direct way to track it, like there is with download numbers and chart rankings. That being said, there are ways to get a good idea of how your brand awareness is growing (or not growing). And certain indicators like social media mentions, brand recall, website visits, or searches for your podcast can offer valuable insights into your brand's visibility. A consistent increase in these numbers typically signifies growing brand awareness.

11. Ad Revenue & Sponsorship Opportunities

For many brands, ad revenue is a direct and tangible measure of their podcast’s success. This is because as downloads and listens increase over time, so does the attractiveness of your platform to advertisers. And if you can harbour an engaged community on top of that, the likelihood of sponsors wanting to work with you will be high.

So, if you’ve got a line of sponsors in your inbox wanting to work with you, you’ll know your show is doing well.

It’s important to note here that growing a podcast to the point of sponsorship takes a lot of time, dedication, and hard work. This kind of success doesn’t come easy. Don’t be disheartened if you’re not at this stage yet. 

For more information on podcast sponsorships, check out this article.

12. Community Building

As mentioned previously, the success of a podcast isn't just about numbers. And another non-statistical way of measuring podcast success is to look at the community around it. So, who’s listening? Are they invested? Are they coming back week after week to catch your new episodes?

A loyal and engaged community is a solid indicator of a successful podcast. Because when a show resonates with people, they're more likely to form a community around it. And this means they’ll be inclined to share it with their friends and family, post about it on social media, and contribute to its success.

However like with sponsorships, building and engaging a community doesn’t happen by magic. It takes some planning, effort, and deliberate action to get it right. For tips on how to do this, check out the below article from the Amplify blog:

6 Ways to Build an Engaged Community Around Your Podcast

How to Measure Podcast Success (Summary)

Podcast success isn't a one-size-fits-all scenario. It varies significantly from one brand and show to the next, and is largely dependent on a business’ goals, aspirations, and objectives.

For some, success might mean cultivating a strong, loyal community of listeners who regularly tune in and engage with the content. And for others, success could be maximising revenue streams and hitting a certain amount of monthly downloads or listens. Or, it can be both of these things plus all of the above.

Whatever your definition of success is, it's crucial to establish clear goals and objectives at the start. Doing so will enable you to track the right metrics and potentially save you a lot of time in the long run.

And remember, creating a truly successful podcast takes a lot of time and dedication. If you’re not immediately hitting your specific goals, don’t panic. Success in podcasting is a journey, and the key lies in continual growth and improvement.

The latest from Cue

View all articles