A new way to measure podcast marketing effectiveness: SmartLinks

A Q&A with Chartable’s co-founder and CEO Dave Zohrob

It’s easy to link to your podcast on social media. But it’s hard to know if your social posts make a difference, download-wise.

It’s easy to buy Facebook or Instagram ads to promote your podcast. But it’s hard to know if those ads were money well-spent.

It’s easy to send an email blast about your latest episode. But it’s hard to know if you gained any new listeners as a result.

Why is measuring the impact of podcast marketing so tricky?

The first part of the challenge is fragmentation: should you send potential new listeners directly to Apple? Spotify? Stitcher? Your own website? The answer isn’t always obvious.

The second part of the challenge is attribution: once you send a potential new listener into Apple, Spotify, Stitcher, or any other podcast ecosystem, you lose almost all visibility on them. You might know that somebody clicked a link to your podcast, but you don’t necessarily know if that person downloaded an episode, became a subscriber, or ever actually listened to your show.

That’s why I was especially excited to learn about Chartable SmartLinks, a new podcast marketing tool that promises to make linking to your show easier and more measurable.

We’ve been testing SmartLinks here at Pacific Content for a few weeks. So far, I’m impressed.

Dave Zohrob, and the SmartLinks dashboard for my hobby podcast, Grownups Read Things They Wrote as Kids

I asked Chartable’s co-founder and CEO Dave Zohrob to answer a few questions about their new service, and he kindly obliged:

Dan Misener: What problem did you set out to solve with SmartLinks?

Dave Zohrob: We wanted to eliminate two pain points:

  1. Posting multiple links for individual players whenever sharing your show online (or just sharing a link to Apple Podcasts, which ignores Android users)
  2. Guessing whether your campaigns — whether organic social media or paid advertising — are actually driving downloads. We’ve seen people comparing downloads hour-by-hour to see if a campaign was working… it just seemed like a problem that could be solved simply.

There’s no shortage of device-aware shortlink services out there (smartURLPodLink, and playpodca.st come to mind). What makes SmartLinks different from other services with similar features?

SmartLinks offer a few key features for podcasters — SmartLinks are the only links that offer download tracking — tracking not just clicks, but downloads associated with a particular link:

  • Automatic links to many players, including Apple Podcasts, Google Podcasts, Spotify, Overcast, Pocket Casts, and more — and SmartLinks only show players compatible with the listener’s device.
  • “Smart Rules” that let you direct people to individual players (like Apple Podcasts or Google Podcasts) automatically based on the listener’s device.
  • Great stats, broken up by referrer and custom “source ID” parameters
  • Automatic support for Apple affiliate codes and UTM parameters

SmartLinks seem like a good fit for measuring the ROI on email newsletters and social. What other use cases do you imagine?

SmartLinks are great for both organic marketing on social media and newsletters, as well as paid marketing. Marketers can finally determine the return on ad spend for campaigns on Google, Facebook, Instagram and elsewhere. They’re also useful for tracking links in show notes, in your show description in your RSS feed, and pretty much anywhere else you might link to your podcast. I’m looking forward to seeing what SmartLinks users come up with — even though we just officially launched SmartLinks on Monday, people have created links for over 250 podcasts already!

What can you share about your methodology?

SmartLinks attribution links up downloads from our Trackable RSS prefix with clicks on your SmartLink. We do matching based on IP address between the click and an eventual download. Our default attribution window is 1 hour, meaning if there’s a download within an hour of the click we’ll count it. We count “new downloads” as IP address/user-agent combinations that haven’t ever downloaded your podcast before — especially useful for paid campaigns, to ensure you factor existing listeners into your cost of acquisition.

The SmartLinks interface shows unique clicks and downloads, which you can use to calculate conversion rates. What range of conversation rates have you seen? Are you starting to see what effective podcast marketing can yield, download-wise?

SmartLinks are a pretty new product, so I don’t feel quite confident in our ranges — but so far, we’re seeing 5–10% (sometimes more) for organic social media posts, and up to 5% for social ads. We’ve already seen campaigns on Twitter, Facebook, Google, Instagram, Snapchat, and more. We’ll definitely share more best practices as more links get created and campaigns get run.

What’s next for SmartLinks?

Our biggest upcoming feature is complementary to SmartLinks. We’re calling it SmartFeeds — hosted RSS feeds that can be connected to SmartLinks to help calculate new subscribers for any marketing campaign. We’re also working on retention / LTV calculation tools to help with ad optimization. And we’re excited to keep getting feedback and feature requests from our users!

Here at Pacific Content, we’re really excited about SmartLinks — not just the product itself, but also what it representsbetter ways to measure the effectiveness of podcast marketing.

Better measurement allows podcasters to experiment and learn what works.

Better measurement helps advertisers and brands understand the ROI on their podcast investments.

And better measurement helps the entire podcast industry grow the pie and build larger audiences for everyone.

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