Here’s a question: if 100 people click a link to my podcast, how many will likely download an episode?
For a long time, the answer was 🤷♀️. As I wrote back in May:
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.
But earlier this year, the podcast measurement company Chartable released SmartLinks, which promise to help podcasters with this challenge, allowing us to attribute podcast downloads to specific marketing channels or campaigns.
For example, if someone taps this link:
and then downloads an episode of Hackable?, I can be pretty sure the download came from this blog post (
To track multiple channels and campaigns, I simply create several unique tags. I might tag one link
twitterorganic.20191018, another one
linkedinpaid.campaignname, and yet another
That way, I can look at the total number of downloads attributed to a Smartlink campaign, divide that by the total number of clicks, and voila: a podcast download conversion rate for my campaign. Finally, I can start to answer the question, “If 100 people click a link to my podcast, how many will actually download an episode?”
What about benchmarks?
Earlier this year, I asked Chartable’s co-founder Dave Zohrob about SmartLink conversion rate benchmarks. Here’s what he told me:
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.
Here at Pacific Content, we’ve been using SmartLinks for several months, which means we can look at real-world performance across a large number of channels and campaigns.
In particular, I wanted to know which social media channels had the highest click-to-download conversion rates. So I exported some SmartLink data and crunched a few numbers. Here’s what I found:
Clearly, for our clients, some channels have outperformed others.
NB: These are blended conversion rates, based on aggregated data from dozens of campaigns across several shows. These conversion rates do not reflect the performance of any single campaign, show, or client. Moreover, there are many variables at play here: show, target audience, size and composition of social following, post creative, timing, paid vs. organic, etc.
With those caveats, I love that we have this type of data.
How can podcasters use this?
By measuring past performance, podcasters can identify channels that yield the highest downloads per click, and focus their efforts there. We can also use this data to tweak and tune existing campaigns, and estimate potential audiences based on the reach of existing social channels.
Who else benefits?
I’m especially excited for media buyers to start using this type of data.
In my experience, when media buying agencies use paid social to promote podcasts, they often optimize for cost per click or cost per impression. The problem is, CPM and CPC don’t measure whether anybody actually downloaded an episode. No download = no listen.
Sometimes, media buyers optimize for on-platform engagement on one of the social networks. That’s fine if your goal is social engagement. But if you care about what actually drives downloads, you need to understand cost per download.
Tools like SmartLinks can help podcasters to measure this in a “dollars in, downloads out” way.