Earlier this month, at a client meeting, we started talking about episode titles. Specifically, the length of episode titles.
Some episode titles are short, sweet, and to the point. Others are long, descriptive, and optimized for search.
Which got me wondering: given that a podcast episode title can technically be as long as you want… what’s the average length of an episode title?
To find out, I grabbed the metadata from roughly 23 million unique podcast episodes and crunched some numbers. Here’s what I found:
Based on a sample of 23,206,500 episodes, the median podcast episode title length is 36 characters. In English, that’s roughly 7 words.
Some other observations:
- While the RSS 2.0 spec has no limit on length of character data in an RSS element, Apple Podcasts seems to only use the first 253 characters of an episode’s title. Here’s an example of a truncated title.
- There are clear breaks in the distribution at the 80 and 100 character marks. This suggests some popular podcast hosting companies may impose character limits on episode titles.
- I found several podcast episodes with completely blank (zero-length) episode titles. For example, many episodes of the show SBS Bangla have zero-length titles.
But perhaps most interesting…
Episode titles are getting longer
For episodes released in 2010, the median title length was 29 characters. By 2019, that number had grown to 38 characters:
Over the past decade, the average length of a podcast episode title has grown 31%.
While the average duration of a podcast episode is getting shorter, episode titles are getting longer.
Humans and robots
When you write an episode title, it’s important to keep two different audiences in mind: humans and robots.
Humans will see your episode titles in podcast listening apps, and it’s important to understand the role length plays in how those titles appear. The longer your episode title, the greater the chance it’ll be cut short visually. For example, look at how this long episode title appears in Overcast:
This means it’s important to front-load the most important human-readable words and phrases at the beginning of your episode titles.
But don’t forget about the robots. Good podcast SEO involves writing for machines, too. Include relevant keywords and guest names so your audience can find them through in-app search and on the web. But of course, don’t stuff keywords.
Pacific Content’s approach
At Pacific Content, we recommend episode titles that look, feel, and act like headlines. As I wrote last year:
- Be descriptive. Include words and phrases that your audience is likely to search for.
- Remember that long episode titles often get cut off in podcast apps. Front-load the most important words.
- Consider framing your episode title as a thought-provoking question
- Include the names of prominent or well-known guests
- Use your episode title to make a promise that your episode will deliver on
- Treat your episode titles like headlines. That’s what they are.
- Include your show name in your episode titles. It’s redundant.
- Include an episode or season number in your title. Use the
- Try to be too clever or cryptic. “Reunion” and “The Passenger” and “Virtù e Fortuna” are good episode titles for Westworld. They’re not necessarily the best podcast episode titles.
- Stuff keywords
Here are a few episode titles from our clients’ shows that illustrate these principles:
- “How Shake Shack Cooked Up Its Cheeseburger Experience”
- “WWE’s Stephanie McMahon and Gary Vaynerchuk’s Power of Family”
- “GitLab vs. GitHub: With Guests Phil Haack & Will Hall”
Each of these episodes contains exactly what it says on the tin.
The goal: make it obvious what a listener will get if they decide to hit play.
- Half of all podcast episode titles are shorter than 36 characters
- On average, episode titles are getting longer
- Most podcasters don’t take full advantage of the space allowed for descriptive, search-friendly episode titles
- When you write an episode title, write for humans and robots
- The best episode titles work like headlines
How do you name your podcast episodes?
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