Podbean is a popular choice for a podcast hosting company among fiction podcasters. A quick scan of our database on The End shows that a little more than 8% of the shows we’ve listed use Podbean as their hosting provider. A lot of that has to do with pricing—Podbean has a limited free tier and an “unlimited” plan for only $9 per month. And the people I’ve met at Podbean (hi, Roni!) are super nice!
But does Podbean make a good place for fiction podcasters to call home? It can be, but due to the quirks of fiction podcasting vs “normal” podcasts, some tweaks need to be made to optimize Podbean for fiction podcasters.
In the subsequent sections of this article, I’ll break down how to optimize your Podbean account on a page-by-page, field-by-field level. I'll use the exact name of the fields and even include a cropped screen shot of each to help make things as clear as possible. But please note that I’ll only offer advice/opinions/directions for the fields that need optimization. If I don’t have anything to say about a field, that doesn’t mean the field isn’t important. It probably is! It’s just not something that needs to be optimized. With that, let’s get started!
Settings > General
Once you’re logged into your Podbean account, select Settings > General from the right navigation bar. We’re going to optimize just six fields on this page: Podcast Title, Brief Description, Podcast Category, Podcast Website, Author / Owner, and Podcast Type.
This is the title of your fiction podcast, obviously. Some creators like to add “Audio drama” and stuff like that, but I say do that only if you need it. And remember, you don’t need to add “podcast” (probably) to the name of your show.
This is the full description of your show. It should not be “brief,” no matter what Podbean says. But also, it shouldn’t be 50K characters long, which they also say. [sigh]
The words entered here are used both for the description that appears on your Podbean-generated website as well as the description that is distributed to various podcast listening platforms and directories. Is it important? Yes. Very. And it’s probably something you should revisit on a regular basis as your show grows.
You have up to 4,000 characters to work with when you write your description. I included some tips on crafting a great fiction podcast description in this article. It’s item #3.
You can choose up to three different categories/subcategories for your fiction podcast. My strong recommendation: Unless you have a very good reason not to, your first category should be Fiction or Fiction > [Comedy, Drama, or Science Fiction]. Don’t get me started on how dumb it is to limit fiction podcasts to just those three subcategories. It aggravates me too, but we work with what we have.
Let your other two other categories be what they need to be, based on the contents of your fiction podcast. I’ve seen fiction podcasters also categorize their shows as Arts > Performing Arts, Arts > Books, Comedy > [subcategories], History, Leisure, Kids & Family, and many others. Whatever makes sense for the story(ies) you’re telling in your fiction podcast.
But there’s more to do after that on this page. Click the More Options link below to expand some hidden fields that are pretty important.
Behold! More fields to optimize.
This field is somewhat misleading, and it duplicates the name of another field. [sigh] You likely do not want to change this field, especially if your show has already been submitted to podcast directories and apps. As noted on the screen, changing this field will change the URL of your show’s RSS feed, and that’s exceedingly bad. So don’t touch this. But don’t freak out in a moment when you see that same name used for a different field.
Author / Owner
The contents of this field are displayed prominently along with your show’s title and artwork in most directories and apps, so make sure it says what you want it to say! Repeating the name of your show here is rather pointless. Using the name of an aspirational production company won’t give you personally any branding. But you can enter something like Creator Name | Other Creatorname | Network/Studio in that field if you want to give more than one person/entity some initial credit.
This is the big one. The one that is all too often missed by fiction podcasters. Chances are, you want to select Serial, not the default choice of Episodic. Episodic describes podcasts with formats like interviews, current events or news, or weekly gab-fests. With those shows—they make up the largest share of podcasts—it’s fine for a brand-new person to listen to the most recent episode.
But most fiction podcasts—yes, there are exceptions—presenting the most recent episode to a new listener makes for a bad listener experience. When you read a fictional story or start a new fictional series on TV, you start at the beginning, not the end. And certainly not at whatever the current episode is, right?
This is the tag that gives fiction podcasters like you some control over how your episodes are presented to your listeners. Serial. That’s the right answer for fiction podcasts that publish episodes that really should be listened to in a particular order.
Make your changes, then click the big blue Update Options button, and we can move on to the next bit. Yeah, we’re just getting started!
Settings > Feed
Now, let’s optimize your RSS feed settings. No, you will not have to look at your RSS feed, I promise. (Though, honestly, it’s pretty simple to read once you understand the structure. But that’s not important right now. Focus, Evo!) We have six more fields to optimize here: Apple Podcasts Summary, Podcast Website, Episode Link, Episode Number Limit, Episode Artwork Tag, and URL prefix.
Access these by selecting Settings > Feed from the left navigation bar.
Apple Podcasts Summary
I’m somewhat surprised Podbean still includes this, as it populates an RSS feed tag that has been deprecated by Apple Podcasts. But because you probably abhor empty boxes as much as I do, copy and paste in the Brief Description you used in the Settings > General section above.
Everything else we need to optimize on this page is collapsed under Advanced Feed Settings. Click those words to expand it.
Hey! Now we’re getting somewhere! Let’s start at the top:
OK, now this field is the actual field for your podcast’s website. Specifically, this is where you enter the URL of your website so it’s included in (and distributed with) your RSS feed. Many of today’s listening apps and podcast directories will place a clickable link with “show website” or something like that, encouraging listeners to click and get to your site.
If you have your own website—i.e. MyAmazingAudioFiction.show—enter the full address in this field, starting with https:// (or, less ideally, http://) to make a fully formed URL.
If you do not have a dedicated and separate website/page for your show, then I recommend letting Podbean generate a website for you. In which case, you’ll leave this as it currently is. (Though, really, you need your own domain name, at least. That’s my very strong opinion.)
More confusing choices, yay! Let me break down these two choices for you.
If you have your own fully functioning website and you create episode-specific pages on that website, then you’ll want to choose Custom Episode Link from the dropdown. That will allow you to enter the specific URL to the episode-specific page you made on your website for that episode when you publish a new episode on Podbean. We’ll get there soon enough. This just sets that up so that you can "attach" the specific URL of your website to the episode. We'll get there!
If you do not create episode-specific pages on your own fully functioning website, leave this as Podbean Episode Link.
Episode Number Limit
Here’s another setting from the early days of podcasting that needs to go away. Look, you probably do not want to limit the number of episodes people can listen to, right? Set this to an insanely high number, like 999. Or more, if they let you.
Episode Artwork Tag
If you make custom artwork for each of your episodes, change this to Use iTunes Image Tag, and then use them. We’ll get there. If you do not make custom artwork for each of your episodes, leave this as Not Set.
This isn’t really about optimizing, but I’m a huge fan of what OP3.dev is doing to “normalize” stats. My advice? Add https://op3.dev/e/ to this field.
We’re done with this section. Hit the big blue Update Options button (again), and let’s move on.
Episodes > Episode List
OK! We’ve done all the optimization at the “channel” level for your show and are set up to do further optimization at the episode level. Select Episodes > Episode List from the left nav bar.
We have nine fields to optimize on this page: Title, Description, Season NO., Episode NO., Episode Type, Summary, Author, Episode-Level Artwork, and Link in Feed.
Before making any changes to any specific episode, take a moment to look at the list of episodes you see on this page. You’ll see the 20 most recent episodes and can page forward, which you’ll probably want to do eventually. But for now, just look at the Title column for these episodes, and ask yourself some questions:
- Do the story episodes look like they are all part of the same story?
- If you have episode drops or promos for other shows, do those episodes look different from your “normal” episodes?
- Does the trailer episode(s) clearly look like a trailer?
- Do your season finale episodes clearly look like season finales?
The title of your episode is important, but it’s also important that everything looks like it belongs and is in the right place. If one looks odd to you, I can promise you it looks odd to potential listeners. Don’t do that.
Let’s click on an episode to go more into detail on how to optimize episode listings on Podbean.
There are many schools of thought on how episode titles should be written, but I belong to the “most important things first” clan. That’s probably not the episode number. That’s probably not the title of your podcast. What’s important is what the content if that episode actually is. That could be as simple as Chapter 1. Or it might be The Plot To Steal Xmas or whatever nifty title you’d write if the episode were a blog post or article.
If you have extra things you want to add to your title, like Season 2 finale or Part 3 of 4, add those to the end of the title, as they are (probably) not the most important things.
Each episode can—and should—have its own description. These are often called show notes in podcasting parlance, though I hate the term and prefer episode details, as that’s more representative of what this text should be. But I’ve been lobbying for that change since 2004, and I’ve gotten nowhere. Regardless, see item #8 in my previously mentioned article on some good ideas of what information you should put in this field for each of your episodes.
When you have that text in those fields the way you want it, click More Episode Settings at the bottom. Why they hide this incredibly important stuff is beyond me.
Lo and behold! More fields. And some that work exceptionally well for fiction podcasters who optimize them.
If you selected Serial as your Podcast Type, then Season YES, I say! Which means you’ll most likely want to use season numbers. Modern listening apps like Apple Podcasts and others use the Season tag to group episodes of a season together. So… use it. Only use non-negative, non-zero integers (e.g. 1, 2, 3…).
Just to keep the joke going—Episode YES! Episode numbers work in conjunction with Season numbers. This field also only takes non-negative, non-zero integers, and they are used to determine the order in which episodes of a particular season should be displayed.
It is very possible that some of your episodes will not have an Episode number. You’ll see why next. Also, it’s best practice (though not a requirement) to restart your episode numbering with each new Season. For example, your first Season may have Episode numbers 1–10, and your second Season might also have Episode numbers 1–10. That’s fine, because the Episode number works in conjunction with the Season number.
Most of your episodes will be tagged as Full and get a sequential number in the Episode NO. field. In fact, that’s a good rule—if an episode of your show is NOT to be missed, mark it as Full and give the correct Episode number so it displays in the proper order.
Got an episode drop or a special announcement episode in your feed that isn’t part of the story? Then it is most likely a Bonus episode. Bonus episodes are just that—extra content that a new listener doesn’t have to listen to enjoy the continuing arc of your story. Some apps, like Apple Podcasts, will segregate most (but not all) Bonus episodes to the bottom of a season or series. Keep in mind that caught-up listeners—those who eagerly download and listen to your latest episode as soon as it comes out—will hear your Bonus episodes as you add them. The segregation I spoke of is really for people who are “behind” listening, if you will. Or bingers (like me). So you don’t need to worry that your Bonus episode won’t be heard by your most rabid fans. It will be! But for people who come in a month (or years) later, those Bonus episodes won’t be speedbumps in their (our) listening.
Bonus episodes can be numbered, but only if the Bonus episode is a Bonus episode for a specific Full episode. For example, let’s say that you had a guest actor on an episode, and you decided to do an interview with them. If you think it’s important for your listeners—current and future—to hear that conversation, give that Bonus episode the same Season and Episode number as the Full episode the actor appeared in. That will cause your Bonus episode to show up after the Full episode, at least in the modern apps that respect those tags.
Trailer is the other type, and it’s most often used like trailers are used in the movies, but can also be used to denote “sample” content. When you tag an episode as a Trailer, modern apps will elevate that episode to be the first thing a brand-new listener hears—sometimes even before they decide to follow or subscribe. And, if you use multiple seasons and you make a new trailer for each season, you’ll want to add the Season number to your Trailer episodes as well.
Like Bonus episodes, Trailer episodes can be numbered, but that’s unusual. I’ve seen some audio fiction creators put out Trailer episodes for a delayed-but-soon-to-be-released episode as a sort of teaser. The same rule applies: use the same Episode number as the Full episode that Trailer is about. (Pro tip: Episodes like that are only meaningful for people who are waiting on the next episode. Once it publishes, I think you should delete the numbered Trailer episode.)
Another deprecated tag from the ye olde days. Leave it blank.
This should auto-fill with whatever you have entered at the “channel” level. You probably will never change it for a particular episode, but you might. Episode drops are one example. Go for it!
If you look to the right side of the page, you’ll probably see your show artwork. Remember when we told Podbean whether or not we had episode-specific custom artwork? This is where you load it. Follow the sizing guidelines on the page, and try to keep the “weight” to under 500 KB.
Link in RSS Feed
If you have a custom website and you make episode-specific pages with things like your extended episode details, transcript, cast and crew credits, fan art, or other nifty things specific to each episode, this is the spot where you connect the URL of that page on your website to your RSS feed, so that listeners are taken to your website and not Podbean’s when they click on “more information about this episode,” or whatever they app calls the link.
This also gives you a nifty SEO boost, as you’ll have a bunch of links from Podbean pointing to your website. Nice, huh?
That’s all the important stuff on the Episode list page. Click Update if you made changes, and then do this all over again. Yes, for every single episode. Sorry.
Distribution > Podcast Apps
You’re probably tempted to click Podcast Website next, but hold that thought! We need a few more things in place before we get there. We’ll start by clicking Distribution > Podcast Apps.
The apps that display on this page are the apps that will be presented to website visitors to your generated podcast website… but only if you fill them out. Which ones should you fill out? All of them, of course. Why not? People listen on lots of different platforms. Why not be everywhere? It only takes a moment to submit a show. Do it. All of them. And, while you're at it, here's a bunch more you should also submit your show to. You’re welcome.
If you have a custom website and don’t use Podbean’s auto-generated page, you can safely skip this.
OK, now you can click Distribution > Podcast Website on your left nav bar. I know you’ve been dying to.
Distribution > Podcast Website
Look for the green oval with Actions in it and click it to expand it:
If you have your own domain name or website, select Own Domain. Follow those instructions and ignore everything else I write in this section. It ain’t for you!
If you’re using Podbean’s automatically generated website, select Pages, and I’ll walk you through a few things.
Podbean, like a lot of other podcast hosting services, will allow you to create additional pages on your generated website. I strongly suggest you at least add a “Contact Us” page where you list out your show’s email address and other ways people can contact you. I’d also add an “About Us” page that details who’s involved in the production. Just you? Cool. Drop in your pic and bio. Got a full cast? Showcase them. Want to give credit to your engineer, your social media person, your casting agent, or your mom? This is the place to do that. It’s a blank screen, but you’ll figure it out. You’re creative, right?
When that’s done, you can then click on Customize. Now, I’m not a designer, so feel free to do things here that look right to you.
The one thing I want you to do is this: While you’re editing your page, scroll down to the episode list. Now scroll down past that list. Click the blue + circle and add a Title section. And in that, write up all the things that are “missing”. Like social properties you frequent. Like your show’s email address. Like your Patreon/BMAC/Ko-fi link. Those things.
That’s it! You have now fully optimized your fiction podcast's Podbean account. Nicely done! It'll take a few hours (or days, sometimes) for your changes to be fully distributed. You should see changes to your website immediately, obviously. And, depending on how drastic your changes were, you may hear from some users about repeat downloads, which means you'll see a temporary spike in downloads. That will soon settle down. You did good work!
Special thanks to Willow Grace, creator of The Willow Haven Catalogue, for granting me access to her Podbean account, letting me poke around, and being the first one to implement optimization techniques!
If you’re a fiction podcast creator and you found value in this post, don’t keep it to yourself! I wrote it so that all fiction podcasters who use Podbean as their hosting platform can present their show and episodes in the best way possible. Share it with your fellow creators.
I've also written a "how to" guide like this for Buzzsprout, and I’m working on other guides for other popular hosting platforms, so stay tuned and I’ll probably get to your hosting provider very soon. You can always email me and lobby me to get to yours quicker. If you sign up to become an Individual Supporter or Supporting Creative Shop, I’ll bump you to the head of the line!
If you work for a hosting company, I’d love to chat with you about making it easier for fiction podcasters to use your platform. They have some pretty specific needs that, as you can see, can get a little obfuscated. I’m happy to consult with you on better serving those needs.
And if this is your first time experiencing me and The End; welcome! My focus is on helping listeners find more fiction podcasts they can enjoy on their schedule. Please subscribe to the weekly newsletter so you always know what fiction podcasts have reached the end of a season, have a new season coming soon, or have reached the conclusion of the entire series. It’s what we do around here!