We’ve never asked for ratings or reviews on the Your Money, Your Wealth® podcast. We haven’t featured guests regularly in years. We’ve never enabled comments on our YouTube channel. In fact, we’ve never really engaged on social media much at all. We’ve also never paid for podcast advertising. And yet, monthly downloads of the Your Money, Your Wealth podcast increased by more than 535% from July 2019 to November 20221.
YMYW regularly places in Apple Podcasts’ top 100 investing podcasts2 – a category crammed with at least 1,500 shows, all vying for listeners’ ears and time.
Podcasting blogs generally urge producers to do all the things we don’t do in order to grow a show. So how did we grow our podcast?
ABOUT YOUR MONEY, YOUR WEALTH®
Hosted by Joe Anderson, CFP® and Alan “Big Al” Clopine, CPA of Pure Financial Advisors, Your Money, Your Wealth® began as a two-hour financial talk radio show in San Diego in 2008 that still airs today. Joe and Big Al “spitball” retirement scenarios and answer personal finance questions for listeners in their own uniquely entertaining way. The Your Money, Your Wealth television show was first broadcast in 2014 in San Diego and is now in its 8th season, also airing in Seattle and Denver. In 2016, YMYW went worldwide, as the radio show content also became the Your Money, Your Wealth podcast. I was contracted to produce the podcast in February 2017 and joined the Pure Financial Advisors team full-time less than a year later as Media Manager and Podcast Producer.
The Your Money, Your Wealth podcast publishes weekly, every Tuesday at 4am Pacific time. We don’t do seasons – we’ve never even taken breaks, for that matter. Episodes run anywhere from 30-50 minutes in length, and the show is clean, with no explicit content (we are presented by a financial services firm after all!)
Here are the strategies we used – and don’t use – to achieve a 535% increase in podcast downloads:
PODCAST GROWTH STRATEGIES YMYW DOESN’T USE
ASK FOR RATINGS AND REVIEWS: According to Apple Podcasts3, “Ratings and reviews do not influence Charts or Search, but they can help listeners discover and engage with your show as they explore new podcasts. Many listeners look at ratings and reviews before choosing to listen to or follow a show, and quality reviews can also help convey that your show has a community of committed fans.”
Pure Financial Advisors is a registered investment advisory firm under the authority of the Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC), whose advertising rules have historically strictly prevented the solicitation or use of testimonials. Pure’s compliance department has assigned podcast ratings and reviews to the category of testimonials, so asking for them on YMYW is off-limits. The advertising rules are changing, and in time Pure’s policy on asking for podcast ratings and reviews may also change.
In the meantime, when listeners choose to leave them, Joe loves reading YMYW’s negative reviews – they’re funny! For my part as producer and announcer, asking listeners to share the YMYW podcast – instead of asking for ratings and reviews – has been very effective. An audience that enjoys your show will gladly tell others about it. Just ask.
ENGAGE WITH THE AUDIENCE ON YOUTUBE AND SOCIAL MEDIA: The SEC also requires RIAs to archive all interactions with the public for multiple years. That onerous requirement, and the awareness of the minefield that any comments section can be, means that comments on our entire YouTube channel are and always have been disabled. That hasn’t stopped the channel from attaining the reach that it has today, with nearly 27,000 subscribers and over 6.2 million views.
We have always posted the YMYW podcast and other useful financial content on Facebook, Twitter, and LinkedIn, but for the aforementioned SEC-related reasons – not to mention the sheer time commitment proper social media management requires – we have not actively engaged our audiences on social media.
YouTube’s algorithm4 is always evolving, and audience engagement directly impacts content performance, so I’m hopeful that as the SEC rules change, our ability to engage on YouTube and the socials more actively will too.
PAY FOR PODCAST ADVERTISING: Buying ads on social media, through your podcast host, or on any number of podcast apps is a booming business.5 Pure Financial Advisors has a very small ongoing Google Ads campaign for the firm that may link to the YMYW page on the Pure website if users search for Your Money, Your Wealth, but we have never paid specifically to advertise the YMYW podcast, preferring the challenge of seeing how much organic growth we could achieve. Turns out it’s a lot!
PODCAST GROWTH STRATEGIES YMYW USES
BE LISTENABLE: Podcast audio should sound professional, or as close to it as possible. As the industry has matured, we tend to take for granted that great podcasts have great audio quality, but this important aspect of podcasting should not be overlooked. If our show was painful or tiring to listen to, our audience would stop listening. Check the bottom of this post for resources6 to create a reasonably priced and good quality podcasting setup.
BE ENJOYABLE: The most important aspect of podcasting: the hosts and the content must be engaging and interesting. Though personal finance can be incredibly dry, boring, and self-important, Your Money, Your Wealth is retirement planning, investing and tax reduction made fun because Joe and Big Al have fun making it. They have great chemistry, they don’t take themselves very seriously, and their real personalities drive the show – for better or for worse! (As one listener said7 recently, “Joe’s an acquired taste but, happily, a taste I’ve acquired.”)
Being over-prepared can suck the life out of a podcast. We often joke about how little show prep Joe and Big Al do – that’s by design. The fellas are well-versed in most personal finance topics and spontaneity often leads to funny with them. I will compile listener emails, Big Al will sometimes do a few calculations in advance, but that’s about it. None of the discussion or financial content is ever scripted when the “RECORD” light is on. (I script my intros, outros, and announcements after we record the content.) We enjoy making the show, so the audience enjoys listening to it. We make the effort to keep it interesting, informative, and entertaining so listeners will keep coming back for more.
We use unique recurring themes that the audience has gotten to know, love, and engage with. Our listeners would send in their money questions and mention that they listen to YMYW in the car, for example, or while walking their dog. “What kinda car, I wonder?” or “what kind of dog??” Joe would ask, wanting to “fully get into the listener’s mindset.”8 It became a funny recurring theme, and now when listeners email us their money questions, they’ll usually include where they live, what they drive, what kind of pet they have, and what they drink!
We also compile useful and entertaining recaps – in fact, some of YMYW’s most downloaded episodes are topic-specific compilations. I keep records and take copious notes about all the podcast content we create, allowing us to create not only compilation episodes, but also video clips, annual best-of episodes, promos, and bloopers.
LET THEM BINGE! Don’t limit access to old episodes! Once I removed the limits in Libsyn, our monthly downloads grew exponentially. Why? When new listeners get hooked on our show and have exhausted current episodes, they love to binge the back catalog. Financial information changes over the years as the markets move and tax laws are reformed, so much of YMYW’s back catalog is no longer relevant. But because our show is as personality-driven as it is content-driven, listeners are still entertained by those old discussions – which means they download more and listen longer.
BE EVERYWHERE – ESPECIALLY YOUTUBE: Google “Your Money, Your Wealth” and you’ll see that in spite of the show’s long history on radio and television, the internet thinks YMYW is predominantly an investing podcast. That’s because I make every effort to put Your Money, Your Wealth on every possible podcast app, adding it to new ones as they appear. More than half of the Your Money, Your Wealth audience listens to the show on Apple Podcasts, but there are dozens of podcast apps for listeners to choose from. Why not make sure you are wherever listeners may have the opportunity to find you? YMYW is hosted by Libsyn, which also makes it easy to add new destinations. I regularly search the internet for new podcast apps. If an app has YMYW listed, I’ll claim the page and update it accordingly, if possible. If Your Money, Your Wealth isn’t listed, I’ll submit it for addition. Each new app can result in yet another search engine result for Your Money, Your Wealth.
YouTube – a Google product – comes in close behind Google as one of the largest search engines in the world.9 Ranking on YouTube impacts ranking on Google, and vice-versa. In October 2018 we began uploading the full Your Money, Your Wealth podcast audio to our YouTube channel, as well as regular video clips of Joe and Big Al answering listener questions. 74% of the channel’s ~27,000 subscribers have subscribed since that time, exposing a much larger potential audience to the podcast. In 2022, about 76% of visitors who downloaded resources from PureFinancial.com indicated they heard about Pure from our TV show, podcast, or YouTube. As both the TV show and podcast are on our YouTube channel, YouTube’s share of that 76% is likely much higher than reported.
JOIN THE PODCASTING COMMUNITY: I have learned how to succeed in podcasting from experts and from my peers.10 I subscribe to James Cridland’s Podnews newsletter and read it daily for the latest podcasting news and trends, and to jump on the newest podcasting tools and apps. I listen to podcasts about podcasting, such as The Feed by Libsyn. I joined online podcasting communities like the Podcast Movement Facebook group, and I read r/podcasting on Reddit. Find an online group in your niche and get involved. Fellow podcasters can teach you a lot from personal experience, and they make great guests to boot. They’re usually very friendly, they want to help, and it’s a perfect opportunity for cross-promotion.
Initially, we featured a wide variety of guests in the personal finance space on Your Money, Your Wealth11, ranging from fellow podcasters like Joe Saul-Sehy of the hugely successful Stacking Benjamins podcast to well-known financial leaders like Liz Ann Sonders, Managing Director and Chief Investment Strategist at Charles Schwab. With the exception of a golf buddy of Joe’s, we haven’t featured guests on YMYW since 2019. Why?
LISTEN TO THE LISTENERS: Along with guest interviews, Joe and Big Al would answer listeners’ money questions and perhaps throw in some “tax chat,” or Big Al’s list (or example, the 10 most tax-friendly states for retirement, pulled from the internet). As the show evolved, we received more listener questions, which generated more informative and entertaining financial discussions, which blew up into entire episodes and garnered far more downloads than our guest-centered episodes. The audience loved Joe and Big Al’s hilarious spitballing of their financial situations, so that’s where we have focused our energies since.
We do an annual YMYW podcast survey every August to ensure we are still listening to our listeners. We ask what financial topics matter most to them, where they listen, and what would make the show better for them, and we implement their suggestions when appropriate. (More tax chat, we can do that! More episodes per week… if only there were more hours in the day!)
Provide what your listeners clearly want and they will keep listening.
OPTIMIZE TITLES AND DESCRIPTIONS: By the time I joined Your Money, Your Wealth, the brand was already established and we weren’t about to change the name of the show. Given a choice, I would have avoided using a comma in the show title, as search engines, YouTube, and podcast apps can see this as two separate and less discoverable key phrases (“your money” and “your wealth”). I would have considered including the most important keyword(s) in the show name, to increase the likelihood that the show would be returned in a search for that term – but search results can change on a daily basis. “Money” and “wealth” are pretty common words. One day, Your Money, Your Wealth may be the 44th result for “money” and the 4th result for “wealth” when searched in Apple Podcasts, the next day we may not rank at all.
While some podcasters tweak their podcast titles by adding keywords after the real title, reports indicate that Apple Podcasts frowns on this and has even removed shows for “keyword stuffing”12 show titles, so we have not toyed with it. I use important keywords liberally in my show description, and I’ll change them periodically for better performance. I avoid adding keywords that don’t directly relate to our content – it’s not only misleading, but it can also negatively impact performance and annoy listeners.
I also spend time and care on episode titles and descriptions, another important way we reach our audience. Optimizing the episode title can make a big difference in how many downloads an episode gets, just like email subject lines and article headlines impact open and read rates. Before I publish, I will usually test my podcast episode titles for effectiveness and engagement at various headline analyzer sites and with the TubeBuddy suite of YouTube optimization tools.13
My episode descriptions always include other relevant keywords from the episode. Today YMYW ranks first in a search for “Roth conversion” in Apple Podcasts, at least in part because so many of our episode titles and descriptions include these words. In the episode description, I also include a link to the podcast show notes, where I post resources that are useful to the listener, like topical videos, blog posts, and downloadable guides, along with the episode transcript. More on that shortly.
IMAGES MATTER: According to Apple, “episode artwork is a great way to attract new listeners.”14 I create new images for each episode to display in podcast apps, on our website, and on YouTube – along with the title, podcast artwork is the first impression potential listeners or viewers will have of your podcast, so the images are important! I usually include a photo of Joe and Big Al along with large title text so it’s still readable when the artwork is displayed at a tiny scale in various places across the web, in apps, and on YouTube. On our website in the podcast show notes, I also make sure that the episode title and podcast title are included in image metadata for the benefit of people with impaired vision and, of course, search engines.
POST THE TRANSCRIPT: “You talk in circles!” is one of the comments Joe and Big Al have received about their answers to listener questions. Personal finance can be super-complicated and confusing, and when Joe and Big Al are spitballing on the fly, the conversation can wander in many different directions before they get to their answers – and even then they may debate the issue and settle on different answers! Posting corrected, readable transcripts provides an additional resource to help listeners who may be confused when listening to the audio, or for whom English is a second language. And once again, the podcast transcript will be indexed by the all-important search engines.
REFERENCES AND RESOURCES
1. While Your Money, Your Wealth podcast has been published since 2016, YMYW’s podcast host, Libsyn, has only recorded downloads according to the standards of the Interactive Advertising Bureau (IAB) since July 2019. IAB Downloads vs. Unique Downloads: https://five.libsynsupport.com/hc/en-us/articles/4407511316635-Understand-the-Difference-Between-IAB-and-Unique-Downloads
2. YMYW on the Apple Podcasts Investing Chart: https://chartable.com/your-money-your-wealth/chart/itunes/us-investing-podcasts
3. Ratings and reviews: https://podcasters.apple.com/support/852-ratings-and-reviews
4. YouTube’s Algorithm Explained by YouTuber Mr. Beast and YouTube Director of Product Management Todd Beaupré: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=fQPUH2Ylb88
5. Where to advertise your podcast: https://neilpatel.com/blog/promote-podcast/
6. Podcasting gear: https://libsyn.com/blog/podcasting-gear/
7. Joe’s an acquired taste: https://purefinancial.com/ymyw/podcasts/anything-stupid-or-overlooked-in-your-retirement-plan-spitball-400/
8. Car/Dog/Drink – The Top Funniest Moments From the YMYW Podcast: https://purefinancial.com/ymyw/podcasts/top-funniest-moments-ymyw-podcast-300/
9. Is YouTube the 2nd Biggest Search Engine? https://www.tubics.com/blog/youtube-2nd-biggest-search-engine
10. Podcasting experts and peers to follow:
– James Cridland’s Podnews newsletter: https://podnews.net/
– The Feed by Libsyn: https://thefeed.libsyn.com/
– Podcasts about podcasting from Captivate: https://www.captivate.fm/learn-podcasting/resources/podcasts-about-podcasting
– Podcast Movement Facebook group https://www.facebook.com/groups/podcastmovement
– Reddit’s podcasting subreddit: https://www.reddit.com/r/podcasting/
– Niche: The FinCon Community on Facebook (for personal finance content creators) https://www.facebook.com/groups/finconexpo
11. YMYW Podcast Guests: https://purefinancial.com/ymyw/guests/
– Joe Saul-Sehy on YMYW: https://purefinancial.com/ymyw/podcasts/want-to-be-stacking-benjamins-do-nothing-119/
– Liz Ann Sonders on YMYW: https://purefinancial.com/ymyw/guests/liz-ann-sonders/
– Big G on YMYW: https://purefinancial.com/ymyw/podcasts/how-to-manage-financial-market-stress-with-caddie-help-398/
13: Optimizing Podcast Titles and Descriptions:
– Podcast search engine optimization: https://voxalyze.com/podcast-metadata-optimization/
– Sharethrough headline analyzer: https://headlines.sharethrough.com/
– TubeBuddy: https://tubebuddy.com
– Podcast episode title length: https://blog.pacific-content.com/how-long-should-my-podcast-episode-titles-be-95136ffff82b
– How to fix episode titles: https://theaudacitytopodcast.com/why-podcast-episode-titles-matter-6-ways-to-fix-them/
14. Podcast artwork: https://podcasters.apple.com/support/896-artwork-requirements#episodes