Estimated reading time: 4 minutes
Podcasters are constantly asking their fans for feedback, in an attempt to attract new listeners and boost their show’s popularity. But how important really are these reviews?
We’re going to explore the relationship between podcast reviews and success to better understand if they’re all that necessary.
A low priority
In recent research, 4DC’s Evolving Audio (2022) report found that the number of podcast reviews were the least important factor when choosing a new podcast (59%). It ranked 8th on the list behind; engaging description, quality of audiogram, it looks professional, podcast rating, familiar presenter, quality of the visuals, and linked to a brand I trust.
This suggests you shouldn’t place too much importance on how many reviews you’re receiving as there are many more ways to draw in listeners.
Interestingly, the report found that positive reviews were more important for listeners aged 25-34 (67%) and 35-44s (65%). This is a great takeaway for anyone targeting a younger demographic.
However, the most important factor when selecting a new podcast pan age group was the podcast being available on their preferred streaming platform. So, it’s important that your podcast is as widely available as possible, or at least on the top streaming platforms (Spotify, YouTube, Apple Podcasts).
Reviews and discoverability
Additionally, it was previously thought that ratings and reviews boosted discoverability on players and platforms, which was a big driver for getting as many top ratings and reviews as possible. This belief was strongly held for Apple podcasts’ Top Shows and Top Episodes proprietary algorithm.
After years of speculating, Apple finally released a statement on the key drivers of their podcast algorithm. Surprisingly, podcast reviews and ratings are not factored in.
“Although ratings, reviews, and shares also help indicate a podcast’s newness, popularity, and quality, they are not factored into the algorithm that determines the rankings for Top Shows and Top Episodes. In other words, they may not help people find a podcast on their own, but they influence whether people will listen or follow, and those factors influence the charts.”
While they may not get you into the Top Charts, Apple advises that they influence the likelihood of someone choosing to listen, resulting in an indirect effect on making it onto the charts.
So, if the research suggests it’s not that important, why do podcasters keep pushing to get more reviews from their listeners?
Well, reviews can help boost your podcast’s discoverability. Research from Statista shows 39% of listeners in Europe (27% in the US) use Google to discover new podcasts. Google’s search algorithm is based on a number of factors, one of these being the “trustworthiness” and level of positive user experience. Reviews and ratings help to give your podcast credibility and are key signals to Google as it attempts to filter through all the available podcasts. The more your listeners engage with your podcast, the more likely it is to show up in search engine results pages and be discovered by new listeners. This is why SEO experts advise gathering and publishing reviews (you can read more of our podcast SEO tips here).
Aside from attracting new listeners, reviews can provide valuable feedback from your current listeners. There’s only so many ways you can engage with your audience, and reviews can be a simple but effective way to start a conversation with them.
Reviews can be used to understand what they love most about your show so you can leverage your strengths to produce better content that they want to hear. It’s also a great opportunity to understand which content is less successful with your current audience and why.
So, what’s the verdict?
In conclusion, podcast reviews are not the strongest determinant of success, but they do rank as an important factor for attracting new listeners. While there’s no guarantee that a review will boost your podcast’s profile, there’s no harm in collecting them to help spotlight your podcast amongst the millions out there. If your podcast has no reviews, then listeners may opt for a similar podcast that has even just a handful of reviews as they give a podcast legitimacy.
Ultimately, people rely on reviews to guide choices in most online and offline decisions. Whether it’s purchasing an item, watching a new film, or even trying a new restaurant. Reviews provide social proof, especially in ambiguous situations where we tend to believe others know more than we do and so trust their feedback to make decisions.
This is particularly important for unknown, growing podcasts. There’s no better way to secure your potential listeners’ trust than by showing them that others love to listen! Also, who doesn’t love a bit of positive reinforcement from loyal listeners?