How to Write Effective Show Notes

5 Reasons Why You Need Show Notes to Grow Your Podcast 

Updated September 23, 2020 | Posted June 8, 2018 | Jon Street 

Podcasts are such a great concept. I mean, think about it. You can catch up on the latest news, listen to your favorite celebrities rant or get lost in the latest episode of your current guilty (audio) pleasure, any time of day. We’ve discussed it before & can keep talking about it ’til we’re blue in the face, but podcasts are a unique media platform that are continuing to increase in popularity. And they aren’t going anywhere anytime soon. 

In all honesty, with so many to choose from, it’s hard to figure out where to even start. It can be a little overwhelming, actually. And while this is a really great problem to have as the consumer, this can become a real challenge for the podcaster. 

You have a great idea. You have great content. You have a groundbreaking interview with that special guest…but how are people supposed to pick you out from the crowd? Well there are a few ways, some of which we’ve already discussed. Things like how you market your podcast or how you go after gaining listeners when you release it, not to mention the design of your artwork to make it pop. These are all great ways to make yourself unique from the others. 

But outside of these, podcasters are always looking for ways to engage their listeners & differentiate themselves. A great way of doing this is offering show notes & transcriptions for your episodes to engage your listeners on an entirely new level. Now, I can see your eyes rolling. I can hear the quiver in your voice at the mention of having to sit down & write. But I promise that if you stick with me, this one little nugget of advice could have tremendous impact on how your podcast is seen by your listeners.

What Are Podcast Show Notes?

Maybe you’ve never heard of show notes, you have heard of them but can’t quite place your finger on what they are, or maybe you’ve fumbled through them on another podcast. Heck, maybe you’re even one of the podcasters who has thought about doing it but haven’t really been convinced of their value. Wherever you find yourself, I want to cover the basics & show you why they’re a great idea for you & why you should start doing them, like, yesterday. Simply put, show notes are a preview or an overview of your podcast episode for your listener. Like the commercial for a business or a trailer for a show or movie, they help the listener understand the point, the purpose & what to expect. It’s a quick summary of the content of your episode where you touch on the theme, offer insight about your guest & you give a quick access point to the content covered that you want your listener to have exposure to.
show notes

What’s the Difference Between a Podcast Description and Show Notes?

Now you might be thinking, “isn’t that what a description is”? Well, yes. But, also, no. A description is an overview of the episode, but show notes are much more. While you are required by most hosting platforms to provide a description to post your episode, show notes are something you have to decide to do. They are a little more involved than a simplified description, but they are strategic & they offer tremendous value to both you & your listener. They are a way of offering more than just a word-bite about the content, but rather they become a platform for engaging your followers. My goal is to convince you of that in the next few minutes. 

Why Show Notes Matter to Growing Your Podcast

Now that we’ve tackled the basics about what they are, we need to dig into the motive for you to do them. Why go through the headache of putting time & effort into compiling some words for your listener? Well there is a real benefit for them, sure. But there’s also tremendous benefit for you. Show notes are a way that you can boost the overall impact of your podcast both in the eyes of the current listener but also to prospective listeners who haven’t found you yet. 

How Show Notes Help Grow Your Podcast: 

  • Engage Your Audience
  • Differentiate Your Podcast
  • Boost your Credibility
  • Cross-Promote Your Brand
  • Improve SEO (On Podcast Apps and Your Website)

show notes

Engage Your Audience 

As mentioned before, they are another level of engagement for your listener. They force your listener to do more than just listen to your voice. They force them to become a part of the interaction by clicking links, learning more & leaving comments with their thoughts. It’s your opportunity to give a call to action for them to support you, your guest & engage on the things you’re discussing. It’s a simple yet startling reality that the more you engage your listener, the more they will come back to you. Show notes are your chance to gain followers for the long-haul. 

Differentiate Your Podcast 

It’s no doubt that more & more podcasters are offering them, but they are offering them because they see the value. The are a differentiator. Yes, they differentiate you from those not offering them, but it’s more than that. They differentiate you from the rest who are offering them as well. Even if other podcasts in your same genre offer them, yours will be unique because your conversations will be different. They are a tailored encapsulation of you & your brand for your listeners to consume. Your guests are your own & your topics are your own. Use your show notes as a way to make yourself different from the rest of podcastdom & have people be drawn to what makes you unique from the rest.

Boost your Credibility

Think about it. When you read something from a company or a person that references a link from or for another person, place or thing, it adds instant credibility. It shows thoughtfulness & shows you are a bona fide professional (at least in some way) who is not just thinking about yourself, but that you see yourself as a part of a bigger picture, a broader scope. By offering show notes you’re telling your listener that sure, you care about your podcast, but you also care about them & you’re looking for ways to be of value to them. When you communicate that to your listeners, they will thank you by coming back again & again while telling others about you.

Cross-Promote Your Brand

This is a no-brainer. If you are cross-promoting your guests, their companies or causes, it will instantly give you leverage to invite other guests on to your podcast with more favorability. This is particularly true when you gain a large following. Promoting them in your show notes (as well as your other marketing channels) is a simple gesture that shows them you’re in it for them just as much as for you. Now sure, you want to have them on your podcast because it helps you. Sure, you want to be seen a legit podcast by your listener by offering them more content. But think of what a great asset it will be to your guest to have them know you are promoting them & helping your listeners know them more. The value of this cannot be undersold. Because so much of podcasting is done grass-roots style, this can be a real game-changer.

Improve SEO (On Podcast Apps and Your Website) 

While all the other points we’ve mentioned are fine & dandy, this is where the greatest value is for you. In the magical world of technology, everything you put out into the tech world mystically finds its way onto Google & other such search-enginery. You don’t have to “register” your podcast with Google to have it be found in a search result. The real selling point for you is that by targeting SEO keywords in your show notes, you are helping yourself be found on the interwebs. The more relevant the information is you put in your show notes, the more it will result in higher numbers of people having the opportunity to stumble across your podcast when looking up those target words in a search engine. Now you will no doubt gain listeners through other means, but there is tremendous value in boosting your SEO search game through a simple thing like show notes. 

How to Write Effective Show Notes 

So now that we have the basics out of the way, the question becomes how do you write them? I know that for many of you, the thought of sitting down to write something is like a punch in the gut. You’re not a writer. You’re not a “word” person. I get it. I know that for many people, sitting down to force words together is like putting together oil & water. It just isn’t a good mix. Well, even if you don’t gravitate towards the art of word-smithing, a few simple principles will get you on the way to having great content for your listener, which will result in more dedicated listeners & hopefully, at higher numbers.

How to write effective show notes: 

  1. Keep Them Simple
  2. Keep Them Relevant 
  3. Keep Them Engaging 
  4. Timestamps
  5. Hyperlinks 
  6. Format for Podcast Apps with HTML  

1. Keep Them Simple

This is by far the most important to nail. All you are doing is offering your listener a preview of the episode. You don’t need to write a novella. Oppositely, you also don’t want to leave them high & dry without any idea of what they should expect. A few quick sentences is not enough. So, what’s the sweet spot? A great guideline is about 200-400 words of content for them to digest & know what they are listening to. Anything less is simply a description. Anything more will bore your listeners & likely turn them away. 

2. Keep Them Relevant

It should go without saying that the content of your show notes should be relevant to the episode. Now obviously you are not going to include information about a different episode or something altogether unrelated. Duh. But the point is that it needs to be a clear synopsis of the main points & content of your episode. If you go off on a tangent in the dialogue of your episode that’s not relevant to the main point, don’t spend much time harping on it in your show notes. Likewise, make sure you do include the highlights & main points of the conversation to help your listeners know what they have to look forward to & paint the picture in a clear way for them.

3. Keep Them Engaging 

Think of ways to engage your listeners & get them to learn or do something they wouldn’t otherwise. A great way of doing this is using your show notes to promote your guest, their company/organization/cause, details for any ideas or topics you discuss, as well as offering biographical information.

show notes

4. Timestamps  

A timestamped summary of your episode can create a powerful boost to the reader’s desire to actual press play or download your episode. When reading through the show notes, timestamps give people the opportunity to jump straight to the content that most interests them, gives them clues to find the information they need, and might just get you a new subscriber to your show if they like the content after they press play. 

5. Hyperlinks

Think outside the (text) box. Put external links in your show notes for your guest’s bio or website. Promote their social media handles & hashtags. Put links to any topics you discuss for people to read up about when they’re able. The more outside links you put, the more engaging your show notes will be!

6. Format for Podcast Apps with HTML  

If you’ve added the show notes to your podcast description before, you’ve probably run into problems around the formatting of the copy. The most common problem we see is when all the paragraphs lose their spacing and run together. Using HTML formatting on your show notes when you add them on your hosting platform, you can ensure your episode descriptions look beautiful on Apple, Spotify, Google, and all the other podcast directories. You can learn more about how to format your podcast show notes in this detailed guide by Buzzsprout.

How to Optimize Show Notes for a Website

In addition to following the suggestions we’ve outlined above for writing effective show notes, we recommend taking a few extra steps when posting the content on your podcast website. Remember, a little extra effort goes a long way. Effort and quality are rewarded by loyalty from your listeners, so make sure your website is worth visiting by doing a little extra optimization. 

How to optimize show notes for a website:

  1. Add Photos 
  2. Add an Embed Player 
  3. Leverage the Opportunity to Monetize 
  4. Add a Transcription

1. Add Photos 

Seeing is believing. Inspire your audience with high-resolution inspiring photos that fit the subject of your specific podcast episodes. This could be as simple as creating an episode-specific cover art for your episode (like the Culpable podcast), adding specific photos of yourself recording the podcast (like Dax Shepard on Armchair Expert), or enhancing your writing with contextual photos that provide evidence or clarification to your writing (like My Favorite Murderer). 

2. Add an Embed Player  

Adding a podcast embed player from your podcast hosting platform into the podcast website is crucial for several reasons. First, it lets people listen to your podcast easily while they are reading the show notes. Second, it collects analytics of how your listeners are interacting with your show. Third, it  adds to the visual experience of your podcast website by including the podcast cover art. 

3. Leverage the Opportunity to Monetize  

Share affiliate links to books, equipment, tools, or any other widgets or services you recommend on your podcast. Promote your Patreon if you have exclusive content to promote. Ask for donations through Paypal. Offer bonus episodes behind a paywall with private podcast hosting. Promote your sponsors in the hyperlinks section. Be creative with ways to add value to your listeners and you will be rewarded for it in the long term. You can learn more about how to monetize your show here. 

4. Transcribe Your Podcast

One final way to improve your show notes specifically on your website is to add a full-lenth transcription of your episode. Typically the transcript gets added to the very bottom of a show notes page. It allows people to skim the content from your website, look for compelling quotes, and it also provides additional keywords and opportunity for Google and other search engines to understand the content of your page and help you rank for more keywords. 

Learn more about podcast transcriptions here

Example Show Notes

Enough of the dry theory. Let’s get practical! What should they look like? Well because they are an expression of your brand you can certainly adapt them to your own liking, but below is an example of some show notes from a member of the Resonate family, Arleigh with the Shift Up podcast. 

Screenshot of Podcast Show Notes
Screenshot of Podcast Show Notes

For more examples of show notes you can check out our Marketing Services Showreel where we embed examples of basic and advanced podcast show notes that we’ve written. 

Conclusion

Show notes are an incredibly simple way to step up your podcasting game & show your listeners you are thinking about ways to engage them with relevant content. Even better, they are something you can easily adapt to doing yourself with minimal effort. 

But we realize not everyone is able to take the time, or perhaps, muster up the desire, to handle these alone. Remember that the Resonate team can help write show notes for you. Let our creative team help you compile the show notes for your podcast as a stand-alone service or as an add-on to our other post-production services. We are helping podcasters just like you unlock more potential & gain more listeners through show note assembly for their podcast episodes. It’s an easy way to get the professional exposure for your brand & your podcast that you’re looking for. Schedule a call with our team to learn more today. 

Jon

Jon Street

As the Operations Manager at Resonate Recordings, Jon leads the production team and ensures that all our podcasters have everything needed to release consistent high-quality episodes. Jon and his family are from West Palm Beach, Florida and now live in Simpsonville, KY.