A pod by any other name

Mastering the art of creative searchability

Maybe it’s because I’m a writer at heart, but there’s nothing I love more than clever wordplay. Looking at the names of many podcasts, I suspect I’m not alone in this, as puns and double-entendres are rampant in the annals of podcast listings.

One recent favourite that PodPod host Rhianna Dhillon recommended to me was true crime podcast All Killa, No Filla, which is a textbook example of how to craft a clever name; it’s pithy, memorable, and contains all the essential information you need to know about what the podcast is.

Another example from one of our sister brands is Planning magazine’s podcast Room 106 – a portmanteau of George Orwell’s ‘room 101’ and the notorious Section 106 planning regulations governing agreements between local authorities and property developers. This may sound like a dry and off-putting title, but I’m reliably informed that for those in the planning industry, it’s both witty and incisive.

However, while these names are creative and satisfying, they also raise a thorny problem; does a cleverly-worded podcast title work actually against you when trying to attract new listeners?

Discoverability, after all, is a perennial problem for podcasters, and while your title may be funny and thoughtful, if it doesn’t actually contain the keywords associated with your subject matter, it may not appear in as many searches when people are looking for new shows in that genre.

This is less a problem with podcasts specifically, though, and more with the way digital media has changed content consumption methods. My favourite headline of all time, for example, describes a Scottish football result thusly: “SUPER CALEY GO BALLISTIC CELTIC ARE ATROCIOUS.”

Despite not remotely being a fan of football (Scottish or otherwise), that headline has stuck with me ever since I first came across it, but you’d struggle to get that past an online editor these days, as it’s horribly optimised for search engine visibility. The same thing is true across the board; headlines and titles in the digital realm have long since favoured searchability and clarity over wit and flair.

On the other hand, one of my biggest gripes with the media industry is its over-reliance on search engine optimisation, and podcasts like Room 106 have aptly demonstrated that your title doesn’t need to be stuffed with keywords in order to attract an audience.

There are many ways to maintain good visibility without doing so, and indeed, Room 106 is (at time of writing) the top Google result for ‘planning podcast’, ahead of several shows with ostensibly better-optimised names.

Perhaps, then, it’s better to follow your heart and pick the name that you find most pleasing, trusting that the right audience will find you regardless of how highly you rank in search results.

After all, there are many potential methods of discoverability for podcasts, including word of mouth, social media promotion and guest appearances, none of which rely on search traffic.

In fact, maybe podcasting can reinvigorate the trend of creative nomenclature, much as it’s done with other once-forgotten aspects of publishing.

So here’s to those podcasts with weird, wonderful and memorable titles — and long may they continue.