Updated: May 17, 2019
If you have a podcast, you should have a website that goes with it. It seems obvious, but there are many that don't. If you are on the fence about creating one, consider this: When listeners inevitably turn to the internet to learn more about your podcast, what do you want them to find? The most accurate source for information about your show will always be you, so it is in your best interest to create an internet presence. As my acting teacher used to say, "Don't be afraid! Take up space!"
In a world where it is expected that answers will be found via a quick visit to Google, podcast listeners are likely to feel extremely frustrated if they love your podcast and cannot find anything more than what they already know from listening...and no one wants to frustrate their listeners.
Luckily there are a near-infinite number of places out there where you can set up camp and claim your little corner of the internet. This website is a product of Wix, while Footnoting History uses Weebly, and another popular choice is Wordpress. Pick whichever one works for you (or tell me your personal favorite in the comments) and play around until you feel comfortable because for as long as you have a podcast, you will be tweaking and updating your online home. But, the question remains, what should a podcast's website feature?
I am here to help you with that. While every website will (and should!) be unique, just like the podcast it represents, there are some features that, in my ideal world, would be universal:
Show Notes. Every episode should have its own entry on the website. It's often easiest to do this in blog post form, since you will constantly be updating (every time there is a new episode released, there is a new entry to post). Show posts and notes should include the title of the episode, date it was released, who is hosting (especially if you're like Footnoting History and have more than one host), a brief description of the episode, and links to the various places you can listen to the podcast. If you're a history podcaster like me, this is also where you would put your bibliography or further reading suggestions and anything else that goes along with your episode. Please, history podcasters, list your sources. It doesn't need to be an exhaustive list of everything you have ever read on the topic, but put something there so that your listeners can go in, see where you got some of your information, and turn to those sources themselves.
Streaming Player. Yes, your podcast might be available through every app under the sun, but one point of having a website for your podcast is to draw in new listeners, and you can't have new listeners without them actually, you know, listening. The easiest way to immediately hook someone browsing your site is to have every episode entry come with a streaming player so they can hear you as soon as their interest is piqued by the topic. Enabling your potential fans to hear your voice without having to leave your site will only benefit you in the end.
Social Media Connections. Are you on Twitter? Facebook? Tumblr? Instagram? Snapchat? Some other form of social media that has yet to take the world by storm? Have these listed on your site, preferably all together, so people can pick their social media poison or (hopefully) choose to follow you across all platforms. Social media connections are about more than just places people can follow you though, they are also about ways people can share your episodes and posts. If your website builder comes with the option to include share buttons on each of your new episode posts, definitely choose it-- and if you need an example, you can scroll down to the bottom of this entry and see the buttons I use. Some people might not think of sharing until the button serves as a visual reminder that they can. Your best promoter (outside of yourself) will be your fans, so help them help you reach a wider population.
How to Listen. I fully admit that I only realized this was essential last year, thanks to a panel at Sound Education. Not everyone who comes across your website will know what a podcast is, let alone how to listen. It may seem like a minor thing, but everyone who loves podcasts has to discover their first favorite somewhere, and if you want to be someone's, you need to teach them how to listen. By providing a guide, no one will feel confused or have to learn elsewhere before subscribing to you.
Archive. You work very hard to create good content, but not every listener will be with you from the first episode. Scrolling through pages and pages of blog posts is a hassle and eventually even places like Apple Podcasts will cut you off (once you hit 300 episodes, prepare for your oldest ones to disappear from their listing), but that doesn't mean your work should be forgotten. Create an archive, one glorious place where people can find every episode you've ever released. It may seem silly when you first start out, but you'll be glad you made it as your podcast grows, and your listeners will enjoy the opportunity to explore all the topics you released before they discovered you.
About You. This is my personal obsession. I cannot tell you how infuriating it is to find a podcast, get interested in it, and then find out the host is a ghost. I beg you: please, introduce yourself on your website. Who are you? Why are you doing this podcast? What are your qualifications? What do you believe? What drew you to your genre? What's your favorite television show? Anything! Own who you are, love who you are, and tell people who you are. Show your personality and, if the mood strikes you, add a picture too! The exact information you provide is something only you can decide, but people want to relate to the hosts of their favorite podcasts. They want to know who the person is behind the mic and why they should listen to them. Help people connect with you by showing you are more than just a disembodied voice spouting things they are expected to believe.
Contact Page. Podcasting puts you out into the world and you never know who might be listening. Great opportunities could come your way and you don't want to miss them, so give people a way to reach you! Since your website is a bit like your internet business card, people will come to it to find out how to contact you directly. This doesn't mean you have to list your personal email address or information (in fact, please don't do that, I want you to be safe!) but you could create a free email address specific to your podcast and use that, plus there's always the tried-and-true option of a contact form. You want to be ready for when the interviews and book deal offers come rolling in or when fans want to chat with you, right? Also don't let the fear of negative mail prevent you from adding a contact form, because the good should vastly outweigh the bad and you don't owe the haters any answers.
Merch Links. Do you have a merchandise site? Merch and swag need not be your first priority when you are starting a podcast, but if you stay with it long enough, you will likely want to create merch to sell. Once you have set up shop somewhere (we use TeePublic, and they're great) make sure you link it to your website! You know someone out there wants a t-shirt or notebook with your logo on it, so make sure they can get it with the ease of one click from your homepage.
What do you look for when you visit a podcast's website? What do you think are the most important aspects of