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The Definitive Guide To Podcast Intros

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The Definitive Guide To Podcast Intros

Podcast intros are an important quality of a successful podcast.

The right intro sets the podcast on a path to success.

These seven tips will help your podcast build an audience and retain it:

  1. Hook the listeners fast.
  2. Make every second of the podcast intro count.
  3. A good podcast intro builds audience retention.
  4. Test podcast intros for audience retention.
  5. Three things a podcast intro must communicate.
  6. Podcast intro builds loyalty.
  7. Where to get music for a podcast.

Let’s dig into each one and see how you can put it work for your podcast.

1. Hook The Listeners Fast

Erin Sparks of Edge of the Web Radio podcast says that there is a subtle but important value in the podcast intro when it comes to what he calls, “click browsing.”

Erin suggests that the intro functions like a hook – to grab the listener’s attention and immediately intrigue them.

He shares this insight:

“The audio ‘hook’ is important to podcast click browsing. Walking through a podcast app, people will click and listen to 7-10 seconds to hear if they ‘feel’ the show.

Much different than any other medium.”

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Chris Brogan of Making the Brand podcast agrees that a podcast intro should be short.

He shares these insights on the qualities of a useful podcast intro:

“I’m a huge fan of brief. Once you hear it more than twice, it’s boring to everyone.

An intro should set the mental stage for what’s coming up.

Choose music and words that emulate the show.”

2. Make Every Second Of The Podcast Intro Count

Jorge Hermida, Program Director at WMR.FM and Cannabis Radio Podcasts, observes that it’s important to give listeners a reason to stick around for the podcast but to do it in the shortest amount of time possible.

He says there is absolutely no time to waste within your podcast intro so it’s super important to literally make every second count.

He shares:

“Podcast listeners, just like anybody else, have a short attention span.

You have to give listeners a reason to listen to your content within the first 30 seconds.

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Whether you create a cold opener or you run down what you’re going to be talking about on the program, you need to satisfy that listener immediately.

Create the intro as if every listener has a short attention span because in my professional experience, they will either stay and listen to your show, or they’ll drop off and find another show to listen to.”

3. Podcast Intro Builds Audience Retention

Azeem Ahmad of the Azeem Digital SEO podcast shares that a good podcast intro will help maintain audience retention, as well as encourage engagement and loyalty.

This is an element of conversion theory, where even seemingly trivial elements can encourage or discourage the action we are looking for.

A classic example is a PPC arbitrage marketer who maximizes the number of sales for every click.

Affiliate PPC marketers succeed or go out of business fast depending on how well they convert every visitor.

This person discovered that detecting the mobile device and adding an “iPhone friendly” or “Android friendly” badge increased their conversion rates by a measurable rate.

The follow-up insight Azeem suggests is similar.

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He said that a podcast intro has the same effect of encouraging a user to click and stay for the podcast or to leave.

And for that reason, it’s important to view the intro as a configurable asset that can be used to improve audience retention.

Azeem shares how a podcast intro is important for retention rates and engagement:

“People will get bored with repetition, and regardless of your podcast format – the idea is to engage the listener.

If you lose them within the first 30 seconds, you will very likely see a drop in retention rate and engaged listeners.”

4. Test Podcast Intros For Audience Retention

Azeem next shares that a way to improve retention and engagement is to experiment with new intros and outros.

He shares this tip:

“As a host you should change this up sometimes.

Customizing the intro every time is basically an option to test for what works the best.

For example, you could test asking people to subscribe in the intro vs. the outro for a few episodes and see which drives more growth.”

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5. Three Things A Podcast Intro Must Communicate

Sparks offers useful information about what should be communicated in a podcast introduction.

He shares how the introduction should communicate the “What’s in it for me?” proposition to the listener.

Figuring out the tried-and-true principle of answering the question of “What’s in it for me?” is a great way to think about how to create a podcast intro that is useful for the listener.

So, it makes sense to apply that approach to podcast intros so that a listener is reminded of why they are there, which could be to become better at what they do, to catch up on industry news, to be entertained, etc.

Here is what Sparks shares:

“A good intro provides:

  1. A promise to the listener in the first five to seven seconds (a transaction of knowledge communicating what they are going to get).
  2. Sonic branding.
  3. Credibility, contextual reference to subject matter expertise.”

6. Podcast Intro Builds Loyalty

Jim Hedger, the co-host of the popular Webcology SEO podcast, suggests that the podcast intro helps to build a sense of familiarity and ownership of a space.

I’ve noticed that people tend to feel a sense of ownership in a website they enjoy, perhaps because the site might be a part of their self-identity as a baker, sportsperson, or whatever the topic is.

Ever walk into a favorite restaurant and immediately receive a feeling of comfort or anticipation?

It’s a sense of ownership of an experience, that this experience is yours and it’s yours yet again.

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Hedger says that a podcast intro can have a similar effect, to bring a sense of comfort and anticipation that one feels in physical spaces that one feels loyal and connected to.

He observes:

“I once read that people aren’t loyal to restaurants as much as they are loyal to spaces they feel comfortable being in.

The same can be said for podcasts.

Like radio, podcasts are a theater of the mind. Your intro is the breath that first forms the space you, your guests, and the audience will create together.

Podcasts are incredibly intimate. I think you need to feel love for your audience and deeply respect the topic and your introduction is your first chance to establish that.

A host’s job is to help the audience develop a zone in which they and the host are virtually in the same place.”

7. Where To Get Music For A Podcast Intro

Something to keep in mind is that any music used should be licensed.

There is an idea that it’s okay to use just a little bit of someone else’s music, but that might not be the case.

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And if that’s the direction you are moving in, then it may be prudent to check with an attorney first.

The podcasting professionals consulted for this article all agree that it’s important to purchase a license for the right to any music used within a podcast.

Everyone agrees that it’s best to license royalty-free podcast intro music because this safeguards against copyright infringement claims.

Hermida shares:

“Our music is licensed, and most other podcasts most likely use some kind of licensed music from other licensed music providers for some original music that’s not prone to any copyright issues.

It doesn’t really matter where the music comes from, except that I would always recommend to make sure you use music that you are allowed to use and that license to use the music is documented and can be proven.”

Sparks also recommends paying for a license to use music:

“We have a number of music licenses that we have used over the years.

We highly recommend reviewing different sound repositories and utilizing them to create that sonic brand.

Places to license music are Envato Elements, Epidemic Sound, and the like.

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We also have a continual license with our deep voice announcer, our voice over talent.

That should also be something to consider when you’re developing a long-term show.”

Brogan recommends:

“Epidemic Sound works fine. Buy a license. “

Always read the license when choosing a digital music asset in order to be aware of what you can and can’t do with the music and for how long you are entitled to use it.

  • Epidemic Soundseveral of the podcasters mentioned Epidemic Sound as a good place to purchase a license for music.
  • Envato Elements is a source for high-quality licensed, royalty-free music suitable for a podcast intro.
  • Shutterstock Music – Shutterstock is known for its stock photography library, but they also offer royalty-free music specifically for podcasts. A license that’s appropriate for use in a podcast costs $49.
  • Music Bakery offers royalty-free music where you pay for it once and can use it anywhere, but be sure to read the license agreement to know exactly what you are paying for.
  • InstantMusicNow offers digital downloads starting at $4.95.
  • Adobe Stock Music Library – Adobe offers royalty-free music that can be used in multiple projects.

Podcast Intros Are Important

At this point, it should be clear that a seemingly trivial thing like a podcast intro is actually part of the foundation of a successful podcast.

Clearly, the content of the podcast is the most important quality of a podcast.

Yet, as important as the content is, it’s the podcast intro that sets the stage and makes listeners feel they have arrived at their happy place, while also communicating what is in it for the listener, which encourages them to stick around for the content.

More Resources:


Featured Image: Alex from the Rock/Shutterstock

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Building a Better Search Engine: Lessons From Neeva’s CEO

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Building a Better Search Engine: Lessons From Neeva’s CEO

After helping to grow Google’s advertising business for over 15 years, Sridhar Ramaswamy began to feel Google’s dependence on ads was limiting the quality of search results.

Determined to prove he could achieve a better search experience without ads, Ramaswamy co-founded and launched Neeva in 2019.

As the CEO of his own search company, Ramaswamy is accountable to the users of his product who pay a monthly subscription to access Neeva.

“No ads” means Neeva doesn’t have an incentive to collect data on its users, making it the only search engine on the market that’s both ad-free with a privacy option.

Ramaswamy is currently on the conference circuit raising awareness about Neeva, and we managed to catch up with him at Collision last week in Toronto.

We profiled Neeva once before and welcomed Ramaswamy as a guest on the Search Engine Journal Show in December.

However, each time we only scratched the surface. Now, we want to dig deeper.

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So, what makes Neeva different from the other companies — and what makes Neeva a viable alternative to Google and Bing?

What Are Neeva’s Core Values?

Many companies enter the market making lofty claims of how they’ll do right by users. Even Google once had “don’t be evil” written into its code of conduct: a promise to which some critics argue it hasn’t lived up. Google has de-emphasized “Don’t be evil” in its code of conduct, though it was never removed.

In 2021, Google was sued by three former employees over its “Don’t be evil” motto. They allege that failure to live up to the motto is the equivalent of a breach of contract.

To better understand how Neeva will continue delivering a product that puts users’ needs first, I asked Ramaswamy what Neeva’s core values are.

“It’s not something we have published, but this is something I’ve talked about a lot with Vivek [Raghunathan, co-founder of Neeva], and I feel good about saying it,” Ramaswamy began. “At our core, we think that, as a company, we want to make technology serve people.”

“I think many other technology companies, especially in the last 25, have turned rather exploitative,” he continued. “I think the ad model exemplifies this. Basically, if I can convince you and get you hooked on my product, I can pretty much do anything.”

“It’s Technology Serving People”

Make no mistake: Neeva is a for-profit organization, though Ramaswamy says its subscription-based revenue model is designed to serve people rather than advertisers.

“Yes, companies are for-profit, but I think if you set up your values to be aligned with your user, to be aligned with your customer, you’ll always serve them,” he said. “To me, that part is important. If you had to say, ‘Hey, what exemplifies what you do?’ It’s technology serving people. This is why we do things like offer a flat price for the search utility you get from us.”

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“Technology At Scale Is Quite Inexpensive”

Many companies within the sector lead consumers to believe scaling technology is expensive, which is how some justify charging higher fees, for instance, as they grow.

It doesn’t have to be that way, Ramaswamy says, as he believes the cost of technology at scale is overblown.

“It’s our belief that technology at scale is actually quite inexpensive,” he noted. “That’s the magic of technology, but right now, the way all of these companies are structured — as they scale, they squeeze more money from you.”

“It’s not like you’re getting more value, though obviously there are exceptions,” Ramaswamy continued. “But it’s really back to the basics of how you create products that delight people. And to me, that’s an honorable living.”

From left to right: Brittany Kaiser, Own Your Data; Sridhar Ramaswamy, Neeva; Ashley Gold, Axios.

What Does Neeva Do To ‘Serve People’?

Neeva’s definition of ‘technology serving people’ is exemplified by its feedback system.

Roughly 20% of the Neeva team is tasked solely with listening to customer feedback and using it to shape the product experience.

On the other hand, many criticize Google for not giving users what they want out of a search experience.

I asked Ramaswamy if he could give examples of specific customer feedback that helped shape Neeva into what it is today.

“There’s tons of feedback that comes to us. Sometimes we feel bad about not being about to take care of all of it,” he started. “But to give an example: We did a currency converter because, believe it or not, it was a top request. Initially, I did not understand this feedback. I was like, ‘Really? It’s that hard for you to click on a link and then type in your numbers and get your currency converted?”

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“But then,” Ramaswamy said, “I realized a larger truth about how people think about the internet.”

“People Fear Clicking On Links”

Neeva was initially against going the Google route of delivering content directly in the SERPs, but has had to make some concessions.

Through listening to customer feedback, the Neeva team learned there’s a real apprehension toward clicking on links in search results.

“Clicking on a link has now become an adversarial task. People actually fear clicking on links because they don’t know what’s on the other side,” Ramaswamy said. “Is it going to be a pop-up? Is it going to tell you that your computer has a virus? Is it something else? That’s the reason why we put [a currency converter] right into the search engine. So that’s one example.”

Another perk offered to Neeva subscribers is access to a Slack channel where customers can engage in group discussions with developers.

“A lot of people said, ‘We want to be able to offer feedback to [improve] your search results,’” Ramaswamy said. “So we built a community feedback feature that’s released to some people; it’s not released to everybody.”

The way it works, he explained, is users “can say, ‘Hey, this result is not relevant.’ Or, ‘This result is the top result for this query.’”

“This list sort of goes on and on,” Ramaswamy said. “Customers are really a source of lots of ideas.”

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Building a Better Search Engine: Lessons From Neeva’s CEOFrom left to right: Brittany Kaiser, Own Your Data; Sridhar Ramaswamy, Neeva; Ashley Gold, Axios.

Neeva Is A Customer-Guided Product

At Collision, Ramaswamy described what he eventually aims to accomplish with Neeva, and how it differs from the goals of larger search engines like Google.

After speaking with him, I asked if he could clarify what he meant by wanting to “let society figure out” what to do with Neeva.

“I spoke about it more in the spirit of: Google spends a billion, makes a hundred billion. My thing was more: We want to make a couple of billion and let society figure out what it wants to do with the service,” Ramaswamy explained. “It’s more of a general argument around not captive capitalism, but competitive capitalism.”

“The beautiful thing about technology is creating a product for 100 million people is not wildly different from creating a product for a billion people,” he continued. “That’s the magic of scale and technology.”

Being paid for by the people who use it gives Neeva unique flexibility regarding future growth.

Users don’t have as much influence over a product like Google Search, considering they typically don’t pay to use it.

Although even for a free product, Ramasamy argues that Google could be doing much more to give users value.

“My point was a customer-paid product makes it much easier for us to release the product to the whole world [and] still run a profitable company, but not at the kind of obscene scale that I see Facebook or Google operating,” he said. “People always say …  ‘Well, Google gives me free Gmail. Will they stop giving it?’ And my rough answer is: Well, I’m sure, with 100 billion dollars, a bunch of us are going to make really good decisions about how to use that money.”

Ramaswamy said that users “don’t need a monopolist to make that decision and decide they want to give you free Gmail. We don’t need charity from rich companies in order to do this; we need competition, so more of the money that is being spent on this comes to us.”

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Building a Better Search Engine: Lessons From Neeva’s CEOFrom left to right: Brittany Kaiser, Own Your Data; Sridhar Ramaswamy, Neeva; Ashley Gold, Axios.

Will Neeva Keep Its Privacy Promises?

DuckDuckGo, another search engine that touts privacy as its key selling point, was recently a source of controversy after it was discovered to be passing along a minor amount of data to Microsoft.

That stemmed from the deal DuckDuckGo has to use Bing’s search index.

I asked Ramasamy what measures Neeva has in place to keep its zero data collection promises.

“Not serving ads is the biggest measure we have in place. And, we are building our own index,” he said, adding that the company is actively “writing down human ratings and getting data back.”

“We truly want to create a differentiated product,” Ramasamy emphasized. “We started with using the Bing API for search [but] in many ways, I think we would have been better off investing in search from day one. We are a product company, and we want to become a much better search engine. That’s the big differentiator.”

“We’re Making Foundational Investments In Search”

In addition to keeping Neeva ad-free, it will be able to maintain its zero-data promise by building its own search index.

DuckDuckGo, for example, ran into trouble because it’s wholly dependent on Microsoft for search results. Ramasamy says Neeva is the only company outside Google and Bing crawling and indexing the web.

That claim is backed up by an October 2020 report on digital competition by the House Judiciary Committee’s Subcommittee on Antitrust. The report states:

“The high cost of maintaining a fresh index, and the decision by many large webpages to block most crawlers, significantly limits new search engine entrants. Today, the only English-language search engines that maintain their own comprehensive webpage index are Google and Bing.”

He acknowledged that, in response, many ask, “What’s the big deal? What difference does it make?”

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“It lets us do things like creating a much better shopping experience,” Ramasamy explained, noting that, for instance, Neeva “launched Reddit links in search results … because we work with Reddit to get their index. So we have an index of all the web pages they’re serving.”

Ramasamy said that users can receive better-quality results for such queries as, “What are the most interesting Reddit posts that correspond to this query?”

Neeva can “launch features like that, because we’re making foundational investments in search; pretty much the only company outside of Google and Microsoft to be doing this.”

“We increasingly use Bing as a fallback when we cannot answer queries,” Ramasamy acknowledged. However, he said, “Over time, our aspiration is to be able to do more and more of the search results ourselves.”

Neeva’s Sole Focus Is Traditional Web Content (For Now)

With people’s search behavior turning more toward short videos, I asked Ramaswamy if Neeva has any plans to index content like Web Stories or TikTok videos.

For now, Neeva’s sole focus is to solve search for text-based web content.

“Solving for search, especially things like spoken search, is enough of a large problem that we have not quite gone there,” Ramaswamy said. “We have working arrangements. We have partnerships with companies like Twitter and companies like Reddit to better surface their content.

Twitter, he pointed out, “Has a lot of real-time information. So we’re focused on things like that right now and less on video. That would be a fun project to do.”

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Neeva’s Greatest Challenge Is Awareness

As we wrapped up our conversation, I asked Ramaswamy: What’s the most significant hurdle for Neeva to overcome on its journey toward mass adoption?

Ramaswamy’s answer: “It really is about competition.”

The product, he said, is not the issue.

“We have a great product. Compared to ad-supported options … the free Neeva search engine is infinitely better,” Ramaswamy explained. “The place where we struggle is getting the word out, getting people to know us as an option, and getting people to set us as the default search in Safari, which is impossible.

“Demand More Choice”

As Ramaswamy explained, there’s no incentive for a company like Google to innovate if it doesn’t have any challengers.

Companies tend to improve their products when faced with more robust competition. But the only way for more competitors to enter the search market is for consumers to demand more options.

“To me, this is the biggest ask that I would have,” Ramaswamy said, “is to demand more choice, because competition produces better products.”

In turn, he said, “That competition creates better products for us. An incumbent that is doing very well has no incentive to innovate [or] to disrupt.”

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Conversely, over at Neeva, “We have nothing to lose,” Ramaswamy told me. “We’re going to swing for the fences [and make it] easier for people to switch, for them to try Neeva, for them to decide for themselves if they want it or not.”

What’s Next For Neeva?

Before parting ways, I had to ask what we could expect next from Neeva.

“There’s a lot I’ve learned from Google My Business in terms of local businesses – even in terms of Search Console – that I feel confident we can do better,” Ramaswamy said, adding that “GMB, as you know, is a real problem for lots of people. Especially agencies that want to update information for a bunch of companies that they work with.”

The hope, Ramaswamy said, is that “we’ll have better tools. But not yet.”

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