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Ratings, Reviews & Subscribers

Why are we so afraid to ask for our podcast fans to subscribe, rate and review us?

The stiff upper lip, the proud Brit…why if we’re doing something that matters so much to us are we spinning out over asking our listeners for their help?

It’s a conversation I’ve had with many a podcaster over recent months. It’s seen as something the polite Brits don’t do. But the truth is that if you don’t have subscribers, ratings and reviews then your podcast is mostly likely going to fade into the background of a growing competitive market.

The truth about activity

‘Activity’ has long been rumoured to be the key when it comes to climbing the Apple Podcast charts and getting your series noticed. In fact, I was surprised when key voices in the industry confessed to me that success wasn’t always about getting thousands of listeners - it was more about generating an increased spike in activity.

There are multiple ways you can do this - bulk releasing episodes for example - but the quickest and easiest route to instant success is ratings and reviews.

Not only will they boost your activity, but they’ll make your series look more professional and authoritative in your subject area.

As passive listeners, we’re more likely to take a punt on a series that has a few 5 star ratings than one that doesn’t have any.

What’s interesting when you start looking into some of the big brands on Apple Podcasts is that not all of them have a plethora of reviews and ratings.

One of my many personal passions is following NHL ice hockey. As someone who doesn’t live in North America, I rely heavily on the big broadcasters podcasts to keep me in the loop. But I was surprised how little interaction they had in their review section when I looked a little deeper…

What impact does having a few ratings and reviews really have?

Not much you’d assume. But when I trialled this out first-hand I was amazed by how quickly a difference it truly makes… I make podcasts for other people for a living, mostly branded content for corporate companies across the world.

But I also run three of my own series ‘just for fun’.

It’s often with these series I get to play, try different things out as a playground to learn and capture best practices when I move on to work with clients’ podcasts.

Let’s stay with ice hockey for a moment…

Weekly, I co-host a series discussing the ins and outs of the NHL series, connecting with other crazy ice hockey fans who live outside North America.

When I asked friends, family and listeners to rate and review our ‘NHL Fans From Afar’ podcast we sat 26th in search results in the iTunes podcast store when typing in the keywords ‘NHL fans’. Yet 24 hours later, with just 6 reviews and 5 ratings, we were second in the search results. Instant vertical promotion!

Another series is our ‘Slimming World: Food For Thought’ podcast. As co-hosts we found a way of asking at the start and end of every episode for people to rate, review and subscribe. Yes, it does feel cringey. But we’ve pitched it assuming many people struggle with weight loss on their own, by asking a listener to help us with something which takes a few seconds it enables our series to reach and connect with others who may be in similar shoes.

Calling upon the kindness of humanity is a win for everyone, right?

Now with almost 100 ratings and 20 plus reviews we’re a regular podcast in the top 200 health charts and have been featured in Apple’s new and noteworthy section. Crazy considering we started as a podcast recorded in my kitchen and only have 35 episodes out.

How can you tell people really are subscribing to you?

In short, if you publish in the middle of the night and by 6am you’ve had 200 plays before any social media posts…it’s likely proof that your number of automatic subscribers is about the same figure. And that means that you’ll have to work a little less hard to push in marketing overall (eg multiple tweets scheduled over a week). Getting people to subscribe is an all-round game winner - whether they actually listen to the episode or not doesn’t matter - your listener figures still look great regardless. So, just ask. And do it often.

Get creative

It’s worth thinking creatively around asking for ratings and reviews too - if you really are uncomfortable about asking for this stuff, then perhaps add an incentive so you can give something back to the listeners who do this in return. Will a cheeky review get a special mention as listener of the week on the next episode? If we compare to Instagram for a moment, how many times have you been tagged in a post asking for you to follow their page to get a chance of a free hamper or <insert other more interesting prize here>? Or by signing up to someone’s mailing list we receive a free pdf copy of their book…

We are subjected to sales messages all the time, we are asked to follow, like social media pages constantly - so why are we holding back from asking our own tribe for help?

If there is one word to some up a podcast listener it is most definitely ‘passionate’.

Chances are they will want to see great content continue, they’re listening to more than one podcast on their niche subject, they appreciate your time and efforts, and they will fight tooth and nail to shout about the podcasts they love.

So don’t be afraid to ask for their help.

Do it often, make it a habit, make it the norm and make yourself feel comfortable in finding your own ‘sales script’.

What comes back may surprise you…

And getting to know who your listeners really are and what they’re thinking is where building your own community truly begins.


  • Are you asking your listeners to rate, review and subscribe at the beginning and end of every episode?

  • How does your shop window on Apple Podcasts for rating and reviews compare to your competitors?

  • Check your category - Apple Podcasts have just updated them all - are you putting your podcast in the right pool in the first place, or do you need to tweak it to get a chance of being in 'new and noteworthy' or the podcast charts?

  • Ask your friends, colleagues, family and pets to quickly rate and review your series right now.

  • Schedule your next episode to publish in the early hours of the morning, eg 1am - check back about 9am before social media posts and see how many listens there's been - this could indicate how many subscribers you really have as a base to begin to build upon.


Clare Freeman is a podcast coach, producer and consultant to individuals and companies across the world. If you need a helping hand and 90 minutes one-on-one support to get started podcast, book her time online here. For more about her podcast consultancy services read here.

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