Your Podcast RSS Feed (and why it’s so important to your show!)

If you’re already a podcaster or just looking to get started then you know the importance (and sometimes the frustration) around your podcast RSS feed.  This is THE piece of information that podcasting directories like iTunes, Stitcher, Google Play, and now Spotify all use to show information about your show as a whole, and about each new episode you publish.

A natural question is: What is my podcast RSS feed and where does it live?

A great question and one that most new podcasters have.

The answer is: “It Depends”.

You really have two options here.  You can base your podcast RSS feed on your media hosting site (like Castos) or you can base it on your own website, like a WordPress or SquareSpace site.

Think of your RSS feed as the blueprint for your podcast.  It tells podcasting directories everything there is to know about your show.  We typically break the information about your podcast into two categories when it comes to your podcast RSS feed: Channel Information and Episode Information.

Let’s dive into both of these a bit deeper.

Channel Information

The Channel Information in your podcast RSS feed is that meta information about your show as a whole.  This includes things like:

    • Show Name
    • Show Subtitle
    • Host Name
    • Host email address
    • Cover Image (must be between 1400×1400 to 3000x3000px and SQUARE)
    • iTunes categories – can have up to 3 unique categories
    • Copyright
    • Explicit rating
  • Language

You will fill in information about each of these items in the Podcast Details area wherever you decide to base your podcast feed. It would benefit you to fill in each of these fields with ‘SEO’ in mind so that those who are searching or browsing podcasting directories like iTunes can find your show easily by searching with keywords.

Aside from the meta Channel Information about your show is also the Episode Information.

Episode Information

Once you’ve got the information about your podcast as a whole it’s time to think about the information about each episode.

For iTunes specifically (since they’re the biggest podcasting directory out there) there are a handful of episode-specific fields that will be filled in each time you publish an episode.  Namely, these are:

    • Episode Title
    • Publish Date
    • Description
    • iTunes Summary
    • Media file enclosure
    • Duration
    • File Size
    • Explicit Rating
    • Series Number (iOS11 tag)
    • Episode Number (iOS11 tag)
  • Featured Image (if applicable)

You probably noticed a few of the items have the “iOS11 tag” disclaimer next to them. These are purely optional fields in your feed (both for Channel and Episode Information) but are designed to give Apple and iOS a better idea of what your podcast and podcast episodes are all about.  It’s really best practice to start using them as some things like home automation and other ‘smart’ devices will likely begin referencing these fields directly in the future.

Viewing Your Podcast RSS Feed

With all this excitement about your RSS feed being the place where your podcast “lives” it might be tempting for you to want to check it out and see what the fuss is all about.

And you can.  If you either click on your RSS feed URL in your hosting provider dashboard or copy/paste the URL into your browser you’ll see what your podcast feed looks like.

Don’t be scared…it will be something like this:

Don’t fear, you don’t need to know what this is saying, but if you wanted to dive in deeper just know that each <item> is a podcast episode, and the things in between the <channel> tags represent the Channel Information about your show.

If you’re using Seriously Simple Podcasting to manage your podcast RSS feed on your WordPress site then we do a bit of formatting to make it look pretty, and it will be something like this:

In fact, once you create your podcast RSS feed it’s probably a good idea to make sure it’s valid and ready to be submitted to iTunes.

To do this I love using a free tool called podba.se

In podba.se you can enter your podcast feed URL and it will run all kinds of diagnostics on your feed to ensure that there aren’t any issues with it prior to you submitting your feed to iTunes.

Here you can see that our example RSS feed gets the proverbial Green Light and is ready to be submitted to iTunes.

If you’re looking for a great walkthrough of how to submit your podcast to iTunes and Stitcher head over to our Podcasting Guide – here we cover step-by-step in video how to submit your feed to these 2 most popular directories.

Once your podcast is submitted successfully most of the major directories have about a 1 business day turnaround to get your show approved, and all except for Spotify will notify you via email (the email address that is in the Channel Information section of your feed) that your show has been approved or denied.

Congrats, now your show is live and your podcast RSS feed is automagically updated each time you either make a change to the Channel Information about your show as a whole, or each time you publish a new episode and you get a new <item> entry in your podcast Episode Information area.

These changes in your feed will be reflected in podcasting directories like iTunes very quickly (if all things are running smoothly on your side and theirs it should be almost instantaneous).

One very important thing to point out is that just because your feed is valid when you submit your podcast does not mean that it will stay this way forever.  Things like uploading an image that doesn’t fit the size requirements of Apple Podcasts or having HTML in your iTunes Description field will invalidate your feed, resulting in any new episodes you publish or changes you make to your show to not reflect in those directories.

So treat your podcast RSS feed with great care. It literally is the blueprint for your show and the sole item that the podcasting world can find out more about you and your show through.

We hope this helped demystify your podcast RSS feed a bit and shed some light on what can be a confusing topic if you’re not familiar with it.  Following the guidance above and that of your media hosting platform will get you an RSS feed that is ready to go to places like iTunes, Stitcher, and Google Play so your podcast can go live and be shared with the world!

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