Did your podcast get a sudden increase in downloads? Are you curious where those downloads came from?
We will discuss some common reasons a podcast might experience a "spike" in downloads, and some ways podcasters can determine if the numbers are legitimate.
Are these legitimate downloads?
There could be legitimate reasons for bizarre spikes on your podcast or episodes! Your episode about ancient Rome might see a sudden increase due to a TikTok trend, or your podcast about an old TV show might suddenly be all the rage after a revival of the series is announced. It might even be as simple as someone posting a link in Reddit or on social media after enjoying your content!
There's also a chance the spike is from a bot or some other program causing an increase in your listener numbers. RSS.com has a very very good filtering system that normally prevents untrustworthy data from making it as far as your analytics dashboard, but in rare cases it can still happen. There are a few things to look out for that will let you know if the spike is genuine:
1) What is being downloaded? When a listener subscribes to your show, they might automatically download all of your episodes. This can add up! For example; Let's say your podcast has 100 episodes. Over lunch, one listener gets three friends to subscribe to your show and download all of your episodes. That's 300 downloads in one day from one location! Now on the other hand, if all your episodes get 500 new downloads, they probably aren't coming from word of mouth.
When a show suddenly gains popularity, you will likely see specific episodes getting most of the downloads or a combination of all episodes being downloaded and spikes in specific episodes.
2) Is the spike sustaining? Did you see an increase in your average listeners in the weeks following the spike, or did your average listens go right back to normal? Look at your downloads graph and see if the spike had a ripple effect on your numbers. Usually when a single episode becomes popular, some new listeners will check out other episodes of the podcast if they enjoyed your content. Look for small spikes on other episodes.
3) Is the spike originating from the same location? Did your podcast episode just get 4,000 new downloads from Bowling Green, Kentucky? If the episode is about the early days bluegrass music legend Sam Bush (who is from Bowling Green, Kentucky), then the numbers might be accurate. If you, your podcast, or episode have no connection to the location seeing the increase, then it might be a bot or data center. Data Centers can sometimes cause artificial bumps in traffic. If you see a spike in listeners from Council Bluffs, Iowa or Mountain View, California then it might be from a data center and not legitimate listeners.
4) Are all of the "suspicious" downloads coming from the same machines? At the bottom of your analytics page you can see what devices, platforms, and apps are being used to access your content. If you see a big spike in one particular platform or client app, then it may be a sign the majority of the downloads in question are coming from the same place.
Most of the time illegitimate downloads will be obvious after applying the questions above. If you believe your analytics are inaccurate, please verify what false characteristics they're exhibiting and send us a support ticket! Inaccurate spikes won't affect your numbers for very long, and will probably be mostly insignificant to your metrics in the long term. We'd still like to see your false data spikes so we can prevent it from happening again in the future.