How Transcripts Can Bring Your Podcast to an Undiscovered Audience

It’s easy to see the benefits of having podcast transcripts. Common sense tells us they help search engine optimization (SEO) and make content accessible to people with disabilities. But if it’s so obvious, why aren’t more shows already including transcripts?

Well, along with the benefits there can be challenges. For example, not every show will have the resources to add transcripts, and not every show will see the same benefits.

Here are some ways you can figure out if podcast transcripts are right for your show and decide the best way to integrate them.

The Benefits of Podcast Transcripts

The hardest thing for any podcast is getting new listeners. If that’s not a problem for your show, consider yourself lucky. For the rest of us, we have to hustle and put in hard work to grow our shows.

And, even if you already have a lot of listeners, you need to be finding new listeners all the time, especially in a niche area. Transcripts are a way to reach those harder to acquire audiences.

If you don’t have transcripts, all of your content isn’t getting indexed by search engines. Okay, you should already have show notes, which helps, but without transcripts you’re still missing out on possible keywords being searched. A full text transcript ensures that every word makes it into the search indexes so that you don’t miss opportunities.

SEO Impact of Transcripts - This American Life
This American Life, a weekly public radio show and popular podcast with about 1M weekly downloads, demonstrated a direct impact on SEO when transcripts were added to their website.

  • 4.18% increase in unique visitors
  • 6.68% increase in organic search
  • 7.23% of all visitors engaged with transcripts

Graphic and data sourced via 3PlayMedia.

Transcripts also make your show accessible to those who are deaf or hard of hearing, and transcripts are more easily translated for search results in other languages. Keep in mind these may not represent huge numbers for your podcast topic. Depending on your show you may want to consider if you have content that appeals to the hearing impaired or to potential audiences in other regions of the world. If the answer to either is ‘yes’, transcripts are probably a good idea for you to consider.

Helping Your Listeners and You

Your existing audience will also get the benefits of a fully searchable text for each show. Having a transcript makes it a lot easier to scan for a topic. If you include timestamps the reader can jump to the part of the show they want to hear. This is especially helpful for loyal listeners wanting to go back and revisit a topic from a past show. It also makes it easier for you and your listeners to share quotes from the show on social media.

And don’t forget about the benefits it will provide to you, specifically. Just imagine the day when you’re writing your next book or revisiting a topic for a new blog post. Now you have transcripts you can search for keywords and help you remember the details. No more relistening to hundreds of recordings to jog your memory of what was said in the past or to pull a direct quote from a guest. Ask yourself this question: How valuable is your time?

The Biggest Challenges to Adding Podcast Transcripts

If it was easy everyone would be doing it already, right? That’s usually the case for things that can provide big benefits but few are doing. So what are the challenges? The usual: Time and money.

Writing your own transcripts is a big time investment. You don’t just have to listen to every show (again) but you have to transcribe every word into transcript format. If you don’t think that’s hard or takes a lot of time, go for it. One thing most podcasters don’t usually have is lots of free time.

Paying for transcription services is another option, but this can become expensive. Some services have reasonable fees, some may be more expensive; everyone’s budget is different. It’s a decision you have to make based on your podcast and resources. If transcripts will add more value than what they will cost to create, you should absolutely pay to get them made.

Having all your past shows also transcribed could be costly for long shows that have been around for many years. Most podcasters don’t get their past episodes done, they just add transcripts for new shows going forward.

These are some places you can try for transcript services (in no particular order):

Keep in mind that where you get your transcripts and what they cost could determine the quality. If your show is in English and transcribed by someone in another country whose first language isn’t English, they could make mistakes. Maybe you have regular guests with accents that aren’t easy to understand or the content includes lots of technical terminology? These things can impact the quality a lot. Do some research and don’t be afraid to change services if they’re not doing a good job.

Downsides to Having Transcripts

It’s not all rainbows and sunshine. You could see negative impacts from transcripts too.

The key indicator of a podcast’s reach is the download count, or views for video. These already flawed data points help track popularity and interest. Turning that medium into a resource visitors can read makes it even harder to account for the total consumption rate of your content. Some readers will also download the podcast and add to your counts, but not all. As if it weren’t hard enough to get accurate audience statistics, now you’ve added another variable to the equation.

And there could be an impact on sponsors, even if only a minimal one. If you include sponsor spots in your podcast, a reader can easily skip over them in the transcript. This number would likely be very small and the goal of transcripts is to bring in new listeners for most podcasts. This should even out at a minimum and hopefully favor the increase in total listeners. I consider it a negligible factor in attracting and retaining sponsors, but still worth considering.

Special Uses for Transcripts

There are a number of ways you can get creative with transcripts, and even use them to monetize a podcast.

One example is where archived podcasts are only available to paid members. You can listen to new podcasts, but only for a short time. After the episode is archived it is only available to paid members. The full text transcript remains published on the public website for everyone to read. This helps potential subscribers find the content and if they prefer to listen or watch the interviews they can join the site for full access.

If you think your podcast listeners are willing to pay for the content, consider adding transcripts as way to attract new customers. I know I’d rather pay for the convenience of listening to a show in the car or while doing the dishes rather than give up more of my limited time for reading.

Will Transcripts Help Your Podcast?

Maybe. Think about your content and your listeners. Decide if you have the time or budget to include transcripts, and if you think they can help your show grow.

Try asking yourself these questions:

  1. How much will having transcripts cost me in time or money?
  2. Will I bring in more listeners? And, if so, how many?
  3. What is it worth to bring in those listeners?

Figure these things out and you have your answer.

Do you include transcripts or listen to a podcast that does? How valuable are they to you?