• Dr Emma Hewitt

What can a transcript do for my podcast?

Have you noticed how some of the biggest names in podcasting (including marketing gurus, such as Pat Flynn and Amy Porterfield) offer a transcript alongside their audio content? The This American Life podcast have had their entire back catalogue transcribed (all the way back to 1995), a huge job involving hundreds of transcripts. You might well wonder why they would go to the trouble, and whether this is something you need to be doing for your podcast too. Read on to find out why you could be missing a trick if you’re not offering a transcript of your podcast. Pat Flynn couldn't be clearer on his thoughts about the impact a transcript can have for your podcast:

“You can have a successful podcast without them [transcripts]. However, a transcript can help your podcast step up to the next level.” (Pat Flynn, Smart Passive Income Podcast, E0948)

In my next blog post I will look in more detail at your options for getting your podcast transcribed, and why this need not be as time consuming or expensive as you might imagine. Also coming up, a look at how these professional podcasters use transcripts on their websites.

What’s a transcript?

Transcription is the process by which the spoken word gets converted into written form. Offering a transcript means that your audience can read your podcast and other audio content (e.g. webinars, videos, presentations, etc). Often, transcripts will include timestamps, helping readers/listeners to jump seamlessly between the transcript and the audio recording. Any unnecessary bits, like the ‘ums’ and ‘ahs’, are usually left out in podcast transcripts and a bit of light editing is done to make them more readable. If you shop around for a transcription service, you’ll most likely come across the term ‘intelligent verbatim’, which is what you’ll want - this kind of edited, more user-friendly transcript.

Why transcribe your podcast?

So, the million-dollar question: why would you want to have your podcast transcribed? The short answer is that a transcript can help you to get more eyes (and ears) on your content, and ultimately to build engagement with your target audience. There are four main ways that offering transcripts can help to do this.

First, providing a transcript can help to make your content more easily accessible to a wider crowd, as well as better serving your existing listeners in a variety of contexts. Second, it can also help with your Search Engine Optimisation (SEO), making your content more easily found. Third, it also makes it much more straightforward for others to reference and share your material. Finally, a transcript can also enables you to repurpose your content in many different ways, meaning you're not starting from scratch every time. Read on for more detail on how it can help in each of these areas.

1. Ease of access to your content

The popularity of podcasts is growing rapidly. In a recent study, approximately one quarter of the population (26%) reported to having listened to at least one podcast within the last month, and 12 million people nationally reported having listened to a podcast for the first time in 2018. Whilst they are undoubtedly a very convenient medium for many, there is still a significant majority of the population who currently don’t or can’t access podcasts. Transcripts can help you to branch out to those for whom your content might otherwise be inaccessible. Offering a transcript can help you to reach:

  • People with hearing disabilities.

  • People who have a different first language than yours. They can read along or look up specific vocabulary to improve their comprehension of what you’re saying. They can even get the entire transcript translated.

  • People who want to access your content in a quiet environment without using headphones (e.g. at work or on their commute).

  • People in a hurry who may prefer to scan your content for relevance, going directly to the relevant bits. They might not bother - or worse still - they might just read someone else's material if it’s not readily available in written form.

  • People who haven’t converted to podcasts. Remember, that’s still the majority of the population. Who knows, you may even convert them.

  • People who aren’t primarily auditory learners. They may prefer to digest your content by reading along whilst listening to your podcast, or review key points or tricky concepts in the transcript later.

2. Make your content more easily found

Including a transcript of your podcast on your website is hugely beneficial to your Search Engine Optimisation (SEO). It’s significantly easier for the bots at Google to index and rank the written word, compared to audio or video content. When you include a transcript, rather than just show notes, there’s much more chance that you are going to get a match to unique search queries. Amanda Webb explains this as follows:

If we had really bare show notes they will never show up in search results because it doesn’t have any weighty content. If I do a transcription (or a blog post) I’m going to be mentioning the keyword[s] [...] Suddenly Google realises what that content is about and delivers it to people in search results. Amanda Webb, Blogcentric, E84

It can be a good idea to offer the transcript as a PDF download, which makes it possible for your audience to save and read it at their convenience, but it’s especially important to include it in HTML format directly on your website for SEO purposes. This makes anything you said searchable by Google or Bing. It may even be worth including a blog post too, which can serve time-poor audiences well as a quick, accessible read. Don’t worry - you’re halfway there once you’ve got a transcript. Now you just need to tighten the language up, remove any waffle, then add catchy headings and subheadings and you're good to go.

3. Referencing and sharing your content

A transcript can make it significantly easier for listeners to refer back to relevant content later, without having to relisten to the entire podcast episode to find the exact spot in the audio. For instance, in a recent podcast, marketing expert, Janet Murray said:

“…I listen to a lot of podcasts whilst I’m running. If I hear something that I found really interesting, I love being able to go back to the transcript and pick out that bit of information, or that link or that reference that somebody has made. So, I think there are a lot of strong arguments for it.” (Janet Murray, Love Marketing Podcast, E314)

If your podcast is only available in audio format, will listeners get around to revisiting your material? It's far less likely. This improved accessibility to your material makes it much easier for you to be quoted online and leads to a greater chance of your content being shared across social media platforms, generating more leads directly back to your website (further improving your SEO).

4. Repurposing potential

Transcripts can be invaluable for repurposing your content. Some podcasters use their transcripts as a method of building their email list, offering them exclusively as a PDF download. Others offer them as an upgrade, incentivising listeners to join their membership. However, they can have much broader uses than this. Amy Wood of Content 10X says: “Transcripts represent huge repurposing potential if you use them correctly.” She talks about how you can literally multiply the value you get from your transcripts, making it easier to create articles and social media content. I've already mentioned how much easier it is to create a blog post once you have your transcript in front of you. You're no longer staring at a blank screen, but editing, prioritising and creating catchy headings and subheadings. Pat Flynn raves about the repurposing value of transcripts:

“I know a lot of people—and this is myself included—who use transcripts to […] be able to quite easily take bits and pieces out of it, to take the text out of it and turn it into something like an ebook or turn it into quote cards for social media, or use it as quotes in specific blog posts.” (Pat Flynn, Smart Passive Income Podcast E0948)

This process of converting a podcast into other forms of content makes it much easier to post regularly on your blog, website and other social media. Of course, a regular presence online is crucial for maximising engagement and feedback. Transcripts are also a helpful way of creating direct links back to your previous content, which in turn leads to more downloads and views.

Transcribe away

I’m not suggesting that you go ahead and get your entire back catalogue transcribed. Depending on how long your podcast has been going, this might be a daunting prospect! But why not start by having one or two of your best performing or your latest podcasts transcribed, and then play around to explore what you can do with them. Knock up a blog post. Create some quote cards. But most importantly, go ahead and post the raw transcripts online and ask your audience what they think. And do get in touch to let me know how you get on.

Stay tuned for my next blog post which reviews the options for transcription and different price points available and for a sneak peek at how podcasters are using transcripts.

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