The search power of transcripts

Transcripts drive search traffic to audio

Pop Up Archive has generated tens of thousands of audio transcripts, from archival content to popular podcasts on Transcripts make spoken word audio more discoverable not just to people searching at, but to anyone using a search engine, creating new traffic for audio stories.

Here are some examples of search terms that brought new listeners to Pop Up Archive and because of the words indexed in their transcripts. Some searches were for parts of audio stories that weren’t captured in a title or description. Others were for specific topics that happened to come up within the transcript of an audio file.

Searching popular podcasts with

Results for the Google search “planet money tesla joke” identified this joke from Planet Money, which can be played back instantly using’s time-stamped search capabilityHear Robert Smith tell a Tesla-related economics joke at a standup comedy show (spoiler: the joke bombs).

In February, WHYY asked: “Why are there two white rappers nominated for “Best Rap Album” in this year’s Grammy Awards?” Although they discussed the topic of cultural appropriation, the title and description for the episode don’t use the keyword “cultural appropriation.” Because of the transcript, Google search results for “white rappers cultural appropriation” include the relevant audio story produced by WHYY.

People typing Google searches like “addams family pinball” might not even know what search results to anticipate — or, for example, that there is a podcast called 99% Invisible that produced an episode all about pinball: “For Amusement Only.”

 Searching the historic record of archival audio at Pop Up Archive

If you’re a history buff with an interest in mummified remains of ancient man, you might know “Ice Man.” One Google searcher was curious about Europe’s oldest known natural human mummy and one of his supposed mummy relatives. In fact, a thorough account is provided in an Illinois Public Media conversation transcribed at Pop Up Archive about The Seven Daughters of Eve: The Science that Reveals Our Genetic Ancestry.

This Google search led to “The Song Banned by NASA,” Pop Up Archive’s own podcast that features archival audio. Here, producer Eliza Smith tells the story of a raucous song from Stardust Cowboy, also known as “The Ledge,” that was used as an ill-fated wakeup call on one NASA mission. “The Ledge” was never mentioned in the show’s title or description, but Pop Up Archive’s podcast beat out NASA in search result rankings because “The Ledge” is indexed in the episode’s transcript.

Google search results for “npr zappa’s dummy” include several links to this episode from Everything Sounds that tells the eccentric tale of the creation of a lifesize dummy modeled after musician Frank Zappa — but only Pop Up Archive’s timestamped transcript result provides clickable mentions of the sordid details of the lifesize Zappa dummy.

Ever stumbled across a Pop Up Archive or transcript in your search results? Email us! We’d love to hear firsthand about when speech shows up in your searches.