A checklist for DIY SEO’ing your voice-over website. Part 3 of 3.
Dec 14 2015
In previous posts, we talked about how (and why) to make your website more interesting to search engines, in order to turn up higher in Search Engine Results Pages (SERPs). We also cautioned about heeding some of the SEO advice you’ll find online, as some of it is outdated and doesn’t reflect some of the major search engines’ current practices. And we noted several sites that do have good advice worth following.
Now let’s take a look at specific steps you can take to optimize your site, things that won’t quickly be outdated.
NOTE: Remember that optimizing your own site is only one of the three important SEO components. The other two are cultivating inbound links, and social-media presence. See Parts One and Two regarding those!
Start with the basics. Have a plan to expand your site, but don’t begin by tasking yourself with a big project. Priority #1 is for you to have a site that will speak quickly and clearly to your prospective clients about what you do, what benefits you offer, and easy links to download or play your demo. This can be accomplished with merely a home page, a bio page, a link to your acting and/or VO resume in PDF format, and a contact page.
NOTE: SEO is important to all search engines, not just Google, Bing and Yahoo. But, since Google holds 2/3 of the U.S. market, and a comparable share worldwide (including China’s Baidu and Russia’s Yandex search engines), we’ll focus on Google’s practices here. The principles are generally the same for other major search sites.
If you haven’t yet built your site:
Consult your prospective hosting or site-building service(s) about SEO considerations.
It might affect your choice of provider. Moving your site to another provider later is not always easy, especially if the original provider’s code, the images they’ve used and/or other aspects of their service cannot be practically and legally transferred.
Consider including your most important keyword in your domain name (which, incidentally, you – not your hosting service – should own). The domain name has strong SEO value. But it also has strong human value, so simplicity, memorability and personal identity are most important. You’ll have to be the judge of what is best for your site. Many keyword-based names are already taken, but you might consider a combination of words, or incorporating your name, such as “JoeBlowVoiceover.com” (our apologies if someone has acquired that since we wrote this). And if your name actually is as remarkable as “Joe Blow” and is predictably spelled, maybe simplest is the way to go.
Above all, optimize your site for human beings.
The most perfectly SEO’d content length and keyword-to-text ratio will be counterproductive it if annoys, bores or confuses your visitors by making you look like a babbling idiot, because you mindlessly repeat yourself and never use prepositions. Write your site to say what you feel needs saying, and speak to your prospective visitors’ needs. If you’ve done it well and provided content of genuine interest, odds are you use a lot of the right keywords in a very natural proportion, without consciously trying.
Avoid using Flash on your site, at least not for critical functions. Although search engines are better able these days to spider Flash-based content, some mobile platforms (e.g., iPhones) do not support it. In any case, it’s outmoded software technology, and is complicated to maintain.
How many pages to have on your site? Traditionally, Google has liked a robust site, of 20-30 fairly meaty pages. But the traditional advice to solo proprietors has been to start with the most basic pages, envision a path for growth (a site “architecture”) and add pages over time. Lately, Google has divulged that its druthers depend on what sort of site it is. A site about nuclear physics will probably benefit by being fairly large, while a site that just sells 1/4” chrome-plated crimble switches might consist of whatever pages are needed to present the products and take orders.
The key thing is, does the site answer the question that the search engine’s users pose, as indicated by the keywords they search for? Does the site fully resolve the search query?
Is “duplicate content” a no-no? No. You might encounter advice to avoid duplicate content. This is because some site owners try to hoodwink search engines by stealing content from another site, or by putting it on multiple pages to make the site look more robust than it is. Those are no-no’s. But there can be valid reasons for having the same content on two or more pages. For example, different menu paths for different audiences, or landing pages from different promotions. Try to avoid the practice, but Google now says it’s not such an issue — Google doesn’t penalize for legitimately duplicated content, and will catalog only one of the duplicated pages. By having a proper sitemap (see below), you can indicate which of those pages to list.
What’s on your pages:
If you have only a few website pages, the “site” part of your project will be relatively simple.
Each page should have a focus. Google likes pages that answer its users’ specific questions (presumed from what they search for), and it actually has human reviewers who determine whether or not the page delivers what the user thought they were clicking on. By focusing your pages, and focusing your site, you’ll sacrifice a lot of irrelevant visitors, but the more qualified your traffic will be. Those are the visitors you want. At the page level, the better each page focuses on a particular specialty of yours (and assuming you’ve written a relevant, enticing Description meta tag for that page), the more likely the visitor will follow through and contact you, instead of immediately returning to Google to click on another result. (Google notices how often that happens, too!)
Put some copy on each page, even your Contact Me page.
Don’t blither, but do tell the user what’s on the page and how it will benefit them. What will they receive by reading it, or by sending in the form? This will give your site more apparent heft, and by reminding users of the benefits you offer, and/or guiding them in the task at hand, you could get more conversions.
Include your most important (or most focused) key phrase in your first sentence, or at least use it early.
If the copy is long, include “crossheads” as or tags. In addition to relieving visual monotony and leading the reader’s eye, crossheads (often called “subheads” or “leaders”) make the page more easily scanned and understood by humans and robots alike.
Include a “breadcrumb” trail on each page. If your site is complex, or if you plan to grow it over time, this will help human visitors navigate, and gives legitimate nourishment to keyword-hungry search engine spiders. For example: Home > Narration Services > Wildlife Documentaries.
Keep it fresh. By occasionally adding fresh content to your site, it will help Google see your site as active and current.
What keywords to choose?
In determining your keywords, you can go about it highly technically, but without expertise in using and interpreting the various research tools, and ongoing analysis of your results, you might making the wrong decisions. At the end of this article, we’ve included some links if you like to explore, but first, simply use your common sense.
Choose the relevant words that come easily to mind. “Voice-over” and “voice actor” and other variations are obvious choices. But since each page should have a focus, a page’s principal keyword should reflect its focus (e.g., “animal voices”).
Choose words that prospective clients will actually search for. Using an example from another industry: People within the hosiery trade will search for “legwear,” but consumers search for “tights” and “socks.”
Another example: Edge Studio’s editor, Randall Rensch, is a longtime marketing communications copywriter. 10 years ago, on his own site he wrote a page optimized for the phrase interactive copywriter. The very next week, that page was in the top 5 results for that phrase and has been there ever since, at Google, MSN and Yahoo. Unfortunately, relatively few people actually search for the phrase “interactive copywriter.”
Your results may vary. All you can do is take your best shots, see how it goes, and adjust.
Don’t mix editorial with retail sales. Include your authorship identify on your site in some way, as well as your contact information, and your resume or some other indication of you authority or expertise. Without these, Google will undervalue you. Also, if you sell things on your site, keep your sales pages separate from your editorial content if you can (and if it won’t k**l sales). Mixing monetization with editorial could detract from your editorial content’s value, as perceived by Google.
What’s in your pages’ Source Code:
If your pages are created by a service or Content Management System (e.g., your hosting service or Squarespace, etc.), you may not have the ability to directly edit the HTML code that your pages are created with. However, you are at least able to see it by using the “Source Code” mode of your browser. Your provider or hosting system might already be optimizing some or all of the following elements by incorporating data that you’ve supplied on their page-creation form. If not, you might want to ask their advice regarding these SEO concerns:
NOTE: A “tag” is programmerspeak for an HTML code. For most tags (e.g., the Title tag), there is an opening tag (), and a closing tag (). Some tags involve only one statement (e.g.,
causes a line break). A “meta” tag is a special kind of single-statement tag that contains information specifically for search engines and browsers.
Title tag: The information contained in the Title tag appears as the title of your listing in a search engine result, and at the top of the user’s browser, and as the default name of your page when bookmarked. Search engines look at it to see what keywords you think are relevant. A title is typically no more than 50 characters long, otherwise it might be truncated in the display. However, the search engine itself will consider the entire title when evaluating the relevance of your site, and in other situations more or less than the optimal number of characters might be shown. Sometimes a web page calls for a long title. Don’t be shy about using one.
Description meta tag: If your page doesn’t have a meta Description, Google displays phrases from your page that contain words the user searched for. If you DO have a meta Description, Google will generally display that instead. Displaying a description of your choice increases your ability to convert your listing into clicks. Describe each page in a way that the Description is paid off when the user clicks through to it. (No bait-and-switch!) Each Description should be about 155 characters, otherwise Google might truncate it in the display.
(Incidentally, in specifying length in characters, we’re simplifying the advice. Google actually measures a listing’s line length by counting pixels (actual width), so if your title or description has a lot of i’s and j’s, it will accommodate more characters than one with a lot of m’s and capital letters.)
Keywords meta tag:
This meta tag isn’t very important these days – it’s too easily misrepresented by the siteowner. But it still serves a function: include the few keywords/keyphrases that you deem most relevant, and Google will at least know you value them if Google finds them on your page.
Author meta tag: You’re selling you. You’re the authority. Make sure your identity is clear to the spiders.
Image tags’ alt values: Each image on a web page is specified by various parameters. One of these is the “alt” parameter. Originally (and still) meant as a way for users of text-only browsers or the visually impaired to receive a description of the image, it might appear when the user hovers over the image. Thus the page owner could use it to deliver all sorts of fun or unrelated messages. In most browsers it’s not so visible these days, but is still considered very important by search engines. Except for images that have no content, each should have such a description, one that is accurate and includes a relevant keyword.
Page Headline (H1 tag): Google looks at the H1 tag in particular, to help determine what your page is about. So there should be only one H1 tag per page. (Other headlines can be H2, H3, etc.) Some website generators display the page’s Title tag as the H1 headline, or vice versa. If yours limits you to that, so be it – craft a title that serves both purposes. But if you’re able to specify them separately, you’ll sometimes want a H1 tag that’s a little longer, or shorter, or might be more of a tease. (For example, “Voice-Over Narration about Zoo Animals” might be a good page Title, but you might make the H1 tag more verbose, to better express your personality (or for whatever reason). Sometimes, in fact, your H1 tag would be more like your description tag than like your Title. Just be sure to include a keyword.
Filename or directory title: This is the name of the actual file or location of your page, which the browser displays in the URL (Address) line. Include focused keywords in the name, omitting short, inconsequential words such as articles and prepositions. Do not include punctuation. Although search engines have gotten good at identifying words within a file name, help them out by separating words with hyphens. (This will also help avoid reader confusion, such as between “runningtogether” vs. “running-together” vs. “running-to-get-her.”)
For additional things to do, be sure to see our links to other guides on SEO at the end of this article.
Your site should have a robots.txt file. This is a simple text file that tells search engine spiders (robots) what pages should or should not be displayed. You can look at yours (as can anyone) simply by entering the file name in your URL. For example, here’s ours: http://www.edgestudio.com/robots.txt. A spider’s respect for robots.txt instructions is entirely voluntary – so it is NOT a way of hiding pages from public view. But its mere existence suggests that your site is professionally done, an SEO plus. If you use a site-building tool or a Content Management System (such as WordPress or Squarespace), a robots.txt file may have been generated automatically. Learn more about robot.txt files.
Have a web-page based Site Map for human visitors, and an XML-based Site Map for spiders. The second installment of Anne Ganguzza’s articles has links to more information.
Name downloadable files so that later they can be identified by the recipient. In other words, don’t just call the file “narrationdemo,” call it “narration-demo-Joe-Doaks.” You might want to include the year so that recipients can spot the latest version, but they can probably tell that from the file’s date.
Compress your content. In “dial-up days,” it was very important to compress all images and simplify page code, etc., so that pages load quickly. As high connection speeds became more common, some siteowners have neglected this. Now, with slower Wi-Fi speeds and multiple users sharing hot spots, efficiency is important again. In fact, now some hosting providers offer to compress the entire page before transmission, which will then be uncompressed by the user’s browser. Check with your hosting service regarding this possibility.
Include text links from one part of your site to another, preferably using one of your keywords as the link word. Search engines value these “anchor” ( < A ... > ) links as indicators of what the site is mainly about. As with all other aspects of SEO, don’t overdo it. Above all, make your site appealing to human visitors.
If you link to another site, open it in a new window or tab, so your site will remain open in their browser. (To do this, learn about the “target” parameter of the < A > tag.) By linking to related authorities, you perform a service to your visitors and show search engines that your site is somehow related subject-wise. But, in the eyes of a search engine, you also add to the other sites’ SEO quotient, possibly at the expense of yours. (This is amusingly called “link juice.”) So do not link gratuitously.
If you link to a PDF file at your site, open it, too, in a new window or tab. This is because in Adobe Reader people often close the PDF file as soon as they’ve read it. Out of habit, they may forget that your file is being shown in their browser. If it is, and they close it, and it wasn’t a separate tab, they’ve left your site entirely!
One more tip, because it’s very important, although probably not SEO-related: Put your demo link on your home page, or, if you also offer other services (e.g., stage acting), make your demo super-easy to find, and only one click away.
Remember – your first priority is not SEO, it’s to convert your visitors into “contacts,” getting them to phone or email you and ultimately become clients. Visitors from search engines are irrelevant unless your site speaks to their needs — and they speak to yours.
How to Increase your SEO (Search Engine Optimization as a VO Talent (4 parts)
Voice artist Anne Ganguzza is an Edge Studio coach. Her extensive 4-part article includes great detail, and links to various SEO authorities and tools. It was published in 2011, and some aspects of SEO have changed significantly since then.
How’s Your VO SEO? (that rhymes!)
Voice artist Tom Dheere is an Edge Studio coach. In this link post where Tom notes the value of blogging, and the importance of investing time to grow your business.
Not Your Grandfather’s SEO
Voice artist Dave Courvoisier is an Edge Studio coach. This is one of a number of posts where Dave talks about SEO and sitebuilding.
Google Keyword Planner
You’ll need to have or create a free Google Adwords account. Bear in mind that this tool is intended for people who advertise on Google based on what users search for. (That is, if a user searches for “cumquats,” an ad for someone who has bought that keyword appears in on the Search Engine Results Page (SERP). ) So, some of the data returned will be irrelevant to you (particularly the number of other sites bidding against you for that keyword). However, one feature that is useful is the monthly average number of searches for each particular keyword over the past year. Also, the “closely related phrases” list, which might suggest subjects to consider writing about.
http://searchengineland.com SearchEngineLand is a great primary source of up-to-date SEO guidance. Although much of it is directed at SEO professionals, there is also a lot of useful advice for the ordinary siteowner.
https://www.google.com/webmasters/tools/home Among the various tools available free is an analysis of your site’s mobile friendliness.
https://adwords.google.com/KeywordPlanner One of various tools you’ll find at Google, their Keyword Planner is designed for use by marketers who buy keyword-based advertising. But much of the data is more generally useful.
http://searchengineland.com/google-keyword-tool-is-officially-dead-replaced-by-keyword-planner-170745 A discussion of Keyword Planner and how to use it.
http://www.wordtracker.com/ Similar to Google Keyword Planner, and intended for serious SEO specialists and developers, Wordtracker charges a hefty fee. But a one-week demo is free. If we recall correctly, Wordtracker’s results include a metric on how many people have searched for a keyword, and how many sites currently are found for it. This is unlike Google’s metric, which conveys how many advertisers are bidding for it. There’s quite a difference between how many people are searching by using a certain a certain keyword vs. how many people are bidding for it.
http://www.wordtracker.com/blog/google-search-quality-guidelines-leaked-again Whether you use Wordtracker or not, this article is very helpful in keeping up to date on Google’s practices.
SEO Do’s – A Voice Over Quick Guide to Web Startup
Latest Google Search Quality Rater’s Guide: Mobile Rewrite
As this article says at its conclusion, also see its guide from the previous year, if you really want to get into this stuff.
Optimizing Your Webpage for Searching
Top 5 White Hat and Black Hat Search Optimisation Techniques
This page from 2010 is dated, possibly out of date in some ways, but is an interesting insight into good and bad SEO practices, if you’re curious about what NOT to do.
90 SEO Experts Talk White Hat Link Building, Outsourcing And Scaling
Various SEO experts are interviewed about link-building practices. We can’t vouch for the advisability of all them; heed these as you will. This tool is primarily for SEO professionals.
Step 16: Technical SEO Tips
Probably more than you want to know about SEO. This is just page 16! Take a quick look, heed what you need, then get back to your VOICE-OVER business! This particular page is undated, so take some of it with a grain of salt
Measuring SEO Success in 2016
5 Link Building Lies You’ll Hear in 2016
Just remember that the five
Edge Studio has a business relationship with Nectafy. Their core services might be a bit sophisticated for a meek little voice-talent website, but their blog is nevertheless a great source of ideas, insight and inspiration. For example, their post about SEO for Startups [ http://nectafy.com/seo-for-startups/ ] has some interesting suggestions, great examples of how SEO is no longer a matter of just planting a lot of keywords. The suggestions may require a lot of thought and effort on your part, so, you’ll have to decide: Would the thought and time be better focused on your broader marketing efforts (such as prospect research and your cover letter)? Perhaps, if you have not already fully attended to them. But regardless, their article will help jump-start your thought process.