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Does your VO website’s SEO meet 2017’s best practices?

Edge Studio

In late 2015, we wrote extensively on “How to SEO your VO website, PDQ.” We still recommend that article, but, as our friends at HubSpot remind us, a lot on the Search Engine Optimization landscape has changed in even the short time since. One thing that hasn’t changed is our advice that you should market yourself using the full range of marketing materials and practices, and not obsess over where you appear in search engines or artificially building out your website. But here is where to focus to give your search presence its best shot these days.

The impetus for this advice comes from the publication of yet another piece on SEO, this one from HubSpot. It’s a free download, called “18 SEO Myths You Should Leave Behind in 2017.” Since it’s available to anyone (if you fill in their form), and much of our previous SEO series still applies, we’ll just add our two cents to update the VO perspective.

After all, the site of a typical SEO talent is not the same as other websites, and neither is VO talent’s situation.

Let’s remind ourselves of those issues first.

Your website services multiple functions, of which is to “position” you (what part of the VO marketplace do you serve?) and to reinforce your brand “personality” (are you fun, ominous sounding yet fun to work with, science-oriented, whatever), but most of all, your website is to present your demo(s). As such, even a simple one-page (not even a mobile-friendly scrollable page) will suffice, with contact info, of course. More important than length and content is that your first be impression be aces and same for your demo.

Now let’s look at some of those 18 SEO myths and see what’s changed in the past year or two.

Link-building is still important if the sites linking to you are quality ones. But quality content is more important than ever. What’s “quality”? Anything that is useful to your visitor, assuming it’s something they can’t get everywhere else. Don’t include content gratuitously, but do include anything that informs them about you and your services, or is otherwise helpful. One important caveat: Focus your primary message. If you add stuff, make it easy to take it or leave it. Don’t make your visitor wade through peripheral stuff in order to see and hear your essentials.

After all, you (we hope) keep your audition slates clean, confident and concise, out of respect for the busy casting professional’s valuable time. Don’t waste their time on your website, either. Make it easy to grasp and gather all the essential information at a glance, with little or no clicking required.

(If you’re not much of a writer, or find it hard to write about yourself, enlist the aid of a friend or associate, or even consider hiring a professional copywriter to polish your draft and give you feedback. Same for the graphics. If you wind up with a confusing or unimpressive visual hodgepodge, or an image that overwhelms the info, consider getting help from a web-savvy graphic artist.)

Consider getting a secure URL. That is, install an SSL certificate so that your URL will say “https://…” rather than the traditional “http://…” (no “S”). It may seem silly. After all, you’re not a bank, and your site might not even take transactions. Further, if you do facilitate credit card transactions (for example, by installing a link to PayPal), the card processor needs the SSL certificate, not you. But, sensible or not, Google has begun favoring sites that have HTTPS encryption. The main reason is that they are harder to hack, and since a link to your site is very much a sort of recommendation by Google, they’d like to have that measure of confidence.

The process of installing an SSL certificate (“cert” for short) varies from host to host. (We’re assuming you’re not running your own dedicated server. If you are, you know more about this than some of us.) So ask your hosting service for guidance. But note that you can buy an SSL certificate anywhere; you’re not restricted to getting it from your hosting service or whomever they might recommend. (Your hosting service might even make it possible to “share” their SSL certificate, but if so, be sure you can still use your domain name.) There are many types of SSL certificate, providing various levels of authentication to users, and a wide range of prices to match. All you need, most likely, is the simplest, cheapest SSL certificate you can find. It won’t require you to authenticate your address and management, etc. via fax or whatever, it will just verify that you own the website you are securing. GoDaddy is one popular source, selling a basic certificate for around $60 a year. Shop around. You might find better, or easier, or might not.

Is an SSL URL essential? No. But it likely to become more common, yet another sign of a professionally-run site, and it may help avoid your site provoking warning messages in some browsers.

In 2015, we discussed keywords at length. They’re still important, but not it’s more important than ever that you don’t appear to be “keyword stuffing.” Write your text for human visitor, for your best prospects, and you’ll be fine. Do include keywords in images’ “alt” parameters and other “behind the scenes” code, but you no longer have to be so a**l about the process. Google’s algorithm has become smart enough to know a word’s conjugations and variations, even synonyms. (For example, we searched for keywords that included the word “male” and Google showed a result based on the word “guy.”) So you can use whatever form of the word makes sense in the sentence. And although Header () tags are still important, HubSpot’s guide reports that Google views them as formatting tags, no longer as necessarily the subject of the page. Include keywords in your header tag(s) if you can, but the keyword no longer needs to be the first word in it.

Write your description tag to stimulate clickthrough. Being listed highly in Search Engine Results Pages (SERPs) is great. But you still need visitors to click through and visit you. Usually, Google will show your meta-tag “description” in your listing. Write it well, and check the result later, to be sure it’s not too long.

In our previous article, we said that most search engine users don’t click past the first couple of pages. That, too, has changed somewhat in many subjects. Google now assumes that the user is looking for information, not individuals, so the first few pages of results are likely to be heavy with aggregated services (e.g., listings of talent) or articles about voice-over. What’s more, the words “voice over” can produce confusing results. They’ve long resulted in hits on “Voice Over Internet Protocol” (irrelevant unless that’s what you wanted). Now that the algorithm seems to have understood that confusion and filtered accordingly, Apple introduces a software feature called “voice-over.”

As a result, people are more likely to dig a little deeper if they’re looking for an individual VO talent. HubSpot’s document notes an interesting oddity – while many search engine users look most closely at the top few results on the first page of results, they will click to the next pages, and look most closely at the top results on those pages, too! So even if your relegated to the third page (results 21-30 or so), it might be better to come in at 22 than at 18! Obviously there’s no way you can control that, so that’s all the more reason to make your page Title tag and Meta tag Description clear and persuasive.

HubSpot also points out the increasing focus on Local SEO. If you’re located in a major market or specialize in serving a particular geographic region (e.g., local accent), consider its advice to obtain a Google business page with a local focus. These days, you can serve clients virtually anywhere from anywhere, but many markets remain local.

Is your site mobile friendly? This is another increasingly important question. Among things that make a site mobile-friendly are a) large enough or flexible type, and b) enough space around links (especially text links) so that they can be tapped with a finger on a small screen. In the past, webmasters used special programming to determine what kind of browser a user has and served up whatever version of the site is most compatible with the user’s platform. Now, though, it’s preferable for the website to adapt automatically, automatically adjusting itself to suit the screen. If you’ve recently developed your site or have used a mobile-friendly template, your site probably may already do this.

Not sure? Here’s Google tool for checking. Remember to test your interior pages, too:

And, now that we’ve ended on yet another Google note remember that it’s not the only search engine around. Bing and Yahoo still have a significant share of search engine users, and there are many other legitimate search engines and directories.

But they’re all headed in more or less the same direction. You should head that way, too.

Meanwhile, as we said, also pursue your other marketing opportunities. Optimize as you might, no matter how tightly you define the niche you occupy, not everyone can occupy the top spot in the SERPs. By reaching prospects directly by other means, you can send them directly to your site, bypassing all those other folks.

How to SEO your VO website, PDQ.……

Do you have a comment or suggestion? Please send to [email protected].