How to SEO your VO website, PDQ. Part 1 of 3.
Dec 14 2015
If your promotional materials — email, letter, business card, attachment demo, etc. don’t spur a prospective client to phone or email you right off, they should at least inspire a visit your website.
But how do you entice total strangers to visit your site? Answer: help search engines to learn about it, by helping them understand what it’s about, and legitimately demonstrating that you’re an authority in your particular subject. That’s called Search Engine Optimization (SEO). It helps your site get a higher ranking when someone searches for a specialty of yours. It’s also a potentially complex, detail-laden project that can drive you bonkers. Here’s how to approach SEO in a sane, practical way. …
Most search engine users rarely look beyond the first or second page of search results. Therefore, every site owner would like their site to appear in the top 10 hits, for every possible search involving their subject. Obviously not everyone can appear on the first page, let alone show up for every possible combination of search words. The odds are nil that your humble little website will show up anywhere near the top for the simple term “voice over.”
To complicate things further, your own tests might be unreliable. The search engine might know (from a variety of ways) that it’s you who’s searching for your site, and, tailor its results to you. It’s nice that they try to show you what you’re looking for. It’s lousy for researching your site’s search results. There are some ways to minimize that effect, but maybe the easiest is to double-check from a friend’s computer or a public location.
In optimizing your site, you decide what specific search topics, or “questions,” your site is best able to answer, and set things up so that search engines will see that your pages answer them. If those answers don’t exist at your site, then you’ll create them, using certain SEO principles.
The process begins with identifying words and phrases (“keywords”) that make a good match between what people search for and what your site provides – or what you intend it to provide. As with your marketing in general, it helps to have a niche. That way, you’re not competing for the same users and words as your competitors. The point isn’t to draw in everyone. It’s to focus your site’s pages and draw in visitors who share that focus – qualified prospects.
If you read up on this specialty, you’ll encounter the term “long-tail keyword.” That’s just SEOspeak for a multi-word keyword, aka, a key phrase (or , if you prefer, “keyphrase” or “keyword phrase”).
Beginning to see why we say don’t obsess over this stuff?
But as we also said, keywords are just the beginning.
Fully optimizing your site involves more than one type of activity. It’s a coordination of efforts. In addition to efforts on your site, you should involve other sites, by encouraging inbound links and developing a meaningful presence in social media.
A robust SEO project on a large site can become very sophisticated, and extensive Search Engine Optimization has long been the province of specialists. These experts continually keep tabs on the many subtle details of search engines’ methods (which are continually fine-tuned by the search engine programmers). And for these experts’ clients, they continually test, tweak, and build on their optimization efforts. A serious SEO service provider can cost at least $750 a month, often much more. To make the job all the more “interesting,” search engines don’t publish fine points of their methods, because that would enable site owners to game the system. So, much of SEO is based on general principles, observation, supposition, experience, rumor, common sense, and an occasional disclosure or leak.
But it’s also possible do SEO bit by bit, stage by stage, biting off only as much as you can comfortably chew. At the cost of only your time.
Our first bit of advice, therefore, is this: Search Engine Optimization is a factor to be aware of, and in building your site or adding pages, you should understand its general principles. But don’t obsess over it. Have an SEO plan and pursue it over time, but continue to devote the bulk of your time to voice-over recording, your other promotional efforts, and possibly adding pages to your site.
Before you begin learning about SEO:
A “search engine” is a search site that fundamentally functions robotically, using software (aka a “spider,” which is a sort of automated browser of their own design) to visit sites on the Internet. It gathers data which the search engine company then analyzes, catalogs, evaluates, and displays as search results. There might be human reviewers involved in this process, but the overall process is robotic, and the user interface is search-based.
The Worldwide Web also has all sorts of “directories,” which may be searchable by users, and may be automatically generated, but are basically moderated by humans, and the full classified directory can be browed as a hierarchical structure. Directories get their data from submissions by site owners and/or exploration by editors. Yahoo began as a directory, then became both a directory and a search engine, and now functions as just the latter.
We’re talking about SEO in the “organic” sense. That is, the optimization is founded in the content and organization of your pages, and other “natural” activities such as relationships with other relevant sites and social media. This includes, in addition to the content visible on your pages, tweaking a few basic HTML codes, your choices of file names, and such, but nothing super-technical, and definitely nothing “tricky.” Search engines don’t like to be hoodwinked, and if shady (“black hat”) technical tricks are found out, a site can be penalized or even banned. (Don’t worry … if you’re reading this article, you’re probably not able to do those things anyway. If someone offers to do them for you, walk away.)
There are other forms of sophisticated technical optimization, honorable “white hat” practices that often involve programming at the server level. Examples would be delivering a different site format to mobile users (based on their browser type), or different content to users in different countries, or compressing your code before transmission, or setting up redirects to newer, replacement pages.
Also note that organic SEO does not involve paid advertising or listings (that’s Search Engine Marketing, or SEM). Organic SEO requires only your knowledge and your time and is pretty much self-sustaining – once you’ve done it, you can sit back and let it work, analyzing your results and tweaking your SEO now and then.
Where you’ll probably need to spend a bit more time is on the “outside” factors – cultivating inbound links and keeping yourself visible in social media. Those are ongoing activities.
What’s an inbound link? It’s any link to your site from another domain. Search engines notice the number, quality and nature of other sites linking to you. For example, if your client is a noteworthy company (e.g., a Fortune 1000 or a specialty provider), and their site includes link to “our spokesperson” or “our narrator,” that’s valuable. Ideally their text link will include an important keyword of yours (rather than just your name or domain name). That, along with the nature of the linking site, helps the search engine know what your site is about.
Hire someone, or do it yourself?
Search Engine Optimization is not a precise science. Even the best, most reputable SEO firms (and there are many of them) can’t guarantee certain results; they can only improve the odds (albeit sometimes greatly) of your site or a page of your site winding up on the first page of someone’s search results for certain searches. This is because:
- search site algorithms (the formulas search engines use) are secret
- the competitive environment is always changing
- search results depend on what a user searched for in the first place
There are also shady SEO providers. If someone cold-calls and guarantees you a top-ten position in search engine results, or pretends to represent Google for SEO purposes, you should probably hang up the phone. A reputable professional knows it’s not so simple as that. First, what search site are they talking about? Maybe it’s one of the top three (Google, MSN and Yahoo, Google being by far the most popular), maybe not. What word or phrase do they claim will achieve such results? (“Voice over” is unlikely to succeed, and although an obscure phrase like, oh, “Voice over on odd-numbered Tuesdays” – in quotes — might have success, it’s unlikely to be of value.) In many cases, they have nothing in mind, they just want to take your money.
And if they’re promising you lots of inbound links with no work at all, those links are probably garbage websites (“link farms”), and your site would actually be penalized by being associated with them.
A reputable SEO firm will give you value for your money, maybe even some sort of assurance of carefully targeted results or satisfaction. But as we said, comprehensive organic SEO is labor intensive and pricey, and, over time, you can do most of the same things yourself, without driving yourself to the poor house or to distraction.
In fact, depending on features offered by your web hosting service, site building service or Content Management System, some aspects of SEO might be done for you automatically. Check with your provider to see what these are, and what tools, if any, are included in your plan.
In Parts Two and Three, we’ll go a bit deeper into basics, followed by a checklist of things to do, with links to various other guides and authorities.
Next week: What goes into Search Engine Optimizing a VO website?