Voice Over Education Blog

December 2015

A checklist for DIY SEO’ing your voice-over website. Part 3 of 3.

NOTE: This is the third in a 3-part article. Click to read Part 1 and Part 2.

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 We also cautioned about heeding some of the SEO advice you’ll find online, as some of it is outdated and doesn’t reflect some of the major search engines’ current practices.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Now let’s take a look at specific steps you can take to optimize your site, things that won’t quickly be outdated.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!

Website SEO

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:

What goes into Search Engine Optimizing a VO website? Part 2 of 3.

NOTE: This is the second in a 3-part article. Click here to read Part 1, and Part 3.

In our last post, we introduced the subject of Search Engine Optimization (SEO) for voice talent websites. Now that we’ve explained generally what “organic SEO,” is, why it’s important, why not to obsess over it, and things to watch out for, let’s look at specific concerns.

What are the elements of organic SEO?

Organic SEO rests on three legs:

  • The content of your own website. How it’s organized, what it’s about (including the presence of keywords), and some of the content-laden HTML codes within its source code.
  • Links to your site from other sites of value. Just having a fair number of legitimate inbound connections is probably of value to you – it suggests that other people think your site is important. But the focus of those other sites is also relevant.
  • Social media. For example, you might regularly participate in forum discussions (if the forum is publicly accessible, a search engine most likely catalogs it). Or you might have a blog. Or you might have a professional Facebook page. Or you tweet, etc. Whatever works for you. If it relates to your voice-over services, it reflects on your site. And just as important, it makes you directly visible to prospective clients.

You can pursue these tasks in parallel, or you can do one, then start on the other. We suggest you first focus on your website, making sure it’s every bit as professional-looking and easy to use as it should be. If it’s not yet ready for prime time, attracting people to it via links and social media could be counterproductive.

How to SEO your VO website, PDQ. Part 1 of 3.

NOTE: This is the first post in a 3-part article. Click here to read Part 2 and Part 3

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. ...

Why optimize?

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.

Your “signature voice,” and other TalkTime! pointers

Do you listen to Edge Studio’s weekly TalkTime! call-in each Sunday? It’s an open phone forum, each week dealing with a different voice-over topic. Recently the topic was the Commercials genre, and participants discussed quite a bit.

You can listen to the entire hour discussion at EdgeStudio.com, but in particular we’d like to expound a bit on some of the points that were made about prospecting for clients, how to stand out from the crowd. As so often is the case during TalkTime!, these pointers apply to many voice-over genres, not just the topic of the evening.

Clients like to hire people they enjoy working with. The not-so-fine line between being anonymous and becoming a pest is found by simply being friendly and making the first move. Then you are not just another line in the Inbox. Rather than send a generic cold-call email or letter, learn something about your prospect first. What audio product or ad campaign of theirs do you particularly like, and why? It might be that you can make a succinct, valid case as to why you would be a good match for that sort of recording. Or you might offer a brief compliment – short and sweet – from your perspective. But it’s also flattering simply that you took the time to learn about them – because most people don’t. As TalkTime! moderator (and Edge Studio Managing Director) Graeme Spicer noted, “There’s a pretty close correlation between the work you put into it and the amount of jobs that are going to come from it.”

Acting builds character. And voice versa.

In a recent article in The Atlantic magazine, [http://www.theatlantic.com/magazine/archive/2015/12/the-greatest-actor-alive/413167/] about Max von Sydow’s long history of building rich, stand-out characters, the author muses, “How does von Sydow know so much?” and answers, “It’s just the sort of imagination that some actors, a very few, are blessed with.“

Actually there’s also another answer. Stephen Sondheim, when asked "How do you know so much?" replied, "I listen."

Do you keep your eyes and ears open? There are characters all around you. We’ve mentioned this before, but here are yet more examples, and ways to absorb and use what you will.

Another observation from that article about von Sydow:

What von Sydow brings to The Exorcist is more than the skimpily written part demands, maybe more than it deserves, but this is what he does in even the smallest, poorest roles. Like a novelist, he finds the human details that vivify the character.

Details. That’s the key. And, as with doing accents in audiobooks and many other VO situations, sometimes all you need is one connotative detail at a time. That one distinctive (and not necessarily unusual) characteristic may make all the difference in bringing the character to life. Integrated into your performance, it blossoms to transform your own personality.

Not everybody sees these things. It takes training, remembering, and even a certain outlook on life.

Consider the experience described by Richard Gere during the filming of his recent movie “Time Out of Mind,” in which he plays a homeless person. It was shot on the streets with hidden cameras, so that passers-by would not see a film shoot in progress. Nobody recognized him ... almost.

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