Voice over & Vocal Resources
Search Engine Optimization Tips for Voice Actors, by Jodi Krangle
Note: This is a reworking of a previous article I wrote back in 2003 specifically for the independent musicians and songwriters that dropped by my songwriting resource, The Muse's Muse. Here's a completely revamped version specifically for voice actors that I hope will help you all out.
Before I began doing voice overs full time, I was in the Internet Marketing business. I started that back in 1995 when the web was a MUCH smaller place. But there are some concepts that really haven't changed much, even from back then - and a lot of them have to do with making your website as accessible to the search engines as possible. You'd be really surprised how many folks miss out on this particularly important concept.
Here's the thing: unless you're a household name, no one's going to be searching for your unique voice over services by your name alone. They'll use keywords. Those keywords might be things like, "professional voice over" or "male voice actor" or "female voice actor" - or any host of other ones that might apply. You want to make sure that you choose keyword phrases that are two or three words so that you're specific enough not to be competing with millions for the same keyword, but with enough people searching for them to drive traffic to your site. Choosing the proper keywords to market yourself over the Internet - and where to place those keywords (hint: not just in your keyword meta tag!!) - is an article in and of itself though, so I'll merely say that building a website so full of doodads and whatsits that the search engines can't "see" half of it, is a *bad idea*.
There are ways to make your site appealing to the organic results of the search engines (well ... I say "search engines" - but really it's just Google since it has the lion's share of the market right now). None of them cost you anything but your time.
This listing of commonly made mistakes (or DON'Ts) is meant to help you understand what to avoid when you're creating your own professional demonstration of your voice acting skills on the web. It might also help you decide what could use some changing on your current site, if you've already created one.
Here are the top five DON'Ts I've come across:
1) DON'T have a "splash" or "entry" page:
Some voice actors use this opportunity to put a neat flash intro, graphic, or a "click here for the flash version or html version" option along with no other text.
There are two reasons why this isn't a good idea:
When it comes to your visitors - who are more than likely to be potential clients - they want the meat of the site as soon as possible. The web is all about instant gratification and you're keeping them from getting to the content of your site - and your demos - as soon as they would like. This could annoy them enough, especially after several times of visiting your site, that they may either leave or stop visiting. Flash intros are especially good for driving off repeat visitors, yes, even if you have a "skip intro" link. That nifty flash intro is pretty cool the first time you see it, but by the sixth, your visitor will be ready to throw their computer monitor across the room.
For the search engines' part, you've taken the prime real estate of your website - the index page - the page that people land on when they type in your domain or click your link from a search in Google (and the most important page as far as the search engines are concerned) - and you've made it utterly useless for cataloging purposes. Most search engines can't read the content of Flash - and if they can, it's still difficult to do. If you make it difficult for them, your site won't be included in their databases as fast or as well (ie: with as many pages included) as you might hope.
Splash pages consisting entirely of Flash or graphics, are a number one reason that a voice actor's website remains buried in obscurity (at least, as far as the organic results in the search engines are concerned).
2) DON'T have very little text within the site itself, or have a site that's entirely Flash
As explained in the previous point, search engines have a hard time with Flash. If your entire site is in Flash, imagine how difficult it will be for the search engines to see what your site is all about! Likewise, if your site only has a lot of graphics and very little actual text, not only will the search engines have very little to latch on to (since they only see text) but your visitors will find it frustrating too. Selling to a potential client is as much about personality as it is about skill. Really. If you don't *talk* to your client, how will they feel comfortable enough to give you a phone call or write an email to you? Try to balance your graphics to text quotient as much as you can.
Try to put straight text links to the important pages of your site at the bottom or somewhere else that works with your site's design. This makes things easier for your visitors to find their way around as there are then multiple ways for them to get to one place, and it also helps the search engines find their way around as straight text links are far easier for them to follow rather than having to read through all the code of a graphical link.
3) DON'T have audio start to play when someone lands on your site
BAD idea. Ok. It's true that if we're talking about voice over clients here, they *want* to hear your audio. But they want to hear it *eventually*. On *their* terms - not yours. This is about servicing your clients, not bombarding them. ;) You also never know where they are when they're visiting your site. If they do audio or video production part time and are surfing to your site during business hours from their day job, you could actually get them in trouble without meaning to. It's all about considering your potential audience. Just as a courtesy to your visitors, allow them the opportunity to listen to your audio if they *want* to, not because they have to.
4) DON'T forget to put title and description meta tags on pages!
This is a biggie. Have you ever dropped by a voice actor's website and seen at the top where the title would display in your browser, "Home Page" or "Unknown"? That's what happens when a designer neglects to put a title meta tag on their website's pages. It doesn't happen often these days, honestly - but it still happens.
The title is important for both your visitors and the search engines. Your visitors want to know at a quick glance, what your site is about - what your brand of voice overs is. The search engines want to know how to categorize your site once it's included in their database. When someone is searching within a search engine, it's unlikely that a page with the title of "Home Page" will come up in a prominent position (though it does happen, largely due to other people linking to the page, and the page being particularly old. Age gives a site a certain seniority in the search engines. Still, it's very rare.). The description meta tag is what's displayed beneath that title in the search engine when your site comes up for a search. If that description isn't helpful, your potential clients will go somewhere else.
Here are a couple of tips to keep in mind when composing a Title and Description meta tag:
Mention what your "signature" voice sounds like. Your brand, if you will. This kind of thing might be too long to list in your title (you might be able to fit in a word or two - your title really shouldn't be longer than 8 or so words if you can manage it), but it's definitely not too long to list in your description meta tag. Tell your potential clients straight out, what they can expect to hear when they visit and listen to your demos.
Put the most important words - the keywords that will attract your visitors - first in your title and description meta tags. Chances are, this won't be your name, though it's handy to have your name listed there (especially in the title. It's not really needed in the description).
5) DON'T neglect to buy your own domain name!
This is VERY important and it's a common mistake I see amongst voice artists just starting out. If you're serious about this voice acting stuff (heck - if you're serious about ANYthing you're putting on a website!), please PLEASE buy your own domain name. It's very inexpensive to do these days - maybe $10.00 US per year (I use Dotster, myself - ) - not a huge expense. But it can really pay off. This also means you'll need to get some web hosting. Michael Minetree of Minewurx Studio offers hosting and design specifically for voice actors. You can find out more information about that here: . His pricing is very reasonable. But there are other sources for this as well, if you'd rather just find it on your own. Do a search for "web hosting" in Google and tons of options will pop up. Make sure you get a hosting package that allows for streaming audio and gives you enough room for said audio to be hosted. These days, that's pretty easy to do, but it's something to make sure of, nonetheless.
Ultimately, your website is your professional resume. If your site has a huge free web service url, or your emails come from email@example.com or firstname.lastname@example.org etc., first of all, no one is going to know how to get to your website quickly because they'll never remember your domain name, and secondly, it just doesn't look very professional. It's good to look professional - especially if you actually want to work. ;) Here's a third reason though: These free email services (gmail is slightly better, but still) are *notorious* for putting legitimate email into the spam folder. You might inadvertently miss an email from a potential client - and for my money, that's enough reason to avoid those email services right there!
Try to get a domain that's your name - or at least buy the domain name of your name and have it point to your voice over website's domain. So for instance, if I was to purchase a domain name specifically to tell people about my voice over services, I would get a domain name like http://www.jodikrangle.com (and I've actually done that. It points to my voice over website at http://www.voiceoversandvocals.com - just in case). This serves two purposes. First of all, if you have a fairly unique name, it means that your domain will probably be available. These days, when it's hard to find any good domain names remaining, this is a good thing to keep in mind. Secondly, if someone remembers your name from a conversation or reads about it in an article or meets you at a networking event, etc., and just wants to find out more information about you, knowing your name is the only thing they would need to know to find your website.
There are many other things I could mention, but I thought it would be best to focus on the top five. Keep these tips in mind and you'll be well on your way to creating a website that both your potential clients and the search engines will enjoy:
- Avoid using a Flash intro or graphical "splash" page before your visitors can enter your site
- Avoid using only Flash or graphics within your site
- Don't have audio start to play when someone lands on your site
- Remember to add meta tags! Having a title and description meta tag is very important.
- Try and purchase your own domain name. It just looks more professional. This is your voice acting resume. Impress your potential clients!
Dotster - I purchase all my domains from this one location as you can keep track of all the domains you have in one easy-to-use interface. They have tools that can help you choose your domain name, and will tell you whether or not a particular domain name is still available or not. It costs about $10 US per year to purchase your own domain name.
Artist Web Hosting - Michael Minetree's latest offering for web hosting is as low as $4.95 per month - with unlimited amounts of space and domains - and a familiarity with the unique needs of voice actors (audio and video friendly!). They offer audio and video encoding for web sites and can even design a website for you, if you'd like them to. Well worth looking into.
WebHostingTalk Forums - If you're interested in doing your own research to find the best hosting available to you, check out this forum. There's a lot of straight talk about the best and the worst in the business. It should give you a good idea of what to look for - and what not to look for - in a web host. And of course, if you're confused, feel free to ask questions! That's what this place is all about.
HostIndex.com & TopHosts.com - Once you've gotten some opinions on the subject, or if you just want to go to one place where there are a whole bunch of links to different web hosting companies, these are good places to check out. There are articles about web hosting here too, so if you're interested in finding out more about the industry - what to expect from your host and what to watch out for, this is a good place to go.
Wordtracker - Looking for a way to find the primo keyword phrases that will get your site noticed? Drop by this site and give their free trial a whirl. That should be more than enough to get you several keyword phrases that will work for your promotions. There are also some really interesting articles on this website that will help you understand the significance of keywords and give you hints about how to use them. There are some great search engine optimization articles too!
Patrick Gavin's Search Engine Optimization Blog - Want to know more about optimizing your website for the search engines? This is a fantastic blog full of really interesting information. Admittedly, some of it is pretty technical. But a lot of it is just straight talking, common sense - and all of it is well worth the time it takes to read through. Though it doesn't deal specifically with voice acting or artist websites, it's still very usable for that sector (with slight modifications).
If you have questions about this article or your specific website, feel free to email me and let me know!