What is SEO, what does it do and what’s the point of it?
SEO stands for Search Engine Optimisation. Search engines will send bots to crawl your website. They are looking for lots of different things to enable them to rank your site. SEO is about helping your website appear in results when people search for certain terms and phrases.
For example, if you’re based in the UK and you specialise in audiobook narration, you want your website to show high when people search for ‘British audiobook narrator’.
Search engines use ranking factors to score your website. The higher your score, the more likely your website will be seen. The aim of SEO is to give your website the highest possible ranking score for certain search terms and phrases.
If you want potential clients to find your website you need to look at your website SEO.
How do search engines rank your website?
This probably isn’t the answer you want to hear, but no one knows for certain what those ranking factors are. But we do have a really good idea. Google has a list of 200 ranking factors that it tells people about. And many more that it doesn’t tell us about. The Google 200 Ranking Factors list isn’t produced by google, but it’s put together by people know are in the know. Some are confirmed, some are educated speculation. You can find the full list here but I’m going to cover the basics and some of the easiest to implement suggestions.
1. Search terms and keywords
This isn’t always straight forward and it’s a tricky thing to second-guess. You need to know which words people will search for when they want to find someone like you.
For example, if you’re a male British voiceover that specialises in character reads, and you’ve an amazing range of authentic accents, put that information on your website. List the accents. If you’re looking for corporate and IVR work, make sure those words are used on your site. If you speak fluent English with a French accent, make sure that detail is included.
It all helps when Ms Finder, who works for a chocolate company, is searching for a sultry French accented English speaking male voiceover based near Manchester with a professional studio at home. They’re likely to search for something like ‘male, voice, English, French accent, Manchester, with studio’
The more you know about your potential clients the better so you can adapt your website and help them find you.
2. Site Structure
Search engines will read your site and find information if things are clearly marked and easy to find. For this reason, multi-page sites tend to perform better than single page sites.
Think of it this way…. do you find it easier to find a 5 word headline in a huge broadsheet newspaper (the ones that are so enormous you need a 6ft arm span to hold fully open) or in a small booklet? (for me it’s the smaller booklet). Can you find information in a thick book easier with a contents or index page? (I’ll always use the contents page to find a recipe, rather than just flicking though the whole book).
This is how you need to think about website structure too.
Having a multi-page site with a clear menu is much easier to navigate and find relevant information that a long single page that keeps scrolling and scrolling. At the very least, if you have a single page website, have a menu so people can click and jump to the relevant part of your site.
BUT (and it’s a big but) if you’re starting out as a VO and don’t have lots of work examples to share, a single page site will work for you. Just keep in mind that your site needs to grow as your career does.
3. Use headlines
A bit like when you are reading this blog – it’s much easier to navigate to the bits you’re interested in when there are clearly marked, well named headlines and subheadings. You can also tag these in your meta data in order of importance, so your main headline will be H1 tag, second most important H2 tag and so on. Search engines also read these headings to determine which bits of your website it needs to pay attention to. If you don’t use headings and tag them, they can’t read your site as well.
4. Clear and easy to find contact details
Recently I’ve been trying to find someone to lay a small patio in our garden. I’ve had lots of recommendations and searched for suppliers online. The number of websites that I’ve been to that don’t have clear contact details, or they only have a contact form and no email address or phone number – it is so frustrating. Or, when I did find an email – it bounced back to me with an error. ARGH!
You need to make it as easy as possible for a potential client to contact you. Any barrier you put up may mean you lose work. So have a contact form, but also have your email address and phone number clearly visible too.
“But what about spam?” you may say. Isn’t it better to get 1 or 2 spam emails rather than miss out on work because someone couldn’t find your phone number? I think so.
The other reason to include your email and phone number is trust. You need to show that you run a legitimate business and you are a real living and breathing person. Search engines look for this too – they know spam sites don’t publish their contact details, so if you don’t either they will presume your site isn’t legit and rank it lower.
5. Site speed
The faster your website loads, the higher in the ranking your site will be. There are a lot of things that can affect your site speed – here are two things to consider…
- Hosting – who you host your voice actor website with will impact how fast your site loads. Cheaper hosting often means slower site speeds. If your site is based in the UK, but your host is in the US or China, it will take longer to load than a UK based hosting provider. Hosting is a huge area and budgets need to be taken into account too, but as a guide, hosting for a website with an email and SSL certificate is around £10 per month*.
- Images and media – the more you add the slower things will take to load. My ‘voice artist’s guide to great photography‘ blog talks about image compression. You MUST do this to every single image you upload to your website. YouTube players can also slow a website down – we removed it from our site and it increased our load time by 8 seconds – that’s a huge difference. Host locally if you can, but remember to compress those video files too.
6. File name format makes a difference too
Images, audio or video – the way you name your files can help (or hinder) search results. Search engines like things to be simple and clear (they’re quite stupid like that). This file naming style works as well for your website as it does for YouTube and Soundcloud so get into the habit of naming all your files like this.
- File names should be all in lowercase (no capital letters anywhere) with a hyphen between each word.
- DO NOT use these symbols in the file name… ! @ £ $ % & * ( ) _ + < > “ / ‘ \
- Get a keyword in the file name
- Images, audio or video files should look something like this:
Another thing to remember is that casting directors or agents will often download your demo reels – it helps them if you name your files like this too – as it’s super obvious what the file is and whose demo it is.
7. Mobile friendly design
This is possibly one of the most important things to ensure. Globally, 68.1% of website traffic comes from mobile phones. And it’s growing. More and more of us use mobiles to browse the internet so it’s vitally important to ensure your site is mobile-friendly.
How do you check if it’s working on mobile well? The easiest way is to look at your website on a mobile phone. Simple! WordPress, WIX and Squarespace all have mobile views when you’re building your site.
A site that works well on mobile not only improves your search ranking, but helps give a better user experience too. You can’t lose.
How do you know how well your site is ranking?
There are so many factors to take into account, this is difficult to answer. If you’re getting relevant enquiries through your website that lead to you booking work, it’s a good sign your site is doing OK.
You can use analytics to track your site performance – some will show search terms people used to find your website.
Search yourself – but DO THIS IN PRIVATE or INCOGNITO MODE (otherwise, the results won’t be what others see). If you’re a female e-learning voice, see if your site appears on the first page of search engines. If not, you’ll need to make some improvements.
These tips only skim the surface of SEO, but hopefully gives you a starting point. It should be something that is always on your to-do list, something you’re always looking to improve.
If you want to find out more, I recorded an SEO episode with Leah and Nic from The Voiceover Social Podcast. You can listen to that through your fave podcast app or find it here.
I offer website reviews that include helping you to get your website working for you and boosting those all-important SEO rankings. If you want to know more, just drop me an email or visit the reviews page here.
*The B Double E website is hosted with 34SP – a Manchester-based company. You can find their current prices here. As an added bonus, they are also an environmentally conscious business. If you do move to them, add our website to the ‘referred by a friend’ box and we’ll both get a month of free hosting too (how nice is that?!).