You, You’re Voice Acting Business, and the Web
Chris Wagner
www.chriswagneronline.com

Part III

Well here it is the final installment of “You, your voice acting business, and the web”.  Now that we’ve covered domain names, hosting services, space considerations, and do it yourself versus hiring a web designer; it’s time to consider the search engines and your content.  Content may be the thing that changes the most often on your site and of course you need to choose your content carefully!  Let’s kick this installment off with search.

Search Engines

Domain name; check! Hosting service; check!  You have your web site address printed on your business cards and use it in your marketing mailings.  Pretty effective way to get the audience you’ve targeted to come and visit your site, listen to your demos, and maybe learn more about you and your experience.  But you want your site working for you even when you aren’t sending marketing mailings out.  What is the best way to do this?

The Matrix…err, the Web is a huge collection of content that can be a real pain to get around.  Heck how do you even find what it is you want?  Well in the beginning there were some sites that acted like phone directories for web sites, and of course there was word of mouth.  Out of that grew the search engine pages; one of the first was Alta Vista.  Then of course there was Yahoo, and eventually the 800 pound gorilla Google.

Submit your web site to the search engine and then it goes to work; opening up your web site and reading it.  Your site will be ‘spidered’ and keywords from your site will be placed in the search engine database.  So the next time someone goes to the search engine and types in words like “voice over” or “voice actor”, “narration” and such, your site should show up in the results.

The results shown will have your site and maybe thousands of other related web sites.  Your competition will be listed right there with you on the page.  That’s not something you can really get rid of; it’s just the nature of the beast.  But there are a few things that can be done to improve your chances of being listed higher in the results.

First off, you can place a set of keywords inside your website that the search engine spider looks for; you are basically programming the search engine the way you want.

Here is a brief example of what those keywords look like in HTML:

<meta NAME="Description" CONTENT="Chris Wagner, Voice over talent; The Perfect Voice for your Perfect Message">

<meta NAME="Keywords" CONTENT="Chris Wagner, Chris, Wagner, Voice over, Voice actor, Voice acting, V/O, VO, announcer, voice acting, narration, narrator, presentations, macromedia breeze, breeze, commercial, commercials, spot, spots, personality">

<meta NAME="IndexType" CONTENT="Talent, Colorado, Voice Actors, Denver, Male, Voice Over">

<meta NAME="Author" CONTENT="[email protected]"> 

Ok, so it doesn’t look very friendly, but it does the job.  This is from my voice acting web site.  For those of you familiar with HTML this is placed in the <HEAD> section of your web page.  Alright, that’s as technical as I want to get…

Another tip is to get links to your web site from other sites.  You can do this by linking from your personal home/life page, or getting onto a service like voice123.com which allows you to list your site there.  The search engines seem to give a little boost to your site if there are links from other web sites to yours.

I suggest going to the search engines themselves and doing some research on what they suggest is the best way to get a good ranking.  Of course you can always have your site come up in the top number of returns by paying the search company.  This may seem a little like a scam, but if it gets you on top and gets you more exposure...  it’s worth every penny.

Believe it or not, having a Blog on your web site can improve your rankings on search engines.  But only if you keep your entries related to what your web site is about.  If you mix personal Blog entries and work entries you may not reap the benefits of a well run Blog.

You will also want to make sure that your content truly matches what your keywords state the site to be.  This also will give you a better chance of listing higher in the search results.

Content

This is where I see the most mistakes on business web pages.  Hey I’m not trying to be a critic, but if you’re going to put a web site up with a purpose keep the content tied to that purpose. 

What should you have on your voice acting web site?  I have my opinion about this, which I am about to share with you, however there are as many differing opinions about content as there are web sites out there.

Whether you have one page, or multiple pages, try to keep each page focused using a single theme or thought.  Basic marketing here, one page equals one thought.  Don’t throw everything you have on one page, especially if you have a lot of content.  It makes your site difficult to read, follow, and your message may get lost in the ‘noise’.

For myself, I tend to click away from a page that is packed with information.  I don’t have the time to filter through all the information presented to get what I came for.  But I am rambling, and you are waiting for the list of things you should have on your site!

To start create a short biography covering your training and experience, similar to a resume but more conversational in nature. Most voice actors have a head shot, if you have one it might be good to put it on your web site.  Remember for voice acting they aren’t hiring you for your good looks, but your ability to deliver on a script; it isn’t mandatory to have a head shot.

Demos, yep, your demos should definitely be listed on your web site.  Remember that when people click on the link to hear your demo, it has to be transferred from your web site to their computer.  So keep the file small, if you make it an mp3 choose the CD quality of 128k or FM radio quality of 96k.  Quality of the demo is important, but if you place it on your web site with the highest quality available (meaning a much larger audio file) they may not wait to hear it and pass you by.

Keep your web site professional, clean and simple.  Consider your web site a showcase for you and your impressive talent!  Respect those who come to view your showcase, they will appreciate it.

I’ve touched on the things that you should have on your web site, here’s some of the things that you should NOT have on your web site.  Remember these are my opinions only, not hard and fast rules that you have to follow.  Ultimately it is your web site and you choose what to put on it.

Keep away from using cheesy graphics, especially goofy animated pieces, unless that’s part of your persona; then fire away!   Don’t use more than two kinds of fonts on your site; it makes the web pages look chaotic and not uniform.  Stay away from putting up pictures or slideshows of your (a) Recent vacation to Lompoc (b) Surgery that you or your pet had (c) Children (even though they are the cutest kids in the world!) (d) ‘Stuff’ not related directly to your voice acting business.

This goes for written content as well.  We all have strong political and religious leanings, it is probably best to leave this to your own personal/life web site.  But as I’ve stated before; it’s for you to make that call. 

The last thing I would suggest keeping off your web site is links to other voice actor’s web sites. It’s a nice thing to do, promoting your friend’s and colleague’s voice acting careers, but it winds up diluting your own efforts in the long run.  

Conclusion

I could go on and on about web sites but… well… that’s all there is for now.  

Remember web sites can be great tools or horrid problems; take your time when you are thinking about making your web site, or even updating your current one.  Ask the tough questions of those you choose to work with, from the hosting service to your web designer.  They work for you and should have no problem answering your questions.  

Good luck to you in whatever you do!

Chris Wagner has been in the Voice Acting business since 1987, he also works for Sun Microsystems, Inc. as a Knowledge Engineer, and a primary voice talent for Sun’s educational and marketing departments. You can contact Chris at www.chriswagneronline.com

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