As much as my passion is all things audio, my paid gig is internet marketing with a local firm, Hall Web Services. What that means is that on a daily basis I’m grilling websites, writing optimized web code, writing the most interesting copy I can muster and figuring out interesting ways to market products and services online. So it shouldn’t be surprising that I have some observations about the state of the audio drama community’s internet marketing efforts.
For the most part, it’s abysmal.
While the basics of SEO are known and web publicized, on most of the audio drama websites I see the basic principles sorely lacking. This is forgivable, as there’s already enough to learn in terms of writing, casting, recording, and post-producing these things, but the weak marketing link isn’t helping anyone.
So as part of new series of marketing your audio production online, I’m going to talk about the basics of SEO and how it relates to your audio drama site, and how to make sure that you’re at least being found by the people looking for you.
We’ll start with easy and quick fixes that will give you the most “bang for your buck” in terms of increasing traffic to your show.
On the docket today: Name your pages something
This is called the “title” tag in basic HTML, and is quite possibly the most important thing you can change to help people find your site. Technically, it’s the words between the <title></title> tags of your website, but as many of you might be using blogging software or not coding by hand, what you actually change might be called something else.
We’ll get to “how” to change this tag later, but now we’ll handle “why.” And since we like to “show, not tell,” here are some examples pulled out of a bucket by random that showcase a couple of points I want to talk about:
Title tag: Darker Projects: Audio Theater in a Darker Shade – Science Fiction, Horror, and Suspense
Rating: Pretty Good.
Why? “Audio Theater” is mentioned by name, along with several genre names – sci-fi horror, suspense. Darker Projects, by no surprise, comes up #1 for “Horror Audio Drama” and in the top 5 for “Science Fiction Audio Theater.” A lack of “radio” here, however, kills rankings for “radio drama” related terms. And while it’s nice to give their troupe name and the “Darker Shade” tagline, it’s probably not be doing them any favors in search.
Title tag: Union Signal
Rating: Not so good.
Why? Anyone who’s looking for anything other than “Union Signal” is likely never to find this page. A better tag would be “Union Signal: Radio Drama, Audio Theater Plays by Doug Bost and Jeff Ward.” That would at least help those who already know the producer’s names, but not their production alias, find the site. After they got some basic rankings they could then look at adding interesting variations to the site’s content — “NPR spoof stories,” “audio sci-fi” etc.
This is a very common problem, as, without naming everyone’s names, I could quickly find a dozen other websites where the title of the page was the name of the production company.
This is OK — IF you have a gigantic fan base that is chasing you down dying to download your works (Stephen King, for example, can give a rat’s ass for SEO). But if your name is something you and some friends came up with on a weekend, and you’re struggling to get a half dozen downloads of your stories, then this is un-good.
National Audio Theater Festivals
Title tag: National Audio Theatre Festivals, Inc. – NATF
Rating: Not bad.
Why? Unlike the above example, NATF is a known organization, so having a title tag with the organization name is appropriate. And with a nice solid amount of links (785 as of this count), they come up in the top ten for plain ol’ “Audio Theater.” However, there’s still room to improve — for example, using synonyms and general terms that non-audio enthusiasts will use.
It’s an argument WAY too broad to go into here, but guts and stats tell me that “audio theater” is a fine, term, a wonderful term, even a GREAT term to use to describe this art, but not what people are searching for. “Audio drama” is actually a little more common, and, archaic as it may be, “radio drama” is still the preferred search term.
But then there’s still dozens, if not hundreds, or more of what they call “long tail terms.” That’s stuff like “sci fi audio drama” “audio drama blog” “radio drama westerns” “audio horror stories” and so forth. The Long Tail is a very important concept to understand if you’re producing audio drama, because this IS a long tail industry.
For YOUR audio drama site, you need to think about where you fit in with the bigger picture and what your intended audience is likely to be looking for. Overall I see LOTS of great “hit the street” marketing — heavily using forums like audio drama talk, link exchanges, blog exchanges, etc — but SEO should be the foundation that all of this is based on. If not, you’re promoting yourself only to fight against your ability to be found!
My recommendation for the NATF title tag? “National Audio Theater Festivals Production Training – NATF Radio Drama Workshop”
… And Let’s do one more for good measure.
Tony Palermo’s RuyaSonic
Title tag: Audio Theatre/Radio Drama/Sonic Storytelling
Rating: Pretty Good.
Why? Tony’s covered the bases, even if “sonic storytelling” isn’t the most popular term to search for in the world, the simplicity of the title tag gives this site lots of weight, and finds it in the top ten for “radio drama.” You don’t see “Tony Palermo” there, but I don’t think that matters — a lot more people are competing for “radio drama” than “Tony Palermo.”
What I LOVE about Tony’s site is all the great resources about producing and writing radio drama, and the simple “Writing for Audio Theatre” title does plenty of good. Again, there are opportunities for more synonyms, but overall it’s among the top tier in the sector.
It may not be perfect, but you may now understand why Radio Drama Revival’s title is “Radio Drama Revival! Audio Theater Blog, Podcast”
Alright, so how do I change it?
Well as I pointed out in the example above, there are good principles and bad principles for naming your pages. Here are the basic rules to follow:
- Keep it concise – 7-9 words tops, 130 characters or so
- Use good words – Avoid fluff and repeating words. Use synonyms
- Every page needs a unique name – If you come up with a perfect title, don’t name every page on your site that. Each title should be uniquely suited to the content of that page.
And that should be enough to get you started!
If you’re using a WYSIWYG editor like Dreamweaver or FrontPage, there’s generally an option above the working window area for changing the page title. You may also look for a page/site properties dialogue somewhere. If all else fails, view the source code and look for the <title></title> tag. It (better) be between the <meta></meta> tags at the top of the page code.
If you’re using something like Libsyn, Blogger, or WordPress to manage your site, it’s even easier to update.
For WordPress — click “Options” and under the “General” tab, you’ll see “Weblog title.”? Bang, there you go.? By default, all of your pages will have unique names based on the titles of your posts, which is OK, but the bad-ass SEO Title Tag plug-in lets you more densely pack your page titles with good information.
In Blogger, in “Settings” you’ll see “Title” – ba-da-bing.? A similar deal for “Libsyn” — settings, “blog page/podcast title.”
Now that’s it!? You’ve tweaked the name of your blog, website, or podcast to something a little easier for search engines to understand.? You’re one step closer to bringing your show to a wider readership.
What’s next?? There’s still a LOT to know about before you’ve covered all your bases — stuff like organizing the site content, improving page code structure, getting good links to you from elsewhere — and in due time we’ll get to all of this.
And until we get there, you may be interested in tuning into my “other” podcast — a weekly show on web marketing topics called SEO Audio.
Enlightened? Confused? Angry? Let me know what you think below!