I Hate Marketing is a new weekly Stareable Film School column, where we’ll talk about how to make marketing easier, even for those of us who hate it.
Even if you’re totally on your game when it comes to marketing and posting content to your social media and website, approximately 50% of your discoverability success comes down to dumb luck. For increasing your luck in this arena, the best weapon in your arsenal is SEO.
WTF is SEO?
SEO, or Search Engine Optimization, is “a marketing discipline focused on growing visibility in organic (non-paid) search engine results” according to Moz.com. For example, when you’re tagging your web series episodes on YouTube, you shouldn’t just tag it “accurately,” with the series name and the names of the actors. If your show is about zombies, for example, you can tag it “zombies, horror, apocalypse, post apocalypse, apocalyptic, zombie, monster.” This way your show can be found when people are searching for similar content instead of just when people are searching for your show specifically. SEO is just the fancy term for “making yourself more discoverable.”
What am I doing wrong?
That depends! As artists, we strive to be unique, but when marketing, that can complicate things. Your ironically mysterious social media bios might be “on brand,” but if a potential viewer stumbles across them, are they descriptive enough to bring them into the fold? Do you make it clear that the account is for a web series and that you can view said web series at a particular link? Did you explain, even briefly, what kind of series it is?
People watch films and series that are interesting to them and the best way to interest an audience is to let them know it’s similar to other themes and properties they already like. This is at the core of SEO- figuring out what kinds of things your audience are already searching for and positioning your show to pop up in those searches.
So what should I be doing?
I’ve talked about branding [previously] but that was a little more design-oriented. To make your SEO brand consistent, we have to talk about language. Not only should your usernames on different social media be the same (or as similar as humanly possible), but so should the hashtags you use to promote the show, the way you refer to your show (Stray web series versus Stray show), all the way down to the logline descriptor in all your bios and about pages and video descriptions. This way, if one of your show’s internet landing pages comes up in search results, all of them will. Try to search “Brains web series” right now, and you’ll see what I mean. One search result, especially if it’s the top result, is good. Ten is better.
When looking to increase your SEO potential, your series logline (the one-two sentence overview of the series) and synopsis shouldn’t just explain the concept of your series. They should also make sure to use words you know your intended audience is already searching for. Let’s look at a side by side example:
Bad: In the web series “20 Seconds To Live,” someone dies at the end of every episode.
Better: “20 Seconds To Live” is the award-winning horror/comedy web series for people who hate happy endings!
They managed to sneak two genres into the first few words of their tagline while still remaining artistic with their description of the show as a whole. This means that when people are searching for horror or comedy series, they’re likely to pop up, and when people are searching for horror or comedy web series, they’re even more likely to. They also not-so-casually dropped in the fact that they’re an award-winning series, which gives them extra credibility for when people are choosing what to watch.
If someone has compared your show to a popular television show, you can use that too!
For example, Social Medium’s tagline is “If “New Girl” and “Ghost Whisperer” had a baby, this would be that web series.” Now, anytime people are searching New Girl and Ghost Whisperer, they have the potential to pop up as well, because they use that language in as many places at possible. It’s also descriptive enough to give you an idea of what the series will be about, gives you context for what their vibe is, and still asserts its uniqueness, because it’s not New Girl, and it’s not Ghost Whisperer, it’s a quirky new media combination of those two seemingly very different (and already beloved) properties.
This goes double for if you have an actor or crew member who’s known for something else. They don’t have to be George Clooney- my pal Brandon Smalls, the DP for my series, was on an episode of Chicago PD and you can bet your butt I promoted the crap out of that appearance and his connection to my show.
If you’re uploading your series to Youtube, Vimeo, and/or Facebook, don’t underestimate the power of tagging. Remember, if your show is about zombies, you can tag it “zombies, horror, apocalypse, post apocalypse, apocalyptic, zombie, monster.” If your show is a comedy, you can also throw in “comedy, lol, funny, funny video, haha, laughing, laugh, comedy film, comedy series.” No one’s ever going to see these tags, so go buck wild! Don’t be disingenuous, but really think about your audience and what kinds of people would enjoy your content, then think about what kinds of things those people browse for.
SEO is an inexact science, especially with search algorithms changing every day. The main concept remains intact, though: in order to be discoverable in the massive void of the internet, you cannot be careless with the way you present your series. Passive discoverability is hugely important because you can only do so much active promotion before you burn out, and considering SEO will make that way easier on your marketing-hating soul.