Search engine optimization (SEO) often gets passed off as a sort of snake oil — some gimmicky trick that people do to manipulate search results in their favor.
SEO is really about one thing: making what your website is about clear to people and bots alike. There’s no tricks or gimmicks, and if you can make a website or manage a wordpress installation, you can do some very simple things to make your website more search engine and people friendly.
How People Search
When someone enters a query into Google, the google algorithm returns results that it thinks are relevant. Many factors contribute, and we’re really not exactly sure what they are — Google, and other search engines, are pretty hush-hush about this. So SEO is a lot of educated guesstimation combined with a bit of common sense.
When a person searches for a musician or band, they probably are doing one of two things:
- Because of your sweet social media strategy people know about you. They enter your name into google or another search engine, and your website pops up (or it doesn’t, which is a problem).
- A person needs a musical service, like a cover band to play in a bar or club. They enter their query “[Location] Bar Band” or something similarly generic. Google generates a list of results it feels are relevant.
In this article we’ll cover some tactics both for the musician who has a strong personal brand (case 1) and the musician who is trying to get gigs within a specific, local niche (case 2).
SEO is about making sure that your website shows up as relevant in either case.
Domains and Why You Should Care About Them
Your website address is a bit deal. It inspires trust (when’s the last time you trust something from a .info?), and has a huge influence on how you site can rank.
For the musician with a strong personal brand, it makes sense to have a domain along the lines of www.[yourname].com or www.[yourbandname].com. If you do a search for just about anything, some of the top results are going to include sites that have the search term in their website address. Search engines favor keywords in domains as of now (it may change in the future).
[yourname]music.com or [yourbandname]band.com or [yourname]instrument.com can work as well. The important thing is that you work your brand into the domain name.
For the musician looking to score a gig or two via searches your case is a bit different. It’s ideal to incorporate what you do. It also helps to include the location in your domain name where possible — people are looking for local solutions. To use our cover band example from above, something like www.[location]coverband.com would work.
This, of course, deprioritizes your band’s name and identity. There are other opportunities to incorporate that later on.
Your <title> Tag Matters. A lot.
The contents of the title tag show up at the top of the browser when you visit a website.
The title tag is located between the opening <head> and closing </head> tag. If you use Wordpress the All in One SEO Pack can help you edit this.
This is one of the most important things on your website from an SEO perspective. For the indie music (case 1), lead with your brand name, then follow up with what you do and your location.
For the band or musician looking to fill a specific niche your title is going to lead with what you do and your location and follow up with your name.
The biggest thing here is to be descriptive. Do not be afraid of length (but under 100 characters is best), but remember that you should be clear and concise for both your visitors and bots.
Here are some bad title tags: home, Index, About, etc. None of these are descriptive.
Header tags (<h1>,<h2>,<h3>, etc.) are also an important feature. The contents of an <h1> tag tells a search engine bot what the page is about. Additionally, because <h1> tags are often rendered larger on the page, they can help tell your visitors what your page is about as well.
It’s good to align what your <h1> tag contains with what your <title> contains. For the indie musician, that means your <h1> will probably contain “[your name], instrument/genre/whatever”. The musician looking to get a gig or two will probably be something like “[Location] Cover Band”.
Stop Skimming and Read This
You should also use subheaders on your pages. People skim. You probably skimmed this article and the subhead directly above caught your eye. Using subheads can turn scanners into readers.
The added bonus, of course, is that you can write keyword rich subheads that help tell search engine bots what your site is about. If your deal is doing wedding music, you might include a subhead on a page that says, “Popular Wedding Processionals” vs. “Popular Processionals”. Wedding is the keyword we’re looking at in this case.
Use <h2> tags for your subheads.
The Real Meat: Your Content
The real meat of your page is the content. This will probably take care of itself. Mention your brand or what you do a few times and include a few variations of the keywords. You could use “songwriter” and “writes songs” or “writing songs”, for example.
Your content copy will take care of itself. Just be aware that you should be writing concisely and clearly. Someone would even say that you should stop writing for people, and start writing for search engines because it will make you a better writer.
Linking Your Content
If you blog, you’ll probably accumulate a lot of content fast. And it’s helpful to link articles together. But do it smartly by using good anchor text. This is anchor text, by the way. It’s the stuff that shows up when you code a link.
Use descriptive anchor text. What is the page you’re linking to about? Use that instead of click here.
This presents a dilemma. Turns out telling people to click here works. Use your judgement. It’s better to use descriptive anchor text when you’re linking to blog posts or other content. But if you’re trying to get someone to do something specific, tell them what to do (use click here, it’s okay).
Christopher Davis plays, teaches and blogs about Classical Guitar. He also works as a SEO and digital strategy consultant.