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« 7 Tips to Make Your Next Music Video | Main | The Realities of Making a Living with Music in 2011 »
Wednesday
Mar162011

SEO for the Discerning Musician

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:

  1. 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).
  2. 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

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.

References (1)

References allow you to track sources for this article, as well as articles that were written in response to this article.
  • Response
    SEO for the Discerning Musician - MTT - Music Think Tank

Reader Comments (14)

I love posts like this! There's another trick I learned from Problogger.net when it comes to anchors. Treat those anchors like sub-headings because it draws the eyes of the skimmer.

Great post. I recently stumbled upon a new Internet project for the arts that looks very promising, called Art of Me. The web address is http://artfme.com/ . It is not trying to sell anything, but rather it seeks to provide an online space where talented actors, musicians, writers, dancers, and other artists, can display and discuss their works, collaborate with each other, and interact with fans.

March 17 | Unregistered CommenterStephanie

Great post!

Similar to the information I have been showcasing regards SEO for bands.

Even without looking in to it further and just understanding a few basics, all future content has a much better chance of finding new audiences and much more.

March 17 | Unregistered CommenterMartinT

Get a copy editor. Yikes.

March 17 | Unregistered CommenterZ

It's good to see articles that aren't generic SEO articles but ones that begin to focus on SEO for music and artists. Building in what has been written about content  above, artists need to write articles that have words and phrases that are about them, the music they play and the events they are involved in. Over time this will build into valuable content that will draw in more and more people to their site because the search engines will see the content and value content that is unique. I do my best with integrations of wordpress into a website that is fronted by a store at Background Music Library but I certainly could do more. Another site I have I have developed a way for publishing articles and then linked to a discussion are where readers can ask questions & comment on the tutorial. In this way a valuable service is offered free of charge yet the site benefits from interacting with it's market and also gains more content that strengthens it's value with the search engines. Artists should consider feedback and discussion areas about their work and events in a similar way to build content and an online connection with their fans. 

Guy Lewis

Musician & agent as well as being in the telecoms & Internet business for  30 years. 

Director of
Kesseny Music Ltd
Supplying music to business markets

March 19 | Registered CommenterGuy Lewis

Great post. I recently stumbled upon a new Internet project for the arts that looks very promising, called Art of Me. The web address is http://artfme.com/ . It is not trying to sell anything, but rather it seeks to provide an online space where talented actors, musicians, writers, dancers, and other artists, can display and discuss their works, collaborate with each other, and interact with fans.

March 21 | Unregistered CommenterStephanie

Website Content is the most important area of SEO for bands. DON'T write for web crawlers, write for your fans/followers.

SEO is important, but what is more important is to entertain your website's visitors, that will keep them coming back (returning visitors are more likely to buy your music)!

I've written a number of complementary blog posts: For SEO click here

Good work Christopher

I think one of the best ways for a band to do SEO is to choose a name that is a bit weird and that shows no results in google.

That way it's super easy to rank for and when you start to get press you own the page with your website, facebook, twitter and youtube pages.

Nice post, I tweeted this.

- Chris

Good post Davis,
If you use header tags in a proper way it will be beneficial in two ways, first of all it will highlight important keywords and will tell search engine about them and secondly it will look natural not a spam.
SEO Services Dublin.

September 27 | Unregistered CommenterSEO Services Dublin

Great Review with this site ,keep it up!

September 28 | Unregistered CommenterROI Unlimited

A note on "The Real Meat: Your Content" - this is a very important part of a good SEO strategy for your website or blog. Think useful, unique content. Google values something which is useful to others (e.g. if you're a songwriter, consider writing about songwriting technique on your site, not just your own music) and unique - avoid copying from other websites unless you are referencing or quoting something.

Sustain Pedal Reviews

October 4 | Unregistered CommenterRobflick

Great post… you’ve posted very informative article. Keep up the good work and thanks for sharing with us

Good post but what I find works best are examples of real sites who are doing it the right way.
People need exampls so if you can post some links of websites that are SEO rich then that would be really helpful

October 11 | Registered CommenterKehinde azeez

Its the great way to be in the top if you are using the keyword in the Domain name of the website. Nice post i really love.
Content is very much need to be relevant and unique.
High quality link building gives the best and stable result.

March 6 | Unregistered Commentersteve

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