SEO does not have to be complicated. A busy musician can optimize their SEO with a few simple steps and increase the odds your website will be found when adoring fans are searching. Don't be scared off! I will put it in terms that you can understand and follow.
What is SEO?
Simply put, SEO stands for "Search Engine Optimization." It's basically the practice of increasing the quantity and quality of traffic to your website through organic search engine results. This means finding methods you can use to ensure the visibility of your website and its content on Google, Bing, etc., so people can find you.
What is SERP?
There is another industry term you need to be aware of. It's SERP - which stands for Search Engine Results Pages. This refers to the page that comes up after you type something up in say, the Google Search bar.
When I refer to visibility, I mean how high up the SERP your website appears for your search terms in the ‘organic’ results. Organic results refer to those that appear naturally on the page, rather than in the paid-for sections.
As you can see, I searched for hip hop artists. The first result came from Hot New Hip Hop and the next two came from Billboard Magazine. These are very respectable and very well-funded publications who probably have an SEO expert on staff. We will talk more about broad vs. specific search results later in this article but I think you can see where I'm going. Local artists are not going to be found this way. You need to get creative.
Let's start with the SEO basics - your name.
Make sure your social media handles and website match your name perfectly. This is the single most important thing you can do. For example, www.kingwyrez.com and @kingwyrez on everything. Findability is more important than a cutesy name. Do not use a 3 in the place of an E or anything of that nature because it will make it more difficult to find you in a search. I once represented an artist named Slyc3. His stage name was pronounced "Slyce." However, everyone called him "Slick 3" because they didn't know better. When people searched Slyce, they found another artist named Slyce and never got to my artist. That was one of the first things I had to change as his Manager.
Your name can also be too basic and common to find. There once was an artist named, "A." This artist did a song and I wanted to find her to buy the rights to the song. I wanted to give her money. However, I couldn't find her at all because her name was too basic. Make sure your stage name reflects the true nature of who you are but is also not too common.
Pay the extra money to own your domain and make sure it's .com and not .net or .org or something like that. Simple is the best.
For social media, make sure they are all the same. If one doesn't work, then change them all. Think about your EPK and your promotional material that will go out. You don't want to have all kinds of different handles on them, just "Social Media - @yourstagename."
If you are thinking that this advice is not for you, think again. What if an influential blogger from Japan hears your song on Spotify and wants to find you. Will he know a funny spelling or find your website if it's funky? Think big. Your songs are now going out to the WORLD so you want to make it as simple as possible to find you.
Tips for reaching the "Big World" of music
Now TuneCore and CD Baby and others make it easy to go worldwide. In a day, you can have your song streaming all over the world. People in all languages need to find you - but how do you reach them? Don't worry - music is global and thanks to Google Translator, once they find you, they can understand your pictures, content and media.
- On your website, find a place to put a greeting (with keywords that are important) in all of the major languages. This is made easy by simple using Google Translate. In Google, type in "English to Spanish," then type the greeting in the box on your left. Cut and paste the greeting in Spanish on your right. Continue this practice in all of the languages. Include pictures of settings and clothes that people from that country would be attracted to. Or, better yet, photos of the artist with someone of that culture or in a setting that is familiar to them.
- The website SEMrush is an option. It costs $99 per year but there is a free trial which should take care of your needs. You can search Keywords in all languages to incorporate into your website.
- This is out of the SEO category but.... Think about targeting an area of the world, then researching popular album covers, maybe find a cover designer from that area, maybe have a song or two with elements reflecting that culture, find a collaboration with a popular artist there and release it there. That is how you get "global." Think about Justin Biebers Despacito if you need proof. Make sure you have the budget to tour there if it starts taking off.
How to make your website searchable.
- So you want to put video clips, photos, videos, media, etc., on the web and social media - that's great! But, you need to LABEL them in a way that Googlebot spiders can read and understand the content that is on there. Make it clear and concise. Make sure you tell exactly what it is, who it is, where it is, etc. Cutesy won't get you a good SEO but concise will. Also, make sure you name your pictures and media like this: BRAYL_Artist_Atlanta_HipHop_1.
- You need to uncover the words and phrases that really matter in a search and put those in your website. Remember the example above where we searched for Hip Hop Artists? Don't just put that you are a hip hop artist, you've seen the results that it gives. Think specific. Think unique. Try out some words in the search, see what comes up. In the end, you need a good set of primary words and secondary keywords that you can use on your website for search. So, say you are a pop indie artist with a unique show - what words can you put in the search to get noticed. Let's try it.
Well, that didn't work. I didn't find any artists much less mine in that search. So, I'll try again. I definitely won't use "unique show" on my website. You get the idea!
No, that didn't work either. Thinking about words that I use in my industry like "artists," I realize that it is used frequently in other industries as well. So, let's explore some websites that can help. No need to reinvent the wheel here.
1. Google Keyword Planner - When you input one keyword, multiple keywords, or even your website address into Keyword Planner, Google will give you a list of related keywords along with simple metrics to gauge how fierce the competition is around each one and how many searches it gets on both a global and local search level. It'll also show you historical statistics and information on how a list of keywords might perform -- and it'll create a new keyword list by multiplying several lists of keywords together.
2. Google Trends - Google Trends is a free tool from Google. It lets you enter multiple keywords and filter by location, search history, and category. Once you enter that information in, it'll give you results that show how much web interest there is on a particular keyword, what caused the interest (e.g., press coverage), and where the traffic is coming from. It will also give you similar keywords. If you're trying to decide between two keyword variations for your latest blog post title, simply perform a quick comparison search in Google Trends to see which one is getting searched more often.
3. Keyword Tool.io - A long-tail keyword is a keyword phrase that contains at least three words (or two). They are used to target niche demographics rather than mass audiences. Say, you're a death metal band specializing in songs about hell. Well, that would be pretty specific and you would need long-tail words. Keyword Tool gives you a list of long-tail keyword suggestions related to one you already have in mind.
What Keyword Tool does is use Google Autocomplete to generate a list of relevant long-tail keywords suggestions. The search terms suggested by Google Autocomplete are based on a few different factors, like how often users were searching for a particular term in the past.
4. Moz's Keyword Difficulty Tool - This program cost money but there is a free 30-day trial which can help you develop your website free. When you input a keyword into this tool, it'll find the top 10 rankings for that keyword and a "Difficulty Score" based on the pages that are currently ranking. You can look at search volume data (how many people are searching) for your keywords, then pull up the SERP to see the top 10 results for each term.
- Some keywords that are important to your brand are: Stage Name, Album name, Song Names, Lyrics, Music Genre, Music Style, Performance Dates/Venues, Label Affiliation, etc. Make sure all of these things are on your website and also search them to see what comes up. If you have a sponsor, make sure you put their name and a link to their website in the description. Make sure they are doing the same for you. When they ask for your bio, make sure your website link is included in that.
- Check your SERP to find what Google (not you) believes to be relevant to the keyword search. Keep in mind that Google is not necessarily in the music business and doesn't understand "music language."
- Create diverse and beautiful content on your first page. You are an "artist," no one knows better than you how to be creative and innovative here. Think amplification. Go overboard.
- Think of creative ways to build in links to other businesses, record labels, PR companies, management companies, bloggers, magazines, etc., that you genuinely use. Don't just list the links. (If Google thinks you are doing this, you will go way down on the SEO rankings, trust me!) Put them in photo descriptions, in articles you write, in content that you have on your page. For example, one of our guys has a Summiko sponsorship. When I wrote an article announcing the release, I put in the link to Wiz Khalifa (their spokesperson) and Summiko themselves. They are genuine and really part of who my artist is. Also, encourage those you work with to do the same. Having links to your page on credible websites is a great way to increase your SEO.
- Meta Descriptions - They are not important to search engine rankings but are extremely important in gaining click-throughs from search engine results. It often appears as the text snippet below your listing. So, it should include your relevant keywords and be snappy. Make sure you tell your clients everything you want them to know about you. Sell. Sell. Sell. This could be their first and last impression of you. If you are not the best writer, it's worth the investment to get a PR person to write one up for you. It's your brand and that is the first thing a lot of people will see. Make sure to include the city you are in in the Meta Descriptions and the Tags. Many musicians are known for their location (Rick Springfield-New Jersey).
- If you are lucky enough to have Rich Snippets possibilities on your website (code written by professionals) by all means use them. Put them on your website. Rich Snippets are some extra information about a website's content on a search engine results page. If you are having your website done by a professional, you can ask about it. However, if you are using a template-type website service, this option might not be available to you. Below are a few examples. As you can see, the music listing has some of the bands tracks listed. The YouTube listing has the picture with a play arrow on it. Rich Cards are coming. Right now, as of this writing, only available for recipes and movies but be on the lookout for music!
- Schema is another one of those programmer tools that can be used - if that is available to you. Schema.org is a place where programmers have come together to create a "universal language" for their industry. For example, Yandex (Russian search engine) has paired with Google, Bing and Yahoo so that programmers can use language that everyone understands and search engines can crawl and find your website more effectively. There is a rather long list on the website that you can direct the website creator to. Don't worry about it if you don't have access to a programmer - skip this step.
- Who will Amplify you and why? That the question you need to ask. Make a list of your biggest fans, DJ's, Bloggers, Managers, Promoters, Club Owners and see if they will mention you on their website. Make sure it's not just on a picture or flyer. You have to have a description at the bottom linking your website. If that is not possible, then make sure the picture you attach is saved in this format: Yourstagename_artist_atlanta_hiphop_1. Be genuine when you approach them and offer to link their website to yours, too.
- Dwell Time - if you put content in that keeps people on your website for a long time, it might increase your SEO. Perhaps, weekly episodes on a topic that is interesting to you and involves your brand, put your music videos on your website, constantly changing content where people need to come to it to see what you've done, a merchandise deal of the week with a video with funny content, etc. Just a note, make sure you have the proper titles on your media linking anyone that is important.
- Adding Google widgets to your website is important. You can search on how to add them on Google but things like the Google Search Bar added to your website as a widget in the correct place can be key. The closer you are connected to Google the better. Look for other widgets that can help your site. Most of them can easily be added to your website. Check with your website administrator for how to do this. You can also add the widget for Ticketmaster which I highly recommend if you are currently selling tickets on there.
- Social media is important, too! Make sure you incorporate keywords and relevant information in all social media outlets. Make sure to link with other musicians, follow other musicians similar to you, create playlist and put meaningful content on all of your sites. Don't put the same content and pictures on every site or your fans will simply pick one. You might want to do "Taco Tuesdays" on Instagram and have a cover of a song from a popular artist on Facebook, then show your more personal pictures on IG, then have your opinions on the world on Twitter, etc. Make sure you interact with people and build rapport with them to create SuperFans (more on that in another article). Also, it's a good practice to follow and interact with promising musicians that are similar to you. This won't help your SEO but will help you book concerts. It also makes your content rich and not just about you - which is good practice. Lastly, encourage your followers to let people know about you without using the word "share," which will put you at a very low rank on Facebook.
- Content on YouTube is very important. This has its own section because of its significance to musicians. Make sure you write a long description telling your audience about your story with links to your website and social media. Make sure to include all of your keywords (branding). Add intriguing unique artwork for each track that creates a visual interest. On your social media, encourage people to comment. Give them something (a free sticker) if they comment on your YouTube. Also, encourage them to subscribe (a chance to win a shirt). Use social media and YouTube to your advantage constantly bringing people back and forth. For example say, check out my FACEBOOK for blah, blah, blah.
- Tracking your progress is impactful to see when you are making a difference. There are several free and inexpensive tools you can use: Google Analytics, Matomo, KissMetrics, GoingUp!, StatCounter, Woopra, Linktrack, SmarterStats, and AWstats. All of them a great for seeing where your website marketing campaign is so you can make pertinent changes. I recommend doing a spreadsheet if you are efficient on Excel to show dates, what you did and the results. This will show you what worked and what did not on your campaign.
These are the steps I would take to ensure your SEO is top notch. I welcome your additions and comments. I want to wish all my musician friends the best and encourage you to keep plugging away at it. We are going to be the smartest people on the planet after all this work! It will pay off in the end.
Tracy Morris is the President of 10,000 Hours Music & Film in Atlanta. She has been in the music industry for 14 years doing Publicity, PR, Management, Publishing and now owns a record label. If you'd like to reach her, the contact is firstname.lastname@example.org,