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Friday
Oct212011

Simple SEO tips for bands and musicians  


This lady cannot find your band on Google, so has resorted to a Sherlock Holmes outfit and a magnifying glass.
 


Search engine optimisation (or, for you acronym-loving hipsters, SEO) is a hot topic for any business; appearing in the top 3 results for a particular search query can mean the difference between loads of clients and none. But is it any use to bands and musicians? Well, yes. For two reasons:

  • Firstly, you need people who like your music to be able to find your website when they search for you (and quite possibly, you want it to appear ahead of any Myspace pages, Facebook pages etc.)
  • Secondly, you want people who might like the kind of music you make (for example, Nu-metal-Dubstep-Shoegaze-Emo-Chillwave or whatever the latest racket that's popular in Shoreditch is) to come across you when they search for your band.

So, in this week’s article we’re going to take you through some of the basics of optimising your band website for search engines. Are you sitting comfortably? Then let's begin.

Site title

The first thing you need to look at is the title of your site. It simply has to include your band name. The site title is the text you see at the top of your browser window; but it’s also text that Google considers as crucial in determining what your site is about (and will display first in search results). If you use page titles such as ‘Home’ or ‘News’ that contain no reference to the band, then chances are that in search results - as with the charts - you are going to struggle to be seen. Always, always, always whack your band name in the title.

However, this is not necessarily going to win you any new fans or visits from people who aren’t your mum. Unless your band is called 'Porn', only people who are already into your music are likely to be entering the name of your act into Google. However, a lot of people will be entering specific genre names or indeed the names of other artists into search engines. In other words, you might get somebody searching for ‘folk’ or ‘Bob Dylan’, but probably not your catchily named ‘Folky Sexy Cucumbers’ combo that plays down the local Slug and Lettuce every Tuesday.

So, instead of just having a site title of ‘The Folky Sexy Cucumbers’, you should really try something like ‘Folky Sexy Cucumbers – a folk trio influenced by the music of Bob Dylan circa 1966’. That way you could conceivably end up with traffic for searches such as ‘Bob Dylan 1966’ or ‘Bob Dylan folk 1966’ – and believe me, there will be far more people searching for Bob Dylan than sexy cucumbers. Actually, that may not strictly be the case, but you get the general gist.

Meta data

Next, you need to move onto your meta data. Your meta data is text that is not visible on your site, but rather stored within the HTML code. There are two important bits: the ‘description’ attribute and the ‘keywords’. Of the two, the former is by far the most important. You need to ask your web dude (or ask yourself, if you’re the web dude in the band) to edit the description so that it contains a couple of lines of text about you and your music. For example, it should read something like ‘The Folky Sexy Cucumbers – a band from Leeds influenced by 1966-era Bob Dylan, in particular his Highway 61 revisted album’. Although humans won’t see this description, Google’s algorithms will, and they will use it to decide whether or not to show your site to unsuspecting Bob Dylan fans in search results.

As for the ‘keywords’ attribute, it’s debatable how useful this is any more – a lot of search engines gave up on it due to constant abuse by spammers who would use it to pack their HTML full of random, non-relevant keywords in an attempt to get people who were innocently searching for train times to arrive at a page about willy enlargement. That said, a few search engines do still seem to use it a bit – notably Yahoo – so, it doesn’t hurt to use it to insert keywords that describe your music into your site. So, to return to The Sexy Folky Cucumbers, we’d be looking at a keyword list like ‘The Sexy Folky Cucumbers, Leeds, Folk music, Acoustic, Americana, Bob Dylan, 1966, 1960s folk’…and so on.

Textual chemistry: headers and body copy

A lot of people who design music sites like to forgo text for flash-based sites or sites based around fancy images. This is generally because bands want their sites to look er, flash - but it’s also a mistake. It’s better to design a text-rich site than one which is completely based on flash or images, because most search engines much prefer the former to the latter (without getting too technical, Google can index text content within Flash, but it needs to be set up in a certain way…go ask your web designer!). Anyway, without getting bogged down in technicalities, there’s a general point: use text when you can if you want your site to appear in search results.

Within your site there are two main types of text that you need to worry about: headings and body copy. Headings are the most important, as search engines effectively treat them as 'tags' for categorising site content. So, where possible, ensure that they accurately describe what people might be searching for: instead of a heading of ‘Gigs’, try ‘The Folky Sexy Cumbers – Gigs’. (There are various types of heading tags – H1, H2, H3 and so on. H1 is effectively what the page is chiefly about, with H2s being a sub-header, and H3 being a notch below that again. Focus most attention on H1s and H2s.)

As for body copy, like all the other components discussed above, it should be keyword-rich. If you are influenced by Bob Dylan, mention it in the body copy of your site; get your genre names in effectively and so on.

Meaningful URLs and internal links

So that Google can categorise your site properly, and tell the difference between your gigs page and your store page (the latter being that unloved page on the site where you have optimistically listed your albums in the vain hope that somebody will actually buy them), it’s a good idea to use keywords in your site URLs. So, instead of an inpenatrable URL for your gigs page that reads ‘www.thefolkysexycucumbers.com/1252sdjgasd.htm’, create a URL such as ‘www.thefolkysexycucumbers.com/gigs-live-performances.htm’. Google will treat the dash as a space and tag your page with ‘gigs’, ‘live’ and ‘performances’, further bolstering the chances of the correct info being returned when your hapless fan (yes that's right, you only have one) is looking for your gig dates on Google.

When creating links within your site to other pages, avoid using vague phrases like ‘click here’; instead insert keywords into the link title, i.e., ‘Read more about Sexy Folky Cucumber live performances’. Again, Google picks up on the keywords and this helps your pages appear in relevant search results.

External links

A crucial part of how your site performs in search actually hasn’t got much to do with how you optimise it; it’s about how many other sites link to it. As such, it’s really important to get links to your site on as many other sites as possible. Google counts links to your sites as ‘votes’ – the more the merrier therefore when it comes to ensuring your site appears at the top of the results. However – and to misquote Morrissey – like some girls’ mothers, some links are better than others. Sites that have a lot of external links pointing to them effectively cast a greater vote for any links from them. For example, if your band is featured on the Sky News website (which has a lot of links pointing to it), Google will take note and is likely to bump you up its search results far more enthusiastically than if you are featured on the Mull of Kintyre News website (which may or may not exist, but if it does I bet there is only one other site linking to it, from a Paul McCartney fan site). There's no justice in this world.

Ultimately search engine optimisation is a very simple process; it’s about choosing the right keywords, putting them in the right places, and ensuring your site is well linked to. There are a few other secrets to it, but we don’t have time to divulge them – at this point, may we suggest a consultancy fee or er, a Google search.

The Prescription is written by independent musician and digital consultant to Prescription PR, Chris Singleton.

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Reader Comments (1)

How do you decide the best SEO keywords to use that are general enough to target people who are broadly searching the internet, and yet specific enough that distinguish your band so that it doesn't get lost in a SEO black hole?

Is it a smart or dumb idea to include other band names in your SEO keywords? You obviously want people to go to your website and not the other band's, but will it increase traffic if you mention another, more well-known band?

November 27, 2011 | Unregistered CommenterSarah

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