Search engine optimisation (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 Facebook or Soundcloud pages etc.)
- Secondly, you want people who might like the specific genre of music you make 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.
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 the text that search engines consider as crucial in determining what your site is about (and will display first in search results).
If you use generic page titles such as ‘Home’ or ‘News’ that contain no reference to the band name, then chances are that you are going to struggle to be seen in search results. Always, always, always whack your band name in the title.
Now, this is not necessarily going to win you any new fans or visits from people who haven't heard from you. 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 but criminally unheard of ‘Folky Sexy Cucumbers’ combo.
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). The more 'niche' the artists you're referencing in your title (and elsewhere on your site for that matter), the more likely your site is to come up in search results for those artists.
Next, you need to move onto your meta description. Your meta description is text that is not visible on your site, but rather stored within the HTML code.
You need to ask your web designer (or ask yourself, if you’re the web designer in the band) to edit the description so that it contains a couple of lines of text about you and your music.
For example, using our slightly strange example above, 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’.
The text you enter here is not indexed by search engines, but it is displayed in search results - and if it is relevant or appealing enough to the people searching for your music, it will be more likely to generate clickthroughs to your site. The more clickthroughs you get, the more search engines will consider it a quality result, and as such will tend to display your site more often in search results.
Headings and body copy
A lot of people who design music sites like to forgo text for big impressive visuals and video content. Although strong visuals are indisputably important for bands, it's extremely important to include quality text based content on your site too. This is because search engines love words: they help them understand what a site is about, and give them something to index. A simple and effective way to add (useful) text to a site is to blog occasionally about topics that relate to your music genre.
Within your site there are two main types of text that you need to worry about: headings and body copy. Headings are important because 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 ‘Gigs by The Folky Sexy Cucumbers’.
There are various types of heading tags – H1, H2, H3 and so on. The H1 is the most important tag - it indicates what the page is chiefly about, and as such should only really be used once on the page. A H2 is a sub-header, and a H3 is a sub-sub header. You can go all the way down to H6s if you like...but focus most attention on H1s and H2s when structuring your page headings.
As for body copy, like all the other elements 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.
Clean URLs and internal links
So that search engines can categorise your site properly, it's important to use 'clean' URLs which have a simple structure and are easily understood by search engines.
This means that instead of using a fairly impenetrable URLs like ‘www.thefolkysexycucumbers.com/1252/content/sdjgasd.php’, you should create a URL such as ‘www.thefolkysexycucumbers.com/online-store’. The dash is important, because search engines usually treat them as spaces. Using clean URLs which include keywords helps search engines index content more easily.
When creating links within your site to other pages, avoid using vague phrases like ‘click here’ or 'read more' as your anchor text; instead insert keywords into the link title, i.e., ‘Read about Sexy Folky Cucumber gigs’. Again, Google picks up on the keywords and this helps your pages appear in relevant search results.
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. Search engines count external links (or 'backlinks') 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 Guardian 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 your local newspaper's website.
Also, it's important not to create spammy backlinks to your site - this can actually result in your site being penalised by search engines.
Ultimately search engine optimisation is a pretty simple process; it’s about choosing the right keywords, putting them in the right places, and ensuring your site is well linked to.