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Selling CDs, downloads and merchandise

If you intend to sell CDs, downloads or merchandise direct to your fans, or need a way to build a music website that handles e-commerce well, then you might want to try out Shopify for free here.

Top tip: sending e-newsletters to your fans

If you need to send emails to your band fanbase, we recommend Mad Mimi. It's possibly the most cost-effective solution we've encountered and allows you to manage / grow a database and design attractive e-newsletters without a need for any HTML coding. You can sign up for a free account here.

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Click here for TuneCore, the service that allows you to distribute your music quickly on all major digital retailers and keep all of the royalties.

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Top tip: getting your band typeface right

Getting your band typeface right can make the difference between looking like amateurs, or coming across as a serious outfit. Read our article on the importance of typefaces here, or test your band's name out in a variety of fonts using Myfonts.com.

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Entries in SEO (2)

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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Friday
Sep162011

How to get more traffic to your music website


Bizzarely, Bono's leather pants may be the secret to getting more hits to your music site.

If you’re in a band, the chances are you’ve got a website. You either designed it yourself, convinced a gullible friend to build it, or got ripped off by a cowboy web designer, but regardless of how your website came into being, you’ve got a problem with it. Nobody’s looking at it.

This is because the supply of music websites far outstrips the demand for them. There are hundreds of thousands of musicians, all over the world, with music sites. But only a tiny proportion of the owners of these sites are popular musicians that people have actually heard of (and are therefore in a position to search for). So the vast majority of music sites languish on a server somewhere, with online tumbleweed (whatever that looks like) slowly passing by them. By virtue of the fact that you are reading this, you probably own one of them.

So how do you generate more traffic to that music site that you lovingly created? Well, as ever, we’ve got a few suggestions.

1. Forget about the music

Yes, you run a music site. But if you’re an unknown musician, making your site exclusively about your music isn’t going to drive traffic; nobody has heard of you, and consequently nobody is searching for you or your music. However, if you feature content on your site that is searched for, then you stand a much better chance of getting a significant number of visits.

Think of it this way: nobody is that interested in reading about how that gig of yours in the Rat and Parrot went; but they might be interested in what you made of the most recent U2 album. There might be one person entering ‘Sexy Susie’s gig in Rat and Parrot’ into Google (your mum) compared to hundreds of thousands whacking ‘No line on the Horizon U2 review’ into the search box. Consequently, if you’ve blogged about the U2 record, you’ve got a significantly better chance of coming up in search results than if you have written and posted a glowing review of your last album on your site. Ergo more visitors to your site, even if they are aficionados of tax-avoiding Irish bands.

Ah yes, you say, but then my site just becomes a U2 reviews site. Well, no, not really. Your site can become a place where you and your bandmates share your views on a range of topics that are of genuine interest to you - and more importantly, other people. You can share your views on sex; religion; politics; photography – whatever. So long as the content you post on your site is engaging, and you are passionate about the topics you write about, you can start to attract decent visitor numbers, simply because the internet is a huge place filled with content-hungry searchers. And obviously, you can feature the content you’re really trying to put in front of people – you and your music – alongside any of your posts about sexy religious politicians who dig photography. All of a sudden, through intelligent blogging, you have a captive audience.

2. Remember the tagging

Any time you post new content on your site, always tag it well. Assuming your site is built on a relatively modern platform (such as Wordpress or Squarespace), or you are integrating a blogging tool like Blogger into your site, you should be able to easily add labels to your content which will help it crop up in search – and drive traffic. If, for example, you write a blog post about your favourite Star Wars film, you shouldn’t just leave it there – you should add a series of tags which accurately describe the content – “Jar Jar Binks”, “George Lucas”, “daft Ewoks”, “camp robots” and so on.

Whilst on the subject of tagging, you should ensure that your site in general (i.e., not just the page where you post articles) is optimised for search. There are countless articles you can read online about SEO (search engine optimisation) but in a nutshell, you need to ensure that your site title, meta data, headers and copy all contain information that people are likely to be searching for. Again, because nobody is really going to be searching for you, you should use descriptions which involve well-known artists that you are influenced by. For example, instead of having a site title like “Official website of Sexy Susie”, you should have one that includes the main artists that you are influenced by – for example, “Official site of Sexy Susie – an artist influenced by David Bowie, James Blunt, Kiss and Cliff Richard” (an unfortunate combination perhaps, but there you go).

3. Share your content, and get others to share it too

When you do create your hugely engaging article about Bono’s leather pants, make sure you share it. Post a link to it on your Facebook page; whack it up on Twitter. Submit it to content sharing services like Stumbleupon or Digg; and encourage readers to do so too by adding a ‘sharing’ call to action at the bottom of each article – “Like this article? Please share it on…” etc. Using a free content-sharing tool like Addthis can help in this regard. Even one share – whether by you or another person - can actually result in an article going viral, so make the most of all the copious sharing opportunities that the Web 2.0 gives you.

4. Allow users to subscribe to receive more content

At the end of each Bono article, explain to users how they can get more of your content. Usually this involves asking them to subscribe to your blog posts via email, subscribing to an RSS feed or following you on Twitter / Facebook. If you have a blog, you can use Feedburner to allow people to sign up to email or RSS updates – it’s a free tool from Google which makes all that sort of thing a doddle. The more people subscribe to your updates - using any of the above methods - the more return visits you'll get to your site, meaning you'll have more eyeballs encountering your latest gig listings, online store and whatnot.

Monetise?

Finally, if you are really good at writing content, and you start to get thousands of hits to your site as a result, you could consider a) giving up music and becoming a writer or b) monetising your blogging talents through selling advertising space alongside your blog. The easiest way to do the latter is to use Google’s Adsense service – you just sign up for an account, copy and paste some code into your site, and you have sold your soul to Google in two easy steps. But it might pay for some recording time for that next album of yours that nobody’s going to buy.

Related articles

There’s a couple of other articles from us about websites / content which you may find useful:

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