'Blog' spelt out with Scrabble tiles

There’s a sense amongst a lot of musicians that I chat to that ‘blogging is important’, but not an understanding as to why. So in this article I thought I’d try to spell out what blogging can deliver for a musician or band, and how to go about it.

Why should I blog?

The main reason for blogging is because it delivers traffic to your site in a way that your music alone (as an independent / relatively-unheard-of musician) probably won’t. If you write an interesting article about, say, the price of cabbage, it may get discovered in a search engine by a cabbage-lover, who then retweets it to the (enormous) cabbage-loving community, generating thousands of visits (by cabbage lovers) to your site. And, when the cabbage lovers arrive there, not only do they get to read an interesting article about cabbage, they get subtly (or not so subtly) exposed to your latest and greatest MP3. If you had just posted this MP3 somewhere online without any references to cabbage, you wouldn’t get this traffic, because the web is full of bands posting MP3s online and frankly people are rather bored by that. A blog post about cabbage, however – now that’s interesting.

The above cabbage-related example may sound daft, but it explains pretty well how something important called ‘inbound marketing’ works. You write something interesting on your blog, it gets indexed by a search engine, and people interested in that topic discover it when they type a search phrase about it into Google. If the article is very good, the user may well post a link to it on Twitter, Facebook etc., creating the potential for a lot of traffic to your site. It’s a ‘pull’ marketing tactic rather than a ‘push’ effort, because the quality of the blog content will drive the visits and shares (meaning you don’t have to spend money on online ads or subject your Facebook followers to the same post about a music video involving your cat over and over again).

What should I blog about?

The simple answer is: not you. If you’re blogging about how great your music is all the time, or detailing the minutiae of your latest creative project every five minutes, you are unlikely to get much in the way of traffic to your site (unless you are already a genuinely huge star, in which case I’m not sure why you need my advice). Whilst it’s okay to post news of what you’re doing musically periodically into your blog (there may actually be some people who are interested in that) the focus of your blogging efforts should generally be on other issues. Stuff that’s topical; stuff that you’re really interested in; other bands you like and so on. For me the crucial thing about blogging is to write about stuff that you are genuinely fascinated by, because it will inspire you to write interesting posts, which are of course more likely to get shared and discovered than navel-gazing dissertations about your deep and meaningful lyrics.

How do I blog?

There are a host of free services out there that let you blog – the list seems to be growing endlessly, but big hitters include Blogger, Tumblr, Wordpress, Squarespace and Posterous. If you are completely new to blogging, I’d probably suggest starting off on Blogger, because it is a free service which is very easy to set up and use. If possible though, the best thing to do is to get your music web designer to include blogging functionality on your site – this is usually the ideal place to host a blog because it means that all your musical content is on display when visitors arrive at it.

How often should I blog?

The simple answer is: frequently. According to inbound marketing experts Hubspot, businesses that blog at least 20 times per month generate five times more traffic than those that blog only a few times per month. You may not consider yourself a business (although you probably should – you’ll find a few reasons why here) but the same rules generally apply. Again, the caveat is this: don’t bother blogging every five minutes if you are simply posting nonsense about yourself.

How do I get people to read my blog?

The golden rule is: write interesting, topical stuff. Your blog will get indexed by search engines and if the content is strong, you will get traffic via ‘organic’ searches. However, there are some tactics beyond that which can help boost readership:

  • After writing a new post, make sure you post a link to it on Twitter and Facebook, encouraging readers to share the article (without being too pushy of course). The acommpanying tweet or status update should contain a short but accurate summary of what the blog post is about.
  • Add an email subscription form to your blog so that readers have the opportunity to receive new posts in their inbox when you post them. The easiest way to do this is probably using Google’s free ‘Feedburner’ service. If you use an email marketing tool such as Mad Mimi or Campaign Monitor, you’ll often be able to edit various settings so that the tools convert your blog posts into emails automatically.
  • Make sure your RSS feed is very visible on your blog and easy to subscribe to (if you’re not sure what an RSS feed is, this BBC information is very helpful). Using Feedburner makes it easy for people to subscribe to an RSS feed in a variety of readers.
  • Always add relevant tags to your blog posts. Tags are keywords that summarise your content and help readers and search engines to find it easily. For example, when you do get round to that ‘price of cabbage’ article, you should tag it with things like ‘cabbage’, ‘economics’, ‘vegetables’ and ‘Brassica oleracea’.
  • Keep your blog post titles keyword-rich, but short and very much to the point (Hubspot recommend no longer than 75 characters). This is because search engines 1) deliver more accurate results if the keywords are right and 2) generally only show the first 75 characters or so of a blog post title in search results. So, rather than call your blog post something like ‘My meandering thoughts on the increasing cost of a garden vegetable’, you’d be better off with ‘Big increase in the price of cabbage.’
  • At the bottom of every blog post, list the ways that people can follow you – mention your Twitter profile, Facebook page etc. And promote the email subscription option again. The more followers / subscribers you get, the greater the chance that your content will be regularly read and shared. It's a virtuous circle.
  • Use pictures in your blogs. Not only will these make your posts look more attractive, but any time somebody shares your posts on Facebook, the pictures will be displayed in the article preview. These will make the articles jump out of a user’s news feed much more than a boring old text link (particularly if your blog involves a scantily-clad Eva Longoria, or, if he floats your boat, George Clooney in his underpants. Sex sells. You get the drift).

And finally…

Finally, having gone to all that effort to create a well-crafted blog, do make sure that information about your musical activities is clearly visible on it – make sure a link to a free download is available, or that some tracks are available to stream on Soundcloud. For some ideas on a layout which foregrounds music as well as blog content, may I be so bold as to refer you to my own blog, which, after having written all the above, I now realise that I must update more regularly…

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