Introduction to Search Engine Optimization (SEO) for Musicians
When I first launched my site, the number of visitors who came would be sporadic, unpredictable, and would usually trail off into nothingness a day or two after I let people know that I posted something new. After making a few tweaks in how the site was organized, though, I started getting what seemed like a “regular” traffic base — the numbers are still relatively small compared to big-name blogs, but at least the ticker has never hit 0 since. More importantly, I started getting random emails from people who’re in areas related to my research showing genuine enthusiasm for what I was doing. (Authors, professors, grad students, business people, musicians — many of them coming from notable institutions and careers.) I owe a lot of this success to SEO, or what’s called “Search Engine Optimization” practices on the web.
Optimizing your webpage in this manner is actually a lot easier than you might think — doing small tweaks here and there can drastically improve your odds at getting noticed by the general public, so it’s definitely worth the few extra minutes that it takes to do. A lot of the guides out there have the “hows” but not the “whys” of its benefits (especially for music-related projects) so I decided to put up a quick DIY guide with those things in mind. People will often pay thousands of dollars for these types of services, but you can get away with doing it on your own and in some cases might even do a better job since you’d be more familiar with what’s going on in your own projects.
For starters, if you’re a musician but don’t have a blog already, it’s recommended that you start one immediately because that’s what Google and most indexing services are going to prefer to see in the near future. Even if you don’t happen to update it very much, what the internet wants to know is that you’re still alive and active in the music-making field in some way, and blogging is one of the easiest ways of letting people know what’s going on. If you put in the time to write something interesting/insightful/useful, you’ll also be perceived as being as the go-to person for whatever style or genre that you’re playing in, which can give a healthy boost to your credibility.
I think there’s still a stigma attached to the word “blogger” in the music world for whatever reason, but it’s not necessary to identify yourself as such in order to take advantage of the tools that the medium has to offer. You could just think of it as a regular music site with a beefed-up “news” section, which is probably what musicians will find most useful for their purposes anyway.
It’s usually recommended that you do this through your own self-hosted or blog-specific sites rather than using the “update” systems of Myspace, Reverb Nation, Last.fm et al. mostly because the former tends to perform much better in search engine rankings. You’ll also eventually want your own easy-to-remember URL to act as your “home base” for collecting and organizing all of your other interests and activities into one place. If you don’t have the means or know-how to set up your own hosted site, a lot of blogging sites now have the option to buy custom URLs from their end, so it can also be set up that way as well.
The URL “www.yourband.com” is better than “yourband.bandcamp.com” or “www.reverbnation.com/yourband” because it lends itself to more credibility while also making things less confusing for both yourself and your listeners. If you’re on more than one music site (which is common), people need to immediately know where to bookmark if they want to keep up with your latest activities. If you decide to change sites in the future, which will inevitably happen given how quickly music sites rise and fall, keeping the URL consistent will allow you to make the move without losing any of your fan-base. If you need to post audio or video examples they should either be self-hosted or embedded from other sites in order to keep the user’s experience consistent.
What to write about? That’s a subject for another post, but for now let’s just assume that you’ve written a few things already and just want to get the word out. SEO is designed to help the author do this by allowing their posts to “target” their potential audiences. If you’re like me and don’t have the budget to hire someone but at the same time don’t want to spend a whole lot of time online just marketing things, this option can be a very good one. You might think of it as getting yourself listed in your local library’s catalogue — when done effectively, traffic will grow organically by connecting people who’re interested in certain subject matters to your projects as they wander around the web.
While there’s a ton of blogging options out there right now, WordPress is the industry standard at this point in time due to its professional layout, power, and flexibility that its plug-in system provides. But almost any platform will do as long as it lets you link to other sites and set your keywords/tags for every post that you make. The key is to be thorough and organized with everything you do, big or small.