As I’ve mentioned several times in the past, if you’re a musician looking to make an impact online, you absolutely, 100%, without a doubt, need your own website. If you do not have one yet, please get to work, or summon one of your tech-savvy friends to give you a hand (in exchange for some friendly, booze-related payments of course).
There are hundreds of options, methods, and approaches that you can use with regards to your website. Through the mess of it all, however, there is one thing that should occasionally garner your full attention : SEO.
So WTF is SEO, you ask?
From Wikipedia: Search engine optimization (SEO) is the process of improving the volume or quality of traffic to a web site or a web page (such as a blog) from search engines via “natural” or un-paid (“organic” or “algorithmic”) search results as opposed to other forms of search engine marketing (“SEM”) which may deal with paid inclusion.
Basically, your website should be stupid easy for your fans to find. For instance, if you write wacky, awesome “space music“, there are things you can do to increase the chances of your website appearing at the top of Google search results when somebody searches “space music,” or your band name, or anything else related to you. You need to organize the content on your website is such a way that search engines will understand you, and be able to correctly categorize your music.
Search engines use robots to scan the world wide web for the best content around, and rank this content accordingly. They will rank your website based on the types of keywords you use, where and how you use them, and how many links to your website exist around the web.
I’d also like to note that if you are a DIY or indie label musician (and you probably are if you’re reading this post), I don’t think it is necessary for you to take a full-on approach to SEO. Regardless of your efforts, it will be near impossible for your music to ever show up at the top of generic search results like “hard rock,” “hip-hop,” etc. Mainstream acts will have the highest search ranks 99.9% of the time for these keywords. However, that doesn’t mean you should just ignore SEO entirely. Instead, try to focus on becoming the #1 result for narrower searches, like your band name, your band member’s names, and sub-genres that your music falls into.
Below are some straightforward tips on how to optimize your music website for search engines, so existing fans can easily find you, and newcomers can accidentally discover you:
NOTE: There is no need to hire a professional to do this for you. You’re a much bigger geek than you think.
Continually optimize your website’s content
I know this sounds pretty vague, so let me explain. The best way to optimize your website for search engines is to consistently post content that includes keywords related to your music. These keywords must be popular, searchable words that accurately describe your music, your lifestyle, and your fan base. Occasionally, make some keywords bold by placing the <strong> tags around them (search engines look for those when they are indexing your website).
Don’t forget meta tags
Meta tags are hidden lines of HTML code that help search engines categorize your website correctly. The most important tags are the title, description, and keywords tags. Chances are you probably already have these in the <head> section of your website. If you do, check to make sure all three tags use the keywords that best describe your music. If you don’t have these, then read below, and generate the lines of code here.
the <title> tag
This is the most important tag, and must be short, sweet, and to the point. If you can fit it, try to include your band name and some genres (aka keywords) of music (e.g. “The Formatters – poetry. hip-hop. jam rock.”).
the description <meta> tag
The meta description is second in importance, and should be about 1-2 sentences long. In those few sentences, squeeze in as many keywords as possible, making sure your band name and genres of music are in there, and spelled exactly the same as the ones in the title.
the keywords <meta> tag
Meta keywords are less important nowadays, but it is still common practice to include this tag. again you want to be sure to include the artist’s name and genres, as well as anything else that’s important to their presence. Do NOT keyword the word, “stuff,” because its super vague and might confuse the heck out of a search engine spider.
Link back to your website from other places on the web
If you’re reading this post, it’s probably a safe bet to assume that you read other blogs as well, and maybe even some that write about the exact kind of music that you create. If you actively participate in musical conversations across the web, why not ask some of these bloggers to link back to your website, or even feature your music on their blog? The more backlinks your website has across the web, the higher your search rank will be.
Extra tip: Blogs that already have a high search ranking in your genre of music are the prime destinations for your backlinks. But remember, don’t just spam up their comments section. Be genuine and relevant.
Use short URL’s that include your keywords
If you are running a blog on your website (especially WordPress), then you will be generating a new page on your website each time you publish a post. It is important to make sure that the URL to that post is understandable, and includes some keywords that are used in that post/page.
Use header tags correctly
Many people think that in order to make some text appear large on a page, you should use one of the header tags (<h1> thru <h6>). This could not be more wrong, and will confuse the crap out of search engines when they crawl your website. Try to use the <h1> tag only ONCE on each page, that way it is clear to search engines what that page is about (e.g. “Shows”, “Discography”, “Store”). Then, for important content on the page, like the name of an album or song, use the <h2> or <h3> tags. This will stress the importance of your song and album title to search engines, and have them understand that your songs and albums appear on the “Discography” page, “Store” page, etc.
The list of SEO tricks can really go on forever, but I think the ones I mentioned above are all that a musician should ever focus his or her attention on. Don’t go crazy with this (unless you really want to), but understand that people are looking for your music on search engines. It is important that your website is optimized so that the chances of your music appearing towards the top are good.