In 2018, having a digital presence for your music is more important than ever. You have a website, you have social media, you have streaming platforms, and you can use all of them to your advantage for the most visibility. At Stem, we want artists to be able to focus on creating, but we also want to arm you with the tools to maximize your online presence and drive downloads, streams, concert tickets, merch sales — you name it.
You may be wondering, “What is SEO”?
SEO (short for Search Engine Optimization) is a type of marketing focused on increasing the quantity (and quality) of your website traffic through Organic Search results. Cool, sounds great, but what are Organic Search results? When you perform a Google search, you see a list of websites and articles. Most of those are Organic Search results.
SEO, when leveraged, helps attract website visitors from all over the world who are interested in your product (so in this case, your music). Owning your band or artist name in the Google Search Engine Result Page (SERP) when people are searching for your new music, upcoming tour dates or just your “about you” as an artist, is important, and you want to show up as easily and clearly as possible.
To help artists master this huge portion of their marketing strategy, we compiled a 4-step guide to SEO for Musicians. Read on to learn more, and also check out more posts on the Stem Blog for help with boosting your marketing and release strategy.
1. Set Up Analytics & Tracking
Before we even dive into the nitty gritty, the first thing you should do for SEO — and any form of digital marketing — is set up your tracking and analytics platforms.
Google Analytics will become one of your all-time best friends as you continue to dive deeply into music marketing. It shows you how your digital channels work together and how much site traffic is coming from each channel — from users and bounce rates to custom goals (like clicks on your Spotify Profile) and demographic data. You can also isolate specific landing pages on your site. Just announced a tour? You can isolate your tour page and check out the traffic it’s getting! Routing a tour? Analyze the location and demographic data Google Analytics provides.
If you’re unable to place the Google Analytics tag directly in the code of your website, look into Google Tag Manager for streamlined implementation.
Google Search Console
Also known as Webmaster tools, Search Console is your one-stop shop for all things SEO.
Search Console will allow you to see what pages of your site are being indexed, any crawl or site redirect errors and (hopefully no) penalties you may be dealing with. For the record, crawl errors are when Google cannot fetch specific pages of your site, and to crawl, in this instance, is when the Googlebot (with Google’s algorithm) discovers (or fetches) pages to add to the Google index.
2. Understand Ranking Factors
You have a website, but you want to make sure it will help drive value for your music. You need to bear in mind factors that will help you rank (or show up) higher in the Organic Search Results.
Here are three ranking factors to keep in mind with your SEO music marketing:
Consistent, unique content on your website is key. It’s what Google’s algorithm looks at to understand what your website is about and when to show your pages in the Search.
Keep your tour page updated. Have a news page or a blog where you can update your fans about new music you’re working on or new merch you’re releasing. Even updating the content on your site with keywords you find valuable can help. Embed your YouTube videos in blog posts or have a page dedicated to new videos, as SEO also applies to YouTube (surprise!).
There are SEO strategies for YouTube that we’ll discuss in future blog posts.
Another ranking factor is mobile friendliness. It should come as no surprise that Google loves and prioritizes sites that are optimized for mobile (meaning that your site works just as well on a phone or tablet as it does on desktop). Make sure your mobile site has the same content as your desktop site, your site and images are responsive and your site loads quickly.
If you want to check the page load time of your mobile (or desktop) site, you can use the Page Speed Insights tool. Bookmark that tool! If a page takes too long to load, it can negatively impact your site’s SEO. Always keep an eye on your page speed — for ranking, conversion and engagement reasons — even once your website is mobile friendly.
Adapting AMP pages (Accelerated Mobile Pages) can help with the load time of your mobile site, as these pages exist for mobile optimization. If your website has WordPress hosting, here are some plugins that’ll make your life simpler:
- Accelerated Mobile Pages: creates AMP pages for you, and allows for brand customization
- WP Smush: compresses your photos for you to help with load times.
Once you’ve implemented mobile optimization changes, you can check to see if they are working. Google helps you find out with this tool to check if your hard work paid off and your website is deemed, “mobile friendly.”
If you’ve looked into SEO, you’ve probably heard something about “backlinks”. Another top-ranking factor, these are tricky to obtain, but very impactful when you do. Backlinks are when another website references your content in their posts by linking back to your post or content. These are important because backlinks help your site credibility with Google (think of it as the SEO version of word-of-mouth).
An easy way to try to obtain backlinks is through the help of your PR team. For example, you could be announcing an upcoming album, and in the press release, include a link back to the post on your news page. When publications pick up the release, they can use this URL to link back to you in their post and help boost your SEO credibility.
3. Conduct Keyword Research
Earlier, we stressed the importance of new, unique content on your website. Alongside that, make sure to do research on which keywords to target to make sure that this content provides value to you as a musician.
Think about keywords that describe your music, your genre and other artists that are comparable to you. Also think about keywords that describe the actions you want your fans to take on your website. For example: artist name + upcoming tour dates is a good keyword (i.e. Frank Ocean upcoming tour dates).
Deduce your target keyword (the keyword you view as the most valuable for that piece of content) and expand on it. Mention it several times, and make sure to include some synonyms scattered throughout that post, because this will help Google understand what your content is about. Here’s a nice and free tool to help you come up with synonyms.
4. Pay Attention to On-Site Optimizations
On-site optimizations can help you hit a SEO home run.
SEO metadata is what appears in the search engine result page, so you’ll want to tailor this to you as an artist. Make sure you include your most valued keywords (your name and/or album name) in the header and in the title of your article (or page).
Here are the two main component of SEO Metadata:
This is the title you see in Google when you search for stuff. The general rule of thumb is to keep a title between 55-65 characters.
It’s recommended to have your meta description be between 50-300 characters. They’re not a direct ranking factor for SEO, but they help with your click through rates for overall site traffic because they can give context into what a page contains.
Headers are your in-post/article titles. You can only have 1 Header 1, but you can have as many Header 2s or 3s as you want. For example, in this article, SEO for Musicians: 2018’s 4 Step Guide To Market Your Music is our Header 1. Each individual step is a header 2, and the smaller dividers are the header 3s. A simplified or organized structure like this helps Google crawl, understand your content and rank your website more easily.
For overall SEO help if you use WordPress, checkout the plugin Yoast.
For strong SEO for music marketing, make sure you have your analytics set up, keep creating new and updated old content, research value keywords and review your on-site presence.
Keep an eye out for more music marketing tips, including SEO for YouTube. If you’re interested in learning Social Media tips to market your music, make sure to checkout our 3 part series on making the most of your socials: Instagram, Facebook and Twitter.