We’ve been thinking a LOT about SEO lately. While musicians are always concerned about making an artistic statement with their websites, they should also think about making a practical one. We know practical isn’t always an artist’s favorite descriptor, but this is the music business and not the music-let’s-eat-ramen-forever.
So back to SEO. First things first, SEO stands for Search Engine Optimization. Basically, when somebody types something into the little Google search box, you’d like them to come up with a link to your band. Have you ever Googled you/your band? Shocked with what comes up? Welcome to the fun world of SEO.
The most simple form of SEO is keyword optimization. The little Google creatures that crawl the Internet are trying to understand what your site is all about. The easiest way to do that is based upon the (textual) words that appear on your website’s pages. If you’re using terms like “guitar” and “blues” a whole lot, there’s a good chance that your site could be located on a search for “blues guitar.” Admittedly, this is over-simplified, but start looking at the a few homepages.
Here’s one of our all-time favorites:
How many times do you see the words “Themes” and “Party”? Do you get a rough idea of what type of content this website is serving up to you?
Now think about your own website. What type of content is featured? Are there actually words to convey what you’re all about? For example, if your homepage is just one giant image and nothing else — what does that mean in terms of keyword analysis for search engines? The answer: not much.
Admittedly, this is just one form of SEO. A recent article spotlights the fact that organic search results (the stuff you do yourself) are losing ground to paid search results (sponsored ads, etc.). Check this graphic:
All that work your doing on your website is relegated to a results section (organic search results) that’s slightly more than 1/4 of the displayed page! Not only are you competing with other musicians, now you’re dueling with Google! Oh, the horror! But what about those green spaces that’re creeping in — how can you take advantage of those?
Ah, there’s the new test of SEO skills. Those green spaces are paid advertising on Google and mostly through “Google AdWords.” For those who haven’t delved into those waters, Google AdWords is a advertising platform built around (you guessed it!) keywords. When someone searches for “blues guitar” on Google, the little imaginary workers inside Google find the AdWords advertisements with those same keywords. Then they see who’s willing to pay the most for the coveted top spots, and those ads gets shown. This is done by creating your ad and then telling Google that you’re willing to pay up to a certain amount if someone clicks on your ad. D.I.-Why has worked with clients whose AdWords budget was more than you spent recording your last 3 albums. There’re people who’s entire job centers around PPC (pay-per-click) advertising like Google AdWords.
Think of it this way: if you’re trying to sell a $10 CD, it’s worth spending 50 cents to make sure it happens. Cuts into the margin, but it could increase sales (and exposure) overall.
While this is an overly simplified explanation to how SEO works, it should make you start thinking about where you show up in search, how people are finding you, and how you can increase/improve things. Here’s another fun example from a Google search for Blind Melon:
Remember Blind Melon? ”No Rain” was the big hit, and since it’s raining today, well, you get the idea. Anyway, a search for “Blind Melon” yielded these results. First up, Wikipedia, then YouTube, then Facebook, and then a fan site. Interestingly, their official website (blindmelonmusic.com) doesn’t show up in the first bunch of listings! If you’ve read this far, take a look at their official site, and you might be able to figure out why.
There’s a bit more to it though. For example, did you know that Google owns YouTube? If you’re searching on Google, they’re gonna want you to stay “in the family.” The more Google pages you see (YouTube included), the more advertising they can send your way. More advertising means more dollars. So what should you do? Well, are you visible on YouTube? It might be time to get started!
The lesson in all of this is that there’s much more to your career as a musician that “just” music. Obviously, that comes first, but when you step out of the studio, there’s all this other stuff that has to be considered. While it’s not fun, it’s important. Don’t worry though, we’re here to help!