SEO for musicians, huh? Working with SEO and digital marketing for years, I thought it would be fairly straight-forward to transfer my skills from the corporate realm to the music realm. It couldn’t really be further from the truth, and I had to struggle with trial and error for quite a while to get a hold of successful SEO strategies. But eventually I learned to how to do it in music as well. Here are some things I’ve learned that you can apply to your own music promotion.
About the author
- Stefan Nordström
- Stockholm, Sweden
- Musician, content creator
- Desolator, Soliloquium
- Facebook | Instagram | YouTube
What is SEO?
SEO stands for Search Engine Optimization, a marketing tactic to gain free deserved traffic from Google through digital content. Success is often achieved by creating in-depth content about topics related to what you are promoting. You have to write about relevant and popular things, and you have to do it well. And your website needs to work well. It needs to load fast, look good on different devices and be regarded as reliable and safe.
SEO for musicians – my experience
I started out in 2017 with an empty site and a few ideas. My experience in digital marketing included SEO, but I had no idea how it work out in metal music. After all, niches are different. Music is a lot about social media and listening platforms. But fortunately, people seem to visit websites as well.
The first year saw me getting some minor SEO traffic, peaking with 2 000 visitors in one month at the end of the year. In the end of 2018, it had doubled. And when 2019 ended, I was up to 10 000. My peak so far was 12 000 visitors in January 2021.
Maybe I’m making it sound like there’s no work to it, but that’s a lie. I’ve been adding content constantly, and now there are hundreds of optimized articles on the site. Some examples are my massive genre guides to doom metal and death metal, including sub-genres. They’ve been a lot of work, but now they’re pulling in consistent visits from Google.
Coming from a field where many people are actively searching for a solution, it was mostly a game of finding popular topics to rank high for. In the music field, it’s completely different. Relatively few people are searching for music genres on Google, something that would be straight-forward to write an article about, and your website will find itself competing against massive sites like Wikipedia, Last.fm and Rateyourmusic. So, what can we do to be a little bit smarter and steal some website traffic anyway?
Branded organic search
My insight so far has been to aim for branded searches, which in my underground music world has been about bands that influenced my band. I haven’t taken this to the extreme yet, but the articles I have posted with this strategy has worked better than the ones aiming for full music genres.
Edit: But in the long run I found that a combination works best. The genre guides have been successful over time. So it’s definitely worth writing about your favorite music genres, especially if you have the knowledge ready in your head.
Long-tail SEO for musicians
The solution that has worked out for me is to cater to the overall development of Google SEO; the long-tail searching. I could probably never steal a high spot for a brand name search such as “Katatonia”, but an in-depth article about my favorite Katatonia songs could get there for “best katatonia songs” or “which katatonia songs should i check out?”. Don’t forget to specify a good meta description (which I didn’t do in this case) if you want to increase your clickthrough and get better chances to rank higher for your terms.
Even if you’re aiming for long-tail traffic, keyword research is extremely important to uncover what your potential fans are actually searching for. Using a tool like KWFinder could give inspiration for several articles, or maybe a whole section on your site. A good SEO practice is to target every article towards one of a few keywords. Don’t have multiple articles targeted at the same keyword. For instance, I have one for “death metal”, one for “death metal bands” and one for “death metal vocalists”.
Facebook, Twitter and Reddit for musicians
An additional traffic driver beyond the Google SEO for musicians is social media. Facebook is a solid way to drive traffic to your homepage. It’s often a balancing act between having the flashy headline that gets the click, and not being click bait. Make sure to provide valuable website content that delivers on the promise that the posts headline on social media had. Posting my content in niche groups for bands and genres is something that has worked well for me, and I have received minimal or no slack for performing my content marketing there.
YouTube and Spotify playlists
YouTube playlist SEO can be an interesting way to promote music for several ways. You could actively place your own songs in playlists (if they fit in, of course) or make popular music playlists that drive subscribers to your YouTube channel, giving your band exposure when you, for instance, post a new song. The same principle applies to Spotify, though I’m yet to try it out myself as an SEO strategy for my music.
Make sure to tag the crap out of your YouTube videos for maximum SEO effect. Add an appropriate genre tag (see death/doom metal in the video above) in the video title, as well as genre and similar bands in the video description and other tags. This will allow your music to show up for listeners who might be interested in search and similar suggestions.
Bandcamp and Soundcloud tags
The tags on Bandcamp are extremely important. Make sure to put accurate genre tags as well as country of origin, influencers and other possible visitor drivers. They can also drive more traffic to your Bandcamp page directly from Google. The same applies for SoundCloud, even though the platform seems to be declining in popularity these days. Image Below: tags for Soliloquium on Bandcamp.
Don’t forget the conversions
For me, being a musician has never been about making money, but a vital part of the SEO process is converting your visitors. So don’t forget to link to your Bandcamp and/or Facebook in your content in a natural way. It could be also be a way to drive subscribers to your newsletter. Don’t overdo it, but make sure the option is there when you have someone reading about your top 10 songs by a similar band. It’s also important to measure the conversion success regularly, and tweak it based on the statistics.