Chris and I recently had the chance chat with SEO and digital marketing expert Dan Shure of Evolving SEO and the Experts on the Wire podcast. Dan’s been helping companies and individuals conquer their SEO problems since 2007 and as a musician himself, he’s got a really unique perspective about how artists can leverage the power of SEO and YouTube. You’ll definitely want to check out his insight!
This article features some of the highlights from our talk, but make sure to check out the full interview on the Music Business Lounge podcast!
- SEO for musicians is backwards – people aren’t typing “hipster band” into Google to find you. They’re using search engines to follow up with bands they’ve already discovered. As an artist, you are creating search demand and keywords.
- Be aware of the “search ecosystem optimization” – that the search engine is just the bridge from the real world to where things live on the web. It’s all based on real people.
- You need to own the search results page for things like your band name, your band members names, your song names, and your “branded” and “longtail” keywords.
- Research the suggested searches on Google for your band name. If people are searching for “your band name” plus “mailing list,” you need to make sure you have a mailing list page, etc.
- Posting covers of popular songs by similar artists is a great way to leverage the YouTube platform for exposure. Make sure your title, description, and tags are optimized for the terms people are searching for.
- YouTube ranks your channel authority by raw view time, so creating playlists (even with some videos that aren’t yours) is an incredible tool to increase your exposure in searches and related videos.
Thanks for being with us! Why don’t you start by sharing with us a little bit of your story and how you got to where you are now.
DS: Thanks guys! I first knew that I loved music when I was 2 or 3 years old. I was at a parade with my mom in Arlington, MA, and I wanted to get away from the crowds. My mom ducked into a random store that happened to be a music store. I just went right to the pianos and started banging on the keys. I was having the time of my life. That’s when my mom first say my interest in music. I have to credit her and all the records she used to play in the house. That’s when I first started loving music.
I went to the University of New Hampshire for music. I loved it. I spent a lot of my 20s gigging and giving piano lessons, doing the whole musician thing. Then in my late twenties I started thinking about settling down. I got married and started looking for a job that was more 9-to-5 not 5-to-2AM. I was listening to a podcast called “SEO 101.” I realized these guys were talking about SEO as their job. I didn’t realize up until that point that SEO was a separate field of study. I was always making websites, installing analytics, trying to figure out the traffic and how to get promotion and exposure. That was around 2007 when I decided to make SEO a full-time gig.
So many musicians seem to overlook SEO as a part of their marketing and promotion efforts. I’d love to hear your thoughts about why SEO is something important industry professionals should be using to their advantage.
DS: I think it’s interesting. SEO for musicians is backwards compared to how the rest of the world relates to SEO. If you have an online eCommerce store and you’re selling tea. You are hoping people are going to Google and typing things like “tea for sale,” or “black tea for sale.” You want people to discover you through the search engine as the discovery channel.
With performing musicians, no one is going to Google and typing “hipster band.” It’s just not how we find musicians. People are using the search engine to follow up with and continue the relationship with someone they’ve discovered. Whether it’s looking for deeper tracks, concert dates, website, or mailing list. As a musician you are creating the search demand. You are creating the keywords people are searching for. When you come up with a band name, that’s what people are going to search. That’s the first thing I want to convey, that paradigm shift. So off of that, you can start thinking of ways to leverage that to get discovery.
Talk a little bit about how we can use that unique aspect of music SEO to our advantage.
DS: There’s a lot of ways you can leverage SEO if you are smart. You need to follow up on what your search results look like for your band name, your band members names, maybe the names of your songs, and what we call in the SEO space “longtail” keywords. People are not only going to Google and typing in “Lumineers.” They are typing in “Lumineers email list” or “Lumineers tour dates.” What you can do is go to Google and start typing your name and seeing what comes up in the suggested searches. Every single one. See what returns. If you aren’t in control of the results coming up there, you need to be. If people are searching “your brand name” plus “email list” and you don’t have an email list page on your website, you need to go create one. That way, you can capture that demand people are looking for.
Such great tips! I’d love to hear some more tactics we can use to leverage SEO in our marketing efforts.
DS: Try to capture some of the demand that people are creating when searching for bigger artists. Find people that a similar to you and create results that could rank for the “longtail” off of their stuff. This is where covers come into play – not only for ranking on Google but for YouTube.
A lot of people don’t know that YouTube is the world’s second biggest search engine. YouTube is a huge discovery channel. Did you know that most discovery in YouTube isn’t search, it’s related videos on the right hand side. That’s where most views come from. (If you’re interested in a deep dive into YouTube, listen to the episode of Dan’s Experts on the Wire with Roberto Blake – he really knows his stuff when it comes to YouTube!) Find a popular song by a similar artist to you that doesn’t have a lot of covers already. Or just one with not a lot of great covers. Optimize the title for what people are searching for. Just by doing that you are giving yourself a huge leg up in being discovered in the YouTube platform.
And from there you can funnel them down to wherever else you’d like them to go?
DS: Absolutely! You can take advantage of so many of YouTube’s engagement and linking features. You can add links to the video and put links in the descriptions. One thing Roberto talked about is creating playlists. YouTube ranks channels based upon total raw watchtime. If you have a YouTube channel that has created a lot of watch time, your channel is more authoritative in the eyes of YouTube and they will service you more in the related videos and searches.By creating playlists, when someone finishes watching your cover, the playlist will automatically take people to the next video. That will keep them on your channel longer. It doesn’t even have to be a video on your channel. Your channel can just be the gateway. That’s a great way to get some authority.
That makes a lot of sense. It puts a bit of method to the madness!
DS: Yes, so let’s go even deeper into the related video thing. Let’s say there’s an existing cover video of someone covering Drake. The thumbnail is an overhead shot of the piano with hands on it. I’ve noticed that Google and YouTube are very good at figuring out what the objects are in that video through machine learning and AI. You are more likely to show up as a related video if your thumbnail visually matches existing videos of the similar topic.
That’s great stuff. Another thing that really interested me that you’ve talked about before is this idea of “knowledge graphs” on Google. Could you touch a little bit on that for us?
DS: Sure. When you search, you aren’t just getting links anymore. You are getting a lot of extra stuff in the search results. All that other stuff is Google figuring out what’s called “entities.” All this real world stuff. When you search for a band there is literally a box called the “knowledge box.” It can have the logo, images, website, social profiles, albums, and so much more. You can actually do some things to control what shows up in your knowledge box, or if it shows up at all.
The more specific your band name is, the more popular you are, and the more confident Google is that the user is looking for your band, the more likely that box will show up. You can go to Google+ and create yourself a brand profile page for your band. That’s one thing that will potentially help the knowledge box show up. You can also tell Google using code what you want your logo to be, or what you want your social profiles to be as well. (Check out more information on this in Dan’s article here)
What are some of the biggest mistakes you see people making in SEO?
DS: So many mistakes. I think it goes back to understanding the context of where SEO fits into your world. I like to use the term “search ecosystem optimization” – that the search engine is just the bridge from the real world to where things live on the web. There are actual people trying to find you, your music, or discover something that brings them entertainment or value or moves them. It’s still real human emotion and needs and people looking for things on the other end of that search engine.
So it’s all based on people, right?
DS: Yeah. I think musicians are in a great place to understand what people want. How do we capture and hold someone’s attention. That’s what you should put into your YouTube videos and the content you create online. There are a lot of up-and-coming musicians who think for some reason that it’s “cool” not to reply to people. I disagree. I think if you are an up-and-coming musician you should show your gratitude by replying, liking, or doing something to show that you are appreciative of them paying attention to you. Attention is so scarce and divided right now on the web with so many options out there. I think that can go a long way to get people excited about your music and sharing it as well.
Like what you read? Make sure to share this article! Let us know if you had any thoughts or questions in the comments section or at firstname.lastname@example.org
You can find our full audio interview with Dan on the Music Business Lounge Podcast, where we dive even deeper into the world of SEO and YouTube for musicians.
Be sure to connect with Dan:
Website: Evolving SEO
Podcast: Experts on the Wire
He received his BA and MS from Boston University and also holds a certificate in Music Production from Berklee. Jeff has helped clients earn coverage in countless international media outlets and was a "Top 40 Under Forty" selection for his accomplishments as a young entrepreneur.
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