SEO Basics for Musicians: How to Ensure Fans Can Find You Online


Search Engine Optimization. Or, ‘SEO’ for short. This fancy acronym is defined as “the process of maximizing the number of visitors to a particular website by ensuring that the site appears high on the list of results returned by a search engine.” Simply put for musicians, this means optimizing how you appear in search results so that you can grow both your online presence and revenue. Let’s explore the fundamentals of basic SEO for musicians.

The number one reason why you want to optimize your online presence is for your fans. After all, its fans who will search for you, your music, music videos, merch, and tour dates online. When each fan does so they’ll be at a different stage of their fan journey. 

A fan journey is a path that fans take between discovering you and becoming an advocate for your brand. Perhaps they just read an interview about you and now they want to search for - and listen to - the song mentioned. That’s the Discovery phase - you’ll want to ensure you have an artist profile on all streaming sites. Perhaps they are in the Exploration stage and want to watch the music video for the song they just listened to - do you have a YouTube profile? At every stage within the fan journey, your fans are looking for varying degrees of detail and information - and it’s entirely within your power to curate their search experience. 

The first step in any SEO project, musician or otherwise, is keyword research. To best structure your website, content, and online presence you need to know what people are searching for about your artist brand. This means conducting research into your artist keywords, building a master list of those keywords, and then applying those keywords to your online strategy. We’ll address keyword research in a later section.

We know that to be found online you need a presence on key platforms. The most obvious - and important place to start - is your own branded URL and website. The purpose of this website is to draw your fans further into your unique story. As such the essentials you need are a landing page with visual imagery, your key music and social icons linked, and an email subscriber capture form. If you’re building this out over time you’ll want to explore adding in music listening tools, your music videos, your e-commerce store or fan club, and tour dates - all within a design which reflects and tells your artist brand story. We cover how to build a functional website in this book, but for now, it’s important to know that an artist’s website is a key tool in engaging fans during the Exploration, Retention, Purchase, and Advocacy stages. 

Your online presence extends beyond your website to many platforms. In addition to your website, there’s social media, video, streaming, touring, or ticketing sites and your e-commerce presence. 

Here’s what a simple search for the artist Dillon Francis returns. You can see his website is returned first, and key socials, streaming sites, and Wikipedia are all referenced allowing a potential fan to dig deep into more information about the artist.

Now that you have a website that’s both functional and branded, you’ll want to build your profile on these other key platforms. Using the Dillon Francis example above we can see he has a presence on YouTube, Spotify, and Twitter, as well as his own Wikipedia page. This information is useful for a fan in the Discovery stage because they can hear a song, and if they enjoy it, move further along into the Exploration stage by reading his tweets and watching a music video. Let’s look at how the search results change when I enter a term more aligned with the Retention stage, “Dillon Francis tour dates”.


You can see now how the search results returned focus specifically on tour dates, pulling in information from additional platforms that Dillon has registered a presence on. This means that in addition to your branded website, you need to ensure you also have a branded - and active - presence on key streaming sites, social platforms, touring and ticketing platforms, retailers, and engagement tools (like Genius or MetroLyrics). Not only does this help fans to find information about you, but it also sends important signals to the search engines about what you do, who you are, and how many fans are searching for information about you. 

These platforms include:

Why is a presence on these platforms important?

  • Website - Fans can learn more about you, your music and your artist story
  • Social platforms - fans can connect with you, engage with you, and discover the ‘why’ of what you do
  • Music streaming - discover your music and if they like it, explore further
  • Videos & Images - It’s not just what you sound like. Fans need a personal connection to you and that is in large part is seeing who you are and the brand you present
  • Press, Reviews and other Content - allows fans to learn more about who you are, what others say about you (which can help to build trust) and what they personally think of all of that.
  • Touring - tour, performances and event news, so fans can purchase tickets
  • E-Commerce - if, after all of the above, they are engaged and have become a fan, then they will make a purchase. 

An SEO presence at the Purchase level via e-commerce becomes all the more important because ideally your fans will make not just one, but repeat purchases. However in order to do that they need to be able to purchase your products easily, and quickly, without roadblocks. We’ll cover e-commerce platform options in the next chapter, but here’s an example of a band who has crafted their purchase level SEO to the extent that they’ve provided multiple options for fans to purchase from them. They’ve done this by ensuring that fans can easily find tour dates and concert tickets, where to buy music (both in download and physical formats) and merch, links to their streaming profiles and have identified other places where they can make money from an online purchase. 

With your online platforms active and populated with information about you, you’ll want to move on to the “Google ecosystem”. Google likes to see that not only do you have a broad online presence but that you have one in the communities it feels are most relevant: it’s own. Ensure that where possible you have established a Google My Business profile, a brand account, a Google Play profile, a Wikipedia entry, a branded YouTube account, and most importantly - that all of the information on these platforms links back to your website.

Once you have strong foundational SEO in place, and you maintain the integrity of the information on those platforms, SEO actively works in the background from there. It helps you avoid getting lost in the noise by bringing fans to your website, music, content, or product offerings and it does this without you needing to actively promote yourself. Making sure you can find your fans online is incredibly important, but making sure they can find you: priceless. 

Keywords

Keywords are the words or phrases that fans use to search for your band online.

There are three groups of keyword types:

  • Short-tail keywords: “Lady Gaga tour”
  • Medium-tail keywords: “Lady Gaga show Los Angeles” or
  • Long-tail keywords: “Is Lady Gaga playing a show in Los Angeles near me soon?”

You can break these keyword groups down into two main categories. 

The first is branded keywords. These are keywords which include your name, a song lyric, your band members names, album names, tour names… and so forth. An example of a branded keyword search might be “David Bowie Ziggy Stardust era”.

The other category is non-branded keywords, which typically don’t include anything specific to your project name, band members, or the music you play. For example, if you’re a heavy metal band in Hollywood, California a relevant non-brand keyword might be the search term ‘heavy metal bands near me” or “heavy metal bands in greater Los Angeles”. Non-branded keywords usually won’t be useful to artists, unless you’re the type of entity that targets and plays performances at corporate gigs, weddings, and other community-focused events.

So just how do you go about researching your keywords?

Firstly, create a spreadsheet, which you’ll use for sifting through the keyword suggestions. You’ll add what makes sense (based on larger search volumes or more immediate relevance to your project) to your spreadsheet. This process can take some time, and you might need to try different combinations yourself to really dig deep and find the best keywords.

There’s a number of tools available for your keyword research, however here are the best places to start. 


  • Google AdWords Keywords Planner 
  • To access the AdWords Keywords Planner set up a Google Ads account here. It’s free to do so. With your account set up, navigate to the Keywords Planner tool and use a well-profiled artist or band (someone within your genre ideally) as the initial seed keyword to get started.


  • TubeBuddy tool for YouTube. 
  • Tubebuddy is a free and powerful search engine tool. Simply install TubeBuddy, and open up YouTube. Then visit the YouTube URL of a competitor video. The TubeBuddy extension will load on the right-hand side of the screen and provide a list of tags. Review these tags for potential relevancy, and add what fits to your keyword document. Alternatively, you can visit your TubeBuddy dashboard and load ‘Keyword Explorer’. Then input your initial keywords and see what additional keywords TubeBuddy suggests. 


  • Google search
  • Visit Google and start typing your ideas into the search bar. Simply see what it suggests as the returned results. You can also use the additional suggestions list at the bottom of the search results page too for more suggestions and keyword combinations.


  • Free keyword tracker 
  • Using this free keyword tracker tool, type your keywords into the search bar. Sift through the results as you did with the AdWords Keyword Planner, focusing on volume and relevancy.


  • Google Trends
  • Type ‘Google Trends’ into your Google search bar, and type your keywords into the search bar, then navigate to ‘related queries’ for identifying potential keywords.


  • Brainstorming
  • Fans are usually searching for very similar information: tour dates (tour, live, tickets, concerts), lyrics, albums and songs, Wikipedia and/or discography, merchandise (vinyl, t-shirts, hoodies, posters, guitar picks, etc, or to stream music (Spotify, Apple, Amazon, Deezer, Pandora or YouTube). With these search parameters in mind, think of all of the different combinations someone might use to search for you.

    Obviously, it makes sense to Google your potential artist or band name before you commit to it. In very much the same way you’d research whether a company name is taken, and if the domains exist for that entity, you should do the same with your potential project name. However, there are circumstances in which a conflict might be unavoidable. For example when you have a common name like Mike Johnson or when your band name includes the name of something famous or common phrases. In these circumstances, it will be even more important that you build your SEO ecosystem, research and implement your keywords, create an aesthetically pleasing and functional website, and implement SEO, Voice Search, and Schema markup practices.


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