The subject of overwhelm has appeared here on the blog a number of times.
Many musicians already feel bogged down with their pursuit of a music career without having to add one more thing to their loaded-down schedule.
And yet, they are faced with the somewhat cruel reality that online marketing, social media, and even distribution are evolving and changing all the time.
Enter search engine optimization.
It’s a confusing enough topic to learn about for the average marketer, let alone the average musician.
And yet, the subject continues to rear its head in various places, forcing people to pay attention to it.
Does search engine optimization really matter if you’re a musician, or a music entrepreneur for that matter?
Let’s give this some thought.
Even SEO Experts Can’t Keep Up
First of all, we have to face the reality that even people who work specifically in the SEO field feel that they can’t keep up with all of the constant changes.
And looking back on the colorful past of SEO, it’s not hard to see why.
You may have been able to get away with some “black hat” tactics in the past, but SEO is mostly “white hat” today, because if you try to game the system, Google will find you out and penalize you for it.
Sadly, gaming is exactly what SEO used to be all about. Marketers utilized questionable tactics like keyword stuffing, private blog networks and link building to boost their rankings in search.
As Google updated their algorithm, a lot of those tactics stopped working, and a lot of sites got de-ranked.
Some of the aforementioned tactics still work, but you have to have specialized knowledge to know exactly how to set them up.
Today, about the only thing that really matters is back-links. In other words, the more that people link to your site, the higher you can expect your rank to rise.
Google has made it so that links are pretty hard to exploit. If you get linked from too many sketchy, disreputable sources, it won’t actually help you.
For the amount of benefit that you’re likely to see from SEO, I can’t advocate investing all of your time and energy into constantly studying and applying it.
I think it’s something you should be aware of, but that’s basically where it stops; awareness.
SEO is a Long-Term Strategy
Many improvements and changes to your site over time can indeed boost your rank in search.
You can create more content, get more back-links, optimize for mobile devices, ensure that your site is running at optimal speed, and so on.
Aside from back-links, many of the SEO strategies that are out there take time to implement. In addition to that, many of them will have no immediate effect on your search rankings.
And let’s not forget, either, that you have to know what you’re doing in order to make improvements. If you don’t, you could actually end up harming your site’s ranking.
There’s no question that implementing responsive design (so that your website works across all devices) and making your site run fast is a good idea.
But if you’re expecting to see a huge spike in traffic tomorrow from what you’ve accomplished today, you’re in trouble.
The results that you get from SEO tend to be pretty granular.
In short, this probably isn’t something you should be focusing on. Perhaps you can hire someone or bring on a team member in the future, but if you’re not there yet, why bother?
SEO can be a huge time-sink, and it’s quite technical in nature besides. Then, it can also take a while for it to have any effect on your website.
I’m not saying that you shouldn’t do it because it takes a long time, but because of the patience and technical knowledge required, you’re better off leveraging the knowledge of a qualified expert.
Regular & Quality Content is Still Your Best Bet
It has long been held that content is king, and while that sentiment still holds true, these days it’s more like content is the kingdom, and the king is whoever you’re trying to please.
So, if you’re focused on search engine optimization, then clearly Google, Yahoo! and Bing are your kings.
And, if it’s your goal to satisfy search engines, then there’s nothing better than content, particularly textual content. This is why blogs are so important.
You don’t necessarily want to sink all of your time into blogging either, but it’s fair to say that anyone can type out a few quick sentences on a regular basis, share a picture, a Vine, or something that doesn’t require all of your time.
It isn’t easy to get your content to rank in search, but the more you have, the better chance you have of something sticking.
Search engines will begin to rank your site higher if you add content regularly, even if none of the content makes a splash.
Furthermore, blogging is an excellent fan engagement strategy. If you post frequently, you’ll be able to drive more traffic to your website.
You want an effective SEO strategy? Here’s one: start making stuff that people care about!
Adopt the Set-and-Forget Mentality
I’ve already established that you don’t want all of your time to be going towards SEO, but I totally understand if you want to cover the basics.
If you’re using WordPress, I suggest getting the free WordPress SEO Plugin.
Using it will teach you the basics of on-page SEO and the importance of keywords.
Moreover, once your page is optimized, there is no further work to be done, thus set-and-forget.
Once you get really good, you’ll be able to write posts that are immediately optimized with little to no tweaking. If you’re going to use the previously mentioned plugin, that should be your goal.
So, you could say that on-page SEO is a learnable skill, and it really doesn’t take that long to learn, either.
However, I have been averaging about four to six daily visits from search for a long time now, and I have dozens – if not hundreds – of optimized pages.
I’m not saying that you won’t do better, but let’s be realistic about our expectations here.
If you have a long-term perspective, then optimizing makes sense. You never know when something could blow up.
But clearly there’s only so much you can do in the short term.
Should musicians be focused on SEO?
No, musicians are creative people, and they should be concentrating on their craft.
However, should music entrepreneurs be focused on SEO?
As a natural extension of being a businessperson, you should at least understand what it is and why it’s important.
There’s a reason why businesses out there are talking about it, and why they are using SEO strategies to grow their web presence.
So, not caring about SEO as a businessperson is kind of like an accountant not caring about spreadsheets.
Sure, they can probably do their job without spreadsheets, and there might be better tools out there, but it is one of many, and they should at least be aware of it.
What are your thoughts? Do you understand SEO? Do you use SEO tactics on your website?
Let us know in the comments section below.
Author: David Andrew Wiebe
David Andrew Wiebe has built an extensive career in songwriting, live performance, recording, session playing, production work, investing, and music instruction. In addition to helping musicians unlock their full potential, he also continues to maintain a touring schedule with multiple bands.