If SEO is important to you as a musician, then having a website for your band is arguably the most important factor. But just having one isn’t quite enough. You need to optimize it for search engines.
Before you read this though, head over to Chapter 1 of this multi-post SEO guide for musicians to get familiar with your SEO strategy, the Fan Journey, and everything else we’ve covered up to this point.
Before you start optimizing your website you should have a pretty good sense of what you want to accomplish with your SEO, and at least a rough strategy about how to do it.
If you’re ready, and you know what needs to be done…. Let’s do it.
Key Factors for Band Website SEO
The topic of optimizing a website for SEO is just way too big to cover in this blog post. So before we get into details, we’ll start by offering a broad overview and linking out to good resources for general SEO advice where you can do more research.
After this section, the rest of the post will focus on issues that are more specific to band websites.
So the generic overview... Broadly speaking, the general key factors for optimizing your band website for SEO can be broken down into the following four main groups:
Optimizing your content delivery is about making sure your website is fast, secure, and user-friendly on all devices. That means having (among other things) fast hosting, a CDN, caching, an SSL certificate, responsive HTML and CSS, and a whole bunch of other technical stuff that only a web developer understands.
If you use Bandzoogle, we take care of these things for you. We constantly optimize the speed of Bandzoogle websites, and all of our themes are responsive.
Optimizing your website structure is about organizing and structuring your website so that search engines can easily crawl through it, access all of your content, and understand what it’s “seeing”. That means having a clear page hierarchy, linking your pages together properly, having a good HTML and XML sitemap, and so on. It also means cleaning up the very common and usually-misunderstood issue of duplicate content.
It’s mostly up to you to structure your website content for SEO, but if you use Bandzoogle we take care of some of these things for you.
Optimizing your on-page content is about making sure the content on each page on your website is organized and descriptive. This means having clean code and plenty of well-made content, using keywords appropriately, making sure all of the content is readable by search engines, and addressing a really specific topic on each page.
You can learn more about on-page SEO here. Using Bandzoogle helps you with some of this, but it’s up to you to put great content on your pages.
Popularity and Links
Optimizing your popularity and links is about other people around the internet talking about you, mentioning your name or music, and linking to you. It’s also about you making sure that all of your different profiles around the web link to each other. You can get the general idea here, but we’ll talk about this more next.
Your Band Website as Your Hub
A lot of bands don’t have their own website.
Some would say that just using Bandcamp and Bandsintown is good enough. That might work for some, but if you care about your band’s SEO, it is simply not good enough. You’re at a disadvantage if you don’t have your own website with its own domain name.
And no, pointing your domain to your Bandcamp profile is not the same thing.
You’re at a disadvantage with SEO if you don’t have your own band website.
We looked at many examples while preparing this blog post, and the bands that didn’t have their own well-optimized website - even established bands - had major issues with their SERPs.
For example, at the time of our research, Craig Finn (of The Hold Steady) was on a solo tour, and he didn’t have his own website for his solo project. When you searched “craig finn tour dates” you found very little information aside from Songkick and Bandsintown pages. There was no Event Carousel, and no Knowledge Panel.
He has since launched his own website but even now, at time of writing, you still don’t find a Knowledge Panel for that search term.
Craig Finn doesn't have good SEO because he didn't have a band website until recently.
There’s no Event Carousel here because he doesn’t currently have any upcoming tour dates. But even when he was on tour, there was no Carousel.
Which means his SEO was far from ideal during his tour.
We can assume his SEO isn’t important to him - his usual band, The Hold Steady, does have a strong online presence. But we assume you do care about your SEO, and that means you need your own website.
A major reason that your band website matters for SEO is that Google sees your band as a unique “entity”, which we touched on in previous posts in this series. Google even knows how popular/famous your band is compared to other bands and entities on the web.
Every piece of information that's publicly available about you on the internet is part of your entity. That information can be far-flung and disconnected, but Google is great at connecting the dots - especially if you help Google out by doing good SEO.
Your band entity encompasses every piece of information available about you around the web.
When properly optimized, Google will recognize all of your profile pages and social accounts as being a part of your entity, and your website as being the hub of it all. That helps Google understand what your entity is, and show the right content to people when they search for you.
Google knows how popular your band is compared to other bands.
Google as a rule should give priority to your website over every other website in all cases, when it comes to ranking for your band keywords, so long as your website has all of the information it needs.
That’s the key thing. Using your band website, you can control your fan experience. Your website aggregates of all of your band’s content around the web. That’s what Google likes to see.
So if you don’t have a website for your band yet stop reading right now, go make one, and then come back to continue reading.
Link Up the Hub
Even though Google is great at connecting the dots, it still needs help. That's a big part of what SEO is.
Linking your properties together helps Google understand all of your content on the web as being part of your entity. Your website is the hub of your entity, so you need to link it up to help Google connect the dots.
Link to your website from all of your band profiles and any other content that you control anywhere on the web. Never use a URL shortener - always just the plain URL of your website.
Just like what BOYCUT did on their Facebook page here.
Link to your band website from everywhere you possibly can.
You can easily add links to your site from places like your:
YouTube channel About page
YouTube video descriptions
SoundCloud track descriptions
These are just the common ones, but you get the picture.
So what you can do now is take an inventory of all of your band’s social profiles and other pages around the internet, and link to your band website from all of them.
You can also do the reverse. Add links from your website to your various profiles around the web.
Optimize Navigation & Indexation
Most band websites are small and don’t have many pages (compared to, say, Amazon.com). So Google shouldn’t have too much trouble accessing all of your pages. This is especially true if you use a platform like Bandzoogle, because a lot of this is already taken care of for you.
If you use another CMS like Wordpress, you’ll have to be careful because you need to know how to do a lot of things yourself.
If you want to make sure your website is well-optimized, read up on regular ol’ onsite SEO. You can learn from generic advice that applies to any kind of website.
Here are a few basics though, to ensure that Google can easily crawl through your band website and read all of your content.
Google Search Console
The Google Search Console can be very useful. If you want to nerd out on search data, you’ll like this especially.
Create a Google Search Console account for your website. You’ll need to follow some steps to verify your website and activate your account. Bandzoogle has a tool to help make this a little easier for you.
The Google Search Console can give you insights for optimizing your website.
We won’t get into details about this tool, but there is a whole bunch of information in there that Google provides about your website in the search engines. So poke around and see what’s there.
Clean URL Structure
Make sure your website page URLs are simple, clean, organized, descriptive.
Here’s a made-up example of what the URLs on a band website might look like, in an ideal scenario:
Notice how all of the URLs are clean? There are no weird symbols, like hashtags or exclamation marks.
Sometimes complex URLs are fine - and necessary - especially for large dynamic websites. But in your case, with a small, simple website, the probably aren't necessary. So generally your URLs should be clean and simple.
In the example above the URLs are clearly named so that you can understand at a glance what the content of the site would be. Everything is neatly organized in a folder structure. That’s the ideal scenario.
Make sure your website page URLs are simple, clean, organized, descriptive.
It’s not hard to do, but it's often overlooked and is important for a couple of reasons:
It helps Google understand what the page is and where it fits on your website.
The URL appears in the SERPs. If it’s ugly, fans are less likely to click on it. A descriptive URL helps fans understand what they’re clicking on and navigating to.
Here’s a basic example of good clean, descriptive URLs used by a Bandzoogle member.
Give your band website a clean, descriptive URL structure.
What you can do now is to check all of the URLs of your band website. If there are any that need to be improved, edit them (but be sure to use 301 redirects when you do, or ensure your CMS does it for you automatically).
There’s a really good chance that you’re not aware of all of the page URLs your website has. There are probably more than you realize. To find and check all of your page URLs, you can look at your sitemap (if your CMS generates one). Otherwise you can use a free crawling tool like this one.
Check Your Site Index
Another way to explore under the hood of your website structure is to take a look at what Google has in its index for your website. This can be a pretty informative way to get a sense for how Google sees your site.
Enter “site:[yoursite.com]” in to Google. Like this.
A simple trick to see what Google sees on your website.
When you use this “site command” search operator, Google shows you the URLs it has found for a website and added to its index. You also get to see how Google displays your website pages in SERPs (generally).
A typical band website should be fairly simple. You shouldn’t have hundreds of strange-looking URLs indexed, and they should match the URL structure you made (as in the previous example).
If you have hundreds of URLs, or a lot of URLs that point to the same page, or a lot of ugly looking URLs showing up, you might have a problem. This can happen if you have a poorly configured Wordpress site, for example.
If that’s the case for you, you should clean up your website structure and fix any duplicate content issues.
Title Tags & Meta Descriptions
Optimizing your title tag is standard SEO advice, because it’s easy, simple and important.
Your title tag and meta description don’t appear on your website, but Google uses them in its SERPs. If you make them look nice and descriptive, yours fans can more easily understand what they’re seeing, and will be more likely to click to your website instead of others.
Let's take a look at a (bad) example:
What a not-so-good title tag and meta description look like in the SERPs.
The title tag in this example could be more descriptive than simply “Conor Oberst | Shows”.
Conor Oberst ('s website person) didn’t actually add a meta description to that page either, so Google is just pulling whatever text it wants from the page to populate the description in SERPs.
(Also, you might have noticed that even the URL is not very good.)
That’s not ideal for fans, because frankly it’s kind of ugly.
Conor Oberst would be better off with a title tag and description that looks more like this:
This is closer to what you want your SERP result to look like.
Looks nicer, doesn’t it?
The clean, descriptive text helps Google understand the page better. It’s also more likely to get clicked by fans when they’re searching, which is important to you. You can preview how yours might look in the SERPs with a tool like this one.
A page with a nice title tag and meta description is more likely to get clicked on by fans.
Here are some basic ground rules for optimizing these:
- You may have heard advice that keywords are really important to have in title tags. This is true. But we suggest you simply focus on making them descriptive and complete so that they really describe the content of the page. Be straightforward and to-the-point.
- Make sure your band name is included at least once in every single title tag and meta description, on every page. Make them look nice and consistent across pages. A good lead to follow is the title tag in the example above, where the band name is added to the end and separated by a pipe “|” symbol.
- Never use the same title tag or meta description twice. Each one should be unique for each page.
What you can do now is review the title tags and meta descriptions for all pages of your band website. Write or rewrite them as needed, to include your band name and a good descriptive reflection of the content of the page.
Here are some good instructions on how to do it properly for your website:
If you're using Bandzoogle, you can easily edit title tags and meta descriptions on your site in the SEO options for each page.
Content Pages for Keywords
Sometimes, for some keywords, you might not particularly want your website to rank #1 in search results results.
That might sound counterintuitive, because SEO doesn't usually work that way. But remember, we're optimizing the fan experience here, we're not necessarily trying to get your website to outrank your other profiles.
A good example is when fans search for individual track names. You might actually prefer fans to find your song on YouTube, SoundCloud, Spotify or iTunes, because for some that might be a better place to explore and buy your music.
For a fan, your band website might not actually offer the best experience.
SEO for musicians is about optimizing the fan experience.
But for other keywords, it might be preferable for fans to find your website.
It's up to you to decide what the ideal fan experience is for different searches, and what's best for your band too.
Here are some some examples where your website might offer the best experience - we're going to pick on Kamasi Washington now:
kamasi washington bio (fans want to learn about who you are, and your website is ideal for that)
kamasi washington tour (you might want to sell them concert tickets directly from your website)
kamasi washington merch (if you sell your merch from your site commission-free)
Let’s check out a specific example of that.
Kamasi doesn’t have a merch page on his website. That’s a problem.
There are several problems here that might not be obvious at first glance:
Kamasi Washington’s website is ranked 1st but he doesn’t have a merch page. So fans land on the homepage, where they're then forced to keep poking around to find what they're looking for.
Kamasi’s real official merch store is on the Benchmark Merchandising website, which isn't even ranked in the Top 5 for the search term. Plus, it's not clear from the SERP that it's even his official store - frankly it doesn't look particularly trustworthy.
His Bandcamp merch page is ranked 2nd, but it currently doesn't sell any merch - only physical music formats.
There are actually 3rd party sellers in the SERPs just below the Kamasi’s official store, who might just steal away business from the artist himself. That seller is even paying for ads in the right column of the SERP, as you can see. That’s actual lost revenue for the artist, and a missed opportunity to connect with the fan.
So, Kamasi Washington's SEO for his merch-related keywords is basically a mess. Sure, a dedicated fan will most likely find the merch store, but only after poking around a bit. SEO for musicians is about optimizing the fan experience - making it easier for the fans to find what they want more quickly. Especially when merch revenue is at stake!
There is a simple solution to his problem, which is to create a dedicated merch page on his website where he displays, and ideally sells, his merch. This page would probably rank #1 for merch-related keywords, and he would be able to control the fan experience on his own site. Personally, as a fan who wants to buy merch from the artist, I'd prefer to buy directly off his website.
The lesson for you here is to make sure that you understand and have a plan for what your ideal fan experience is, for your different band keywords.
If you prefer that fans land on your website instead of external profile pages for a certain keyword/topic, then make dedicated page on your website for it. Fill the page with great content, including text (no fluff), and optimize the page (title tags and meta descriptions, etc).
Remember, Google will give your band website preference over other websites for the rankings of any keywords related to your band. All you have to do is have the content on your website.
Be Wise About Widgets
It’s very common for bands to use widgets on their band websites, and that’s ok. There are plenty of good reasons to use widgets.
But, there is also a very good reason to use them wisely. It’s common to see a page on a band website that has only a widget on it and nothing else.
Like Hiatus Kaiyote does on their website with a Spotify widget.
Hiatus Kaiyote embedded a Spotify widget on their website to offer music previews.
There are a few reasons that this could a problem for your band website.
The first problem is that you don’t know whether or not Google can see the content in the widget. Just because you can see it doesn’t mean Google can. Many widgets are ok but some are not SEO friendly - it’s out of your control.
And if Google can’t see the content in the widget, then as far as it’s concerned there is no content there. Which means, as far as Google is concerned, you basically have an empty page. Not good for SEO.
The second problem is that the content in a widget is duplicated from somewhere else. Google doesn’t like duplicate content and may, effectively, ignore it.
The third problem is that, if you care about your schema markup - and you should - some widgets may not offer that markup where you need it.
There are some simple solutions to these problems. To prevent duplicate content or empty pages, you can simply make sure to always have other text content on a page, along with the widget. It should be unique content that only exists on that page and nowhere else.
You can also check pages where you rely on widgets to display music or events to make sure the correct schema is there, using Google's Structured Data Testing Tool. We'll get into more detail on schema for musicians in later posts.
So what you can do now is to check all pages of your website where you use widgets. Make sure there is other content on the page other than what’s being displayed from the widget, and make sure there's schema where there should be.
If there isn’t any content, think about what kind of text content you can add to your page (even if it’s just a little bit), and add it. If there isn't any schema where you need it to be, consider using a different widget.
PR, Not Backlinks
If you’ve read other SEO advice, no doubt you’ve heard about the importance of backlinks. A lot of SEO advice about backlinks is misleading.
Backlinks are extremely important for SEO, and the more links you have pointing to your website from authoritative external pages the better. But as an artist you don’t need spend a lot of time worrying about that, and you certainly don’t need to pay someone to “get you backlinks”. Stay away from Fiverr.
Instead, worry about getting genuine press coverage. Backlinks will come naturally when blogs and magazines are talking about you, and Google will notice the buzz.
Backlinks will come naturally when blogs are talking about you.
With that being said, while you’re doing PR or social media, get natural backlinks where you can. Make sure the press knows about your band website, so that when they do link to you, they link to your actual band website and not to one of your other profile pages.
You can get an idea of who’s linking to your website in your Google Search Console, which gives you a sampling of your backlinks.
Use your Google Webmaster Tools Search Console to see who’s linking to your website.
You can also check Open Site Explorer, a free tool that gives you some data on your website’s backlinks.
You can also use Open Site Explorer to who’s linking to your website.
The Takeaway: Optimize Your Band Website
This was a whirlwind tour of band website SEO optimization. There’s a lot to know, but you can focus on a few key things:
Build a slick, fast, mobile-optimized website for your band
Interlink your website with all of your other profiles around the web
Make sure your website has a clean, organized structure
Make sure each page on your website is SEO-friendly and optimized
Build pages on your website to target keywords that you want to rank for
Take a careful look at any widgets you use on your website to create content
Do as much online PR and buzz-building as you can, and get natural backlinks where possible
Your website isn’t the only thing that matters for your band SEO, but it’s one of the most important. So it’s worth taking the time to make the right optimizations in the right places.
Read other articles in this series:
- Part 1 - SEO for Musicians: It Starts With The Fan Journey
- Part 2 - SEO Keyword Research for Musicians
- Part 3 - Music SEO: Know Your SERPs
- Part 4 - Optimizing Your Band Website for SEO
- Part 5 - How to Get a Band Knowledge Panel
- Part 6 - How to Optimize Your Band Schema for SEO
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