SEO Keyword Research for Musicians

SEO Keyword Research for Musicians

Want to do your own SEO as a musician? Before you start optimizing, it’s crucial that you get to know your keywords. This is always Step #1 in any SEO project, and it’s no exception for musicians.

Before you read this, head over to Chapter 1 of this multi-post guide to get familiar with your SEO strategy and the Fan Journey

OK, let’s go.

There is nothing more fundamental to search engines than keywords. Keywords are how we humans directly communicate with the search engines.

There’s a reason the Google homepage is a search bar and nothing else.

Google homepage

It’s important for us to think about keywords first because some keywords get searched more often, or less often, than other keywords. 

Later on, as you carry on doing SEO for your band, you'll work on things like optimizing your website pages, creating new content for your website, getting backlinks, and stuff like that. It's really important to know what keywords people are using to search for your band when doing that work.

SEO is hard work, and knowing your keywords up front will help you make the most of it.

Basic Law of SEO: No Two Keywords Are Equal

No two keywords are equal. Let’s give you an example.

Say you’re a piano teacher in Albany, NY. Without doing any research, you might assume that getting high search rankings for a keyword like “piano teacher albany” will bring traffic to your website.

But actually, people are more likely to search for “piano lessons albany”. And they’re even more likely to search for “piano lessons albany ny”.

How do I know? Google told me:

Keyword search volume

(We’ll show you how to get this data yourself in a minute).

What this chart says is that there are roughly 70 searches per month for the exact keyword “piano lessons albany ny”. There are almost no searches at all for “piano teacher albany.”

So... that makes it pretty clear which keyword is going to bring you more visitors, if you have high search engine rankings for it. Right?

Obviously your top priority keyword is going to be "piano lessons albany ny", because that's what will get you the most visitors to your website.

If you put in a bunch of hard work to rank for the keyword that no one searches, you've kind of wasted your time. That's what we want to avoid!

Even if you're not a piano teacher, if you’re planning to do your own SEO, this lesson applies to you no matter who you are.

The Most Important Keywords for Your Band

We’re going to talk a little about “brand” vs “non-brand” keywords here, because this is where a lot of musicians go wrong with SEO and waste their time.

As a musician, a “brand” keyword is any keyword that includes your band name, the names of people in your band, track titles, album names, tour names. Anything that relates specifically to you and your band and your music. It could even be lines from your lyrics.

An example of a brand keyword is “elephant stone discography”.

These are the keywords that matter to you most as a musician!

Remember the Engagement and Purchase steps of the Fan Journey? If not, go back and read this post. The basic idea here - which is really important to you - is that people are not going to find you in search engines until they’ve already heard of you. Once they have heard of you, they’re going to look specifically for you or something to do with your music.

On the other hand, a “non-brand” keyword is any keyword that doesn’t include anything specific to you, your band or your music.

An example of this would be “indie band in toledo”.

As we explained in the previous post, non-brand keywords are not useful to you as a musician.  (Unless you are a music teacher or another kind of local business, in which case your SEO strategy is going to be more typical, like most businesses).

How To Research Your Band Keywords

Keyword research is what every SEO expert in the world starts with before they do any actual SEO work. Without it, you’re just working blindly. Keyword research lights the way.

We’ll give you a quick lightning tour of how to do your own keyword research using the Adwords Keyword Planner tool.

Step #1: Access the Google Keyword Tool

The Adwords Keyword Planner is the keyword tool of choice for most SEO experts. It’s free, but the catch is that it’s accessible only from within an Adwords account, so you’ll need to take a few minutes to create one. It’s kind of a hassle, but it doesn’t cost you anything.

By the way, if this feels like a hack to you…. it is! Welcome to SEO!

Once you’re in the Adwords account, go to the “Keyword Planner” from the Tools menu, as you can see below. When you click on it, you should get something like this.

Adwords keyword planner

Choose “Search for new keywords using a phrase, website or category”.

Step #2: Enter Seed Keywords

In the next screen, we can plug in some keywords under “your product or service”. We need to seed the tool with some ideas to start with.

We plugged in “tame impala” as our example:

Keyword research musician

Click on the "Get ideas" button. 

Step #3: Sift Through to Find Your Keywords

Click on the “Keyword Ideas” tab, around the centre left of the page, to find your keywords.

Based on the seed keywords we entered, the tool gives us data on the number of searches for them, as well as a bunch of other ideas.

Musician keyword search volumes

So in this image, Google is telling us that there are 246,000 searches per month for the keyword “tame impala”.

You’ll also notice all of the suggestions and ideas Google provides below your seed keywords. These suggestions are useful, but you'll notice a lot of irrelevant keywords that you'll need to sift through. Google tends to leave out a lot of really good keywords too.

So you’ll have to dig for for keyword ideas yourself, by adding different seed keywords and sifting through the suggestions. This is the "research" part of keyword research, and it can take some time.

Be patient, and keep digging.

Building Your Master Band Keyword List

Here at Bandzoogle we brainstormed some ideas about what people might search for, to come up with seed keywords: 

  • People looking for tour dates (tour, live, tickets, concerts, etc.)

  • Lyrics and tabs

  • Specific albums and songs

  • Wiki and discography

  • Merch, like vinyl, tshirts and posters

  • Torrent, Youtube and download (to listen, legally or illegally)

This list could apply to just about any band. So let's check out what people are searching for, using the Keyword Tool, with Tame Impala as an example.

We plugged all kinds of keyword seed ideas into the tool, and then spent a fair bit of time sifting through the data that comes out.

This was the end result of our research.

Band SEO master keyword list

We grouped our keywords together based on what we think the searcher is trying to accomplish (and where they are in the Fan Journey).

For example, someone searching “tame impala tour” is trying to do something fairly similar to a person searching for “tame impala tickets”. So we group those together.

Now give this a try with your band name.

Plug keywords into the tool that you think are relevant to your band, keeping in mind all you’ve learned up to this point about your audience and fan journey.

Make a list in Google Docs, Excel, or whatever you like. Record the keyword and the monthly search volumes, like we did in the screenshot above.

This is going to be your SEO Master Keyword List. These are the keywords that are most important for you to pay attention to, and you’ll refer back to it often.

Other Ways to Brainstorm Band Keywords

The keywords you get from the Adwords Keyword Tool are only as good as the seed keywords you give it. It’s also incomplete and imperfect. It won’t give you all possible keywords people actually use.

So, you’ll need to spend some time digging around and coming up with other seed keywords that you think people may search.

Some places you can dig around are:

  • Google Suggest. Basically, start typing ideas into Google, and see what other keywords it suggests.

Google suggest musician keywords

Plug all of your ideas back into the Adwords tool to find out how much search volume there is. Whenever you find something with volume, add it to your Master Keyword List.

What To Do When You Get No Searches

If you’ve just done this exercise and you’re thinking well, this isn’t helpful because no one is searching for me, that’s ok! 

If your band doesn’t have a big following yet, not many people will be searching for your band name.

Not much of a surprise there, right?

We went to a show recently by a really talented folk singer called Devarrow who was on a tour. We checked the search volume on his name and came up with... nothing.

No search volume musician

If that sounds like you, that’s OK. Don’t be deterred!

If you’re still relatively unknown - maybe you’re just starting out - you still want to make sure that even if just one person searches for you, they can find you in Google.

Just because no one is searching for you right now, doesn’t mean they won’t be later.

So, for now, just focus on looking professional in search results for your band name. Don’t worry too much about other keywords yet, unless there’s something specific you think people might look for, and don’t spend too much time time on SEO just yet.

As you’re building your fan base, every now and again go back to the Keyword Planner tool and check your keyword search volumes to see if people are starting to search for you. 

What To Do When Your Band Name Isn’t Unique

Let’s just start here by saying: it’s a good idea to Google your band name ideas before you commit, to make sure no one else already has it.

Sharing your band name with other things (other bands, or famous people, or famous things) is going to be a problem for your SEO.

Sometimes it’s impossible to avoid though. Like these examples.

Solo Artists With Common Names

Unless you have a really unusual name, chances are someone else has the same name as you. So if you’re a solo musician using your own real name, you might end up competing in search engines with people who aren’t even musicians.

There’s a talented local Montreal artist who goes by his own real name: Andrew Johnston. He actually happens to share his name with a few other notable people, including musicians.

A few months ago, we searched his name and found that the most "prominent" Andrew Johnston was actually a musician from the UK who appeared in Britain’s Got Talent and has charted singles.

Musician SERP competition

The UK Andrew had a lot more press, so he ranked higher than the Montreal Andrew - who appeared as the 3rd result with his website - at the time.

Since then, another Andrew Johnston has risen to fame as a golfer, thanks to a recent big tournament win. This Andrew Johnston now totally dominates the search results for his name.

Musician SERP competition for name

Now the Montreal musician Andrew Johnston shows up on the second page of search results, instead of being in the 3rd spot like before. This is a great example of how rankings work when it comes to the names of "notable people". Basically, the most famous person wins.

For fans of the Montreal musician though, this is kind of inconvenient. So they might modify or refine their search term to be more specific, like adding the hometown. In this particular example, they would actually get the results they want.

Musician SERP keyword refinement

So if you're an artist using your own name, this is something you'll need to be aware of when you're researching your keywords. You might want to look up search volumes for those modified or refined keywords as well.

Band Names With Words of Famous Things

Some band names include a word that also happens to be a word used for something else.

The band Of Montreal has this problem. Montreal, of course, is a city. The only thing that distinguishes the band from the city is the word “of”.

So when you search the band name, Google also shows results for the Bank of Montreal, the City of Montreal, and the latest Montreal news.  

Band SERP competition

The band actually dominates the search results page for this keyword because they’re a pretty popular band, and Google is smart enough to realize you’re probably looking for the band because of the “of”.

Band Names With Common Phrases

Broken Back is a band whose name also happens to be a pretty common term.

So when you search for their band name in Google, the first page page of results is filled with articles related to back injury.

Band SERP competition

Broken Back does actually rank at the top of the page, but they're going to have to work extra hard, and be more patient, if they want to have more of their pages ranking on the first page for their band name.

If any of these issues apply to you, you may have more difficulty just getting rankings for your own band name. There’s not much you can do about it, except get more famous (easy, right?).

The main point here is that, when building your Master Keyword List, you’ll need to keep in mind that searches for your band name might be mixed in with searches for the “other thing”.

If you’re an unknown band with 10,000 searches a month for your band name, chances are most people are searching for something else with the same name, not your band. But you might be able to do a bit of refinement.

Let’s take “broken back” as an example again, and add a little refinement to the search term in the keyword tool.

Band keyword search volume competition

It seems pretty obvious here that most searches for “broken back” are by people who are actually looking for information about the back injury, not the band. But with a bit of refinement, we can get a bit of a sense for now many searches there might be for the band.

So, keep this in mind when building your Master Keyword List.

Understanding The Long Tail Keywords

We can’t close off an article about SEO keywords without mentioning the long tail.

SEO people like to categorize keywords into three main groups:

  • Short tail (or Fat Head in the graph below). For example “alabama shakes tour”.

  • Medium tail (or Chunky Middle in the graph). For example, “alabama shakes show toronto”.

  • Long tail. For example “when does alabama shakes play next in toronto 2016”.

Here are some other examples of long tail keywords people might use instead of “alabama shakes tour”:

  • “when is the next alabama shakes show happening in toronto 2016”
  • “what is the next concert date alabama shakes toronto”
  • “alabama shakes tour dates toronto may 2016”

And we could probably make a list of another 10,000 variations of those examples.

It’s important to understand that, when people search in Google, about 80% of the time they’ll use a keyword that only ever gets searched once or twice. Which means they'll never show up in your keyword research. These are the long tail keywords.

Here’s what your typical long tail graph looks like, courtesy of Moz.

The long tail

What this graph is telling you is that the top keywords people use to search for your band - in that yellow area to the left - makes up only a small part of the total keywords people use to actually search for you.

So even if you do a super thorough job building your Master Keyword List, it still won’t fully encompass every single search that ever happens related to your band. Because your Master Keyword List only includes short tail keywords.

The rest of the searches, in the medium and long tail, will be for keywords that, on an individual basis, get searched very rarely. That’s just a reality of SEO that you need to know about.

But your Master Keyword List will still give you a pretty solid understanding of what people tend to look for when it comes to your band, based on how the short tail keywords are searched.

The Takeaway: Build Your Master Keyword List

Now that you know what keyword research is, why it matters, and how to do it, it’s time to research your own band’s keywords!

In follow-up posts, we’re going to dig deeper into SEO. You’ll want to have your Master Keyword List handy any time you work on your band SEO, and refer back to it so that you know what keywords are the most important to you.

And if your band just doesn’t have any keywords with searches yet, then don’t worry about it - there’s still plenty you can do.

Read other articles in this series:

Bandzoogle lets you create a professional website in minutes with all the music promotional features you need including SEO tools, a blog, mailing list, and social media integrations. Try Bandzoogle free now!


Britney Muller
Posted by Britney Muller on Sep 7 2016 8:33 PM
Wow, very well written & thanks for citing Moz! It's really neat to see industry experts like yourself take keyword research like this to a whole other level for musicians. Thank you for sharing this.
480 vis
Posted by 480 vis on Sep 8 2016 2:08 AM
Great article! I'm gonna try it out and for 480 VIS. Gracias bandzoogle.
Emah Fox
Posted by Emah Fox on Sep 21 2016 1:01 AM
FYI, I can't seem to access the Keyword Planner without first paying for a Google Ads campaign. So it's not actually free to access - you have to pay for it, and you have to set up a campaign before you really have the tools to do it properly.
Musician, performer, songwriter - Brad Hooper
Posted by Musician, performer, songwriter - Brad Hooper on Sep 21 2016 2:43 PM
I agree. I posted same yesterday but my comment is not appearing. Can we get to the keyword tools for free or not? Making an ad first seems rather silly, don't you think?
Posted by Wes on Sep 21 2016 3:36 PM
Hey Emah, Brad, Thanks for pointing that out. It is indeed a hassle, I wish there were an easier way. Google makes it that way on purpose, and unfortunately the only way you can access their Keyword Planner tool is to follow their steps. But... while you do have to create an Adwords campaign, you don't have to actually run it. Once you've finished setting up your campaign (and I would just put filler text in) and made sure all of your campaigns are turned off, you then have full access to your account, including the Keyword Planner tool. So, as long as you don't run any campaigns, it is free. There are other free keyword research tools you can use, but they're simply nowhere near as good. Google has by far the best data on keywords, and the Keyword Planner tool in Adwords is the only way to access is directly. If you want to try other free tools though, I would suggest starting with Wordstream or SEM Rush. You can find plenty of others by searching around as well. If you want "the good stuff" though, definitely go with the Adwords tool. Hope that helps. :) Wes
Emah Fox
Posted by Emah Fox on Sep 22 2016 2:05 AM
Thanks for the clarification! I'll set up a dummy campaign which will never run in that case... :)