Much of the music business is now online. To break through as a new artist and become visible to your target audience, having a few SEO tricks up your sleeve is not only an advantage, but a must these days. Rebekah Read helps business owners build a strategic online presence through brand strategy, web design, and SEO tactics. In this conversation with Bree Noble, Bekah shares how the tools she is using to help online entrepreneurs can be used to help musicians break into the digital airwaves without putting money into paid advertising. Join in the conversation and learn how you can get your music to the right ears and start turning your passion into a legitimate business. Just remember: there will always be the right people for your music; you just have to give them a little help finding it!
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SEO 101: Helping Musicians Build A Strategic Online Presence With Rebekah Read
I’m excited to be talking to Rebekah Read about search engine optimization. If you are thinking, what in the heck is that? You may have heard the term SEO. Search Engine Optimization is getting more people to find us online and go from viewing our site to taking further steps with us. Before we jump into that, I would love to know, Rebekah, how did you get into SEO? Do you have any background in music? How do you think that musicians can benefit from learning about SEO?
To answer your second question, my background in music, my mom’s a music therapist with people who have Parkinson’s disease. At a very early age, at four years old, I was put in violin lessons and told I was not allowed to quit. I stuck with it until I was eighteen. I’m super thankful now, of course, but throughout the middle school years, I definitely was not interested in practicing my violin, as you can imagine. My background in music is I continued throughout college to play in a worship band. I’m very thankful for that.SEO is a long-term game. If you do it at least semi-consistently, it can be a great avenue for marketing your business. Click To Tweet
After graduating with my degree in Marketing, I spent a little stint as a missionary in Honduras. When I came back to the United States, I wasn’t fully feeling fulfilled in Corporate America so I went off on my own. I knew I could be an entrepreneur doing social media since that was my background and a bit of website. As I tried out different things, I realized I loved the website design realm. That’s when I started getting involved in website design and interested in social media and SEO. I’m someone that likes to save money. If I can avoid paying for Facebook Ads, I’m going to try my best. SEO was a route that allowed me to. It’s a lot of work. It’s a long–term game. If you do it and do it at least semi–consistently, it can start to become a great avenue for marketing your business. People are finding you on Google instead of having to spend money on ads. That’s my SEO journey.
With SEO, the struggle with musicians is we are not talking about solving a problem. I know for me, like on this show, I specifically have blog posts made from it. My goal is that people are going to be typing in like, “How do I release my music?” or something like that. They are going to come across my blog posts related to that show. They are going to listen to it. They are going to want to get to know more about me and what I teach. With musicians, they have songs about all kinds of different subjects. They might write blogs on their page but they are all about touring or something and their experiences touring. They are not completely focused on drawing in the right people with the content they have. How can SEO help musicians? How can they tailor their content a little bit to feed into that Google algorithm?
The most important step, first of all, is figuring out what your end goal is. Are you trying to build your audience to grow your podcast? Are you trying to book gigs in Minneapolis, Minnesota? Determining wherever your business is at and where you want to go is the first step. The second step is to find keywords related to that specific topic. Let’s say you are a musician that’s trying to find local gigs. You are going to want to put in the city, in which you live as well as surrounding cities. Using those keywords, if you are a singer, you are going to put in that keyword. Taking what you think people would potentially search on search engines to find you. I always say use long–tail keywords. Those are keywords with 3 or 4 words in them. Maybe you have five different long–tail keywords that you think people would use to search for you.
There are a lot of different resources but I love Ubersuggest by Neil Patel. You could go to Moz or even Google Keywords has a tool where you can input that keyword. Let’s say it was a Minneapolis wedding singer or something. You would input that keyword and see how popular it is. Are there a lot of people who are trying to rank for that? If so, that might not be the best keyword, especially if you are starting because you are competing against people who have had their blog and their website for 10 to 15 years and have those keywords all over their website. They are going to rank ahead of you. It’s finding more niche keywords according to what you are, and then once you have those keywords, implementing them on your website and creating blogs around that topic, that’s how I try to be more strategic with my blog posts. This is the keyword I want to rank for. How can I create a blog that’s related to that topic? You are not throwing random content out into the world.
That’s helpful. I love that step-by-step. I get the whole local example if you want to find gigs locally but maybe you don’t gig. Maybe you are more of an online performer, you do live streams and you sell your music digitally, you get a lot of streams on Spotify. You are not looking for that local SEO. How can you come up with some keywords? Would they be related to the themes of your music? What would people be searching for that is going to have them land on your music and be like, “I love this song.”
A couple of different thoughts came to my mind. I’m pregnant now, so I was searching for this but music to play for the baby in the womb. It can be very specific for a specific topic. More generally, what I would usually search for would be country music. Now, country music is going to be way too broad so you need to then if it’s country folk, oldies or something but getting a little bit more specific because you are not going to rank for something that broad. I would suggest is finding whatever your industry, type of music, genre, and then getting more specific with that. People are searching those specific things like I said, music for babies in the womb. That’s what I would say. Try to niche down more and more with that keyword.
For example, something like music about the environment. If you have specific causes or topics that you focus on or music for a wedding like you have loved songs. That’s what’s coming to mind for me. What about if you have artists that you love and you want to be identified with those. I love Sara Bareilles or somebody and I want it to be identified with her when people are looking up music. Could you write maybe some blogs about how you love Sara Bareilles, how you studied her music and it influenced you? Maybe people would be searching for music similar to Sara Bareilles.
Both of those ideas and avenues are great. With the wedding example, that’s going to be a pretty broad topic, maybe going and saying music for summer weddings. Now you are already niching it down. This is a common blogging tip. Anytime that you can have top five songs for a summer wedding, that kind or how–to, those blogs are going to do better. That’s not necessarily SEO keywords but those blogs are more likely to be clicked on. Keep that in mind as well. If you have music related to Sara Bareilles, trying to figure out how you can write a blog that’s my top five songs that you have written or whatever that are related to that. Going into like specificities is helpful.
How can they find long–tail keywords? I know you mentioned some of those tools. Do they start typing in the more general ones? Will it recommend the more long–tail versions?
Depending on the tool, I like to use Ubersuggest because I feel it’s the most user-friendly. Moz is a little bit more of a deep dive into keyword research. If you type in a long-tail keyword that you think people will use to search for you into Ubersuggest, it will give you an SD, SEO Difficulty. You want the SD to be between 15 to 35-ish. If it’s lower than fifteen, that means it’s too easy. That means you will probably rank for it but also nobody is searching for it. If it’s higher than 35, that means there’s too much competition so it will give you that score. If it is between that, go ahead, take that long–tail keyword, write it down and start using it in blog posts and start putting it on your website.
It also gives search definitions or keywords like this. You would find ones that have an SEO difficulty score between those numbers. It will also give a volume and you could see. Are there 1,000 people searching or are there two people? You want a higher volume, more people searching for it. I try to balance those. I will usually take a maximum of five long–tail keywords. I will write them down so I have them right there. These are the five that I’m going to try to rank for. If you have a list of 40, you are not going to rank for any because, most likely, you write a blog maybe once a week. You won’t be able to implement that many keywords throughout your website. It’s better to have maybe five long-tail keywords that you go into your about page, reevaluate where you can add that keyword in a very organic way, going to your homepage, where can you add those long-tail keywords, as well as blog posts.
It’s not all about blogging. There are lots of different places that you can put these. The content of your website is a great place. Every website has a backend SEO settings section. You can Google where that is and it will tell you for each page, you can change the page title as well as the page meta description. The meta description is on Google when you search for something. It comes up with the page title and then a little description. Google will automatically pull that from your website. Sometimes it’s great, accurate and it’s not what you want them to pull.
It’s something like a landing page like you forgot to name exactly and you will look like an idiot on Google.
If you notice that that’s what yours does, it’s okay. Tons of peoples do that. That’s common but going into the meta description and adding those keywords is going to help you with ranking. The other little caveat I want to put in, whether you are writing a blog post or your meta description, you want to write in a way that’s how you would talk. For example, your meta description says Minneapolis wedding photographer performing at weddings in Minneapolis, Minnesota. Nobody talks like that. That’s called keyword stuffing and considered a black hat SEO tactic. It means Google doesn’t like it. They can tell that you are doing it. They will knock you down in ranking,
It used to be very popular. If people tell you to do that, they are still in the dark ages and not surprised if it hasn’t been banned by now. People used to do that all the time.Whenever you write content online, you want to write in a way that’s similar to how you would talk. Click To Tweet
Google is smart. They know and they can tell when you are doing that. If you write in a way that you talk, usually I say, when I write a blog post, I write it and I don’t even think about SEO. I go back and say, “For me, where can I add Squarespace website designer or any variation of those in an organic, natural way?” Obviously, not in every sentence, because again, that’s keyword stuffing. That would be my suggestion. Go back after you have written something.
What does it consider a match? As you said, any variation so how far off of variation can you get and still consider it a match? If you said Squarespace website designer and what if you said designer for Squarespace websites? Would it count that?
Usually, when somebody uses something like Google, it highlights whatever you searched for. It will look for the terminology in that form so I generally will try to use that same form. However, if you are getting those keywords that people are searching for in different variations, my advice is don’t worry too much about it. Try your best to get it in the form that you have established but at the same time, if it doesn’t make sense, don’t write it like that.
If it’s not grammatically right, then don’t because I have been in that situation where I’m like, “This sentence will sound wrong if I do that.”
At that point, it’s more important if you can get the keywords in there in any form, even if you have Squarespace up higher in your blog and later down low. I talk about being a website designer. You are getting those keywords more often. As long as you are getting them in there, you will start ranking.
Are you trying to rank for more than one keyword in each blog post or one keyword per blog post focus?
It depends on your keyword phrases. For me, I design on primarily two website platforms, Squarespace and Showit. Most likely in a blog, I wouldn’t necessarily mention both because my blog posts are usually about how–tos on one of the platforms. However, if they do correspond, if it works in a blog post, you can put that keyword throughout and another keyword phrase throughout. I would say if it makes sense, add those. If you have five keyword phrases, if you can add them all to your blog post at some point, go ahead and do that.
I know in mine because I do use WordPress. It has the Yoast SEO checker thingy but as far as I know, you can only put one keyword in there to have it give you the score. Is there a way to check for all of them?
I don’t use Yoast so I’m not 100% positive. Yoast is the plugin that you can use for WordPress. If you have a different platform, like some different music platforms, you can use Grammarly or there are some outside platforms that you can plug in your blog post and it will give you a score. In those, what I focus more on personally is the readability and the scanability of the block. Going back on my words, it’s not that I don’t care about keywords but I’m more interested in them staying on the post. If they don’t even read the blog, it’s done nothing to provide value for them or me.
That’s a great thing about Yoast and any of these other outside platforms that you can use is they will tell you your sentences are too long. I love English so I love to write long, potentially run–on sentences. It tells you that’s not how people are reading, especially in blog posts, cut back on your sentence length. Also, make sure that your paragraphs are pretty short so people can scan them and making bolder headings, all of that is going to help with the scanability of your blog.
That’s more what I would probably personally focus on, as well as adding photos or if you can add a YouTube video that is prime. Let’s say your blog post is 300 words or whatever, it takes three minutes for someone to read. If you have a three–minute YouTube video, now somebody is on that post for six minutes. It tells Google, “This is a super valuable page on their website because somebody is staying on it.” Scanability and readability are more important to me than the keyword.
Google is taking into account how long people are staying on that particular post to decide, whether it wants to move it up in the rankings?
Yes, and the same with your website pages. I know a lot of people don’t like those long scrolling pages. It’s annoying. It is effective. There is a reason that people do it. First of all, you have an opportunity to put it in a whole lot of keywords if you have all that text. Second of all, it’s longer. People are on it. If you have and I would highly suggest whatever platform you have, connecting Google Analytics, you can search and you can figure out how to do it. If you connect to Google Analytics, you can do a deep dive into Google Analytics.
The things that I look at on a monthly basis are how long are people staying on certain pages? If they are only on my About page for five seconds, they are not reading it. What changes do I need to make it a more effective page? The other thing usually I look at with Google Analytics is what the user journey is. Are they landing first on a homepage? Are they landing first on a blog? That tells me what blogs people are enjoying so that helps me a ton. Connecting Google Analytics is going to serve you very well.
Do you recommend people also use the Google Search Console to see how people are finding their website?
Google Search Console and Google Analytics are similar but also different.
Are they connected? Have they finally connected them or are they different?When building a website, you want to focus on the customer journey. Click To Tweet
They are still different. Mine are still separate. This is doing a pretty deep dive. If you can do the basics of blogging at least once a month, adding in those keywords, you are going to be set. If you are already doing that, then you can get into this thing. Don’t get too overwhelmed but doing the Google Analytics and Google Search Console. The other effective thing, even if you are not a location–specific music person, is creating a Google My Business listing. I have that and I do not just serve the Pacific Northwest. I serve all US people. You can put a general area but if you ever search anything on Google, the map is what comes up at the top. If you are new in the business, you are not going to rank right away on page one of Google. That’s the reality. If you have your music, Google My Business listing, you can pop up on page one. Those would be the three Google tools I would suggest looking into.
I’m not even sure if I have Google My Business, especially for people that are teachers. They have a voice studio, a piano studio or even if you are doing that online, I would get the Google My Business and make sure that you are in there as a piano teacher in Seattle or whatever, and any other ways that you want to be listed because people are searching for that.
I would even say what I have done with my Google My Business listing is to move you up is one, to get reviews. I only have six reviews but there are also now a lot of Squarespace website designers using Google My Business. It works. Restaurants have hundreds of reviews so that’s going to be harder. For you, getting a few reviews on your Google Business Listing, and then also, anytime I create a blog, I post to five different channels, which sounds like a lot of work but it isn’t.
The bulk of the work is creating the blog. I will post it to my Facebook page, Instagram page and Pinterest, which is a search engine so just creating a Pinterest graphic. You can go into Canva if you have ever used that. They have templates that you can plug your title in, a photo and put it off to Pinterest, and then connect your blog. LinkedIn and then the fifth one is my Google My Business listing. You can add posts to Google My Business. I think that has helped me bump up because Google is happy that I’m using their tool. Most people don’t add posts to their Google My Business listing. I don’t know how many people find that post through that but at the very least, it helps Google.
They are rewarding you for it. Once we get people on our site, I know you mentioned them staying longer and especially on the blog, it’s about readability and relevance. In general, are there any tips that you can give for getting people to stay on your site? Even if they are going to different pages within the site, you are still getting that counted as them staying on the site.
You want to focus on the user journey of your website, evaluating your website, whoever is your ideal audience and if that’s broad, then have a 70–year old go on your website and watch them and have them screen record. If they can’t figure out a screen recorder, look over their shoulder. That’s going to help you know if your site is user-friendly or not. Watching them go on the homepage, and then you should always have a call to action at the bottom of every single page, if not call to action throughout the page.
These calls to action are usually buttons. They are usually bold. They are pretty obvious what they do and that’s going to help that user journey. It depends on where you want people to go when they are on your homepage. Do you want them to immediately go to the contact and book you? Do you want them to go to your events page? It depends on what your ultimate goal is. That’s my biggest tip. What I see a lot of websites lacking is it’s not clear what you want the user to do next on your website.
A lot of musicians are not thinking about that. They think that it’s more of promotional space, which it is. They think of it more like a brochure. You read a brochure and there’s only maybe one call to action at the end with their phone number or something. If you were reading a brochure and you are reading one page, and then you want them to go to the next page to continue reading. On a website, it may not all be on one page. What you want them to do is like, “What would be the next thing that you would want them to find out about on your website naturally?” That’s what I think a call to action is to continue on the journey.
Remember that a lot of people might not start on your homepage because Google might have pulled up your events page or your contact page first. In that case, those need to also have a clear call to action, as well as going back to blogging. It’s effective at the bottom of your blog posts to have blogs like this. Depending on your platform, they might automatically have that. If you use categories for a blog post, it might automatically pull other blogs that you have tagged with that category. If it doesn’t, don’t worry, add some buttons and if you don’t know how to add a button, add some text that says, “Some blogs that I have written like this.” You know what you have written so adding that in there and also throughout.
At this point, I have written hundreds of blogs so if I’m writing a blog about SEO readability, I know I have a blog about SEO scanability. Those are pretty related so I will somehow link them in the body of my blog. Side note, if you do that, make sure you click the button that says, “Open in a new tab,” because there’s nothing more annoying than reading a blog, clicking that and being like, “I want to read that after but then losing your spot because it pulls up in the same tab.” Doing those inline links is effective.
This might sound contradictory but doing links to other websites, other blogs, first of all, helps people know that you are reliable. You are willing to share other high–value content. Again, open it in a new tab because we want your website to stay up or Google things that people are on the blog longer. This is all called link building. This is a white hat SEO tactic, a good one. This is a great way of building your own credibility. It also builds their credibility.
I have even gone so far as to find somebody who’s not in the same industry but has a very similar audience. We will write blogs for each other. If I’m writing a blog for her, I will link a ton of my other blogs. Even though it’s on her website, it has links back to different blogs that I have written, as well as her promoting me and my business. It doesn’t need to be someone super famous. Someone who has a similar audience and is willing to have a guest post is a great way to link building.
As musicians, there are a lot of ways we can do that. If we get our song on their blog, you get on someone’s podcast, if you have an article in a local paper or something, you are going to get a link from those and that’s going to help build up your authority for sure. Rebekah is going to get a link on my page. I’m probably going to get a link on her page because she’s going to be like, “This is the press that I have had.”
It’s all interconnected and you never want to feel like, “I don’t want to link to anybody else because I want to like hoard all of the traffic.” Google is built to reward you for the sharing. I have a couple of super nerdy questions that I have wanted to know about that I’m going to go ahead and use this platform to ask. Maybe the deep SEO people that are reading are going to be interested. One question I have is when you do a link where it says follow or no follow, which ones should we be using?
I don’t know if I have that. Is this on the WordPress blog that you are seeing? That’s a good question. I don’t know if I can answer that one for you.
I’m going to look it up then. My other question is about newer sites. This show has only been around since November of 2020. The site was started in maybe July of 2020 so only by November have we been putting any content. Whereas I have another show, Female Entrepreneur Musician, that has been around for years. How can I accelerate where they say this is a trusted site, it’s an established site because it has been around so long? I know that the one I have had for years, I get a lot of people trying to ask me for guest posts because they see that it has that higher rating and had been around a long time kind of category. Is there any way to accelerate that or is that something that happens because of time?
The only way to accelerate is to be pushing out more content or to optimize the site even more if you haven’t already for SEO. Probably the other show is getting more guest posts partially because it’s ranking higher on iTunes, which has nothing to do with your website’s SEO. I would say that, making sure that on the backend you are all set up. That means like the meta descriptions of each page, the page titles, making sure those are all set up, good to go, and then also going through the website’s content and seeing is there a place that you can add some keywords and then finally, it’s about blogging. For a podcaster, that means transcribing the podcast so that you have all those words actually on the blog. SEO is a slow growth thing, unfortunately. That’s why I said in the beginning, getting specific with those keywords is going to help you to rank ahead of some other people that aren’t as specific, but have been around for years.
You mentioned having a YouTube video on the page because it will keep people there longer. Does Google like that because YouTube is their platform or is it about getting people to stay longer?
There are a lot we don’t know about Google. They are also changing their minds all the time. I can’t say with absolute certainty that they love it but I do feel those blog posts that I have embedded YouTube videos do well and people stay on the blog post longer. Also, you are providing more value. Everyone knows it’s becoming more of a visual, video is doing, it’s the way of the world, all that stuff. It’s helpful to provide that extra value like your link building to other websites. It’s more of that concept, whether they move you up higher, I don’t know but those blogs do well for me and people seem to enjoy them.
Have you worked at all on SEO on the YouTube side or are you mostly focused on websites?
I’m mostly focused on websites. I do have a YouTube channel. I try to create videos that people will want to see, which a great resource that I have found is using Pinterest for that. It could depend on your industry as well. I’m not 100% certain about music and how much people are using Pinterest. For me, people are using that. If you type a keyword like me, Squarespace website designer, it will fill in the blank on the search engine of Pinterest. That’s a great way to come up with questions that I can then answer on YouTube. That’s a way to help your SEO. It’s answering things people are interested in. In the description of your YouTube video, adding in some keywords is effective. Beyond that, I don’t do a ton.
I do this a lot of times when I’m trying to decide on a title, you can type it into YouTube as well to see what people are searching for around that thing.
If YouTube is your primary platform, I would use that. If you are more on blogging, you could try Pinterest.
This has been helpful. Most musicians don’t think about SEO because it sounds super complicated and nerdy and it can get that way. You broke it down well in the simple things that we can do and have in the back of our mind when we are putting anything on our website as musicians. One of the best things that you talked about is having your website make sense, like the journey of what someone would do if they came to your website. What is it you want them to do? That’s the key that we need to approach our website with. A lot of times, as musicians, we want to get new people to our website. That’s the way people try to approach SEO. That is a much longer game than thinking about the people who already are coming to our site and how we can serve them better, and then Google is going to reward us for that. Would you agree?
Definitely. If you have Google Analytics, you can see who are the new visitors and then the returning visitors. I love seeing returning, almost as much as new. That’s valuable. It helps in SEO terms but we all know the building the know, like and trust factor is huge. Sometimes maybe you care about the music but you also might care about them as a human so building that up with returning visitors is valuable, too.
I tend not to look at the returning as much as I do the new because I want to know if my SEO is working but part of SEO, as you said, is keeping them on the site. That’s a great insight to make sure that you are looking at your returning visitors as well because those are, as you said, even more important. Those could become super fans if they are coming back. Thank you so much. I appreciate you going a little outside of the box for me and thinking about this with musicians and the music industry. It does apply. We all have websites. We all need to understand this stuff. Thanks a lot for your insight.
Thanks for having me.
- Rebekah Read
- Google Analytics
- Google Search Console
- Google My Business
- YouTube channel – Rebekah Read
- Female Entrepreneur Musician
About Rebekah Read
Bekah helps entrepreneurs with a strategic online presence by developing sites on Squarespace and Showit and teaching individuals proper SEO tactics. She loves helping entrepreneurs develop their brand strategy so they have a WEBSITE that does the heavy lifting! Her goal is to be her client’s biggest cheerleader in their craft and provide them with a community of supporters.
(My mission statement is: I develop websites for small businesses so I can discover the person behind the brand and make them feel known. I believe everyone has a story to tell and a gift to share with the World and simply needs assistance in sharing that and portraying it in a cohesive manner. I want to showcase their spirit (not just their work) through the site and serve them in the process so they can leave the experience feeling more fulfilled, less drained from trying to DIY everything themself and spurred on in their work to serve others. My goal is to be my client’s biggest cheerleader in their craft and provide them with a community of supporters.)