SEO for composers: Google and your portfolio website

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On average, you spend about 24 hours a week online. That’s according to official statistics. So a website is essential for almost any modern working composer.

Do you want to generate more music business? Well, building a website is easy… but how do you stand out from the thousands of over composers out there? And, most importantly, how do you rise to the top of Google? That’s what makes or breaks a website’s success.

Website developers call this Search Engine Optimisation – or ‘SEO’. That’s just the technical word for improving a website’s performance in search results.

I’m going to be upfront here – SEO can get very complicated. This, coupled with Google frequently changing its algorithm, means SEO strategies can go out of date very quickly.

However, there’s a huge amount you can achieve without digging deep into HTML code or fretting over Google’s rule changes. The most important influence to your website’s search presence is simply ensuring it is interesting website which stands out from its competitors. Ultimately, it’s your website’s content that matters the most.

That’s exactly what I’m going to look at in this post.

 

Stop. Do you need SEO?

Think about it. Is search engine optimisation a priority for your music business? If the number-one way you acquire clients is word of mouth, why waste your time improving a website?

It’s easy to spend hours, weeks and months trying to ‘trick’ Google. However, there might be other things that could make a bigger improvement to your sales.

If you’re sure SEO is what you need, then let’s begin. You don’t have to be an HTML programmer to make a huge benefit to your website’s search performance. Many changes won’t cost you anything but time – or you can hire an expert!

How search engines work

Google processes more than 40,000 searches every single second. That’s billions of individual searches every day. It all begins with a group of computers autonomously browsing the internet. They gather data about web pages. They’re known as ‘search bots’, ‘spiders’ or ‘crawlers’.

Much like a composer who browses cat pictures all day, a search bot begins at one webpage, reads the text in full, then clicks on any other links that exist on the page. It’ll then repeat the whole process on the next page, and the next, and the next…

Gradually, these bots crawl across the entire internet – link by link, byte by byte – building a map of what information is where. Everything that’s discovered is then added to a very large database, which Google calls an index. The index contains more than 100,000,000 gigabytes of information. Details about each web page like its main features, how reliable the source is and much, much more.

How does this affect your own website’s search ranking? When you search for something online, Google quickly looks through its index to find all the websites that are relevant.

Google then uses hundreds of factors to decide where to place your website in its results. All of these are put into a top-secret algorithm, which generates the search results – hopefully displaying the most relevant and suitable answers for your question.

This is where SEO comes in! The order search results are displayed in can be affected by how detailed your writing is, how long it takes to load your page and other factors you can influence. By being tactical, you can significantly improve the search presence of your own website.

Further reading: How Google search works.

Remember: Because websites must be crawled and indexed before anything changes in search results, any alterations to your website won’t instantly affect your ranking. You’ll have to wait until the search bot crawls your website again, which can take a few days or even weeks.

 

Build it and they will come

It’s all about words. The best way to improve your search ranking is with well written content. Search engines are keen to present their users with relevant, comprehensive material. This means they’ll always favour interesting pages and well-researched blogs which contain detailed information.

“Creating compelling and useful content will likely influence your website more than any of the other factors.” Google

To get to the top of Google, you need to write something seriously good. Unfortunately for musicians, search engines cannot index audio, so it’s no good including great music alone. You need interesting text too.

Start with your target search term. What searches do you want to be at the top of?

“Think about the words users would type to find your pages and include those words on your site.” Google

Be specific. It’s unlikely you’ll be able to rank highly for a generic term like “film composer”. However, examples like “Orchestral jazz composer in Manchester” or “EDM musician for corporate films” are going to be better. Not only will there be less competition from other websites, but these are what potential customers might be searching – so you’re already attracting the right people to your website.

Search marketers call these “key words”. To improve a webpage’s ranking for one of these search terms, it’s good to include some of these words within your page. Or even answer the question directly.

By doing this, Google will interpret it as a sign that your webpage is about those topics. It will then be more likely to display your page when people are looking for similar questions.

Further reading: research your keywords to find the most profitable ones for you.

Be careful though. Avoid writing sentences just for the sake of keywords. It will make your writing sound ‘spammy’ and leave a bad taste with your readers. Equally, don’t repeat keywords too many times on a page. It won’t make Google place your page higher and your ranking might even suffer!

“Provide high-quality content on your pages, especially your homepage. This is the single most important thing to do.” Google

Tip: If you’re struggling to add text to one of your pages, ask yourself whether that page is really necessary. What does it bring to your website that other pages don’t?

WARNING: Don’t use the same (or similar) sentences on more than one page. Your search presence will be penalised for duplicate content. Always write something unique.

Music and video

Ever searched for a piece of music online? The results are usually either YouTube links or biographical articles. Google doesn’t list MP3s and it’s pretty rare to find SoundCloud links.

Search engines understand words really well, but they can’t decipher sound or videos. Without written content, music and videos just don’t rank in search results. This makes SEO a challenge for music websites – especially your showreel or portfolio.

You already know the first thing to do. Add some great, optimised text to help search engines rank your page. But another effective tool is YouTube.

By hosting your videos on YouTube, you get the benefit of showing up in video searches rather than just in website results. According to Search Engine Journal, YouTube is the second-biggest search engine in the world. This means you also get access to another huge audience which is making regular searches on the platform.

Additionally, YouTube’s clever tagging system can help you describe what’s in your video, increasing your search ranking ability.

Further reading: YouTube SEO tips from marketer Neil Patel.

Other quick tips to improve your search ranking

You’ll see that the essentials of making a website perform well in search engines is the same as simply ensuring it’s great for your visitors. Of course, there is far more you can do, but few things will create as much benefit as ensuring your website provides excellent, original content and a great user experience.

If you’re keen to get more out of your SEO, here some more useful tips:

What’s in a name?

Free website services such as Wix or WordPress.com may not cost anything, but your website won’t have a bespoke URL. It’s pretty cheap to register your own domain name (such as www.example.com), which makes you look more professional and can give you an SEO boost!

Stop the numbers

When you build a WordPress website, the default URL of every post is an ID number rather than the post title. It’s easy to change this to your post’s title Not only does that make URLs clearer, but it helps search engines better understand your content.

The need for speed

A fast website makes visitor’s happy, and Google actually penalises slow websites. Make sure you don’t upload images that are unnecessarily large, and ensure you’ve got a good hosting provide. If you’re on WordPress, try a caching plugin.

Invisible images

Alt text is an invisible text description for images and it’s displayed when an image cannot be loaded or for accessibility reasons. Adding alt text to your images can also help your website appear in relevant image searches.

Going mobile

Google actually penalises websites which don’t work well on mobiles, so make sure your website’s theme is responsive or mobile-friendly.

It’s over to you…

I hope you’ve found this a useful introduction to the world of SEO. If you’re keen to get even more out of your efforts or learn more advanced SEO techniques, here are some other great guides to get you started:

Good luck on your website!

Robert

Robert Drane

Combining marketing and music, Robert Drane is a writer and composer based in North Yorkshire, England.

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