SEO for Metal Bands #4: Get Linked

Posted in Resources for Bands, SEO, SEO for Metal Bands on September 25th, 2009 by Alex
Immortal politely request that you link to their myspace

Techniqes for getting inbound links #1: Immortal politely request that you link to their myspace

So you’re in a band. You’re probably young, internet savvy and have a profile on every social networking site going. You have mates that run various websites and your housemate knows a bloke that runs a porn site. Getting links to your site is easy right? Not as easy as you make think. Let’s examine.

In my last article I talked about the mythical, mystical term pagerank. Broadly speaking, this increases as you get links to your site, and will improve how high up in search listings your pages appear. Getting links is good. However, from a search perspective, not all links are created equal.

Now, I preface this by saying that links are generally a good thing regardless of the effect they have on search. Links increase traffic on your site, and if their source is a page that is created by someone people respect the opinion of, then the link is like gold dust – imaging if Lee Dorian posted a link to your Doom band, or Terroriser magazine linked to you from an article about Emperor. This is precisely the real world situation that the search engines use to try and decide whether your page is important or not. The logic is, if PageA is important, and it links to PageB, then PageB must have some level of importance too. Also, if PageA is about Industrial Acoustic Punk, then there’s a fair bet that PageB is too.

So your mates all have Myspace pages, just get them to link to your site and hey presto pagerank! Right? Wrong. Some sites, most notably social networking sites, apply properties to links on their pages that explicitly prevent those links from carry through pagerank. This is so that people don’t use their pages for the sole purpose of driving up pagerank. Those links may well be valuable in the real world, indeed they may be the most valuable links you get, but they will not help you at all from a pagerank perspective. Some sites that apply this restriction are:

  • Myspace
  • Facebook
  • Bebo
  • Twitter (notice this is a link? FOLLOW ME!)

This also often goes for links placed in comments on blogs or posts in forums. Another thing to note is, that if a link is too easy to get (for example comments on blogs) then the search engines are likely to view them as lower value, and carry less importance to them – so spamming every metal blog you know with links probably won’t help much (this, however, not a bad way to drive general awareness of your band, but more on that later).

One more gotcha, before I start to get to things that actually will help. That mate with a porn site? Steer well clear of any links that he offers. If the search engines start to associate you with the, shall we say, less wholesome areas of the web, then you could end up getting excluded from the mainstream search results and only appear in searches like “hard metal insertion” along with some less healthy websites.

This sucks, you’re thinking, why bother? Well, a few good quality links can go a long way.

The easiest and best technique for gather good quality links is link swaps. When you meet new bands of a similar ilk, then offer to put a link to their band’s site on your website of they do the same. The more of these, the better. You’ll only build up a little bit of link juice that way, but it all adds up.

Secondly, if you can get a mention (even if it’s a bad one!) on a metal site or blog (Metalsucks, Invisible Oranges, Metal Injection and, of course, The Inevitable Nose are all good metal sites that feature small and unsigned bands) then this will help a LOT. It’s a good idea to read these sites regularly and make decent contextual comments (eg. “I love this video, but really, Mastodon are not of their best form at the moment” rather than “Mastodn suxxx LOLLLLLFAIL”) to build a bit of rapport with the writers. Then, send across your music, once you have decent recording, as they usually have email addresses listed. If you know they’re local to you, then invite them to your gig. Don’t spam though – use considered and informative correspondence and be personable!

Finally, be linkable. If your page looks good, contains useful information, then people will want to link to it.

2 more points to make and then we’ll move on, because this is getting pretty long! Links all have at least 2 properties: the link itself and the anchor text. I’m going to talk about both these.

The anchor text is the text that actually displays in the browser to be clicked on (“click here”, “visit the band’s myspace here”). Google uses this text as a strong indicator as to the content of the page to which it’s linking, so if you have any influence over what this text is then you can use this. Most links will simple be your band’s name – this is a good thing, this will allow you to build up a pagerank against your band name as a search term. But if you can get a few links that also mention your band’s genre (eg. “listen to this amazing acoustic death metal band”) then this will also really help you get a foothold against that genre for search.

With regards to the link, remember that I made a point of saying that pagerank is generated against single pages? This is important. If some sites are using your Myspace, and others your band’s website, then your link juice for each page is less overall, making it harder for any one of your pages to rank. It’s a good idea to decide which page best represents your band and will best convert folks stumbling across your band into fans (more on this later) then promote that link alone. That way, sites are most likely to link there.

OK, that’s it for this lesson kiddies. I’ve really only scratched the surface, but don’t get daunted; if you only apply the rules I’ve thus far mentioned, it will help you a lot.

SEO for Metal Bands #3

SEO for Metal Bands #2

SEO for Metal Bands #1

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SEO for Metal Bands #3: Pagerank for Dummies

Posted in Resources for Bands, SEO, SEO for Metal Bands on September 18th, 2009 by Alex
Pagerank diagram or Death Metal band logo?

Pagerank diagram or Death Metal band logo?

I’ve mentioned this mystical term ‘pagerank’ in my previous articles and probably made it seem like manna from heaven. It’s not that important in the grand scheme of things, but it is helpful to understand what it is, as the main contributor to achieving a decent pagerank IS the most important thing for search optimisation: getting links. I’ve split this piece into 2 parts. The first is an explanation of pagerank and the second covers the real world practicalities, strategies and gotchas of link building. So here’s my dummies guide to pagerank.

So go download Google’s toolbar. There’s some vaguely useful tools on there, mostly it just takes up screen space in your browser window, however, for the purposes of this article, there’s a very handy tool on there: the pagerank indicator (it’s somewhere near the middle). This shows a little green bar, and if you hover your mouse over it a number out of 10. This indicates the public page rank of the page which you are on. Now, note what I said there – this number refers to the page, not the whole site. This is a numeric value, between 0 and 10 (0 bad, 10 good), that represents how important your page is in Google’s index (the index being the total list of pages Google knows about). Spend a little time surfing around the pages associated with your band, some other favourite sites, then some big sites (BBC, Amazon, Google, Apple etc.) and check the pagerank for those sites, as well as various pages within those sites. This will give you an idea of how pagerank is distributed. Now, this is only the public pagerank, which gets updated a couple of times a year, and is purely meant as an indicator of how your site’s performing for in Google’s search index. Real ‘pagerank’ is somewhat more complex and probably doesn’t exist in any form that we’d understand in Google’s (and indeed other search engines’) search algorithm. However, it can be broadly described like this:

Pagerank is a property that search engines apply to a page when other pages link to it and is used to derive a sense of importance and authority of that page. This influences how high in the search listings your pages appear when people search for terms relating you your site – generally speaking, pages with higher pagerank should appear higher up in search listings than those with less. It’s that simple, at least for the purposes of this article and understanding the basics.

However, due to the complexities of the internet and the propensity for people to try and abuse this mechanism (using link farming for example), the best practise to apply when attempting to improve your pagerank are important to understand.

Now, pagerank for any given page is inherited from the pages that link to it. However, the amount of pagerank that those pages yield depends on how many other pages they link to – so a page with a pagerank of 5, that has links to 5 other pages, would pass on a pagerank of 1 to each of those pages. Now I don’t want you to worry too much about this as it can get VERY confusing, but suffice to say, the higher the pagerank of the pages linking to your page, the more pagerank your page will acquire.

Now, don’t go get all excited now because your dad runs a dental supplies website with a pagerank of 6 that you can con him into linking to your site from. You will remember that I spent a while in my previous article going on about how it’s important to classify and define your band, and that the search engines classify your pages by the company they keep? This is important. Yes, you will derive pagerank to your band’s page regardless of what type of pages link to it, but if these pages are all about different, non-related stuff (eg. dental supplies, badger baiting, S&M, earwax) and your site is about your progressive hair metal band, then Google’s going to get mighty confused about that page and either a) not have a clue how or when to list it or worse b) de-list it entirely as spam.

So as you can see, public pagerank is only an indicator of how important Google perceives your search in the grand scheme of things, and is not particularly helpful in understand how your site is actually performing.

Remember this: the ONLY thing that matters at the end of the day with SEO is that you’re getting traffic of the right kind to your site. Don’t get caught up in pagerank as it’s one of literally thousands of indicators that Google uses to calculate when, against what terms, to whom and in what order to present the pages in its index. However, it is something that you can influence, and has is probably the single most important way to optimise your pages for search.

So how do you go about getting links and driving up your pagerank? Well you’ll just have to wait until my next instalment to find out…

SEO for Metal Bands #2

SEO for Metal Bands #1

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SEO for Metal Bands #2: Be Niche

Posted in Resources for Bands, SEO, SEO for Metal Bands on September 11th, 2009 by Alex
Matanza - Countrycore?

Matanza - Countrycore?

A common misconception, when people first become conscious of their presence to the search engines, is that just be getting inbound links and acquiring page rank (of the type found on the Google toolbar) you will magically be found by people looking for you. These things certainly help, but you’re not going to get found by the people that you want to find you without thinking a little first about how you want to be found.

Assuming you have reasonably distinctive name, then you’ll probably rank well against people typing that term into a search engine (if it’s at an early stage, then this is most likely with your Myspace page). This covers getting found by people looking for you (more on this in later articles) but doesn’t really help getting eyeballs on your pages from people not looking for you specifically, but stuff like you. Many people look to track down new music by looking for bands in the genre occupied by other bands they like. It’s worth giving some thought to what genre and sub-genre(s) you belong to.

Now this may outrage some bands who consider themselves ‘outside’ any genre. This may be the case, but it’s worth considering that a) other folks will not see it that way and, if you don’t begin ‘branding’ your band in a specific genre, will do so for you and b) you are shooting yourself in the foot in the short to medium term. Bands like Opeth and The Dillinger Escape Plan may be able to eschew the genre constraint these days but they started out as progressive death and hardcore (or any number of over *cores subsequently) respectively.

So if you’re Funeral Doom, Glam Rock, Blackened Thrash, Deathlike Thrashy Dronecore with Crunk tendencies then call it – loud and proud! For a while at least, this forms a vital part of your band’s identity.

So what’s the aim here? When someone types in “blackened countrycore” into Google, you turn up in the first page of results. Depending on the prevalence of the genre to which you belong, then it may be advisable to niche down to the closest sub-genre. If you are just ‘rock’ you’re unlikely to rank well against that term unless you sell a few million CD’s – better to be ‘hard rock’ or ‘melodic rock’ or whatever. It’s possible to go too far here. If you are the only ‘vikingpiratecore’ band out there, then people aren’t so likely to searching for that term, and you loose the benefit of genre proximity.

Once you’ve decided what this is, then start advertising it. Myspace is good place to start. Resist the urge to state ‘other/other/other’ as your genre. Find the one that closest suits your band, and if it still doesn’t fit, the state your true genre everywhere else on that page. Search Engines have a concept called keyword density – basically they use the frequency of a particular word or term to divine what a page is about. So you shouldn’t be afraid to mention it a few times. Be careful with this though, as Google expects to see human readable text, so cramming your blurb with your chosen term will likely cause your page to be delisted as spam.

Secondly, the search engines will give precedence to words and terms in prominent place on the page. So, assuming it doesn’t screw up the design or flow of the page, it’s worth stating your genre in any or all of these:

  • Page title
  • URL
  • <H1> and <H2> tags
  • Description tag

Next, search engines try to divine what your pages are about by the company they keep. So if you link to, and are linked from other Depressive Drone Hair Metal pages then that will have an influence on what terms you rank for (more on link building in later articles).

Finally, get people talking about you in the context of your chosen genre. Search engines pay attention to the words used to link to your site, and those surrounding these links (also pictures and video of your band), and if you leave it to other people to decide which genres you belong to then when they do they may use different terms. This means that you’ll struggle to gain pagerank against any specific term and end up spreading your search engine love too thinly.

As ever with SEO, there’s mountain of ambiguity, differing permutations and exceptions. What’s certain is that it’s different for everyone. If you find something that works, then do more of it. The key to SEO is consistency. If you’re clear about who you are and what you represent then this will come naturally. If you prefer to appear obscure, then from a search perspective that’s the way you’ll probably remain.

SEO for Metal Bands #1: Name your band wisely

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SEO for Metal Bands #1: Name your band wisely

Posted in Resources for Bands, SEO, SEO for Metal Bands on September 7th, 2009 by Alex
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I’m going to start at the beginning, with one of the first things that a band does: Choose a name. Now, this may be redundant in most cases, as you probably already have a band name that you’re happy with, but if it’s not too late to change (your band is, like, Metallica or something) then heed these words, as you could really benefit further down the line.

So you want to name your band ‘Apple’. Let’s think about this one for a minute. Isn’t there a company named Apple too? Well, they’re not a band so no problem, right? Well, when naming your band, it’s probably a good idea to go type your shortlist into Google. The term ‘apple’ is not only dominated by the ubiquitous technology company, but it’s also one of THE most fiercely contended terms by every man and his dog on the internet. Unless you become VERY popular VERY quickly by other means (basically you are Arctic Monkeys, which is, incidentally a great band name for SEO) then you’re always going to have trouble ranking for search terms relating to your band name.

Another gotcha is using non-standard characters in your band name. Avant garde black metalers <code> may have a cool name, and make fabulous noises, but they’re a bitch to find in search engines and ecommerce sites using the correct spelling of their name. They’re also making life harder for bloggers like me who have to use special characters in subject lines if we want to use the correct spelling. What’s worse is that the angle brackets “<>” are widely used in internet markup languages like HTML, and this will confuse the hell out of many web applications and in some cases could actually cause the site to malfunction on less well built sites. This is not the end of the world, and I’m sure <code> are doing quite well for themselves (they at least have a record deal) but you’re just making life hard for yourself at a time when you least need it.

The best choice for a band name from an SEO perspective is probably a made up word (eg. Skronkgornak – I couldn’t think of any real bands off the top of my head, so I just made on up) or a mis-spelling (eg. Def Leppard). Assuming someone else didn’t beat you to it, it’s really easy to ‘own’ these sorts of terms with very little effort and get almost immediate results. This is one of the reasons I chose the phrase “the inevitable nose” as the title for this blog. There were a few medical related pages ranking for this term, so it only took me a week to rank #1 for that term in Google, and only a couple more weeks to get 2, 3 and 4.

So stick your preferred name into Google before commuting to it and make sure you’re not going to be buried from day 1.

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SEO for Metal Bands

Posted in Resources for Bands, SEO, SEO for Metal Bands, Unsigned on September 6th, 2009 by Alex

seo_blogThis is the first of a series of articles on Search Engine Optimisation (SEO) for metal bands.

In my experience most new bands don’t know or care about SEO or perhaps assume that the record labels will deal with when they get signed (which they probably won’t). I think this is a mistake. SEO isn’t hard, and following a few simple principles will pay off in dividends.

Why should you, as a band, care about SEO? Well, the one thing that bands need most when their starting out is exposure. Getting found or noticed isn’t easy. In our internet saturated age the first place people go when looking for something is the search engines. If you want to be found then you need to pay attention to how the search engines perceive you.

It’s important to acknowledge that just because you are on the web, doesn’t mean that you can be found. Depending on how you present yourself, you may be very hard to find, which would be bad for you no matter which way you look at it.

Also, this is not aimed at improving your band’s website, although this is part of it. The aim here is to make your band findable and discoverable, and for this Myspace, last.fm, Wikipedia and countless other sites are equally (and in some cases more) important.

There are three key aims to this exercise:

1) Get found by people who are looking for you

2) Get found by people who are looking for stuff like you

3) Get found by people randomly (perhaps while they’re looking for, or doing, something else)

By making sure you have your bases covered here you will make getting your band found a whole lot easier. The key thing to understand about SEO is that nothing happens quickly. Search engines take time to react to changes, and there’s no silver bullet that will boost your rankings over night. By applying best practice you will see improvements over time that will add up to impressive results over time.

I’m eating my own dog food with regards to sticking to niches, hence the metal slant, but the same principles should work for any genre of music.

If you have any questions, or need advice on your band specifically, then feel free to leave comments and I’ll endeavor to help out.

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