Have you ever wondered why other music merchants in your area come up before you on the first page of Google? There are at least 200 (or more) possible ranking factors that Google looks at to help it prioritize the pool of results, but there's currently a few that stand out above the rest.
Here is a list of seven primary factors that you should keep in mind when making your website useful, authoritative in your industry, and optimized for search engines:
Factor #1: Regularly Post Fresh & Useful Content
Websites used to be built once and then would just sit there, providing a web version of a brochure so a business could be accessed digitally. Not anymore.
A website that just sits and collects dust will be treated that way by all major search engines, especially Google. Now search engines are constantly looking for websites that live and breathe regularly, watching for ongoing activity and looking for fresh new content that appears to be useful, resourceful and full of substance. That is primarily the job of a website's blog. While other static pages such as About Us, Contact Us and the Home Page don't change a whole lot, the blog offers that continuous stream of fresh activity and goodness the search engines crave.
Factor #2: Write Content for Humans, not Machines
You've probably heard some kind of hype about using keywords to draw visitors and search engines to your blog articles and web pages, and that is true to a point.
You definitely want to use key phrases and variations of that keyword to show relevance to our search engine overlords. But the primary audience of a blog is human, so an article should be written to be as full, complete and in English as possible.
For example, the key phrase I am optimizing this article for is "music marketing strategies", but if I try to overuse and stuff it into the article unnaturally, search bots can tell the difference and dock your site points for trying that. It's best to be honest and truthful because the machines know better. ;)
Factor #3: Have a Mobile Friendly Website
In 2015 and 2016, it became important to make sure your music store website adopted a "Mobile First" approach, meaning you focus on the design, experience and functionality of your website on mobile devices first instead of desktop computers.
Recently this became even more important when Google made it official that it was switching the foundation behind its search engine to priortize websites that were mobile friendly first when performing searches on mobile devices. This is mostly due to the fact that mobile searches passed desktop searches in volume as of 2015.
So make sure your site offers a great experience for visitors and customers who are looking you up on the go, because chances are good that is now the majority.
Factor #4: Secure Your Website
Announced in late 2014 and now being enforced in early 2017 and on, Google is ranking websites based on how secure it is. By that I mean it is looking for websites that have "https://" (note the "s") instead of "http://".
Up until now, "https" was only used by sites that passed private and secure information over the Internet, mostly ecommerce sites and services like PayPal. But starting now, it is highly recommended that all sites take this measure to help make the web a more secure place for everyone.
Factor #5: Have a Legit Link Building Strategy
Aside from having the right content for the right people, your website also needs to appear to be the right place to go for music product content in a search engine's "eyes". That is accomplished through a process known as link building.
There are two parts to link building: internal links and external links:
- Internal links happen when you link from one article or page on your site to another article or page on the same site. This creates a "site map" and connects your pages together, helping Google crawl your site better as it jumps from link to link.
- External links are when you link from an article or page on your site to a completely different website as a reference to a comment you made or a fact you stated. They are like citations or footnotes you used to write in English class.
When linking to other sites, you cast your link building net out to others to give them credit as being an authoritative site in their field, thus giving them link building points. If they were to link to your site, they would be throwing link building credit to you as an authority in your field.
NOTE: At the time of writing this article, link building is still a major player, but due to some businesses using shady workarounds and abusing the concept, Google may possibly be looking to start penalizing more strictly if you don't follow the rules. This article will be updated if there are any changes.
Factor #6: Maintain Consistent Local Citations
For music stores that still have physical locations, being found by the local community is a requirement.
While it may seem backwards at times to have someone use a global network like the Internet to search for someone in their backyard, it's also how society has shifted and there's no denying it. :)
It's for this reason that you need to create, update and maintain your local citations, or listings, in the numerous online directories that power local search. These include Google Maps / My Business, Apple Maps, Yelp, Yahoo! and FourSquare, to name a few.
The other majority thing to remember with local citations is that they ALL NEED TO MATCH. At a minimum the Name, Address and Phone Number (NAP) need to be the same across all profiles, otherwise one could appear as a duplicate or raise red flags for search engines and consumers alike.
Factor #7: The Curse of Google's First Page
If you've ever paid attention when you searched for something, you may see that the first results are labeled as paid ads, the results below that are typically organic (which is why you're here reading this article), sometimes there might be a map "snack pack" that shows local results for your search, and, if you're shopping or looking for Wikipedia-type information, on the right side of the page you'll notice either a shopping pane with products or a Wikipedia-style entry with factual information about your search.
This "curse" basically means that there isn't necessarily a true "#1" or straightforward listing of results like there used to be. Instead Google's results page has now become more of a resource that displays relevant information based on what you searched for.
To rank better organically in this hodge-podge of helpfulness, it could be good practice to focus on just one of those areas at a time, optimizing for maps, products, content, or paying for ads to see which works best. Or it could be good practice to focus a little bit on all of them to have your bases covered when anyone searches for something that may trigger you as a good result to display. It's hard to nail it down, but that's why it can be a good idea to A/B test or run experiments on how you're budgeting your marketing spend.
Posting fresh content regularly, communicating with fellow humans, designing your mobile friendly site and optimizing local citations are all great things to remember to do. To help give you a better idea of what else may go into your future inbound marketing strategy, Download our 20 Great Marketing Ideas for Music Merchants ebook.