Every second, 63,000 Google searches are happening. Of all those, 72% of local searches will result in someone immediately visiting a store within 5 miles. As each second clicks by, hundreds of thousands of people are making in-store purchases directly based on their online searches.
Are they seeing your store in their search results? That’s the big question for music retailers. If you’re not visible in Google’s top results - ideally, within the first page - you won’t likely be the next stop on their shopping trip.
This guide to search engine optimization (SEO) will walk you through the basic steps to improving SEO for your music business. We’ll help you raise your rank, boost foot traffic, drive business to your website, and make a positive impact on your bottom line.
The Basics: Defining SEO
SEO is a strategy that strengthens your visibility in the world of search engines. Certain qualities of a company’s website make it more or less attractive to Google, Bing, and Yahoo, which are the world’s top 3 search engines.
What, precisely, are the qualities that attract search engines? Great question - one that seems like it should be easier to answer than it actually is. Google is secretive about the exact algorithm it uses, and every search engine is constantly evolving its method of ranking results.
All told, there are more than 200 factors that affect your ranking. They generally fall into the following categories:
- Domain factors, like your website’s age, name length, and history on the web
- Page factors, like loading speed and what kind of keywords you’re using
- Site factors, like whether people find the content on your site useful
- Backlink factors, or how your pages are interconnected with the rest of the web
- User factors, which relate to behavior like clicks, repeat traffic, and bookmarks
- Spam factors, which penalize you for spammy behavior
- Brand factors, like whether your company name is a commonly-searched term
- Wild card factors, which are hard-to-pin-down factors specific to each search engine
When developing an SEO strategy, you’ll need to address as many of the categories above as you possibly can. SEO operates like a points system, where each little victory adds up to a big overall score.
Is SEO Really Necessary?
Many retailers wonder whether SEO is just a buzzword - whether it really makes a difference for their business. YES. It matters. The old saying “If you build it, they will come” is totally untrue on the internet.
Having a website doesn’t mean anyone will visit it. There are millions of websites that get almost zero traffic. It’s like running a terrific music store that’s located out in the middle of the forest, inside a dilapidated shack. You could have the world’s best merchandise, but you won’t get many visitors.
SEO brings your website up to the latest online standards, so you even have a chance to compete. And here’s a bit of great news for any retailer: SEO is practically free, as long as you’re willing to invest some time and brain power.
Neil Patel, an award-winning author and one’s the world’s biggest web influencers, says he spends about 4 to 5 hours writing each of his blog posts - but the 10 minutes he spends tweaking it for SEO is the most important 10 minutes of the task.
Getting Started With SEO
When you see the huge list of SEO factors we shared earlier, it might be a little bewildering to get started. Retailers often wonder which to focus on first, and which are the must-haves for a solid SEO strategy. Let’s roll through some of the top priorities.
Design & Development
The basic design of your website is of critical importance. Without going into all the technical details, there’s a huge list of “dos and don’ts” for website development that make it more or less friendly to search engines.
For example, how your site is indexed is a big deal to search engines, but it’s not something the average person understands. Indexing is a type of sorting that involves the handling of HTML text, images, and all kinds of other web page details.
We strongly encourage you to work with a professional web development expert to ensure your site is designed correctly for SEO.
Every SEO plan needs a content plan. Content includes everything from blog posts to landing page copy - all the words you use to communicate your messages online.
Keep in mind that actual human beings are going to read what you produce. That sounds a bit silly, but it’s amazing how quickly this fact can get lost in SEO tips and tricks. Your content is extremely important to search engines, but it’s even more important to potential customers.
Or, to put it another way: Write for people, not for search engines. Google is smart enough to know when you’re just trying to stuff lots of lingo into a web page. The content you produce must be well-written, meaningful, and useful to your target audience.
Related to content, keywords are another critical piece of your SEO puzzle. Keywords are the specific one-word and multi-word terms that are important to your customers.
A word like “music” is a keyword, but it’s also such a wildly popular search term that it’s not the most important word you’ll need. More specific phrases like “cheap violin rental” or “kids’ vocal lessons” could be the most powerful terms for your SEO. These are called long-tail keywords and make up 70% of daily search engine queries.
Develop a keyword planning strategy as part of your SEO plan. It’s the best way to use language to your advantage.
The User Experience
Here’s where SEO becomes even more human: Usability. As people access your site, search engines observe their behavior and make judgment calls about whether they liked their user experience.
Google would notice, for example, that lots of people click to visit your site but spend an average of just 5 seconds looking at it before clicking away. That’s terrible news for your Google ranking.
In this case, Google is guessing that your site isn’t worth seeing because people aren’t staying to explore it. As a consequence, it’s pushing your site way down in the search results so people will see more helpful results (and perhaps your direct competitors) instead.
Good usability loops right back around to having a well-designed site with meaningful content. It’s all interconnected.
Links, Reviews, and Reputation
Did you know that other websites - many of which have absolutely nothing to do with music retail - are affecting your Google ranking? It’s a bit frustrating, but it’s true.
Search engines are constantly looking at the ways your site and brand are connected to other sites around the web. They’re observing things like links to and from your site, mentions of your name in product reviews, and everyday chatter that’s happening on social media.
Simply getting name recognition isn’t good enough anymore. In the early days of the internet, the phrase “all news is good news” was true. Every mention of your company’s name caused Google to view you as more popular, thus rank-worthy.
Today, Google is much savvier about companies’ online reputations - and so are consumers. A review site like Yelp can boost or bust your reputation, based on what people are saying about you. That’s why it’s important to explore reputation management as a part of your SEO strategy.
Don’t Forget to Track and Analyze
As you add all of these elements to your SEO plan, measure your success along the way. The best SEO experts are always tracking their online performance and analyzing what they could be doing better.
For example, you’ll want to track the metric of site referrals, or the sources of traffic to your site: partners’ sites, promotional pages, ads, and more. Site referrals tell you the sources of your traffic - something search engines are also very interested in. You might see unexpected sources of high traffic, which are new options to explore for your business. Or you might see that a certain promotion isn’t performing well and needs to be adjusted.
That’s just one example among many. An inbound marketing specialist can help you understand the most important metrics to track and how to act on that information.
Seizing SEO Opportunity
Feeling more secure in your knowledge of SEO? If you’re still struggling, you’re not alone. SEO is a complex challenge to navigate, and many businesses need extra support.
In the music retail business, Octave Media specializes in helping retailers manage SEO and use it to build new audience. In fact, Octave Media offers a free 5-Point Website Marketing Inspection that will reveal your SEO weak spots and make suggestions for improvement.
Connect with Octave Media for a fresh look at the power of SEO for music retailers.