How Bands Can Avoid Making 7 Big SEO Mistakes

    by Jason Feinberg
    April 29, 2009
    Led Zeppelin's official site is in Flash, and doesn't come up in the first page of Google search results for "led zeppelin t-shirts":http://www.google.com/search?hl=en&safe=off&client=firefox-a&rls=org.mozilla%3Aen-US%3Aofficial&hs=Zgt&q=led+zeppelin+t-shirts&btnG=Search.

    There is an entire school of thought, as well as a sizable industry, dedicated to the optimization of websites to show up higher in Google search rankings. Search engine optimization (SEO) techniques vary from simple content changes to tricks that game Google’s system, referred to as “black hat” SEO. Optimization can be a complex topic — read Mark Glaser’s article 9 Tips to Improve Search Engine Optimization to get a good feel for the process.

    SEO rules tend to apply universally, but specialty sites require some additional thought. When assessing a music artist’s site in regards to optimization, one has to consider that artistic expression is often more important than search visibility. From this, many artists make decisions in the name of art (or just not knowing better) that have an adverse affect on their search engine rankings. Below are seven of the most common mistakes and how to remedy them.

    1) Site Built Fully in Flash

    Having a site made entirely of Flash is usually the best way to maintain massive artistic control. HTML, CSS, JavaScript, or any other combination of web technologies simply cannot rival the level of interactivity given by Flash. However, this flexibility comes at a major price — unless properly planned out in the design stages, Flash cannot be indexed by search engines. Therefore, a site built fully with it may significantly hinder SEO efforts.


    Adobe Flash

    Why is that? In a published Flash document, most applications of text become bit-mapped graphics and lose their status as individual characters. A search engine has nothing to index and process when scanning for relevant text. In addition, Flash documents tend to contain multiple states and therefore might not display all text at once; a search engine does not have the ability to interact and follow each path the way links allow in HTML.

    The solution most SEO experts will tell you is to not base your site in Flash. However, if that is how it has to be to achieve your artistic vision, then there are a number of tips to get around these limitations. Most are advanced and require a solid understanding of multiple web technologies but can be implemented without too much extra effort.

    RESOLUTION: Create an HTML site to run in parallel, give the users a choice, and send the search engines to the HTML side. Or, do some homework at places like The Adobe Developer Connection. They have published two documents that may be of assistance — Search optimization techniques for rich Internet Applications and Search optimization checklist for rich Internet Applications. These articles discuss topics such as using variables to display content, implementing behind-the-scenes HTML tricks, and creating sitemaps to help search engines navigate your site.


    2) Site Built With Images Only

    Another common technique for building artist sites is to construct the entire site out of images. Like Flash, this allows a high level of artistic control, but does not provide indexable text that the search engines need to categorize a site.

    Fortunately, the HTML code behind images allows for ALT text that serves two purposes — explaining to visitors what is on the site if images don’t load or if they are browsing on a device that doesn’t support them, and providing search engines a description of what the graphics are displaying. In addition, the file names of the images provide information to search engines. All titles should use relevant keywords, and individual words should be separated with dashes (e.g. My-Band-Name-Cover-300dpi.jpg) to clearly delimit the search terms.

    RESOLUTION: Always ensure you are providing ALT text behind any image, especially if the site is built primarily or entirely of images. Be smart with file names.

    3) Lack of Keywords in Content

    Traditional SEO states that the cleanest way to optimize your site is to jam it full of content rich with relevant keywords. For example, if you have a real estate site, words such as “mortgage,” “refinance,” and “realtor” should appear over and over.

    For artist sites, keywords are not always so clearly defined. There are obvious terms that are likely to be on most, such as “guitar,” “bass,” or “singer.” Beyond that, however, many artists do not like to define themselves with standard music phrases. Most artist bios and related pages contain a wide range of terms that aren’t necessarily going to be what fans are searching for.

    RESOLUTION: Find as many places on the site that allow for the basic keywords you believe your fans will be searching for. If the majority of the site is artistic and full of creative, descriptive phrases, it may be worth adding a static page that is focused solely on band facts — member info, publicity quotes, simple description of the band’s sound, detailed discographies, and more.

    4) Relying Solely on Meta Tags

    Early SEO relied heavily on behind-the-scenes HTML code called meta tags. A sample meta tag might be a phrase like this, enclosed in carrot brackets:

    meta name=“keywords” content=“Microsoft, product, support, help, training, Office, Windows, software, download” /

    The name section determines what type of meta tag is being declared, and the content section lists all the keywords that define what the web page is about. In this case, it would be for the Microsoft.com site.

    Unfortunately, as soon as search engines started relying on these tags, people began taking advantage of them. For example, if I were performing SEO on a site that sold computer hardware, and wanted to glean some traffic from people searching for Microsoft, I could use the meta tags above even though they did not accurately describe my site. Realistically, that alone wouldn’t complete the job, but at one point it did have a significant impact on site indexing.

    Meta tag relevance has been primarily phased out over the years, but many site developers still rely heavily on this as their primary form of SEO. Depending on the search engine, the value of these tags may be zero.

    RESOLUTION: Include relevant meta tags on your pages, but realize that the value is minimal and spending time on other SEO strategies will be much more effective.

    5) Poor Link Strategy

    As meta tag significance faded away, other ways of ranking page relevance came to prominence, the majority of which make much more sense in regards to legitimacy. One of these that weighs heavily into search engine rankings is link strategy — managing incoming, outgoing, and internal links.

    The theory of link strategy is simple — the more sites linking to a page, and the more prominent the referring sites are, the more relevance the page has in the search engines. For example, if a highly established site such as PBS.org links to an artist’s site, that artist page is given a slightly higher boost in rankings as web surfers may assume the site has some level of significance or else PBS wouldn’t be linking to it.

    When running the publicity and marketing campaigns for an artist, getting a partner site to link to yours is critical. Not only does it drive traffic directly, but it can also have a significant impact on search results.

    A site is also given a level of credit by outgoing links. The nature of the web is one of discovery, and sites are looked upon favorably if they are linking to other relevant sites. This is not nearly as effective as getting inbound links from prominent sites, but it does have a small effect.

    Lastly, internal links can boost a page’s search engine ranking. An internal link is one that points to another page on the same site. Blogs use this technique inherently; by linking from one piece of content to other relevant content, search engines view the site as being rich and pertinent.

    RESOLUTION: Encourage other sites to link to yours via networking and marketing. Link to relevant sites. Link to other pages within your site.

    6) Overlooking Alternate Search Types

    People don’t just search for text. Google provides alternate search methods including image and document searches. Artist sites, often rich in images, allow an opportunity to index digital assets in search engines. Similar to the ideas discussed in tip #2 above, we can use those rules to ensure that your cover art, promo photos, show posters, and any other image can be found.

    In addition to images, documents can be indexed in the search engines. Google can index PDF files, and display them as HTML via search results. This is useful for band bios, press releases, order forms, and many other documents bands use on a regular basis.

    RESOLUTION: Learn about alternate file types your fans and the media are searching for, name them intelligently, and link them so they can be found by the search engines.

    7) Ignoring the Logs or Not Utilizing Analytics

    Once a site has been optimized for search engines, content is flowing, and the traffic is coming, an additional SEO challenge begins. A common and terrible mistake is to assume that because a strategy was working at one point it will continue working indefinitely.


    There are two primary ways to monitor what is happening on a website from the back end. Most web servers offer statistics programs such as AWStats or Urchin. These allow you to see where traffic is coming from, what people are searching for that end up at your site, popular pages, and more. In addition, a webmaster can install Google Analytics, a robust tool that offers deeper analysis than many standard web statistics packages.

    A significant advantage of Google Analytics is that after setting up an account, you simply need to add a few lines of JavaScript code to your pages. The actual software lives on Google’s servers, which is beneficial when it comes to updates and new features. Google has also integrated Analytics into some of their other applications, creating a massive tool for webmasters.

    The data these tools output can give you a clear picture of what your fans want. If the majority are entering on your media page, you know where you need to focus extra energy (such as making sure you are capturing email addresses off that page). The search engine stats are extremely valuable to see what keywords people are searching for prior to landing on your site. Advanced features also include integration with Google AdWords, motion charts, and custom reporting.

    RESOLUTION: Take the guesswork out of figuring out how your fans interact with your site. Enable and constantly monitor website statistics through a package such as AWStats or Google Analytics.


    Search engine optimization is just as important for musicians’ sites as any other type of website. And there’s no reason that an artist must forsake creativity for better search rankings. Keep these seven common mistakes in mind when you’re designing your site, and you should be able to drive more traffic to your website — and, most importantly, reach more fans.

    UPDATE: As pointed out in the comments, Google has made strides to be able to correctly index Flash documents. Visit this blog post to read about the ways Google can interact with Flash. However, I still stand by the idea that a site that utilizes text and other searchable HTML is a cleaner, more clear-cut way to enhance your search engine rankings. Although your Flash may be indexed, the likelihood of accurate and comprehensive indexing still does not compare to straightforward text and HTML.

    Jason Feinberg is the president and founder of On Target Media Group, an entertainment industry new media marketing and promotion company. He is responsible for business development, formulation and management of online marketing campaigns, and media relations with over 1,000 websites and media outlets. The company has served clients including Warner Bros. Records, Universal Music Enterprises, EMI, Concord Music Group, Roadrunner Records, and others with an artist roster that includes The Rentals, Flipper, Thin Lizzy, Sammy Hagar, Primus, Poncho Sanchez, Ringo Starr, Chick Corea, and many more.

    Tagged: bands flash google optimization seo web statistics
    • I’m not a musician, but excellent tips to help with my sites… thanks….

    • Rubén Rojas

      See this http://www.asual.com/swfaddress/ and for Flash you have the solution.

    • Great article Jason! I totally agree. Bands (music company execs) are so focused on image that using Flash seems like a natural fit. Personally I like a little Flash but give me good, old fashioned content too.

      The music sites I really tend to like a lot are the sites where you get a glimpse of what the band is really like. The Decemberists do a nice job using Flash + http://www.decemberists.com/.

    • It’s pretty good tech info. Nice for all the new in the industry.


    • The first rule is actually a little out of date. Google has since fixed their flash issues. See

    • Cool article … many mistakes that I think a lot of organizations make when it comes to SEO or any aspect of creating an online experience. Its extremely important to be searchable on the web. Most people go right to Google for their first step in daily research … so any of these basic tips can help out tremendously … nice!

    • #6 Alternate Search Types is a great tip. Lots of easy headway to be made there.


    • Here’s another SEO mistake bands make.

      Spell your name right in the title

      I’ve seen
      <br /> Band Name<br />
      that works well

      and <br /> B a n d N a m e<br />
      that didn’t work well

    • Congratulations, very dynamic and focus post.
      Loved ;)

    • I think these tips are pretty important to all sites.

      Musicians sites are a little different in a few ways. They often rely on flyer handouts or shows as sources of traffic, not so much organic traffic.

      Just adds some more hot water to the tankless job of being an SEO.

    • Thaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaankss

    • Thaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaankssssss

    • I should concider this tips.

    • I am a musician but I never made a personal site about music. My experience says that the focus should be on the HTML site and not on the flash for SEO but I read and different. I do not know but worth a try in every way.

    • Sometimes I played and I thought to create a music site. This is extra, but the idea that SEO is concerned does not good to work in Flash, the best in PHP or HTML. I have experience and my advice is HTML. It is best to optimize. :)

    • I’m not a musician, but completely agree with you.

    • I’m not a musician but completely agree with you

    • I’m not a musician but completely agree with you

    • I’m not a musician but completely agree with you.

    • I’m not a musician but completely agree with you

    • Sometimes I was the music, my advice is to make a good text and a unique site that is based on HTML due to good optimization “SEO”.

    • Good article. I agree with you because all the bands focused on flash because it is in their presentation fits the image of…..

    • Good article. I agree with you!

    • Good article. I agree with you

    • Good article. I agree with you

    • Flash sites are very attractive and it is a very attractive way of making sites. At such sites should be considered when making very FLASH because search engines can not read the contents of the flash.

    • Sites that are made in flash are difficult to optimize but because a very dynamic content.

    • I like moore flash sites, but they are not enough funkcional like some CMS I know

    • CMS is easy way to build your web prezense quicly

    • Very useful article. Tnx

    • Very useful article

    • Each well-done site is OK, but in my sites that were made in a flash just visually good, but not for optimization ….

    • Optimizing site is best if there is no flesh in the site, and it is best to HTML that works to optimize the well site but can also in php

    • Optimizing site is best if there is no flesh in the site, and it is best to HTML that works to optimize the well site but can also in php

    • I had a similar experience with my sites that are made in flash, and therefore suggest that if possible avoid the flash ….

    • Everyone knows everything, but the engine is based on me that the site is not flash but in HTML or PHP to be done manually so that they can optimize. :)

    • Great post, but you could maybe add another point. Like – forget to extend the domain name (sounds incredible, but I have a friend, he just did – he was away few months..)

    • Seo is a very complex thing, and when I hear that someone knows a good laugh then, only Google knows how to optimize web site, and we all speculate, only what I noticed is that Google can not read flash, so it is recommended to work in HTML …

    • It has a lot to learn, but I honestly do not like flash

    • Wonderful blog, BRAVO

    • Najnovije Vesti Srbija

      Good post, very informative, thanks

    • Very practical advice and a very clear and organized article. Nice going! I am going to put these strategies to use right away.

    • Flash sites are effective but not good for the optimization and positioning on Google, but if you do master it is ok, a big greeting and super you post. :)

    • Much I like your blog is just great and a lot of useful!

    • Great Article,

      The four step process is solid

      but I would also add

      Sign up for as many music social networks as you can
      I just found a really good one for Indie Artists called Grindstop http://www.grindstop.com they pay you to sell your music

      promote on facebook myspace twitter at the same time

    • johnlowe

      I totally agree, with the post above. it is safe to say the music industry has been changed forever with the advent of Social Media sites. like Myspace, http://www.grindstop.com Grindstop http://www.grindstop.com and purevolume http://www.purevolume.com Musicians can no longer need big labels to reach their fans bases.

    • The fight to top search engines’ results knows no limits – but we should also consider that over optimization is bad for the website. Search engine wont tolerate duplicates and stuffing of keywords. Avoid over-optimizing your website and instead focus on providing visitors with helpful, informative content. –

    • Great Post. And very useful tips. Thanx

    • Disadvantages of Flash web site:
      * Search engines can not read quality content within Flash.
      * Search engines can not (or rarely) to monitor flash link to a new page.
      * Make some elements require more work (eg making the questionnaire FORM in HTML is very simple, because there are built-elemeni, while the flash-and this requires a little more work).

    • Musical Watchdog

      Ah, the irony. I cannot email this article to others because the window cuts off the “to” and “from” info for the email addresses and half of the other information on the left side so I can’t read which is which. Weren’t we just talking about how not to do certain things with your website? =)

    • I agree with the previous the previous commentary, I also have these problems

    • Development of the site in HTML is best for SEO, but in my flash site can be optimized, but much to the efforts and knowledge, although the site is in flash a lot nicer and better for visitors to one another …

    • It’s pretty good tech info.
      Nice for all the new in seo industry.

    • You have provided good information about SEO for learning basics concepts.No doubt it is the most important task which can take your website in the top SERPs.

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