© May 2003, Jodi Krangle. All Rights Reserved. Used By Permission.
I've seen a lot of website promotion techniques come and go (having been promoting websites of all kinds since 1995), but there are still common themes that remain throughout the years. When it comes to artist websites, these techniques can get a little bit trickier due to the unique goal those websites are hoping to accomplish. This listing of commonly made mistakes is meant to help you understand what to avoid when you're creating your own professional musical resume on the web. It might also help you decide what could use some changing on your current site, if you've already created one.
Here are the top five I've come across:
1) Having a "splash" or "entry" page:
Some artists use this opportunity to put a neat flash intro or simply to place pictures of themselves or their albums up along with a link to the internal pages of the rest of the site.
There are two reasons this isn't a good idea:
- When it comes to your visitors, they want the meat of the site as soon as possible. The Web is all about instant gratification and you're keeping them from getting to the content of your site as soon as they want to be in it. This could annoy them enough - especially after several times of visiting your site - that they may either leave or stop visiting. Flash intros are especially good for driving off repeat visitors, yes, even if you have a "skip intro" link. That nifty flash intro is pretty cool the first time you see it, but by the sixth, your visitor will be ready to throw their computer monitor across the room.
- For the search engines' part, you've taken the prime real estate of your index page - the page that people land on when they type in your domain (and the most important page as far as the search engines are concerned) - and you've made it utterly useless for cataloging purposes. Most search engines can't read the content of Flash - and if they can, it's still difficult to do. If you make it difficult for them, your site won't be included in their databases as fast or as well (ie: with as many pages included) as you might hope.
Splash pages consisting entirely of Flash or graphics, are a number one reason that an artist's website remains buried in obscurity.
2) Having very little text within the site itself, or having a site that's entirely Flash
As explained in the previous point, search engines have a hard time with Flash. If your entire site is in Flash, imagine how difficult it will be for the search engines to see what your site is all about! Likewise, if your site only has a lot of graphics and very little actual text, not only will the search engines have very little to latch on to (since they only see text) but your visitors will find it frustrating too. Try to balance your graphics to text quotient as much as you can.
Try to put straight text links to the important pages of your site at the bottom or somewhere else that works with your site's design. This makes things easier for your visitors to find their way around as there are then multiple ways for them to get to one place, and it also helps the search engines find their way around as straight text links are far easier for them to follow rather than having to read through all the code of a graphical link.
Also consider creating a Site Map for your site - especially if it has more than 5-10 pages. Link that site map in a text link from every page of your site, probably within the menu that you create for the bottom of your pages. The site map is one place where a visitor can go to find exactly what he or she is looking for. Each page of your site should be detailed with a link and a short description of what will be found there. This is also handy for the search engines because their "spider" can crawl through that site map and find every page in your site from one easy to index location.
3) Having Music start to play when someone lands on your site
BAD idea. First of all, you annoy your visitor because they have to search around to find out how they can turn the music OFF. Secondly, keep in mind that a lot of people surf on their machines at work. It's true that a lot of work machines don't have speakers or music enabled at all, but the ones that do, aren't going to thank you when your latest single blares out on their speakers in the middle of their cubicle. Just as a courtesy to your visitors, allow them the opportunity to listen to your music if they want to, not because they have to.
4) Forgetting to put title and description meta tags on pages!
This is a biggie. Have you ever dropped by an artist website and seen at the top where the title would display in your browser, "Home Page" or "Unknown"? That's what happens when a designer neglects to put a title meta tag on their website's pages. The title is important for both your visitors and the search engines. Your visitors want to know at a quick glance, what your page is about. The search engines want to know how to categorize your site once it's included in their database. When someone is searching within a search engine, it's unlikely that a page with the title of "Home Page" will come up in a prominent position (though it does happen, largely due to other people linking to the page, and the page being particularly old. Age gives a site a certain seniority in the search engines. Still, it's very rare.). The description meta tag is what's displayed beneath that title in the search engine when your site comes up for a search. If that description isn't helpful, your potential visitors will go somewhere else.
Here are some tips to keep in mind when composing a Title and Description meta tag:
- We all know that your music is unique to you. But you probably have a similar style to a particular artist or number of artists that are well known. In your description, try to mention at least one or two well-known artists that your sound is similar to. This might just help you get the attention of someone looking for the well-known artists you mention, who would be interested in hearing other similar music.
- List your style and/or genre before you list your name. In your title tag, tell your visitor straight out, what they can expect to hear.
- Put the most important words - the keywords that will attract your visitors - first in your title and description meta tags. Chances are, this won't be your name, though it's handy to have your name listed there (especially in the title. It's not really needed in the description).
- If you'd like more help with preparing meta tags for your artist website, I have a full course on the subject at SongU - http://www.songu.com/ . This is Danny Arena and Sara Light's new school with online courses in songwriting and similar subjects. I highly suggest you check it out.
5) Not buying your own domain name!
This is VERY important and it's a common mistake I see amongst artists. If you're serious about this music stuff, please please buy your own domain name. It's very inexpensive to do these days - maybe $15.00 US per year (I used Dotster, myself - http://www.dotster.com/ ) - not a huge expense. But it can really pay off. This also means you'll need to get some web hosting. CD Baby has a new web hosting option that you could look into - http://www.hostbaby.com/ . It's not that expensive and they're used to dealing with musicians so know about the unique problems associated with streaming media and that sort of thing. They also have a message board where you can ask for a designer to contact you and where designers can offer their services to the musician community. Ultimately, this is your professional resume. If your site has a huge Angelfire or Geocities url, first of all, no one is going to know how to get there quickly because they'll never remember your domain name, and secondly, it just doesn't look very professional. It's good to look professional - especially if you have a CD to sell.
Try to get a domain that's your name. So for instance, if I was to purchase a domain name specifically to tell people about my music, I would get a domain name like www.jodikrangle.com . This serves two purposes. First if all, if you have a fairly unique name, it means that your domain will probably be available. These days, when it's hard to find any good domain names remaining, this is a good thing to keep in mind. Secondly, if someone remembers your name from a gig and just wants to find out more information about you, knowing your name is the only thing they would need to know to find your website.
There are many other things I could mention, but I thought it would be best to focus on the top five. Keep these tips in mind and you'll be well on your way to creating a website that both your visitors and the search engines will enjoy:
- Avoid using a Flash intro or graphical "splash" page before your visitors can enter your site
- Avoid using only Flash or graphics within your site
- Don't have music start to play when someone lands on your site
- Remember to add meta tags! Having a title and description meta tag is very important.
- Try and purchase your own domain name. It just looks more professional. This is your resume. Impress your visitors!
SongU.com - http://www.songu.com/ - Danny Arena and Sara Light's new online songwriting course website. Well worth checking out! I have a course there all about how to make meta tags for artist websites.
Dotster - http://www.dotster.com/ - I purchase all my domains from this one location as you can keep track of all the domains you have in one easy-to-use interface. They have tools that can help you choose your domain name, and will tell you whether or not a particular domain name is still available or not. It costs about $15 US per year to purchase your own domain name.
HostBaby - http://www.hostbaby.com/ - CD Baby's newest hosting offering. See their site for pricing details, but not only do they host your website, they're also familiar with musicians' unique needs (streaming media, etc.). If you need hosting (and just want to find a good place to settle without all the shopping around), this is a great place to check out.
WebHostingTalk Forums - http://www.webhostingtalk.com/ - If you're interested in doing your own research to find the best hosting available to you, check out this forum. There's a lot of straight talk about the best and the worst in the business. It should give you a good idea of what to look for - and what not to look for - in a web host. And of course, if you're confused, feel free to ask questions! That's what this place is all about.
HostIndex.com - http://www.hostindex.com/ & TopHosts.com - http://www.tophosts.com/ - Once you've gotten some opinions on the subject, or if you just want to go to one place where there are a whole bunch of links to different web hosting companies, these are good places to check out. There are articles about web hosting here too, so if you're interested in finding out more about the industry - what to expect from your host and what to watch out for, this is a good place to go.
Muse's Muse Internet Marketing Services - Free Search Engine Submissions - www.internet-marketing-mm.com/free-submissions.html - At this location, you'll find a whole bunch of links to search engines where you can submit your site for free. There are also links to locations where it will cost you some money to submit. Explanations are there. But I highly recommend that you don't use one of those free services that submits you to "thousands of search engines and FFA link sites". That will simply guarantee that you'll be inundated with SPAM. There really aren't that many search engines to submit to these days. And when you submit once, you won't need to do so again.
There's an article on my website about the difference between search engines and directories, and I also suggest you read through that if you're confused by the terms: www.internet-marketing-mm.com/directories.html
Search Engine Watch - http://www.qksrv.net/click-793658-8829036 - Not all of this website is free, but much of it is. If you're interested, you can purchase a yearly membership, but for your purposes, I think the free information will do you just fine. This is a fantastic resource if you want to find out more about each of the major search engines and directories out there. There are also more tips on how to make a more "search engine friendly" website here.
How To Build A Website That Sells - http://wetrack.it/mihkel/af.cgi?aid=4;bid=23 - Mihkel Raud has written a fantastic e-book about how to sell product from an artist's website. I highly recommend that you give it a read through as you'll find a lot of helpful tips in there (I've read it through myself and was very impressed). The book costs $24.95 and also includes a copy of the Indie Bible (well worth that much all on its own). Mihkel offers a money-back guarantee, so you really don't have anything to lose. If you're not selling as many CDs from your website as you'd like, his techniques can really help you out.