A beginners’ SEO guide for musicians to rank high on YouTube [UPDATE 2021]

A beginners’ SEO guide for musicians to rank high on YouTube

DIY right or die

I really appre­ci­ate liv­ing right here and now: It has nev­er been easi­er for bands and musi­cians to spread their music around the world without the need of hav­ing a label. You have all the neces­sary tools and chan­nels at hand to pro­mote your­self - even for free! In the best case, you can even mon­et­ize your videos on your YouTube chan­nel. But with a lack of basic SEO know­ledge, it's really hard to reach your goal without optim­iz­a­tion. Quite a few struggles so hard, they come close to boy­cot­ting them­selves. By upload­ing your music videos you will not auto­mat­ic­ally gen­er­ate view­ers and fans on YouTube unless you con­sider the fol­low­ing points of "A begin­ners’ SEO guide for musi­cians to rank high on YouTube".

The sad status quo

It is sad but true that most of the music videos we post on Electrozombies are only found by acci­dent or hard research. Very often it hap­pens that we find great bands on YouTube, who have been online for many months or even years, and veget­ate with per­haps 89 views because they don't rank with the right keywords.

Why they don't get traffic? Because the band did not use the descrip­tion, keywords or tags provided by YouTube. Even the title is some­times insuf­fi­cient. It is quite a pity to see that music videos are pro­duced with a lot of blood, sweat and pas­sion and then bands do not care about the right mar­ket­ing to reach their audi­ence. With this art­icle, you'll get a guideline to gen­er­ate more traffic, view­ers and fans.

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Follow the path of your fans

Earlier, when there was music tele­vi­sion, we found more or less rel­ev­ant new music through the videos. However, that was a rather pass­ive act from the per­spect­ive of a music fan. Today music fans have to act­ively search! For example, by vis­it­ing magazines like Electrozombies or dir­ectly enter­ing search terms on YouTube. And YouTube is sim­il­ar to Google – it's a simple search engine for videos. And here you should ask your­self the first question.

How do music fans search for music if they don't know your band name yet?

YouTue guide - Example keywords and tags
Example how I would tag the music video 'Cover Me' per­formed by 'Depeche Mode'

Mainly, most people are look­ing for bands they already know. This is a fant­ast­ic hint to fill up the tags of the video accord­ingly. For example, enter well-known artists of the same music genre to get hits here. But also the defin­i­tion of the music genre itself can be an advant­age in the tags for search quer­ies. Still oth­ers may have a line of your song in mind from listen­ing to the radio and enter it into YouTube. Therefore, be sure to add your lyr­ics in the meta description.

Common search phrases

  • <music genre> music videos
  • Latest music videos of <music genre>
  • Music sim­il­ar to <band name> or Music video for fans of <band name>
  • Music video <club name> on <date>
  • Music video <lyr­ics line> (Maybe heard on an online radio broadcast)
  • Music video for <sea­son> or <spe­cial interest>
  • Music video con­tains <top­ic>

Use the right keywords to success

Use these fre­quent searches to grow and optim­ize your keywords. So in the form on YouTube find the field for keywords (tags) and include in any case the fol­low­ing inform­a­tion: band name, song title, music genre and sim­il­ar bands. Uploading a live gig, add place and date (also spe­cify the loc­a­tion in the advanced set­tings). Finally select keywords that point to the con­tent of the music video, such as story, theme, sea­son, place, etc …

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SEO basics for music videos on YouTube

Many over­look the fact that YouTube belongs to Google and so they are indexed with title and descrip­tion on Google as well. So fans can find your music not only on YouTube, but it is lis­ted through­out the web via Google.

The title

But first thing's first: the title is cru­cial on YouTube! The pat­tern for a music video should be as fol­lows: <Band Name><Song Title> <(Video info)> <(Extra info)>.

This leads to titles like:

  • <Band Name> – <Song Title> (Official music video)
  • <Band Name> – <Song Title> (Official music video) (Feat. Musician name)
  • <Band Name> – <Song Title> (Awesome remix version)
  • <Band Name> – <Song Title> (Fan music video)
  • <Band Name> – <Song Title> (Other Bandname Cover)
  • <Band Name> – <Song Title> (Live at Dark Festival on 2017/06/12)
  • <Band Name> – <Song Title> (Official Audio)
  • <Band Name> – <Song Title> (Demo ver­sion in studio)

The description

There is almost no lim­it to the char­ac­ter length of the descrip­tion, so use it as intensely as pos­sible to get rel­ev­ant. At first sight this may look like a lot of work, but once you have built it up you can use the pat­tern again and again. The more inform­a­tion you include in the meta descrip­tion, the more keywords your video will be able to rank for. In addi­tion, you also have the pos­sib­il­ity to set valu­able back­links to your oth­er chan­nels or to make a dir­ect link to the pur­chase of the song/album.

YouTube guide - Mailing list

The checklist for your meta description

  • Short descrip­tion. For example:
    This is the offi­cial music video for the <Music genre> song <Song title> by the <Country name> band <Bandname> taken from the EP/album <EP/Albumname>.
  • Content: Maybe a short info about the music video. 
    • What's going on in the video?
    • What's the idea behind the video?
  • Who made the video? 
    • Directed by
    • Produced by
    • Edited by
    • Effects by
  • Who are the act­ors? List the names
  • Where and when was the music video recor­ded? Location(s) and Date/Time (Use also the meta fields in the video)
  • Lyrics: As I already men­tioned, maybe the listen­er has heard the song on an online radio broad­cast and can only remem­ber some lyr­ic lines.
  • Links of all your offi­cial channels 
    • Official web­site
    • Social chan­nels
    • Label
  • Links of sites where to buy/download your music
  • Multilanguage is a must for non-nat­ive English speak­ers: write your whole descrip­tion in your nat­ive lan­guage for loc­al fans and also com­pletely in English to reach an inter­na­tion­al audience

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Use a thumbnail that sparks interest

Good bait catches mice! Pictures say more than a thou­sand words – an ancient wis­dom that applies 100% in our digit­al world. Once a user has entered a search on YouTube, the user scans the res­ults quite quickly. Your video has to prove itself under the dis­played res­ults and in the best case, your awe­some rank­ing should attract atten­tion.

There is only ONE way to reach this: use a cus­tom thumb­nail! The thumb­nail does not neces­sar­ily have to be very mean­ing­ful, it should rather make the user curi­ous. So choose a screen cap­ture that makes people so nosy they def­in­itely have to click!

How to catch attention

Here are some tips on what the thumb­nail might contain:

  • The key scene of the video
  • Extreme cam­era set­ting or focus
  • Interesting cos­tumes
  • Close-up face, when makeup is unusual
  • Naked skin if not too expli­cit (Sex sells)
  • Disturbing or most strange scene in the video
  • High col­our con­trast (works nearly always)
  • Add text (Band name – Song title) on the thumbnail

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Tips to spread your music video

Allow embedding

It's not uncom­mon for bands to pub­lish music videos and do not set the option "Allow embed­ding". Please make sure that your music video can be embed­ded on oth­er web­sites and blogs. YouTube also counts the views of embed­ded videos. So you lose neither views nor play­ing time on your own chan­nel. Furthermore, embed­ding has no influ­ence on any mon­et­isa­tion or sub­sequently sug­ges­ted videos. So please make sure that the option "Allow embed­ding" is set.

Turn off the option “Made for kids”

It might sound absurd, but turn off the option ‘Made for kids’, even you don’t show expli­cit con­tent. I don't want to go to deep into the details about what is behind this option. In gen­er­al it’s a US law that YouTube has to ful­fill now since end of 2019. You have the option to choose it everytime you upload a video or set the option in gen­er­al. If you set this option in gen­er­al, it will effect on all pre­vi­ously uploaded videos. Why is the option “Made for kids” so bad for your music videos?

  • No option for monitarization
  • No com­ments for this videos
  • No info and end­cards at the end of the video
  • The videos can’t be added in a playl­ist any­more, even the “watch later” playlist

Music video playl­ists are very pop­u­lar and the playl­ists of Electrozombies TV are also very appre­ci­ated by our vis­it­ors. For you it means, if your video can not be added to a playl­ist and your video get less views.

The press is your friend

Last but not least: Promote each of your releases! The good thing about it: if you've already fol­lowed the steps up to now, you're basic­ally done!

In the begin­ning, it is really dif­fi­cult and time-con­sum­ing to cre­ate a mail­ing list/distribution list of suit­able web­sites (International). But it is an effort worth­while. Not many sites do as intens­ive a research as Electrozombies does and even we can not always guar­an­tee that since we all have a reg­u­lar job along­side the magazine. Thus, we always miss good music videos and this really breaks our hearts.

Speaking for Electrozombies but also for a wide range of oth­er music press: Incoming emails are always checked. To make our lives easi­er and your emails get read faster, you should stick to the clas­sic KISS-prin­ciple: Keep it short and simple!

Here is a sample setup for a mail­ing list email that every­one can work with quickly and eas­ily. More inform­a­tion is not needed in one email.

  • Short present­a­tion who you are (One/two sentences)
  • One-liners about the sub­ject and con­tent of this e‑mail
  • Link to the music video
  • Copy and paste <Your YouTube video description>

All too often we get asked to listen in on an album or watch a music video without adding a link to it. This is an abso­lute no-go. Please make sure that everything you pro­mote is just one click away. Make it as con­veni­ent as pos­sible! Another no-go is to write some­thing like: "Get in touch with me if you need a link to the promo …". A dir­ect link is clicked in any case and the recip­i­ent decides wheth­er the promo / music video fits the concept of the magazine or not.

Alternatively, we offer a con­tact form which, when fully com­pleted, will provide us with all the inform­a­tion we need.

One more thing con­cern­ing the selec­tion of the recip­i­ents: check out their web­sites and decide wheth­er you fit in their pro­file! If a punk band sends out the promo to a techno magazine, it is surely a waste of time for both.

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Final tips

Your band is a brand!

You need to learn to handle and pro­mote your music as a product. Even well-known com­pan­ies shout out big advert­ise­ments world­wide to present their new product for a suc­cess­ful product launch. This means, con­versely, even if you believe to have a well-known name and status in the scene, these rules still apply to you. Surely you'll have an easi­er time reach­ing your old fans and sub­scribers, but you're also los­ing poten­tial new fans if you don't fol­low this guide.

Do good and talk about it!

A proven for­mula to improve your image or repu­ta­tion. Celebrities, in par­tic­u­lar, use it when they sup­port char­ity. Although you might not do char­ity, you still have a lot of good stuff to talk about: a new video, a new album, a single, new tour – there's a whole vari­ety of things to com­mu­nic­ate. You can use all those things to stay in touch with your friends of the scene – that is your fans and most of all: the press.

We hope, we could help all you new and old bands out there, who struggle with their num­ber of view­ers. If you did it right, we're look­ing for­ward to hear­ing from you!