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!