SEO BASICS FOR CREATIVES

You're a creative. Musician, writer, visual artist or actor who's trying to break out in your industry. You have passion, a stack of business cards, an awesome website and a manager (your cousin who's never managed anyone before but he's got a car so …), but there's one more thing you should consider adding to your list of many talents: basic SEO knowledge.

SEO (search engine optimization) is the umbrella term for all the methods you can use to ensure the visibility of your website and its content on search engine results pages. SEO, in essence, helps you get noticed in web results. Let's say you're a photographer for hire in the Chicago area. By utilizing SEO to its fullest, you'll be sure to show up early in the results page whenever people go to perform a search for photographers in Chicago. This will drive more business your way, which is always a good thing (you know better than to fall for that whole "starving artist" thing).

I've narrowed it down to three SEO basics I think are important in helping push a creative to fulfill their potential in terms of visibility.

1. Your name

Once you've decided what kind of creative career you want to pursue, one of the first things to consider is your name. Let's say you decide to use your real name. This can be difficult if you have a very common name like Ashley Smith (ahem). SEO is about optimizing search results but if your name is too common you will get lost in a sea of people with the same name as you. If you decide to use an alternative or "stage name" there are three things to keep in mind. First, try to use more than one word. Names with more than one word help diminish some of the general terms, allowing artist distinction. Second, avoid special characters. Remember when Prince changed his name to that weird symbol in the 90s? It worked for him because he was already an insanely popular artist and internet searches weren't prevalent (Ask Jeeves wasn't even a thing yet). But now, things are different. When choosing a name you should pick something that can be typed easily on mobile devices. Special characters are very difficult to type, which compromises some of your SEO value. Lastly, use misspelled words with caution. Keep in mind that Google auto-corrects misspellings, especially when the artist isn't widely known or searched often. So putting your own spin on the names of already popular artist will probably backfire.

2. Timeliness and quality of website content

When people use search engines they're looking for the most relevant and current information possible. If the information on your site is old and inaccurate it only makes things more difficult. If your site has an email address that doesn't work, how are people supposed to book you? The same goes for the timeliness of your content. Let's say you're a singer and a fan of yours wants to know more about your music. They do a Google search on you and the most current results are gig videos and music links from five years ago. Even though you've released more current work, if you don't update your web content people won't know. Staying relevant is one of the most important things for creatives. Understanding SEO basics can help with that. Using the proper tags can also increase your chances of a searcher clicking on your result. Tags are used to tell search engines and visitors what your site is about in the most concise and accurate way possible. A lot of artist have websites or blogs but don't utilize keywords or tags. Hashtags can help you stand out as well. Using one unified hashtag across all platforms will make it easier for fans to find your work.

3. Social

As a creative, you know the importance of building a buzz. The best way to do this is through social media marketing. Although this is non-technical SEO, it's still one of the most important and cost-efficient ways to get your project out into the world. When creating social accounts try to keep your usernames as concise as possible. If you're JoshThePainter on Twitter and Snapchat but JoshRobins on Instagram people who want to find your work now have to remember two names and for a lot of people that's too much effort. If you're looking to build your brand in the digital world, you need lots of content and mentions to boost SEO and search result relevancy. Once your name is out there, search engine algorithms will adjust in your favor. Lastly, but most importantly in social media marketing it's important to interact with people. Using social media as a channel and genuinely interacting will show people you are human and relatable. Relatability is VERY important, no matter what your talent is.