In March, on the Google Webmaster Central blog, Google confirmed it is to start displaying upcoming gigs or concerts on the right-hand side of its search results for band name results.
It’s all well and good explaining this to the search marketing audience who already understand and practice such techniques, but does it really mean anything to musicians and artists? Perhaps the more important question is: should they take note?
The answer is yes!
This is great news for both searchers and musicians. The searcher can now see, at a glance, what gigs are coming up, with little effort, when looking up an artist. The musician can promote their upcoming concerts more effectively via Google.
How does it work?
In short, Google is using two tools to make this possible; structured data and Knowledge Graph.
Structured data is a form of data markup code used around copy on a website to help search engines understand and index that information better.
It is commonly used by businesses to help search engines identify the information on their website, such as the locality of their physical business address. It can also be used to aid search engines in understanding content within a video, as search engine crawlers cannot view and extract information from video embeds… well not yet, anyway.
Schema markup is the most common used method of doing this in modern search.
Knowledge Graph is Google’s way of presenting information visually within search – specifically with images and extracted information. It is displayed on the right hand side of organic search results.
Why do businesses use structured data?
Not only can structured data markup help with search engine optimisation (SEO) in terms of visibility, search engines such as Google will then use this information to display your website in their search pages.
When searches bring up a video or reviews within the results, it’s called a “rich snippet” – a direct result of using structured data markup. These snippets also stand out on result pages and can help increase click-through rates to your website.
Why should musicians be using structured data?
It’s accurate to say online music promotion occupies a much stronger standing within the social sphere than SEO. This is, in part, down to the exercise of promoting music being brand-led. It’s also somewhat attributable to the fact that most people have a rudimentary level of understanding when it comes to posting on social media, whereas SEO is a more specific skill set.
Not every artist, musician or band brings up a knowledge graph panel when searched – usually it’s in relation to the size and popularity of the act. However, if you’re a musician known enough to warrant your own Wikipedia page, chances are you’re getting a knowledge graph panel on results in Google for your name searches already.
If you’re a musician but you’re not getting a knowledge graph panel in your searches, there’s plenty of ways to help Google discover and recognise you:
- Keep on pushing your music. Increasing popularity and reach via releases, touring and social promotion is how most artists managed to get seen by Google without any SEO in mind.
- Make sure all social profiles and streaming services you use are optimised to their maximum potential. Always fill in any fields available for members, albums, songs, lyrics, etc.
- Set up a Google Plus page for your music and make sure you put in as much information as possible, then keep posting on it or engaging with others regularly.
- If you feel your music is well-known enough to warrant one, set up a Wikipedia page (where Google are getting a large chunk of their structured data for knowledge graph already). Then optimise all relevant information with the correct Wikipedia markup.
- Use Schema elements such as MusicRecording markup and rel=”publisher” on your website.
How do I start using Schema and structured data for upcoming concerts?
There are several methods suggested to implement schema markup on upcoming concerts listed on the Google Webmaster tools blog.
The most obvious and basic method is to code it in yourself. Say if you had an upcoming concert listed on your website as…
The VL Arena, Portsmouth, Hampshire, UK, PO1 3LJ – 17th March 2014 – Doors 7.30pm BUY TICKETS
You would use Schema Event markup to help explain this information to search engines…
<div itemscope itemtype=”http://schema.org/Event”><span itemprop=”name”>The VL Arena</span>, <span itemprop=”location”>Portsmouth, Hampshire, UK, PO1 3LJ</span> – <meta itemprop=”startDate” content=”2014-03-17T19:30”>17th March 2014 – Doors 7.30pm<a href=”/linktobuytickets” itemprop=”offers”>BUY TICKETS</a></div>
An easier method, if you are using Google Webmaster Tools on your website, would involve the Data Highlighter tool option within the Search Appearance menu.
From here you can enter the page URL listing your upcoming shows, drag highlighted relevant event data and label it for Google.
Alternatively, many common third-party event listing plugins, such as Bandsintown or Songkick, have structured data included within their widgets. Simply embed your upcoming gigs widget on your site and hey presto!
Is event markup only useful for musicians?
Markup is useful for almost anyone hosting any type of event, whether you’re a generalist site that lists external upcoming events, a music venue, agency, sports ground or business conference host.
Markup is something every website should be doing to aid search visibility and help more people discover forthcoming events.
ABOUT THE AUTHOR: Dan Callis is an SEO Campaign Delivery Manager at Vertical Leap; a search marketing agency based in Portsmouth, UK. He has also spent most of his adult life making loud noises some form of a band, the most recent being Housefires. You can follow him on Twitter at @callis1987.