Consistency is the most important part of your music career.

People are going to forget about you. They’re going to forget about your music and you.

Pretty terrifying right? No one wants to hear that. Sorry for being so harsh, but you’re not doing anything to remind them who you are.

That’s why you need to be consistent. Consistency is the key to being successful in anything.

Let’s start at the top.

Note: there are a couple of affiliate links in this post. For more about that and how they work, check out the Resources page.

You need to be consistently making music.

My friend Sean McCabe says “show up every day.” Every day you should do at least one thing that works towards your music career.

That doesn’t mean you have to release a song every day, or even record every day.

Just one thing is all it takes. Show up every day and do at least one thing that’s going to get you closer to completion.

  • Make a few new drum samples.
  • Work on mastering for a song.
  • Create a new synth.
  • Build some new loops for your library.

Just one thing.

One thing every day that’s going to get you closer to your goals.

He says that doing this for two years will get you where you want to be. That’s such a short period of time if you really think about it.

Plus, you’ll be getting better at your music each day as you work on it.

While you’re getting closer to completion, you’ll need to be working on marketing. Building your audience is what you should do, which is why the next three parts need to be consistent.

You need to be consistently sharing your music.

Show people what you’re working on. Show your works in progress.

It doesn’t have to be anything crazy or intense. Maybe it’s a short vid for instagram of a WIP you made this week.

Heck, even just share a teaser of album art.

There’s so much in the process of creating an album that can be shared, and it drums (pun!) up interest in your release.

Of course you can and should be sharing this stuff on your social media like Facebook, Twitter, etc, but you should also be sharing on your blog.

You need to be consistently posting on your blog.

If you don’t have a blog, make sure you’re signed up for the newsletter right now. I’ll be posting a comprehensive guide that will teach you step by step how to set up a blog for your music.

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You need to be posting to your blog because it’s the one platform you control.

Remember MySpace? Who uses that anymore?

Don’t think it’s impossible that Twitter or Facebook could be next. I don’t even know anyone who really uses Tumblr anymore.

But your blog, your website, that is something you can control. It will exist as long as you want it to. I use A2 hosting and their quick and easy 1 click WordPress installer for this site and…well almost all of my sites.

There’s also a simple little thing you can do to keep people coming back to your blog for more. Aside from posting consistently, you need to be collecting emails from your visitors, and sending them a newsletter.

You need to be consistently sending out email newsletters.

My biggest regret is not starting collecting emails sooner.

I would have made way more sales on my previous albums by now had I started collecting emails from the very beginning.

It’s just the best marketing you can do on an album. Tell people about it.

Like I mentioned above, controlling your own platform is important. If Facebook disappears, or simply loses popularity, it will be very difficult to retain that audience and move them to whatever new platform you’re on.

I use ConvertKit because it’s easy and they have great functions for automation.

If you have your fan’s email, you’ll be able to take them wherever you go very easily.

Plus, people will see you all the time. You’ll be in their thoughts because you regularly send them valuable and interesting content.

That way, when you launch an album, they won’t see it as spam.

You ever sign up for an email list and forget about it? Then weeks or months later you get an email that’s like “Hey I just released my new EP!”

Of course I usually check it out but it’s just like “ugh who is this person and why are they trying to get money from me?”

You need to share at least once a week.

They won’t forget about you this way. We think in weekly cycles. That’s why most TV shows put out new episodes at least weekly (during their season).

Of course, you can share more than just once a week if you want, but don’t overwhelm yourself.

Trust me, people will start to notice.

I’ve been inconsistent in the past and people have commented on it. I was totally embarrassed.

Consistency is totally hard but there are lots of ways you can prepare, like setting up an editorial calendar or automating your social media posting with a tool like CoSchedule (that’s a referral link, btw. If you sign up, they cut me a discount on my subscription at no extra cost to you).

Make sure you’re signed up for my email list so that you can continue to learn more about growing your fanbase.

The one thing that will save your music career from certain failure.

This is a long post, so here are some important sections you can skip to:

You gotta eat. You gotta have a roof over your head.

Here’s the thing: you need money.

We live in a post-scarcity world that thrives through a strange, impure, though somewhat functional version of capitalism. At least, those of us in “developed nations” as they call them. That’s inescapable.

Bill Hicks (RIP) said:

“If you think you’re free, try going somewhere without money.”

No matter how much you hate it (or love it), it’s inescapable. You need money. How do you get food? Money.

You can grow food but that’s a lot of work. It’s a full-time job within itself. Seriously though, if you have time and energy to do that, I recommend it. But you probably don’t most of us don’t.

Same for the roof over our heads. Even if you bought a house and paid off the mortgage, there’s still government sanctioned property taxes. I’m trying hard not to get political here but I just am not a fan of all of this. But it doesn’t matter because it’s the reality and you and I have to work within that reality.

Lucky for both of us, I’ve figured out a way to do it without being miserable for the rest of our lives. We’re going to make money with our music. That’s what this whole website is about.

But before we do that, we need to get money.

Not having a way to pay your bills will stress you out.

The fastest way to kill any pleasurable thing is stress. If you’re stressed about life, you’re not going to enjoy making music.

If you’re stressed about anything, it’s going to kill your joy.

You might be so stressed about money that you think “I should be working right now” when making music.

Or, you’ll think “I need money right now so I’ll have to get this album out as soon as possible so I can start making money.” That turns music into a job and not something you enjoy.

It also runs a high risk of creating a rushed, unpolished, shitty album. Then, that album won’t do well. You won’t make a lot of money. You’ll get discouraged and burnt out. You won’t want to make music anymore.

Result: passion == killed.

You need to avoid this at all costs.

Taking on massive debt will stress you out, too.

We also need to avoid debt. Having debt is going to stress you out.

Seriously, I’ve made this mistake in my life twice.

To be fair, most of us in America have some amount of debt; many have a massive amount of debt. You need to keep the debt to a minimum and ideally non-existent.

The problem is, we don’t always have that choice. I understand that you may live in an area where everything is spread out and public transit sucks, so you need a car. But your car broke down and now you need $1000 worth of maintenance, or worse, a new car (new meaning, go get a used one for a couple grand). Now you’re in debt getting these things and it wasn’t your decision.

It happens. I understand. I’ve been there myself. Don’t be ashamed, just pay it off. Work to pay off all your debts. Keep your credit cards paid off every month.

Just like not having money is going to stress you out, having debt is going to stress you out too. We need to get a steady income, and you need to pay off your debt before you do anything drastic like quit your job and go full-time musician.

I wouldn’t say “never go full-musician”, because that’s the goal here, but we need to make sure the timing is right and the preparation is done. The first parts of that preparation are to pay off debt and have nothing left that isn’t paid for.

It takes a lot of time to record, release, and market an album.

Your album will not be done in a week. It probably won’t be done in a month.

Even if you’re making EPs or singles, they’re not going to be ready for release in a short period of time until you’ve already got quite a few songs under your belt and have figured out your processes and efficiency.

Even once the music is done, polished, juicy, and peak-free (mostly), you haven’t done any marketing, have you?

You’re going to flop and maybe, if you’re lucky, pick up some fans in a few months.

Can you survive like that? Can you survive for 6 months to a year without your music making any money? If yes…well then I guess you’re good to go. Start making music. If no, you need to be able to survive for at least 6 months before you throw everything out and focus on music.

You need to have money coming in to pay the bills while you produce your records.

Once you’ve got a few EPs out that are well marketed and polished and peak-free (again, mostly), you will have a good amount of residual income, or money saved up from album launches, that you can use to leverage a more focused recording period.

Most people would say 6 months but I hate stress so I recommend having a year of income saved up before you go all-in.

You should have a year in savings, and/or residual income coming in before you quit your job and start making music full time.

It’s going to take even longer if you don’t already know how to make music.

Of course, if you’ve never made a music before, it’s going to take longer.

You’ve got to learn the software, learn to make the art, polish everything, work out your processes.

You’re going to be slow at making music at first. It’s okay, in fact, it’s encouraged! Take your time. Really learn the nuances of what you’re working on. Get into it.

Also, make a lot of music. Make lots of short songs. Learn your processes. But during all this time, you need to be making money, too.

You’ll also need money to fill up the gaps you don’t know like, album art or videos.

You’re going to find out that there are a lot of parts of releasing an album you just are not good at, or don’t want to do.

I’m terrible at art. I can not draw. I’m not great at computer graphic design, either. My videos are terrible. Art and video just are not my thing.

So, I either work within my constraints to make very minimalistic album art, or I hire someone to do the art. That costs money, so I need to have money.

You’ll find yourself in a similar boat every once in a while.

Maybe you’re not good with video, but your single needs a video. You can hire video people.

Maybe you’re actually great at video, and your album cover is beautiful, but you can’t master worth a dang.

Ideally you’ll hire an expert to handle it and to make the really awesome albums you have in your head.

The fact of the matter is, you need to have an income before you start focusing hard on music. You need to have generated residual income that’s coming in, or have a lot of money saved before you go off on your own.

We’re going to complete this in two ways: by first getting a job, and then making money playing video games.

I’ll explain the whole video games thing further down.

First, get a day job.

  • You need to get a day job if you want to be a professional musician who creates and performs their own music.
  • You need to get a day job if you want to be a professional musician that produces for other musicians.
  • You need to get a day job if you’re just learning to produce or perform music.

You need to have money coming in, and you need to be working towards your music goals in your off time.

This will take the stress of not having guaranteed income off your back.

It’s going to take the stress off your back. Having a guaranteed amount of money will pay your bills and get everything done.

If you’re stressed out all the time, you’ll never want to work on your music or get any extra work done. You’ll come home and space out on Facebook or in front of the TV. Maybe you’ll load up a video game to de-stress and the next thing you know it’s time for bed (that’s what happens to me).

Of course, you need to take time for yourself, too, but you don’t want to spend too much free time if you’re working to become a full-time musician.

If you want to make it your full-time job, you need to start with a day job and make a smooth transition once you have money coming in.

How to get a job:

Alright so how do you get a job? You can’t just walk into a place and ask …Wait yeah actually you can.

Start by asking people you know.

The first thing to do is ask people you know. Reach out to people who know you and let them know you’re looking for a day job. A lot of people will have openings where they work or know someone who does.

This is the easiest way to find a job, and a lot of people I know, including myself, have gotten a lot of their jobs through people they already knew.

Besides, it’s free to ask. Post out on Facebook or something.

Next, check Craigslist.

I found my first really good job on Craigslist, the one that got me started on the path to learning internet marketing. It was a completely random find.

My roommate at the time was looking for a job and asked how to use Craigslist to find jobs. So I pulled out my computer and opened it up and was showing him when I saw the ad. I told him that ad was mine and I’m going to apply for it, so don’t, and he agreed.

The next day I was in there for an interview and later that day I got the call that I was hired. Thus started the journey that got me here. All thanks to having a shitty job and a roommate (who worked with me at the shitty job) who wanted to get out of that shitty job.

LinkedIn also has great job search capabilities.

The second time I went looking for a job was recently, and I signed up for a paid LinkedIn account to look for jobs.

I sent out a lot of resumes and didn’t get anything back, but from what I hear, it’s an actually great place to apply for jobs.

While you’re at it, you get access to all of Lynda.com’s courses when you’re a paid LinkedIn user, so you might as well use some time to go through their course videos. If anything, just watch the business and marketing ones. You’ll get a lot from those.

There are also some for Native Instruments, synths, and other music stuff, but some are a bit outdated last time I checked…or so new that it’s equipment I don’t yet have.

Monster is another place I’ve heard good things about.

Monster.com is another popular one, though I can’t say I’ve ever tried it so there’s certainly no endorsement from me. I do know of people who have gotten jobs from that site before, so I do know it works.

Plus there are TV commercials so it must be somewhat successful, right?

Also check any other job boards you can think of.

If you can think of, know of, or find any other job boards, they might be worth trying.

I know a lot of associations, such as the one I work for, have job boards on their websites. So do colleges, and of course, your local county website will have a job board as well.

As I said before, you can always just walk into a place and ask for a job!

Getting a day job is going to save your music career. I promise you that. You may think it sucks, or is terrifying, but it’s going to make focusing on music production 100x easier and your music will be 100x better because of that.

You can also make money playing video games.

What if I told you-you can start making money playing video games?

A lot of musicians play video games. It’s no secret.

You’re going to play games when you relax anyway so you might as well monetize your hobby.

What if you made money while playing video games? Monetize your hobby and make money while you relax at night and on the weekends.

You need to start making money while you play video games.

Lots of people are making supplemental income playing games, or even making a full living.

If you’ve ever been on YouTube or Twitch.tv you’ve seen people who are making money playing video games.

Pewdiepie makes millions of dollars every year playing video games and posting the videos on YouTube. He’s not the only one making money. Most people aren’t making millions, but many people are making a living playing video games.

I’m not saying quit your job to become a full-time streamer. For now, let’s just focus on some supplemental income.

There are ways to monetize that others aren’t taking advantage of.

As you know, I have an extensive background in marketing. I’ve been working in digital marketing for over a decade, and I have a focused specifically on internet marketing. Here’s the thing I’ve noticed studying Pewdiepie and other streamers and youtubers: they’re not taking advantage of the best ways to make money.

Most of them could have been making more money the whole time.

That’s not to say what Pewdiepie is doing is wrong. He’s obviously in the right place now.

What I’m saying is that when he started, he could have been making more money from the beginning. He could be making even more money now because of that.

I’ll show you how in my free email course Gaming For Fun and Profit (sign up below), but let’s take a look at some more of those tips right now.

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Most people who are making money streaming don’t even know marketing.

The thing about most streamers and YouTubers is that they don’t really know anything about marketing. They know about playing video games.

Here’s a tip regarding content marketing: teaching what you know is a great way to get people to listen to you.

That also goes for your music blog, but we’ll talk about that in another post.

While a lot of streamers and YouTubers don’t know that marketing tip, they’re subconsciously or unconsciously doing it by making achievement videos. They show you how to get the achievement and you find it because you want to know how to do it. You see they have other videos teaching you how to do other things in the game, and you subscribe or follow them.

They grow their audience that way.

There are tons of other marketing tips and tricks, really just techniques, that are being used by major corporations and small businesses all over the world. If you knew them, you could apply them to your streams and videos and make a lot of money by growing and monetizing your audience.

You just need to know the marketing techniques and how to apply them to your specific industry.

That’s what the free email course Gaming for Fun and Profit is for.

The more free time you have to dedicate the more money you can make, using this to replace your day job (if you want).

Once you’re building up an audience and monetizing the audience in an effective and fair way you can eventually begin the transition of replacing this with your day job.

The great thing about YouTube videos is that they’re there until they get deleted. I have YouTube videos I posted years ago that still make me enough money to pay for my groceries every month, and I haven’t touched them. It’s practically set and forget.

Of course, if you keep working on it, you’ll get even more money and can pay for more than just groceries.

But our goal isn’t to ultimate replace our jobs with streaming. We want to replace our jobs with music.

I bet a lot of the people watching your streams and YouTube vids would be interested in your music.

Your YouTube and Twitch audience will also become your music fans. These people are the first people that will buy your album when it’s ready.

And they’re the first people who will promote it online for others to hear. They’re the first fans you’ll have, and they’ll help you make the transition from streamer to musician full time.

It’s important to have this audience set up and actively engaged during your transition phases.

That’s why I set up this free online course to teach you how. I originally was going to turn it into a book and sell it, but I decided it would be better if I just gave it away for free. It was going to cost $40 for just the book and then as much as $130 for bonus materials. Instead, everything is being sent right to your inbox for free.

You can sign up with the form below:

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The perfect length for a blog post.

I’ve been getting a question frequently: how long should my blog posts be? Is there a minimum word amount for blog posts? Maximum?

No. There isn’t. People will tell you otherwise, but I’m telling you there isn’t.

Side note: this only counts when online. Magazines and other print media will require specific word counts because of space. I’m not saying that you should ignore those word counts. In fact, those word counts are extremely important. The only time word count really doesn’t matter is when online.

When writing for your music blog, write until you’ve said everything you need to say, regardless of word count.

The perfect length of a blog post is however long it takes to get the point across.

Blog post word count doesn’t matter, even for SEO.

In SEO (Search Engine Optimization), the rule of thumb is frequently changing on blog post length. It was 300 words. Then bumped up to 500 words. Then bumped up to 1000 words. I don’t keep up with it anymore, so I don’t even know where it is now.

It doesn’t matter.

Google and the other search engines are going to find your content if your content is good. They’ll rank it well if your content is good. Focus on creating valuable content for readers, and you won’t need to worry about those stupid SEO rules.

The thing about those SEO rules is that they had to be enforced because SEO’s were all posting as much trash as possible. It was all about more pages and more keyword optimization and stuffing and all that. Of course, they’re trying to get hundreds, if not thousands, of pages out every month, which is expensive, so they shoot for lowest word count possible to get them all out. There can’t be duplicate content, either, so each page needs to be written individually.

The problem with SEO is that it has always encouraged sketchy practices, work-arounds, and generally just trashy work for the sake of getting more rankings. SEO’s would sell companies that more rankings are important.

What’s important is getting the right traffic, not as much traffic as possible, and then turning that traffic into leads/conversions. Of course, that has been done with SEO by many companies, but I have found that all companies do much better when they focus less on SEO and more on content marketing.

Of course, I still write with SEO in mind, but I’m focused more on providing value to readers and website visitors, which ultimately turns them into fans.

Get the point across in as many words as you need.

Here’s the thing about writing content that provides value: the word count doesn’t matter as long as you get the point across.

You need to provide the value the user is looking for.

If they found you on Google, because you’re ranking well, they’re looking for an answer to their question. Answer it. Don’t fluff the content with a bunch of BS in the beginning or end to reach the wordcount that some SEO recommended to you for every page.

A lot of stuff, especially “how to” guides, will come under whatever word count is recommended. I bet you can find a ton of them ranking well in Google that are under 500, 300, even 100 words.

They’re ranking well because they have been seen to provide value to visitors to the site. The people who read the content share it because it answered their question and they want the rest of the world to know the answer to their problems, too. People are nice like that. Sometimes.

I hope I got the point across.

Content Marketing Brings In Traffic – A Case Study

Increase targeted traffic to your website by posting regular, optimized content focused on bringing value to the reader.

Web marketers have pretty much always lived by the rule “content is king,” but that rings true more than ever today. As I wrote in this post, SEO is dying because writing regular content that is focused on providing value to the reader is going to automatically optimize your pages for search engines.

SEMRush found in 2017 that “having an exact match keyword in your on-page SEO elements is not crucial.”

You don’t need an SEO company. What you need is a writer who knows how to write content for marketing.

In fact, SEO only exists as a concept because of content. Content is king.

Content Marketing is all about using content to help people find you.

If your entire marketing funnel has various stages, they would be: Awareness, Interest, Desire, and Action. This is the AIDA model, which was created by E. St. Elmo Lewis in 1898. Perhaps unsurprisingly, people haven’t changed all that much and this still works today.

  • Awareness – the customer is aware of the existence of your brand.
  • Interest – the customer is actively expressing an interest in your brand.
  • Desire – the customer is aspiring to a particular product or service of your brand.
  • Action – the customer is taking the next step towards purchasing the chosen product or service of your brand.

Content marketing exists before the AIDA model even starts, and then continues through both Awareness and Interest stages.

The point of content marketing is to bring people to awareness, hold awareness, and develop interest.

Content marketing has so many benefits that people are ignoring these days. First of all, it builds your brand. All of the content will speak through your brands voice, creating a consistent experience for all visitors.

All of the content written for your site is also content that can be shared through all of your social media channels, reminding people of your existence and directing them to your website, where they can develop interest and desire, and ultimately take action.

But most of all, content marketing builds a long term audience that will continue to follow you as long as you continue to provide value to their lives. This is a flywheel effect for the rest of your marketing plan.

Your competitors are doing content marketing. If you are not, you can’t compete.

Let’s take a look at a client. This client hired me to write regular content for their website with the purpose of increasing brand awareness and traffic. All of my content aims to provide value to the reader first (through the content itself) and to the brand second (through a call to action at the end).

Each contract was three months long. I currently only offer contracts in three and six month intervals. I find that three months is how long it takes to see a difference, and six months is how long it takes to feel a difference.

content-marketing-case-study_rcvrrstrt_corrected
Graphic design is not my strength. Writing is.

Here you can see that content grows consistently over the nine months of posting regular content.

For the first three month contract, I focused on trial-and-error to get a feel for the industry and discover what value I could provide to website visitors. I posted daily content for five days out of the week, Monday through Friday.

For the second three month contract, I had figured out what content would bring in new customers, as well as bring the others back for repeat business. While the client was happy with the results by the end of this contract, I was not. I pitched a change of focus for the third three month contract.

In the third three month contract, I cut the content amount down from five posts per week, to three posts per week. This gave me the opportunity to focus more on providing valuable content without increasing the rate of the contract. As you can see, with content marketing the rule is “quality over quantity” and traffic began to grow even quicker.

The reason the content dips so drastically at the end is because this screenshot was taken at the beginning of June, so a full month’s worth of traffic had not happened yet.

This client had no SEO plan and was not buying ads, nor creating any other content that directed visitors to their website. All content growth was through my efforts, as well as their word-of-mouth marketing to friends and family. They also periodically shared the content I wrote on social media.

There’s more to content marketing than just blog posts.

While I only offer content writing services, you would benefit even more from also seeking out professionals who can create other media content.

The great thing about the content I write is that it can be repurposed elsewhere. When you hire me to write for you, you own the content. The content is yours to use wherever you like.

I recommend you connect with a professional who can take my written content and create video content for YouTube.

Another popular idea is to create a podcast based around the content I write for you.

Content marketing is right for your business.

Every business will benefit from content marketing, and the benefits are only exacerbated when working directly with other marketing campaigns.

If you’re interested in hiring me for content writing, please go to the Hire page.

“I always knew I wanted Garrett to write for my site, it was just a matter of finding the right project. Bringing a writer you hadn’t worked with before onto your site is always a risk, so it’s important to vet them and think about where their voice will fit on your site. Garrett was a consummate professional. He delivered his copy on time, it was well-written, accurate and polished, and he made any edits we asked for quickly and efficiently. It’s always a pleasure to work with writers who listen to feedback and use it to produce a better product.

It helped us launch flagship content for our website that ended up being a success, in part because of Garrett’s efforts. I really liked the research that Garrett did on the subjects we asked him to write about. Because he had done his homework, he was able to write with authority.

We got really good traffic on the pieces Garrett worked on, and the project ended up being a showcase for a redesign that was central to our overall plan for the site. I would definitely recommend Garrett’s services. Garrett’s ability to quickly understand and take ownership of an assignment means you get quality work without the hassle of having to check in constantly, or worse, deal with a blown deadline. Also a plus: Garrett is really skilled at promoting his work on social media and through careful search engine optimization.

I’d say that Garrett is a creative, experienced writer with a can-do attitude who will take a writing assignment from inception to completion with a minimum amount of hassle on your part. He’s always willing to go the extra mile to make sure you get the copy you need.” – Claes Bell, Bankrate.com

How to Write With SEO In Mind and Get More Blog Readers

I often tell people that SEO is dead.

Like Gary Vaynerchuk says, “marketers ruin everything.” But we’re musicians, right? We’re not marketers.

And like my friend Scott Russell said, “you don’t need an SEO specialist. You need a writer that can convey your message clearly enough for a bot to get it.”

You’re going to learn to be that writer. Your music can get tons of new listeners with search engine optimization.

Wait, let’s backtrack a bit. I might need to explain SEO to you. SEO stands for Search Engine Optimization.

Have you ever wondered what makes things appear in Google in the specific order they do?

When you Google search, or Bing, or whatever you use, there’s a method to the madness that is SERPs, or Search Engine Results Pages.

Go search for “David Lynch Quinoa Recipe” (that third word is pronounced “keen-wah”). For a lot of people, the first thing that comes up is an OpenCulture.com article. Cool.

For some people, you might get something else. If you’re logged into your account on whatever search engine you’re using, you probably have results custom tailored to you. If you’re not logged in, or if you’ve never searched the keyphrase before, then you’ll get the same results as anyone else in your shoes.

(Note: I added “&pw=0” to the link above, so if you clicked that, you will receive the results that show for logged-out users even if you’re logged in.)

These results are decided based on an algorithm that is a secret except for a few people who are working on it at the company.

For the sake of simplicity, let’s just stick with Google for the sample company and search engine. They all work the same, though have different algorithms to decide the ranking of websites.

Google has this super secret algorithm that a few people know, one of which is named Matt Cutts, and that algorithm reads a ton of different things around the web such as links, social signals, and basically whoever is talking about a website or article. Then it decides where, amongst all the rest of the related things on the web, it ranks in terms of usefulness for the user.

There was a time where we used to spam content networks with articles full of backlinks to artificially raise the ranking of websites so we could make more money. We gamed the system. I wouldn’t say it was wrong, but maybe I’m just biased because it kept food on my table for a few years. I definitely wouldn’t say it was right, either.

Now that you know how search engines work, we can discuss why SEO is dead.

The search engine algorithm is getting smarter and previously mentioned systems that used to game the algorithm are no longer working. On top of that, the search engines are learning to build SERPs that benefit the user more and more. There’s far less “SEO trash” showing up on page one than there was 5-10 years ago.

Of course, SEO’s (Search Engine Optimizers) are trying out new things to game the system more and more, and there will always be new things, but it’s definitely not like it was back in 2009, where all you had to do was slam content aggregators with backlinks.

Backlinks are links in an article that link back to your main content (or, as marketers call it, “the money site”) with the sole purpose of increasing ranking. Backlinks still help your ranking, however getting good backlinks is very difficult these days.

SEMRush found in 2017 that “having an exact match keyword in your on-page SEO elements is not crucial.”

People are using search engines less and remembering content more, for some inexplicable reason.

I don’t know how that works considering our brains are awful at storing information (great for processing it, though).

But here’s what’s going on: people are starting to remember sources (read: brands) more. A lot of people will go to a specific source to find information about a subject now.

For example, I am a big fan of the brand seanwes and the information they provide. I frequently search for things on their site rather than a broad Google search. To speed things up, I’ll still use Google, but search it with a “+seanwes” which makes sure it only searches for things on the internet that include the word seanwes in them.

Search engines are more tailored to the individual (at least, when the individual is logged on).

When you’re logged in to your Google account, it’s tracking the things you search and the pages you go to, and may or may not track what’s saved to your bookmarks (when using Chrome).

Then, when you search for things, your history plays into what results are provided to you. This has been, and will continue to get more and more custom tailored as times goes on.

And of course there’s social shares.

People are sharing things through social media, and a lot of people will use the search engines built into the social media to find the information they’re looking for.

An example of that is how a large portion of people no longer conduct Google searches for news. Instead, they go straight to Twitter to find out what’s going on. Twitter moves way faster than CNN or Fox and most internet savvy people know that.

SEO’s really not quite dead yet, but it’s getting there.

Next, we’re going to discuss how to actually write with SEO in mind, despite the fact that SEO is dying, because it’s still going to benefit you.

You will benefit from employing SEO techniques in your writing.

Despite the fact that SEO is dying thanks to smarter algorithms, tailored experiences, and the always increasing popularity of social media: it’s still worth knowing basic SEO practices and employing them in all of your online content.

Establish the purpose of the article.

The first thing you need to do when writing SEO friendly content is to figure out the main point of the article, blog post, or page.

The point of this blog post, for example, is to teach you how to write SEO friendly content so that you can get more traffic on your webpages. More traffic leads to more exposure leads to more money if you sell your music.

Conduct keyword research.

Now that you have established the purpose of your article, it’s time to figure out what people are searching for in regards to that. This is called keyword research and it’s a whole art in itself, but we’ll keep it simple here.

Just go to Google and start typing what you think people would search regarding your topic. Check out those autofill suggestions. Those are the kinds of things people are searching.

Hit enter, or grab one of those, and then scroll to the bottom of the first page. Look! more suggestions. Awesome.

Compare and contrast those with what you wrote first. You should get a good idea of what people are searching for regarding your topic, and especially what type of language they’re using (how they word their searches). You want to be mindful of all of these different suggestions when writing your content.

Your title needs to have this sort of language in it, as does the rest of your content. In fact, you want it to be as close to the front of your title as possible. However, you also need to make sure that the title and content make sense when read.

Write reader-friendly content.

“Reader-friendly content” means that it reads well, is relevant to the topic, and is useful. When people are searching stuff, it’s because they want to learn something. They need to know the thing. What is the thing? That’s whatever you wrote about.

You’re targeting their thirst for knowledge. Google will lead the horse to water, but you have to provide the water for them to drink it. And of course, as the saying goes, you can’t make them drink it. But we’re going to do our best by making sure our content is friggin’ awesome.

Write good content! Write what you would want to read.

Write the way you talk.

Imagine you’re sitting down with your best friend and they ask you about the thing. Explain it to them. Write it the way you explain it to them.

Seriously. Like imagine you’re teaching them how you mix your songs. Open up your email and start a new email draft and say “Dear…” whoever it is. Write to them. Then copy and paste that content into your blog.

Okay, but what about the optimization part? Didn’t we look up those suggestions so that we would have better content optimized for the search engines? Yeah, throw it out. You’ve already learned it and subconsciously ingested it into your brain.

If you didn’t naturally use that language when writing your content, it’s probably because it feels unnatural to you. And if it feels unnatural to you, then it’s going to be unnatural to other people.

Before we write content for the search engines, we need to write content for the users.

Studies show that content written with the user first, rather than the search engine first, will rank better for longer. Content written for the search engines tends to turn off users, and the users stop reading, stop buying, and stop coming back to your site.

Like I said, SEO is dying.

There’s lots of other stuff you should know, at least according to SEO’s, such as keyword density and crap like that. Don’t worry about it today. We’re writing for the user, not for the search engines.

And today, I’m more concerned with getting you writing than how SEO perfect it is.

One thing that used to be important was to make sure your keyphrase is in a subheader. If you’re writing for people, it might not fit naturally in, and injecting the keyphrase where it doesn’t flow is not good for the reader.

You shouldn’t be building your headers around what is SEO friendly. You should be building your headers around one thing: what are the key takeaways for the reader?

For example, instead of titling an article “SEO for musicians”, I title it “Attract new fans through search engines”, because most musicians don’t know what SEO is or why it’s important. But they do know they want new fans, and they know what search engines are.

Another thing that used to be important was bolding the keyphrase. Again, it doesn’t always work out that injecting the keyphrase in somewhere and bolding it is going to help the reader any.

You shouldn’t be bolding things just to have the keyphrase bolded. You should be bolding key takeaways for the reader.

I know, this is titled “How To Write With SEO In Mind…” Listen, I’ve been working in SEO for a while, so I know how it all works. It’s not the way it used to be, and these old SEO guys are stuck in their old ways and wondering why I’m doing better than them.

Check out my case study on writing regular content and I’ll show you that my system for writing content is better and consistently improving every website I write for.

SEO is dying because if you do everything right, your content will automatically be Optimized for Search Engines and you won’t have to worry or even think about it. Backlinks will come naturally, because you wrote good, useful content that people want to share.

A Game Design Document (GDD) Tutorial That Will Save You Time And Energy

I have a degree in game design from a state college called IRSC. In our game design classes, the curriculum was pretty adamant that we have a game design document (GDD) for each of our games. The professors weren’t too terribly strict about how it was organized, but there were stipulations on what it should contain and how it should be updated.

Once I got out of college and started designing games on my own, I threw all of that out and found a better way.

If you’ve ever worked on a game before, you know that the original idea doesn’t always work out. Sometimes you end up changing your idea because the prototype just didn’t work right, or the play testers straight up said it “isn’t fun” (this is why I highly recommend prototyping and playtesting early on…more on that later). You then either have to scrap the game, or you pivot and salvage whatever is useful from the work you’ve already done. Either way, building and then having to rewrite a GDD before that is going to end up a massive waste of time.

The thing is, we can’t just get rid of the GDD altogether. There needs to be a written (or typed, or drawn, or musical) plan of what’s going to be in the game, what it’s going to do, and where it’s going to go.

So I developed a much shorter, easier to maintain GDD, and I made a template I’m going to share with you below.

The Rules

First, lets discuss a few rules.

  1. Use something like Google Drive. You can hold everything in a folder and interlink documents, plus your entire team will have access to the latest versions all of the time.
  2. This GDD sticks to strictly the game design itself and doesn’t include any of the business end of things like marketing. I use a business plan for all of that.
  3. No images/videos/media. Keep them in a folder and link to them. This is so the document is easily editable and no one will have to spend time rearranging images because text got added, or something.
  4. If a change is made, do a “Save As…” and name it something like “GDD_2”, “GDD-3”, etc.

The Pages

First Page

Start Off With The Name

Name the game. You can use a working title if you want. I usually don’t think of game names until much later into development, but the game needs to have a name of some sort from day one.

Ex:

  • Garrett’s Good Game Of Game Goods

Add Your Team’s Names

Add the names of all of the members of your team. Hierarchy and ranking aren’t necessary, just put them in an order that makes sense to you.

Ex:

  • Garrett Mickley
  • Tom Ato
  • Ollie Tabooger
  • Willy Finish

Second Page (And All Pages From There)

Elevator Pitch

You should have an elevator pitch for your game. An elevator pitch is one sentence describing the game briefly but in enough detail that a person should be able to decide whether or not it’s something they would be interested in.

Ex:

  • It’s a cross between hockey, bowling, and shuffleboard, but two dimensional on a touch screen. (used for my game I Hate Red Squares)

Story Brief

A brief, one paragraph (at most) synopsis of the story. If the game is going to be some sort of epic with a huge story, put that in another document. If your game doesn’t have a story, you’re doing it wrong. Every game needs a story. If your story is only one sentence long, that’s okay.

Ex:

  • Steve (the player) wakes up on a deserted island. He has nothing but the clothes on his body, and a vast expanse of material in front of him. He uses the materials to build tools, shelter, and explore. When night falls, monsters come to attack him. He does everything he can to survive.

Gameplay Features

This is where you describe how the players play the game. Include all of the features that will be involved. Break down each feature into its own little section so that everyone knows what each individual thing is, and so that if something needs changed or removed, it’s easier to find. Include game controls in this part (A for Jump, D-Pad to move, etc).

Ex:

  • Players will tap their finger on the screen and send the blue circle towards where they tapped. The Ideas is to tap towards the red squares at the top of the screen. The red squares will then bounce around the screen. The object is for the player to knock all of the red squares off the top of the screen with as few taps of their finger as possible. Sometimes there will be grey squares, which are immovable obstacles.

Levels (If Needed)

Not all games have levels, but if yours does, you will need this section. Otherwise, just skip it.

If you do need it, include the level number, name (if appropriate), and a description of the level. As before, make sure each one is in its own section in case it needs to be edited or removed.

Ex:

  • Level 1
    • The Darkness. Player has to move through the darkness and find a flashlight. The player wakes up and must navigate their room to find a flashlight. They won’t be able to leave their room until they do. The level ends when the player find the flashlight and approached their bedroom door to leave.

Menu Screens

Describe each menu screen and everything that will be needed in them. Most games have at least a main menu screen, a pause menu screen, and a settings menu screen. Many games also have level menus, character design screens, etc. These are important to list out. Make sure each one has it’s own little section so that if something needs changed or edited, it can easily be found and changed.

Ex:

  • Main Menu
    • Three buttons(Level Select, Settings, Quit)
  • Level Select
    • Has list of all 15 levels.
  • Settings
    • Options to turn music and sound effects on or off.

Art Assets Needed

Here is where you will include all of the assets needed as well as brief descriptions. I will be up to the art director to discuss the details of the art with the artists who will be making hte assets. Don’t forget that there will need to be art for each level, zone, menu, etc, so this can be broken down here.

Ex:

  • Level 1
    • One blue circle
    • One red square
    • Left wall
    • Right wall
    • Bottom
    • Background
    • Pause button

Sound Assets Needed

This is just like the art assets list above but you also list out the sounds you need.

Ex:

  • Level 1
    • Tap sound
    • Circle hitting squares sound
    • Squares hitting squares sound
    • Circle hitting wall sound
    • Squares hitting wall sound
    • Square leaving screen sound
    • Circle leaving screen sound
    • Background music
    • Pause button sound

And that’s it! That’s all that’s really needed to throw together a solid GDD that can easily be modified.

Here’s the template I made for myself that I use for all of my games. Go ahead and download it. It’s free!

5 Important Steps To Designing An Attention-Grabbing Game

 

Brief Audio Summary:

 

 

 


 

 


Designing games is the most fun thing in the world that can become a life-long career. If you’ve ever had an idea for a game, or played a game and thought “if I made this game, I would have done X differently,” you’re already a game designer.

 

I mostly design video games but I do sometimes work outside of the digital realm and make games that exist in meatspace. This guide will work as well for video games as it will for board games or table top games, or any other type of game you can think of.

To be honest, it’s not really that hard and you shouldn’t be afraid to do it. Designing a game is easy; designing a good game is difficult. My first game designs sucked. Some of my more recent game designs suck. It happens. Don’t let it stop you from designing more games.

1. Come Up With A Concept

I come up with a new game idea every day. I don’t even have to force it — it’s something I’m passionate about and so it comes naturally to me. I will admit, I had quite a bit of practice. Short backstory: I used to play a lot of D&D and other tabletop games as a kid. My friends liked when I was the Dungeon Master and I didn’t have much money so I usually created campaigns instead of buying pre-made ones. Eventually I decided I didn’t like some of the monsters and player classes in D&D and I started creating my own more basic tabletop role playing games based on the D6 system.

It’s okay if you don’t have this sort of game design background, but I bet you’re here because you had an idea for a game and decided to pursue it. That’s awesome, you’ve already completed the first step. Write it down! You don’t want to forget anything. I use Google Docs for pretty much everything because it’s accessible from anywhere with internet (which for me is pretty much anywhere I go).

Set up a folder for all your game design ideas. Then create a new folder for each idea you have. In that folder, make a document just for jotting down ideas. Don’t forget to get the apps so that if you have an idea, you can get it down quickly. When I was going to college for my degree in game design, I had to drive an hour from my house to campus. During that time I would have ideas, but I couldn’t write them down. I used to repeat them to myself over and over again until I got home (or to campus) so I wouldn’t forget.

Do whatever you can to make it easy to record your ideas before you forget them.

2. Come Up With Gameplay Mechanics

You’ve got the idea, now it’s time to work on the gameplay mechanics. Gameplay mechanics are the meat of the game. If the game’s a video game, this would be something like in Portal, where you can shoot portals and pass through them, or in Super Meat Boy, where you can (somewhat) grip walls and jump off of them. Those are unique and specific mechanics. More basic mechanics are things like: how the player moves, combat, and anything else that involves gameplay side of things. If the game isn’t going to have a basic WASD/Joystick to move, Space/A to jump, etc, you need to be writing it down. Actually, even if it is basic, write it down anyway because when it comes time to build the game, programmers are going to want to know what buttons make the game do the thing.

To design gameplay mechanics you don’t have to know how to program, you just have to be able to describe it. Make sure you get all this information down in your ideas document so you don’t lose them. You may also change them around in the future if you have new ideas or decide to tweak them some. Don’t stress about that unless the game is already in production. You shouldn’t be changing mechanics at that point in development.

In games that aren’t video games, the game mechanic could be something like the way cards interact with each other, or if it were a tabletop role playing game such as D&D or Pathfinder, it would be the dice system.

3. Sketch Out Levels (If Needed)

Not all games have levels, but if yours will, you need to sketch at least a few level ideas out. There is a lot that goes into designing a good level, and if you take your game to production you may end up working with one or more people who specialize in level design. I find level design to be one of the harder things to do. Lucky for me, most of the games I’ve designed aren’t level based.

However, if your game is level based, you’ll be doing everyone a favor if you’re able to sketch out a few levels first. Google Drive does have an MS Paint -like tool but I would recommend just drawing them with a pencil on some printer paper, scanning or taking a picture, and uploading it to your Drive folder where you’re keeping all of your documents related to this game.

Evernote is actually really good for this but I prefer to work with Google Drive because I find it more useful, and because I do a lot of my writing from a Chromebook. You may find Evernote to be more useful for yourself. Use whatever tool is going to make game design easier for you.

4. Write A Story Outline (If Needed)

Actually, this isn’t an “If Needed” it’s an “It’s Needed”. Every game needs to have a story.

Every game needs to have a story, even if the story is short enough to fit in a Tweet. Third time’s a charm: every game needs to have a story.

There needs to be motivation. It doesn’t even need to be a fictional story. For example, in my game Did You Win Or Did You Lose? (in development), the story is this:

The player is on a quest to discovery if they won or if they lost.

But the game mechanic is this:

The player clicks or taps on a difficulty button and finds out if they won or if they lost.

It’s a game as simple as it gets, but there’s a story there. There is always going to be a story. Write it down. Put it in your ideas document.

5. Create A Game Design Document (GDD)

The final step in designing a game is to take all of the stuff we’ve collected, organize it, and throw it into a game design document (or GDD) so that we can present it to others such as investors, or teammates that will be working on the game with us when we decide to take it to production.

Creating a GDD is a huge topic on its own. Next week, I’m going to not only show you how to make a game design document, but I’m also going to give you a free template you can use for your games in the future. Don’t forget to come back next Wednesday!

UPDATE: Here it is!