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I began writing an ‘amusing’ article last night, it was to combine my twin passions for music and search marketing. It was to be entitled ’20 band or artist names that are impossible to Google’.

I figured this would be ripe for hilarity and also an interesting look into what new bands and artists need to consider when trying to market themselves online. 

After all we live in a ‘digital first’ world where bands like Chvrches specifically spell their name wrong so they can be searched more easily and Owen Pallet dropped his Final Fantasy pseudonym in order to drive more traffic to his site instead of the computer game franchise.

I was wrong.

While compiling the list, the ethically-minded journalist part of my brain took over and I realised that I should probably check the band names out on Google to make sure my theory held water.

I then realised how much has changed when it comes to search and that the idea of Google as a rigidly blinkered tool is an antiquated notion. 

Here’s the beginning of the list:

  • The The
  • The xx
  • X
  • Television
  • A really offensive American grindcore band name that I can’t repeat here.
  • Yes

Here’s what happens when you search for The The.

The first eight results are for the band The The and they even get their own card on the right hand side.

I didn’t even know Google recognised duplicated words in the search field, perhaps Google has become savvy to this particular problem and just fixed its algorithm specifically for this search term.

Next I tried The xx.

I thought it would be relatively easy for searchers to get that name wrong and either type ‘xx’ or ‘the xxx’ and be confronted with particularly non-musical content.

Again I was wrong. Here’s the search results for ‘the xxx’.

The xx places top of the card on the right-hand side. Clicking through that card takes you to the search results page for 'The xx band' with all its related links, videos, official website, tour dates and more.

All of the subsequent bands I searched for resulted in similar results pages.

For instance, the search for Television reveals all kinds of expected non-band related organic results, but the band themselves have their own card on the right as clear as can be.

Perhaps what should have scuppered my writing of the original article before I even got this far should have been the fact that a rudimentary search revealed that there are many similar list-based articles out there on the same subject.

Interestingly though, none of the articles are written beyond 2010, probably the point when Google improved the intuitiveness of its algorithm.

Of course Buzzfeed has a similar list. Buzzfeed would. However if I began the practice of not writing about something just because Buzzfeed covered it, I’d never get anything done. 

Buzzfeed’s list is called ‘21 Of The Most Ungoogleable Bands Ever’. This was written in July 2013, so fairly recent and contains much more up-to-date bands.

For example:

  • The Men
  • Girls Names
  • First Aid Kit
  • Friends

The premise is that these names are impossible to search for without adding the term ‘band’. This was certainly true six months ago, but after trying it myself…

Even the band Friends get their own card on the right hand side. Although it will always be slightly buried underneath the more obvious entertainment brand. But then that’s their own stupid choice. Even if you’re a hipster band from Brooklyn it doesn’t mean you can pretend to have never heard of the biggest, cheeriest sitcom of last century.

It’s become a lot easier for bands and artists to be found these days, so there’s perhaps little to worry about in terms of picking a digitally optimised name. Especially because searchers are fairly au fait with coupling the search term with ‘band’.

What if your band doesn’t want to be found?

What if you want to be really ‘punk’ and spit in the face of digital marketing? What possible name could you give yourselves in order to remain true to your analogue selves?

Might I recommend going heavy on the punctuation. Try doing a search for the bands !!! or †††. It’s impossible.

There’s a whole world of punctuation out there, from £ to * to % to } from which to choose and flip-off Google with.

Thanks for listening.

For more articles on music marketing from the blog, check out Google reveals the history of popular music (sort of) and is Beats about to launch a Spotify killer?

Christopher Ratcliff

Published 12 February, 2014 by Christopher Ratcliff

Christopher Ratcliff is the editor of Methods Unsound. He was the Deputy Editor of Econsultancy. You can follow him on Twitter or connect via Google+ and LinkedIn

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Comments (23)

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Robin Swire

Robin Swire, Content Manager at Parallax

This article is amazing, nice work. Remember the band 'A'? They were absolutely impossible to find through search engines back in the day.

about 2 years ago

Chris Lake

Chris Lake, CEO at Empirical Proof

Women.

about 2 years ago

Christopher Ratcliff

Christopher Ratcliff, Editor at Methods Unsound / Search Engine Watch

Men.

about 2 years ago

Chris Lake

Chris Lake, CEO at Empirical Proof

Girls.

about 2 years ago

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David Hickey, Senior Ecommerce Producer at Oxfam

This makes me wonder if Googlewhacking is still a thing. I don't want to do the leg work myself but a blog article would be good to see...

about 2 years ago

Joe Hawkes

Joe Hawkes, Senior Digital Marketing Executive at Charles Russell Speechlys

'Real Estate' has got to be one of the most un-Gogleable band names, because of the competition for that term. And the late 90s band American Football deserve special mention.

Chris Lake - good taste in music, those are two of my favourite bands.

about 2 years ago

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Carl Brown

You seem to have avoided the fact that Google search results are somewhat personalised nowadays - as you say in your article, you're a music fan, so it wouldn't take a giant leap to conclude that Google knows you often search and click through on music related terms. Therefore, i'm not surprised that when you do an ambiguous search for something that could be a band name, Google has
its best guess and returns the related musical result before anything else. What would be interesting is doing the same search from someone with entirely different interests and search history, also compared with a blank slate / incognito mode.

about 2 years ago

Christopher Ratcliff

Christopher Ratcliff, Editor at Methods Unsound / Search Engine Watch

@Carl Nope - I tested everything in incognito mode.

about 2 years ago

David Williams

David Williams, Director of Online EMEA at Deckers LtdEnterprise

I tried Pavement.

www.imperialdrivesandpatios.co.uk seems to be bidding heavily on the term anyway.
but this excellent band take up most of the real estate.

about 2 years ago

Christopher Ratcliff

Christopher Ratcliff, Editor at Methods Unsound / Search Engine Watch

I wrote a separate list last night for my music blog where I invented loads of band names that would DEFINITELY be impossible to Google.

It ended up being fairly offensive, but here's a smattering of the funniest:

404 Page Not Found
Katie Perry
Places To Stay in New York
No Results Found
The The The
Credit Card Price Comparison
I'm Feeling Lucky
Toy Story 4
The 'Band' Band
Gooogle

about 2 years ago

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Lucie

Sorry to be a pedant Christopher but given the subject of your article, I feel I should point out that you spelled Chvrches incorrectly! (Just to avoid further confusion...)

about 2 years ago

Christopher Ratcliff

Christopher Ratcliff, Editor at Methods Unsound / Search Engine Watch

@Lucie - After spending at least five minutes concocting a suitably withering response that went along the lines of "that's how Chvrches spell their name" I finally realised that the 'r' was in the wrong place and you were absolutely correct. Well done, pedant! I am a moron.

about 2 years ago

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Richard Hamer

If you want to find !!! you need to use chk chk chk, which is only any good if you know that's how to pronounce the band's name -so if you've seen a sleeve in a record store (if you can find one) and you want to do some research you need to use an album title. Great band though, well worth listening to and seeing.

The other one that used to be an issue was the, now long-gone, "A House". Just searched and they were top of the page. Again a great band, go find! And search for the singer Dave Couse.

about 2 years ago

Christopher Ratcliff

Christopher Ratcliff, Editor at Methods Unsound / Search Engine Watch

@Robin - Breaking Google band name news. If you search for 'a band' it comes up with A!

about 2 years ago

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Seri

If you really didn't want your band to be found by searching on Google you could simply call it "The Pirate Bay"

:)

about 2 years ago

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rose

!!! (pronounced chk chk chk). Got nothing in Google when I typed !!!

about 2 years ago

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rose

however ††† went directly to "††† crosses band."

about 2 years ago

Christopher Ratcliff

Christopher Ratcliff, Editor at Methods Unsound / Search Engine Watch

Really? I don't get that at all with †††. I just get 'not found'

about 2 years ago

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rose

Alt+0134 goes directly to the band :-)

about 2 years ago

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Amine

There is something wrong about your test..

It's that you're connected with your google account.

Google improves your search by ading to them the past experienced / like pages that you have visited !

It seems that you look a lot at all the universe of music, I'm not very interested in it, so the exemple of television get you back the jacket of the band in the right side. For me, I have only televisions and their price ! ^^

I think it's a really great feature added by google, but they don't really speak about, because they always keep tracks of our search..

about 2 years ago

Christopher Ratcliff

Christopher Ratcliff, Editor at Methods Unsound / Search Engine Watch

@Armine - I actually tried every search in Incognito mode, to circumvent that very feature.

about 2 years ago

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Emarketing Manager

Another great band is The Music. Now defunct but they pushed the boundaries somewhat. However I could never find info on the band or come across their homepage. I had to find it via (name of band) + (name of album / single / tour) + official site.

The effective way to get found with these bad ungoogleable names is to promote videos, images, social bookmarking and for local bands go geolocal to get into SERPS. This however is a longer term strategy.

about 2 years ago

dan barker

dan barker, E-Business Consultant at Dan Barker

I have been tricked. Even the band in the opening image (!!!) is still ungoogleable. This is Daily Mail standard journalism at best.

- Disgusted of sllǝʍ ǝƃpᴉɹqunʇ

about 2 years ago

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