Matt Farley Makes $200,000/year With Spotify SEO. Here’s 3 Lessons We Can Learn.

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Written By Thomas Smith

This weekend, the New York Times wrote a long profile about Matt Farley, a musician who will go down as one of the unsung gods of SEO.

Over the last decade, Farley has written and published over 24,000 songs. Each song has a keyword-optimized title that ensures it shows up in Spotify, Amazon Music, and TikTok searches.

The songs are often mundane and highly specific. Farley, for example, has sung over 1,000 versions of the Happy Birthday song, substituting different names in each one.

People discover the songs at random through music searches and then send them to friends or family to celebrate a birthday.

And each time they do that, Farley collects fractions of a cent. Likewise, he collects teensy bits of streaming revenue from songs about toilets, Ellen Degeneres, broccoli and much else.

In 2023, those fractions of pennies from SEO-optimized songs added up to $200,000 in earnings.

I’ve been friends with Matt for years, and I’ve written extensively about his strategy. You can read some of my articles about his series of poop songs, which are designed to capitalize on kids entering dirty words into their parents’ Spotify accounts. You can also look at my deeper profile on Farley’s creative process.

But given everything that’s happening in the world of platforms and search today, there are many things that traditional bloggers, creators and SEOs can learn from Farley’s success.

Google is Not the Only Platform

Beginning in September of last year, Google slammed millions of blogs with a 50 to 80% traffic reduction via their so-called Helpful Content Update.

This month, Google followed up with an even more brutal update designed to remove spam from search results. In one week, Google culled about 2% of websites from its index.

This did remove a lot of spam. But it also killed many legitimate sites. And even sites that didn’t get removed from Google’s index took a further hit to their traffic. Many travel blogs, in particular, are now down 90% or more in traffic since September.

Understandably, this has caused a mass freak-out among bloggers, many of whom optimized their entire businesses around Google organic search. People are either turning to adjacent platforms like Facebook or Pinterest or trying to figure out the new rules of Google.

Of course, bloggers should do this work. But Farley’s example illustrates it’s also important to expand beyond the traditional platforms.

Farley has applied what’s essentially a classic longtail keyword strategy in SEO to a totally different platform: Spotify Music and its associated streaming services.

Most SEOs would never think of this. But by taking a traditional SEO strategy and applying it to a different, multibillion-dollar platform, Farley has not only carved out a profitable niche for himself but has created one where he has almost no competition.

If your own site or content business was hit by Google and you are looking to diversify traffic, keep that in mind.

Yes, you should be developing a strategy on Pinterest, Facebook, and many other well-known platforms. Really, you should’ve been doing that years ago!

But you also need to think beyond the traditional platforms. Are there opportunities to promote yourself and your content in places that other people aren’t looking?

For my own travel site, I share my content on platforms like Facebook and Pinterest. But I also use unconventional platforms like Nextdoor to promote my work. Very few people compete with me there! And rather than relying on organic search, I’ve optimized my site to focus on Google’s sister product, Google Discover.

Farley’s success illustrates that there are many platforms out there today that are monetized, growing, and have massive audiences. If you can find one that’s not already full of competing content creators, Farley’s example shows that you can clean up.

Volume Matters

Traditionally, a certain segment of the blogging and SEO space has focused obsessively on making the “best” possible content.

Especially in the affiliate space, people spend hundreds of hours tweaking the exact color of buttons, the titles and headings of pages, and the word order within their sentences to squeeze tiny bits of optimization and traffic out of a page.

As a result, they might only write fifty pages on their entire website, after years of effort. This worked before. But today, it’s dying.

In a world of mass AI content and powerful brands, putting that kind of time and effort into every page will never achieve the ROI that small publishers need to survive.

Farley’s strategy is a perfect example of a different approach. Again, he has written over 24,000 songs. These cover nearly anything, from garage door openers to various types of fruit, to your hometown. This allows Matt to capitalize on nearly any search term somebody might enter.

Many of the songs sound similar, or even exactly the same. In the birthday song example, he simply sings the classic birthday song and substitutes a different person’s name for each recording.

It’s not groundbreaking stuff, musically. But it doesn’t matter. This templated, methodical approach allows Farley to scale up his content production massively, and to own a huge segment of Spotify and Amazon searches.

The lesson? In many parts of the content creation space, quality is nice, but volume matters more.

Importantly, Farley’s songs always meet a certain threshold of quality. Farley, for example, sings and writes all of his songs himself, and doesn’t use any AI or automated processes.

Each one is a unique creation, even if many are derivative. He’s not recording the song once, editing in a different AI-generated name, and mass publishing crap.

But he’s also not spending days obsessing over the musical and creative specifics of each piece he publishes. He grabs his keyboard, makes up a tune, sings a song in one go, and pushes it out to his streaming platforms with little to no editing.

In an era of diminishing returns on each piece of content, focusing on volume is more and more important for creators.

If you have 100 perfect pages on your blog or 10 brilliantly edited YouTube videos — but Google is only sending you 10% of the traffic it did before — you won’t do well enough to stay in the game, no matter the quality of your work.

But if you have 24,000 pieces of content that meet a minimum threshold of quality, even the little dribbles of traffic that today’s platforms send to independent creators can add up to massive earnings.

As Farley points out in his book, there’s also value in building out your ideas, no matter how mundane they may seem.

You never know which video might hit it big, or which blog post might randomly end up in Google’s good graces.

One of the most popular posts on my new website, The Bay Area Telegraph, has nothing to do with travel; it’s an article about what to do if someone is photographing your house.

I never would’ve believed it would be my top article for organic search. But by creating it — and hundreds of other articles that struck my fancy and drew on my real-world experience — I discovered that strange and highly specific source of solid organic traffic.

Quality matters. But pragmatically (and creatively too), volume often matters more.

One Person’s Spam is Another Person’s Obsession

Our final lesson from Farley is about the slippery and highly subjective definition of the word “spam“.

With its updates, Google labeled millions of websites as spam and essentially deleted their traffic overnight.

Many people have similarly accused Farley of creating spam. Most headlines about him highlight how he’s “gaming the system” or “hacking” Spotify.

But again, spam is highly subjective. Although some people hate Farley for his shotgun approach to music, he’s also attracted an incredibly loyal and devoted following.

Hundreds of people come out to see him live in person each year. His book was briefly a best-seller on Amazon, and he told the New York Times he could easily fill a 5000-person auditorium with his fans. One guy even devoted hundreds of hours of his life listening to every one of Matt’s 24,000 songs in series.

That’s an important lesson for creators. It’s easy to get dejected or start blaming yourself when a big platform labels your content as spam.

But remember, one person’s spam is another person’s gold. Or even their obsession.

Perhaps 95% of people hate Farley’s songs and click away as soon as they inadvertently discover one on Spotify. But who cares? There are still 5% who love the song so much that they seek them out and find every possible way to connect with Farley.

Farley has never cared about the 95% who are angry about his music and click away. He focuses all of his attention and energy on the 5% who want to engage with his work deeply and get the strategy (or the joke.)

Farley is also entirely unapologetic about his approach. He thinks it’s hilarious that people view his strategy as cheating or hacking.

Farley told me has spent thousands of hours writing and developing his songs. If his system is a “cheat” or get-rich-quick scheme, he jokes, it’s the worst one in the world, because achieving his success has taken decades spending 10–12 hour days in his basement writing music.

There’s an important lesson in there for creators. In many cases, we spend hundreds of hours crafting content. Even people who create giant AI sites often put a huge amount of effort into developing and honing their processes, building teams, running experiments, and more.

Users, major media outlets, and platforms are often quick to label all this work as spam. But just because they say your work is spam, that doesn’t mean you have to believe them.

If you’re creating work that serves your audience — no matter how small or specific or strange — you’re doing something of value. Full stop.

Yes, it’s unlikely that everyone will see that value. The big companies that gatekeep the Internet may even try to penalize you for it.

But as long as you’re serving your audience, as Farley does continually and obsessively, you’re doing your job.

Take a page from Farley’s book, ignore the algorithm or human naysayers, and focus on creating stuff that your actual audience genuinely wants.

Acknowledge and celebrate the creative work you put in, too. Not everyone will like it. Some even even call it spam.

But you should be like Farley and cheerfully ignore them, as long as you know your work is good and valid — or even if it simply brings you enjoyment or creative fulfillment.

I’ve always found Farley’s approach inspiring. It’s a reminder of what you can achieve if you completely ignore preconceived notions, are willing to roll up your sleeves, and can work incredibly hard at creating the work that matters to you.

It’s easy to feel down and out about content creation right now. But Farley‘s example shows that, no matter how volatile things are, how much they change over time, or what outsiders or gatekeepers might say, there’s still value (and enormous profits) in creation.

So do what Farley would do. Lean into your creativity, ignore the spam labelers and human haters, and turn out thousands (or tens of thousands) of whatever you like making.

You might end up with a success story as bizarre and inspiring as Farley’s.

I’ve tested thousands of ChatGPT prompts over the last year. As a full-time creator, there are a handful I come back to every day that fit with the ethical uses I mention in this article. I compiled them into a free guide, 7 Enormously Useful ChatGPT Prompts For Creators. Grab a copy today!

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