Swipe, swipe, swipe.
You tell yourself this’ll be the last story as you’re lying in bed, illuminated by your phone screen.
“Oh sugar” you think as you flick your finger across your mobile, it’s a cat video. That’s another 15 minutes gone.
There’s no denying that there’s an element of addiction to apps like Instagram. The popular stories format has dominated the app. What started out as a digital photo album is now a place to share on-the-fly videos and a stream of content that can be consumed by anyone, at any time.
This trend, started by Snapchat, is now a staple of most social media channels. The ability to instantly upload content and share it across the web is no longer a game changer but a must have for any platform wanting to compete in today’s market.
But it’s not only social media companies embracing this new way of delivering content. Google has also thrown its hat into the ring and has developed Google Web Stories (GWS). Formally AMP (Accelerated Mobile Pages), Google rebranded them to Google Web Stories in 2020.
But what makes GWS different from other story formats? Can stories even work on the web? Where do they appear and can they be used to drive organic traffic to your website?
What are Google Web Stories?
Google Web Stories are a web-based version of the popular stories format. Championed by Snapchat and perfected by Instagram the format blends video, audio, text and animations to create content that is consumed instantly by viewers when they land on your story.
So far so Instagram.
What sets GWS apart from the social media platforms is where you can display your story, how people can find it, and what it needs to contain to be approved by Google (That’s right, the quality bar for GWS content is slightly higher than Tik Tok’s).
In a nut-shell a Google Web Story is a collection of mini-AMP pages, or embeds that you create for posts on your site. They look like visual slideshows, a quick series of images and videos that users can flip through.
When the GWS is over you can add a CTA to the story that sends users to your site for additional information.
Where do Google Web Stories Appear?
Google Web Stories are unique because they can be seen across the web. They can appear on the SERP and can live in several places including your website and on Google Discover. Web stories have their own carousel on Google Discover too, so this is a great new channel your brand can exploit to get to the top of the search results.
Unlike Instagram stories, which need to be viewed on their own platform, Google Web Stories can be hosted on the creator’s own website. This is really powerful as you do not need to go through a third-party app to push your message. Your brand is front and center.
This also gives publishers a lot more freedom over the content of their stories as there are no restrictions about what can be contained in them. The stories do need to be of a certain quality however. More on that later.
How do you make a Google Web Story?
If you’re a WordPress user you’re in luck. Google has released an official web story plugin for WordPress.
This plugin is your one-stop shop for creating web stories for your site. It has an easy to use, drag-and-drop interface and includes 100s of templates to get you creating web stories in no time.
Google has provided some useful documentation to get you started with the plugin too.
Once you’ve made your first web story the plugin will make a new custom post for you to publish. This web story post is unique to your blog posts and doesn’t live on your blog.
So where does it live and how do you get traffic to it? The rest of this article will explain.
Where’s my web story?
Web stories exist on their own mini WordPress pages. You can embed them into your blog pages too but the jury is out as to whether this is a good tactic or not.
The general consensus in the SEO world is that web stories should be used to augment your blog posts. They should entice visitors to your brand and make them want to read and explore your site as well as enjoy your web story as a stand alone piece of content.
The goal with a web story is to attract new traffic to your brand with an engaging story found on Google’s SERP. Then you use the CTA at the end of that story to lead these viewers to your site.
How do you get a Google Web Story to rank?
When it comes to getting your web stories to rank you can treat them like any other page on your website. So, the on-page SEO best practices and link building strategies you use for your blog posts can be applied to your web stories too.
When speaking about web stories Google said “If it helps rank your non-story pages, it’ll probably help your stories as well”
What are the benefits of Google Web Stories?
Web stories are billed as ‘fully immersive’ by Google as they can be viewed full-screen on a laptop, desktop or mobile.
Most importantly though, Google Web Stories can be indexed like web pages and served up to searchers’ on Google.
Essentially, web stories can be used to drive traffic to your website. Unlike instagram stories which are hidden behind the walls of an app, your GWS can have a real impact on the number of organic visitors your site gets each month.
With the story format becoming ever more popular, having a site that can display stories directly on Google’s results page and in Google Discover can be a game changer. Capitalising and perfecting this new content format early, before your competition gets wind of it could lead to a huge increase in organic traffic for your brand.
What’s the criteria for a successful web story?
When it comes to creating successful web stories the old saying “content is king” still holds true.
Google wants to avoid lazy marketers trying to cash in on the new format by producing poorly formatted, short stories which are only a few slides long. Content like this will get kicked to the bottom of the search results pile.
They’re also keen to avoid stories that, well…
Don’t tell a whole story.
The GWS needs to be a complete piece of content. If the punchline to the story is revealed over on your website that’s something Google won’t stand for. Stories need to make sense and have a logical beginning and end.
You can find Google’s best practice advice for web stories here. They recommend between 10-20 slides, keeping the content on each slide brief and keeping it visual with a lot of images, animations and videos to fill up the screen.
Here’s a few examples of best practices web stories:
So, can Google Web Stories help my SEO efforts and organic traffic KPIs?
The short answer is ‘yes’ but there’s a very big ‘if’ involved.
Google launched web stories last year and they’re still rolling out the functionality to all parts of the world. As more and more businesses adopt the story format for the web (which we suspect they will) more countries will be able to see GWS in the search results page.
At the moment the only countries that can see GWS are the USA, Brazil, and India. And even then they can only see them via the Google Discover platform. They might be huge countries but if you’re a UK based business that doesn’t really help you.
UK based Companies are anticipating the roll out of GWS by creating stories now even though they cannot be seen in the SERP. They’re doing this in the belief that when stories are rolled out in the UK they’ll be ahead of the competition.
Are GWS right for your business?
All businesses have a story, and all brands want to get a message across to potential customers. Google Web Stories are the perfect medium if you’re looking to hook new visitors into your brand from the search engine results page.
When stood side to side next to a traditional blog, a Google Web Story is far more engaging, entertaining, and consumable to the average searcher. You can treat a web story like a little trailer for your brand. A one minute story that will encourage viewers to learn more about you.
Even if you think your brand wouldn’t suit this type of content there are always blogs you can repurpose, case studies you can share, and testimonials you can convert into web story formats.
Businesses that will make the easiest transitions into GWS are ecommerce brands, news outlets, digital publications, and clothing chains. Any business that trades off images and video.
But if that doesn’t sound like you, don’t be put off by web stories. With a little creativity and an eye for design you can create engaging web stories that’ll see your brand at the top of the SERP.
Just remember, content is king, if you want to rank highly for your web stories they need to look professional, be engaging, and most importantly, answer a searcher’s question.
Are you struggling to get organic traffic to your site that regularly converts into leads and sales? Maybe we can help, we’re an experienced SEO and Content Agency based in Manchester.