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What Are Google Web Stories? A Guide for Marketers

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What Are Google Web Stories - A Guide for Marketers

Back in February 2018, Google announced AMP stories.

This visually rich, mobile-focused content format felt similar to the “stories” functionality popular on many social media sites.

The underpinning technology is based on the accelerated mobile pages that have been somewhat controversial in the marketing world.

In May 2020, Google rebranded AMP Stories as Web Stories, which they explain are “a web-based version of the popular Story format, allowing creators to host and own their content.”

What Do Google Web Stories Do?

Google Web Stories are a visual content format that can be shown across the internet.

You might find them similar to the stories on Instagram in that they allow creators to publish a succession of images, videos, and audio.

Web Stories are billed by Google as being “fully immersive” thanks to their ability to be viewed full-screen.

Some examples of Google Web Stories being used by brands currently include:

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Where Do Web Stories Appear?

One thing that makes Google Web Stories fairly unique amongst the myriad of story-telling functionality found in apps is their ability to be seen across the web.

On Your Website

Whereas the likes of Instagram Stories need to be viewed on that platform, Google’s Web Stories can be hosted on a creator’s own website.

This gives publishers more freedom over what is contained in the story as there are no restrictions around content, unlike many apps.

It also means the story can be used to help to drive traffic to your site, not kept within the walled garden of social media apps.

In the Search Results

One of the main benefits of using Google’s stories above other competitors’ social media story format is their accessibility from the SERPs.

Google Web Stories can be indexed like a web page and served as a Google search result.

In Google Discover

In October 2020, Google announced that they were bringing Web Stories to Google Discover feeds in India, Brazil and the US.

The list of stories, called a “shelf” by Google, sits at the top of Discover.

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Tapping on the story brings it to full-screen and allows the user to navigate through the list by swiping.

In Your Online Publications

Because Web Stories are hosted on your own servers it means the content can be used across other digital assets, too, like emails and digital brochures.

On Multiple Devices

Although the AMP technology the web stories is based on is designed for use on mobile devices, web stories can be viewed on mobile, tablet, and desktop browsers.

This increases their utility as there is no need to create desktop-friendly alternatives for responsive assets like websites.

How Do You Create Google Web Stories?

Google is taking publishers by the hand and leading them through the creation of Web Stories.

There are several tools to help put them together and even comprehensive development notes for those who want to think more outside-the-box.

Web Stories Basics

At their core, Google Web Stories are built using the Accelerated Mobile Pages format.

In fact, when you click on the link to the “Developer docs” from Google’s stories website, you’re taken to the amp.dev guides and tutorials page.

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Web Stories require HTML mark-up to be valid.

They also can support optional mark-up to enhance the user experience. For instance, it is possible to use HTML mark-up make the story accessible in landscape mode and present it in a more immersive way on desktop.

When creating your web story, you need to set the metadata attributes.

These do not serve as the page title or description of the story but as a preview of the story where it is served across the web.

You can also add a page title, description, Open Graph data, and other elements to optimize your story for search and sharing; this is done through traditional HTML mark-up.

Google’s AMP Test tool will help you to identify if there are any errors with your story.

If your page cannot be validated as a Web Story, there are links to documentation and guidance to help you to rectify the problems.

Third-Party Tools

Third-party tools can help you craft your Web Stories without needing a developer or design team on hand.

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Two tools that Google links to from its Web Stories site are News Room AI and MakeStories – neither of which are run, or technically endorsed, by Google.

News Room AI gives creators a WYSIWYG (what you see is what you get) design functionality and a deal with Getty images that grants access to over 300 million images.

MakeStories boasts a zero-code, drag-and-drop functionality to customize your stories including access to Google fonts and “one-click filters” to edit your images.

WordPress Integration

Google has partnered with WordPress to create a plugin that allows publishers to create web stories directly on their WordPress site.

As the stories are built within the WordPress website, they will be included in the site’s XML sitemap allowing for easier discovery by Google.

The plugin also gives creators the ability to set their metadata for the story including cover image, excerpt, and logo.

Shopify Integration

ProductStories is an app that enables your Shopify pages to be converted into Web Stories.

Once the app is installed, an AMP version of each product page is automatically created.

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A user can choose from two different themes or request a customized theme from the ProductStories team.

10 Benefits & Uses of Google Web Stories

The format, versatility, and ease of creating Google Web Stories make these a beneficial medium for marketers to explore.

Here are the top 10 benefits and uses of the format.

1. Under Your Control

As the stories can be hosted on a publisher’s own website, the copyright of the content is all theirs.

This means the topics they cover are entirely at their own discretion and without the strict limitations often seen in social media.

The use of the content is also at the publisher’s discretion; Google does not assume any rights over the content.

Google does have some restrictions on the content that can be published, most notable being the policy on content that is “overly commercial.

It’s worth taking a look over the guidelines before creating your first story – especially if you are using it for promotional purposes.

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2. Monetization

Any ads that appear in a Google Web Story are controlled by the content creator.

That means unlike with the story functionality on social media apps, monetization of the content is entirely at the discretion of the publisher.

Therefore, if you host ads on your web story, you get 100% of the ad revenue.

Google recently released a programmatic ads solution for Web Stories through Ad Manager and AdSense.

3. External Linking

A lot of social media sites with similar story formats dissuade content creators from linking out to other websites.

This usually means having to be creative in linking from the comments or bio.

With Google Web Stories, there are no such restrictions on linking out.

4. Supports Google Analytics for Tracking

As Web Stories act like web pages, they can be linked to analytics platforms including Google Analytics.

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This means there is a much greater level of tracking and user analysis available than on standard social media story formats.

This is an integral part of assessing how valuable Web Stories are to your marketing strategy.

5. Stories are Responsive

Unlike AMP which is designed specifically for mobile devices, Web Stories can be responsive to any device type.

This means there is no need to create separate content for display on desktop devices or to suffer the loss of functionality on mobile.

6. Can Be Interactive

Web Stories include the ability to host interactive elements such as quizzes and polls.

This is somewhat limited by your technical ability, as this functionality isn’t supported by all Web Stories creation platforms.

Given the immersive nature of the Web Stories, this added level of interactivity could make for an engaging experience.

7. No Time Limit

Unlike some other Google content such as Google My Business posts, there is no expiration date on Web Stories.

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They will not be deleted automatically after 7 days and won’t get lost in a timeline like on social media accounts.

You can feature your Web Story for as long and as prominently as you’d like.

8. Easily Indexed and Linked to

Web Stories are designed to be easily indexed by search engines.

This means getting your content onto the first page of Google won’t require any additional work on your part beyond the standard SEO needed to get any web page ranking well.

There is also the opportunity for it to appear in the coveted Web Stories carousel if you are publishing content for India, Brazil, or the United States.

9. Use Whatever Branding Style You Want

There are no design restrictions beyond making sure that Web Stories meet the general technical requirements.

This means you are free to choose fonts, colors, animations, and imagery that suits your brand’s style.

10. Live Stories

Using the “live-story” attribute on your Web Story will notify the user in real-time that you have added a new page.

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This can be particularly useful if you are using the format to cover breaking news or developments.

Conclusion

Google Web Stories is a rich, engaging content format that boasts a lot of potential for marketers.

Unlike similar social media storytelling formats, Web Stories are not time-bound or limited to certain platforms.

The brand benefits of exposure via Google products including Search and Discover are worth exploring.

More Resources:

Search Engine Journal

GOOGLE

5 Tips to Boost Your Holiday Search Strategy

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With the global economic downturn, inflation, ongoing supply chain challenges, and uncertainty due to the Ukraine war, this year’s holiday shopping season promises to be very challenging. Will people be in the mood to spend despite the gloom? Or will they rein in their enthusiasm and save for the year ahead?

With these issues in mind, here are five considerations to support your search engine optimization strategy this holiday shopping season:

1. Start early.

Rising prices are likely to mean shoppers will start researching their holiday spending earlier than ever to nab the best bargains. Therefore, retailers must roll out their holiday product and category pages — and launch any promotions — sooner to ensure their pages get crawled and indexed by search engines in good time.

Some e-commerce stores manage to get their pages ranking early by updating and reusing the same section of the website for holiday content and promotions, rotating between content for Christmas, Mother’s Day, Valentine gifts, Fourth of July sales, etc. This approach can help you retain the momentum, links and authority you build up with Google and get your holiday pages visible and ranking quickly.

2. Make research an even bigger priority.

With all the uncertainty this year, it’s vital to use SEO research to identify the trending seasonal keywords and search phrases in your retail vertical — and then optimize content accordingly.

With tools such as Google Trends you can extract helpful insights based on the types of searches people are making. For example, with many fashion retailers now charging for product returns, will prioritizing keywords such as “free returns” get more search traction? And with money being tighter, will consumers stick with brands they trust rather than anything new — meaning brand searches might be higher?

3. Make greater use of Google Shopping.

To get the most out of their holiday spending, consumers are more likely to turn to online marketplaces such as Google Shopping as they make it easier to compare products, features and prices, as well as to identify the best deals both online and in nearby stores.

Therefore, take a combined approach which includes listing in Google Shopping and at the same time optimizing product detail pages on your e-commerce site to ensure they’re unique and provide more value than competitors’ pages. Be precise with product names on Google Shopping (e.g., do the names contain the words people are searching for?); ensure you provide all the must-have information Google requires; and set a price that’s not too far from the competition. 

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4. Give other search sources the attention they deserve.

Earlier this year Google itself acknowledged that consumers — especially younger consumers — are starting to use TikTok, Instagram and other social media sites for search. In fact, research suggests 11 percent of product searches now start on TikTok and 15 percent on Instagram. Younger consumers in particular are more engaged by visual content, which may explain why they’re embracing visually focused social sites for search. So, as part of your search strategy, create and share content on popular social media sites that your target customers visit.

Similarly, with people starting their shopping searches on marketplaces such as Amazon.com, optimizing any listings you have on the site should be part of your strategy. And thankfully, the better optimized your product detail pages are for Amazon (with unique, useful content), the better they will rank on Google as well!

5. Hold paid budget for late opportunities.

The greater uncertainty and volatility this holiday season mean you must keep a close eye on shopper behavior and be ready to embrace opportunities that emerge later on. Getting high organic rankings for late promotions is always more challenging, so hold some paid search budget back to help drive traffic to those pages — via Google Ads, for example. Important keywords to include in late season search ad campaigns include “delivery before Christmas” and “same-day-delivery.” For locally targeted search ads, consider “pick up any time before Christmas.”

The prospect of a tough, unpredictable holiday shopping season means search teams must roll out seasonal SEO plans early, closely track shoppers’ behavior, and be ready to adapt as things change.

Marcus Pentzek is chief SEO consultant at Searchmetrics, the global provider of search data, software and consulting solutions.

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