Are you missing out on Google Web Stories?

Are you aware of Google Web Stories? It’s a format for posting content to the web that many site owners don’t use, and lose out on their readers’ attention.

I’d say that’s because there hasn’t been an easy way to publish them.

Let’s rewind a bit. Get things in context.

Google announced the developer preview for what it then called AMP Stories (AMP for accelerated mobile pages) in February 2018. Back then, it described them as A visual-driven format for news consumption on mobile.

In English, an AMP Story is a small collection of pages containing text, video, sounds and images.

Publishers such as CNN, Conde Nast, Hearst, Mashable, Meredith, Mic, Vox Media and The Washington Post were involved in developing the format. You can see the results on those kinds of sites ever since.

Have a look at these Web Stories:

There are more examples linked to from the Google Web stories page.

But that was over two years ago, David! Old news

In May this year, Google rebranded AMP Stories as Google Web Stories, moving the focus the web and grabbing the format for themselves.

But they were still the domain of the giant publisher, even with various tools made to make the process easier.

What are Google Web Stories?

In 2020, Google describes them as ‘visual storytelling for the open web’.

Web Stories immerse your readers in fast-loading full-screen experiences… The Web Story format (formerly known as AMP Stories) is free, and part of the open web and are available for everyone to try on their websites (my emboldening).

They call it Snackable Content

The idea of Snackable Content has been around for a while, with Hubspot defining four typical snackable formats.

But Google is moving the idea of creating Snackable Content forwards to something altogether more vibrant, containing:

  • Create beautiful and engaging content easily
  • Creative flexibility for editorial freedom and branding
  • Sharable and linkable on the open web
  • Track and measure
  • Fast loading times
  • Immersive storytelling
  • Robust advertising support

The WordPress plugin that could make Web Stories possible for you

This Autumn, Google released its Web Stories for WordPress plugin, after a summer in beta. If you’re thinking about using the Web Stories plugin, it’s worth a browse. I’m not going to attempt to duplicate Google’s good work.

Some ideas about how you could use Google Web Stories

  • Food blogs – recipe demonstrations
  • Kitchen equipment ecommerce sites – demonstrated quickly and enticingly
  • Any website where you need to show a product or an activity, but don’t need the depth of a detailed how-to
  • How about corporate or about us? Web Stories could be an excellent medium to get your message over quickly and concisely.

These are a brain dump. First thoughts that I wrote for my Email Thing.

This could be the argument for implementing AMP

Personally, I’ve never seen the fit between my site (and many of my clients’ websites, for that matter) and AMP (Accelerated Mobile Pages). A good responsive site is usually more than good enough, without the challenge of managing another set of pages.

I like simplicity. Almost always.

Google Web Stories is another set of content that needs to be generated. You need to ask yourselves if you have the capacity to publish another type of content.

What now?

It’s time to experiment with web stories, especially if you have a WordPress site. Google

I’d recommend you install the WordPress plugin on a version of your site (or get your developer to do it for you) on private staging and experiment safely, away from prying eyes and search engine crawlers.

I’ve installed the plugin on a staging copy of my site, and so far it looks good and easy to use. I haven’t created anything worthy of prime time, yet. And, to be honest, I’m not convinced that Web Stories have a role here on this site. The vast majority of my visitors are business people using desktops or laptops.

If your audience is significantly mobile or will appreciate visual content, then your decision may well be different.

Still unconvinced?

Google is pushing monetization options:

  • Single Page Story Ads – fullscreen ads that appear in Web Stories allows users to tap through to a web page, and AMP page or an app. The ads can contain images, videos, animations or a combination and are currently supported by Google Ad Manager and Google DV360 (beta), with the promise of other platforms coming soon. Google is offering a number of ad templates to get you going
  • Affiliate links – linking out to landing pages.

One of these may tip the balance for you.

Let’s think about SEO

Here’s a clue about SEO: they’re Google Web Stories

As we’ve said, Web Stories are based on AMP (accelerated mobile pages), which many publishers have been using for years to rank their news stories. AMP isn’t a requirement any more for that, but that’s also for another time.

Basic SEO. Or How to rank your web stories

The fundamental thing that we should bear in mind is a web story is a web page. So all your usual SEO will almost certainly apply.

  • Metadata. The plugin adds title description and schema automatically, but you can edit them as you wish
  • Linking. Treat your Web Story as any other visible, spiderable page on your website. Link to your own content or to external sites
  • Images. Don’t forget to complete the alt tags correctly for the images you use
  • Subtitles or captions. Provide video subtitles or captions
  • Canonicals. If your Web Story content is very similar to one of your other website pages, then it ashould be canonicalised to it.

Based on AMP, Web Stories also benefit from its characteristics:

  • Fast pages. Page speed is an important ranking factor because, as Google has said 53% of consumers move on if a site takes longer than three seconmds to load. But don’t get stuck on the ranking benefits, think about the fundamental failure to engage with a visitor and the implications for your business
  • The technical stuff. AMP is strong on a number of perfromance metrics, such as FCP (first contentful paint), TTI (time to interactive) and FID (first input delay). Make the best of it.

If you want to know more, Google’s piece, SEO for Web Stories from back in February is an excellent place to start.

Google Stories Carousel and Google Discover

Last month, Search Engine Journal reported Google Discover Updated with Web Stories Carousel. Google Discover is a prominent section of the Google app on Android and iOS, which is used by over 800 million people a month. The Web Stories Carousel is currently appearing in the US, India and Brazil, with other countries to follow.

SEJ claims there are plans for Web Stories to appear in other Google products, too.

Wrapping up the story

Google Web Stories is an excellent way to get your message in front of millions of potential customers. With the free plugin now available, there’s little reason not to try them.

David Rosam’s Email Thing, where my thinking appears first

A version of this blog post originally appeared in David Rosam’s Email Thing.

Let me know who you are and I’ll send you my thoughts on Digital Marketing as they happen.

Photo by Fallon Michael on Unsplash

David Rosam has been working online for more than 25 years, after a career in direct marketing copywriting for the tech and financial services industries.

Today, he specialises in Content-Leveraged Search Engine Optimisation—from audits, through research and strategy to implementation.

He was probably the UK’s first SEO Copywriter.