Google Web Stories: Intro, SEO and Strategy

Guest Post by Savanna Gray

Stories are a hugely popular content format for social media users. Instagram, Facebook, Snapchat, and other social media platforms have story options for content creators (although LinkedIn just announced they’ll be shutting down their Stories at the end of September 2020). Users who watch stories tap through full-screen videos and photos to enjoy an immersive content experience.

Google’s version of this format is called Web Stories. Just like other tappable content, this is a highly visual medium. In addition to full-screen media, Web Stories can include links, ads, and other embedded content.

To see examples of what Web Stories on Google look like, check out Google’s showcase page.

You’ll also see Web Stories referred to as AMP stories throughout Google’s documentation, but we’ll use the term Web Stories in this blog post.

Where do Web Stories Show Up?

Since Google doesn’t have a social media platform, Web Stories don’t display in a traditional feed. Web Stories are hosted directly on the creator’s website. They have a url just like any other page on a site, so they’re shareable through any medium.

Most often, users find Web Stories in their Google Discover feed. At the top of Google Discover, users in the US, Brazil, and India may see a stories carousel. Web Stories are also eligible to be included in Google Search results and sometimes show up in Image Search results.

Who Can Create Web Stories?

Anyone with a website can create and post Web Stories. But the process isn’t nearly as straightforward as creating stories on most social media apps.

Google has a list of tools creators can use to make stories. With options ranging from a WordPress plugin to standalone products designed for different types of sites, creators are likely to find something that works for them.

Site owners also have the option to create custom Stories without the use of a tool. However, Stories are code heavy. If you’re interested in creating Stories without a tool, check out Google’s developer documentation on the subject. If you already have experience creating AMP pages, some of this documentation should look familiar. Even if you don’t want to create custom Stories, the developer documentation could help you understand best practices for creating and publishing Stories.

Benefits of Web Stories on Google

One major benefit of Google’s Web Stories is that creators own all the content they produce. Since these Stories are posted directly on a user’s website, there’s no social media platform middleman to take ownership of the content. Marketers and influencers often worry about content ownership when it comes to social media channels, so Web Stories are an appealing alternative.

Google also offers a variety of options for monetizing stories. Like other platforms, creators can feature direct sold ads and affiliate links. But Web Stories on Google also support programmatic ads. The page linked above has code for implementing AdSense and Ad Manager on web stories. Google has expanded the types of ads they support in the past, so this is a good area to watch for future developments.

Web Stories are responsive, which means they can be viewed on desktop devices as well as mobile. Creators don’t need to make separate versions for each device type.

Web Stories are also trackable in Google Analytics, since they’re part of a website. Marketers will have the type of engagement data they’re used to for web pages, rather than the analytics available from social media platforms or third parties.

Another important distinction is that Web Stories on Google don’t automatically expire. Creators are able to keep them live and featured for as long as they’d like.

Web Stories Strategy

If you think Web Stories are a good fit for your website, Google has a lot of resources to help you get started and get the most out of this content format. Start by checking out their best practices for creating and showing stories. This page includes recommendations about focusing on video first, making sure added text has enough contrast to be read, types of animation that perform best, etc. Most of these best practices will be familiar to you if you’re used to creating stories for social media.

Because Web Stories are a little tricky technically, Google offers a testing tool that covers both AMP pages and Web Stories. This allows creators to make sure Web Stories and AMP pages are valid and formatted correctly. This is a critical step in the content creation and strategy process, whether you use a tool to create Web Stories or work with a developer on a custom solution.

SEO for Web Stories

For marketers looking for more specific info on organic Web Stories strategy, check out Google’s SEO for Web Stories blog post.

The bottom line is that Google’s guidance is to treat Web Stories like any other content.

Do all the SEO things you would do for any other page on your website. If it helps rank your non-Story pages, it’ll probably help the Stories as well.

But the blog post does get a little more specific about a few things. Here are some examples:

  • Include Web Stories in your sitemap.
  • Post web stories to social media.
  • Include and optimize metadata, schema markup, and other standard page optimizations.

Of course, those are best practices for other content. But it’s helpful to see Google point out some nuts and bolts examples of SEO strategy that transfers to Web Stories. 

About the Guest Author

Savanna Gray is an SEO specialist with six years of marketing experience. Her background is in content marketing and local SEO. Her areas of special interest include Google Tag Manager and GA4. Savanna loves translating SEO data into actionable information for site owners.