Web Stories have become a popular tool on social media sites recently. Pascal Birchler, a Developer Relations Engineer at Google, discusses what web stories are, how to create web stories, and how site owners and others can make the most of them. To learn more about how you can use the storytelling tool on your own website, watch the video now!
Hello, welcome to another Lightning Talk from the Search Central Lightning Talk series. I am Pascal Birchler, Developer Relations Engineer at Google. Today, I’m going to tell you all about Web Stories, a new and modern way for immersive storytelling on the open web. In this talk, I will explain what Web Stories are, how to create stories, and how you, as an online marketer, blogger, or site owner, can make the most out of them. Let’s dive right in.
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What are Web Stories?
In essence, Web Stories are a web-based version of the popular stories format you might be already familiar with from certain social apps. They blend video, images, animation and text to create fully immersive fullscreen experiences typically consumed in portrait mode on your smartphone. Stories let you explore content at your own pace by tapping through them or swiping from one piece of content to the next.
Why Use Web Stories?
Contrary to their social counterparts, Web Stories allow you to create beautiful and engaging content while having full control over the experience and monetization. You heard right. Every decision from how you monetize your story to how long it stays online is up to you. This freedom gives you great creative flexibility and the possibility to easily link out to your other content as well, making Stories a natural part of your website. How is that possible? Well, Web Stories are part of the open web and essentially regular HTML pages under the hood. That means they can be hosted on your own server and easily shared or embedded across sites and apps without any ecosystem restrictions.
How to Create Web Stories
So how does one go about creating Web Stories? There are a few ways, depending on your needs and expertise. First, since they are just web pages, you could build them by hand. That’s especially useful when wanting to create stories with highly custom functionality. However, like for regular web pages, it is important to have the right tools at hand to create Web Stories. After all, not everyone is a developer. That’s why there are standalone story editing tools to help you speed up the content creation process without having to write a single line of code. Tools that allow you to achieve better results thanks to visual editing and guidance along the way. Many such editors already exist today, such as MakeStories, Visual Stories, or Newsroom AI. If your site is built using a CMS, there are dedicated solutions for that too. For example, with the Web Stories for WordPress plugin, you can seamlessly integrate stories into your existing editorial workflow and make them an inherent part of your website. Such editors make it easy and fun to produce visually stunning stories and guide you towards a beautiful end result. They take care of all the heavy lifting, so you can focus on the actual story creation itself. As you can see, that part is a breeze thanks to an intuitive WYSIWYG interface and helpful building blocks to get off the ground quickly. But even the best Web Story isn’t worth anything if it doesn’t make you more successful.
How to Get the Most Out of Web Stories
Let’s take a look at how you can make the most out of Web Stories using the various techniques and platforms available to you. After all, you would want to ensure Stories benefit your overall strategy and produce a Return On Investment. If you want your stories to be found and indexed by search engines, you would want to think about SEO. In a nutshell, you should be doing all the SEO practices you would do for any other page on your website. If it helps rank your non-story pages, it will probably help your stories as well. This includes things like adding meta descriptions and including Stories in your XML sitemaps. There are also a few story-specific requirements to keep in mind. For example, some necessary metadata needs to be supplied as well, like a poster image and a publisher logo. For more details, I recommend checking out the Storytime episode about SEO for Web Stories on the new Google Web Creators YouTube channel. To measure and improve your performance on Google Search and Discover, you can use Search Console to better understand how Google sees your pages. Its various tools and reports help you analyze your traffic, fix potential issues, and make your stories really shine in Google Search results. Web Stories can actually appear on Google across Search, Discover, and Images. On Search, the appearance can range from a single search result to a visual carousel showcasing multiple stories, depending on your country and language. To give you an example, when people search for things to do in New York, the grid view shows Web Stories from multiple publishers. For your Web Stories to be eligible to appear in places like that, they have to meet certain guidelines. Most importantly, they have to be valid AMP. A valid AMP story is one that adheres to various AMP specifications. This allows the story to be served via the AMP cache and ensures good performance and the best experience for your users. Use the Web Stories test tool to verify that your Web Story is valid by typing or pasting its URL. It also allows you to preview how the story will look like in Google Search results, so you can decide whether anything needs further tweaking.
Measuring Your Results
Once you have published your story and validated it using the Web Stories test tool, it is time to share it with the world. With that, it might be a good idea to measure how your audience interacts with the story. How much time do they spend on a page? Are they clicking on the call-to-action links? It is possible to set up analytics for your Web Stories with a broad range of providers, such as Google Analytics, to get all the answers to these questions. There are many guides and best practices available for setting up Web Stories analytics according to your needs. It is worth taking some time to read these materials in order to get a better understanding of the possibilities.
Monetizing Web Stories
Monetization is an important aspect for publishers on the web and just as relevant for Web Stories as for other types of content. In Web Stories, monetization capabilities exist, for example, through immersive fullscreen ads, allowing for seamless integration into the user’s journey. The easiest way to include this is through an ad server, like Google Ad Manager or via AdSense. Since the Web Stories Runtime handles ad quantity and placement, you only really have to set everything up once and can then forget about it. Pretty easy. These are all the things to keep in mind for optimizing stories themselves, but what about the rest of your website?
Embedding Web Stories on Your Website
Web Stories can shine there, too. For example, you can embed stories elsewhere on your site in a standalone player or display a carousel of your favorite stories. By linking your content this way, your readers can easily reach your stories from other parts of your website and vice versa. While the various components and examples exist for that and can be implemented manually, your story editor of choice likely already offers such integrations out of the box. SEO, Analytics, AMP, monetization– these are quite a few things to take care of.
Story Creation Tools
Luckily, story creation tools like Web Stories for WordPress are of tremendous help to set things up and stay on top of everything. Not only do they provide solid default configurations out of the box for things like analytics and serving ads, they will also include the required metadata for Stories and tell you when something needs optimization. Thanks to integrations with other aspects of your website, you can measure your Web Story success all in one place. With this, you should now have a better picture of what Web Stories are, how you can create stories, and how you can fully leverage their potential. For more information about Web Stories and a collection of inspiring examples, I recommend checking out the dedicated Web Stories on Google website. On the new Google Web Creators YouTube channel, you can check out the Storytime series, in which you will learn more about story creation best practices and how to make the most out of Web Stories in general. I’m already looking forward to seeing all the amazing stories you create. Thank you very much for listening and have a great day.
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