Sometimes spending lots of attention to technical optimization and keywords makes it easy to forget that – even in online marketing – it’s important to tell a good story. All the techniques that help you better tell your story can be sorted under the ‘storytelling’ umbrella. In this article, you’ll find 7 storytelling tips to help you keep clients engaged for longer. And it’s about to get fun! Stay tuned for examples from ‘The Matrix’ and Dutch children’s book ‘Abeltje’…
#1 Start with a user story
IT’S NOT ABOUT YOU.
Our apologies if this comes across harshly, but all too often, companies will start by telling their own story. The odds aren’t great to keep your customers interested for long. It’s much smarter to think from the perspective of user stories:
As (who) I want to (what) so that (why)
You can read more about that strategy in our articles aboutcontent design.
#2 Suspense makes your story
‘He needed to push the button for the fourth floor.’
‘But that little green glass button all the way at the top…’
‘What if he pushed that one instead?’
You may or may not be familiar with this scene from the children’s book ‘Abeltje’ by Dutch author Annie M.G. Schmidt, in which a young elevator operator from a sleepy little town travels around the world in a flying elevator.
This short fragment is from the beginning of the book. The suspense is palpable. Even though nothing has happened yet. This is the exact technique you can use on your own blog. Hint at what’s to come without giving too much away…
#3 Turning point in the story
Your story shouldn’t just hint at suspense, the tension should actually be present. A shift needs to happen. What is the turning point?
To use one of the most famous examples from film history: what if Neo had chosen the blue pill instead?
‘The Matrix’ would have been a very short and uneventful film.
#4 Message that fits your brand
You can write a suspenseful story with a clear turning point and still get the whole thing wrong. Your story’s underlying message should suit your brand. Always keep that in mind when writing an article (or when having one written) and avoid getting lost in the story itself.
Wix.com did an excellent job of that in their 2017 Super Bowl commercial. With lots of action and humor (and a few major celebrities), the brand showcases exactly how easy it is to update your Wix website with minimal effort, in a rush, and even on the go.
#5 Show, don’t tell
A classic challenge for fiction writers: show, don’t tell.
But even in a blog post for a B2B company, you can still apply that technique. What are the examples and descriptions that allow you to make your point implicitly?
A great ‘show, don’t tell’ practice is this one:
Try to write a story in which you describe what you (the main character) see, hear, feel, smell, or think without actually using the words see, hear, feel, smell, or think.
#6 Just get started, then let things simmer overnight
It’s impossible to write the perfect story all in one go. The main stumbling block is to spend too much time writing the first sentence or paragraph.
Do you have a good idea? Then start writing. Once you have the whole story on paper, it’s time to stop.
After that, it’s a solid plan to let your story marinate. That could be one night or even a week. Don’t let it linger for too long (a month or longer) or you might lose your initial enthusiasm. Now that you’re looking at your story with fresh eyes, it will be much easier to finalize.
#7 Don’t worry (at first) about SEO
Now how does this all relate to search engine optimization (SEO)? How does this make it easier to find you in Google searches?
At first glance, it seems unrelated. Perhaps your story’s subtitles aren’t very search engine-friendly, in which case your site will take longer to index. Even so, writing this way can feel very refreshing. By telling a great story based on a user story, your potential customers will spend a lot more time on your page when they click through from the search results. That’s a very positive signal to Google and should result in a rankings boost!
Does that mean you no longer need to consider keywords and other SEO factors? No.
Dropping those factors altogether isn’t the greatest strategy. Using a tool thatserves you automated SEO tips, lets you make smart changes to your content. That way you’ll not only create a great story but also land higher in Google results!
We are very proud to announce that Webtexttool will be exhibiting in the Growth program at the Websummit conference in Lisbon from 6-8 November 2018.
The Websummit is a well-known conference where all CEO’s of technology companies, fast-growing start-ups, policy marketers and heads of state meet each other. This year it is expected to receive over 70,000 people at the conference in Lisbon. According to Forbes Websummit is “the best technology conference on the planet”.
It would be great to meet you at the Websummit! Please visit us for a live demo at our conference booth G102 on Wednesday November 7th. If you would like to plan a personal meeting please contact us through the Websummit app or by email at support @ webtexttool.com.
Webtexttool is the growing content creation platform that enables you to create web content that matches your target audience. With the help of AI, Big Data and machine learning you will be able to receive real-time suggestions to write high quality content that converts.
According to the Branded Content Manager at Bol.com “We were looking for a web content tool to make our text findable at scale and convert better. Webtexttool is the best solution for us!”
Nobody likes a slow website. Visitors will leave quickly, and Google also pays attention to your website’s page load speed. That’s why savvy website owners have already been speed optimizing their web content for years. Anyone who has failed to do so will probably notice a negative difference in the search results since the most recent Google Speed Update. These are the most important changes to know about:
Mobile speeds now officially a ranking factor
Even though load speed has been a factor in your search result ranking since 2009, until recently that was officially focused on desktop results exclusively. Since the Google Speed Update, the search engine explicitly pays attention to the load speed of your website on mobile devices.
Test how quickly your own website loads on mobile
Do you want to know how well your own website scores in terms of speed? You can use the official Google tool – Test My Site – to find out how quickly it loads and what you can do to improve its speed.
Source: GTmetrix – Recommendations to make a website load faster
Another handy tool to measure your website’s speed is available from GTmetrix. This site also offers a more realistic picture of your mobile page speed. In contrast to Google, GTmetric runs its tests using a speedier 4G connection instead of a relatively slow 3G connection.
Significant risks for very slow sites
Does this Google Speed Update mean that the average webmaster should start worrying? Probably not.
Only the slowest sites will get penalized by this update. Think of websites that (in the year 2018!) still aren’t mobile-friendly. It’s no excuse that the majority of your visitors accesses your site on a desktop – for example in B2B sectors. Any penalty is related to overall search results across desktop and mobile.
Speed is only 1 of the 200 ranking signals
Loading speed is only one of the two hundred factors that Google weighs to determine your position in search results. It is an element of what’s called technical optimization. In combination with authority and content optimization, it makes up the field of SEO expertise.
Content design allows you to showcase your website content in a simpler, clearer, and quicker way. You can do so by taking user stories as your basis: as (who) I want to (what) so that (why). Recently, we wrote about the origin of and the reason for content design. In this article, you’ll find a few practical tips to get started on your own website content.
You might be used to considering your website’s content based on pages, with the homepage as your logical starting point.
But actually, that is no longer the way people find your website. Google and voice search are increasingly popular ways to discover content.
The content you present should originate from a starting question, a user story: as (who) I want to (what) so that (why).
It’s entirely possible that these stories are already scattered throughout your website. Identify this content and group it into individual stories.
#2 What is the follow-up action?
Next, for every user story, consider what a user’s next point of action might be. It could be a response to a call-to-action (submitting an e-mail address, liking something on social media, buying a product, getting in touch), or a completing a related action (clicking through to a next user story).
For each user story, think of minimum 3 possible follow-up actions.
TIP: Sometimes it helps to visualize all stories offline. For example, on colored post-it notes. It’s an easy way to keep a clear overview.
This is where you’ll discover the benefits of considering user stories (modular content) instead of pages:
User story W might actually belong with subjects X, Y, and Z
If you only add W to page Y, the user will be forced to search around for it
If you add W to all pages, you’ll end up with duplicate content (which Google doesn’t like very much)
The solution: include W as a click-through option on all related stories.
#3 Differentiate between main themes and subtopics with short paragraphs
As a writer, you often know quite a lot about any given topic. It’s tempting to show off all your knowledge in a piece of content. But that’s not helpful to a reader who might be scanning your text. It also makes it harder for your designer to turn your article into an attractive page.
For those reasons, stick to the main topics first. Ask yourself if any subtopics might be better suited to their own user story. An easy way to do this is by limiting paragraphs to a maximum of 6 lines. That makes it much easier to focus.
#4 Consistently use H1 to H3
A user story will often have some kind of hierarchy. Make that structure clear by adding descriptive titles and subtitles. Don’t forget to add the H1 to H3 tags (H1 is for your article’s title). That makes it a lot easier for the designer to incorporate the hierarchy in the design.
Are you noticing that a story needs even deeper layers (H4/H5/H6)? In that case, it might be better to split your content into multiple stories instead.
#5 Images aren’t required
One of the benefits of using content as your starting point is that you won’t be bound to a specific topic. On many web pages, you’ll find an image at the top that doesn’t really add any context or value, like a generic stock photo of smiling people.
As you write, take the time to decide whether your text needs visual support, and if it does, carefully consider what that should look like.
#6 Incorporate SEO best practices in your copy
Well-formulated user stories and Google search queries have a lot of overlap. This is precisely the information your target audience is looking for.
It would be a shame if your (potential) clients and users can’t find your website due to poor search engine optimization.
That’s why you should keep SEO best practices in mind while you’re writing. Are all the writers in your company knowledgeable about (the latest trends in) search engine optimization? If not, consider using a system that will give youreal-time advice about your content’s SEO as you write.
That’s why it’s helpful to let a few other people (coworkers, but definitely also your target demographic) take a look at your user stories.
Also a good idea: step away from your written content for a week or so. Looking it over again for the second time, it will be easy to notice any missing points or areas that need some clarification and cleaning up.
Both websites contain roughly the same information, as long as you click far enough through. But the British site provides a much easier overview. Why is that? In this article, you’ll read all about the role that content design (not to be confused with content strategy) plays in the development of a user-friendly website. The steps listed below will help you get started.
What is content design?
From 2010 to 2014, Sarah Richards worked on Gov.uk, the website for the British government. Early on, she felt it was a bit of a mess. For every page she asked herself three questions:
Does this page have a clear goal?
Which task do users aim to complete here?
Is that task a government task?
Only 4% of pages offered a clear answer to all three questions. She and her team began the challenging task of transforming the existing content to be simpler, clearer, and quicker to access. She cut back the number of website pages from 75,000 to 3,000. The project would go on to win multiple awards and UK citizens are now able to access the information they’re looking for much more quickly. Richards wrote about her experience in the book ‘Content Design’. In the book, she explains how to produce a website that is user-friendly by considering your site from the user’s perspective. You’ll discover the most important points below.
Is content design important for my SEO?
Content design is a convenient method to improve your website’s usability. A user-friendly website will encourage visitors to stick around your page a bit longer. They won’t return to the search results as quickly. Google will register that behavior and reward you with a higher ranking. So the answer is yes, content design is definitely important for your SEO! Reading tip: 5 reasons why User Experience (UX) is important for SEO
#1 Based on user input
It’s impossible to successfully (re)design your website without knowing exactly what your users are expecting. There are many different ways to find out what that is:
Tracking tools like Hotjar – how many visitors are using your site at the moment?
Brainstorming with any team member responsible for client relationships.
Based on all this input, you can create user stories: As (who) I want to (what) so that (why) Let’s stick with the example of the government websites: As a citizen of The Netherlands, I want to apply for a new passport so that I can travel abroad.
#2 Start with the content
These user stories are incredibly helpful in redesigning your website. Focus on the most important stories first and take a look at how accessible your content currently is. Keep in mind that user stories don’t exist on an island; someone might come to your website with multiple questions in mind, or might mean something slightly different from the topic they initially Googled. For example, they searched for passport but really need an ID card. Or they might want to know the requirements for a passport photo. Make sure you supply a number of links to related topics so you don’t cause any interruptions to the customer journey. This list of alternatives will come to you partly through logical reasoning and partly through data analysis. Webtexttool can help you discover alternative keywords, for example.
#3 Readable text is essential
Now that you have a list of important user stories and related topics, it’s time to start writing. A readable text must be at the basis of great content design. Even if you eventually turn it into images or other types of multimedia content. Reading tip: Checklist for easy to read (web) text
#4 Consistent layout based on content
Only now has the time come to bring in graphic design. Shown above is a website example of the Dutch insurance company, ASR: the most important user stories are summarized in five categories. Anyone looking for something different can enter their question into a search or chat bar. Beyond that, there’s as little ‘noise’ as possible. No distracting banners or obnoxious boxes. The colors are consistent, as is the text. The trend of designing for mobile first is helpful in creating a user-friendly design; because there is so much less room on a smartphone screen, you’ll be encouraged to showcase the most important information first.
Conclusion: helpful in your content strategy
This article is an introduction to content design. Now you know that you can develop user stories based on user input: As (who) I want to (what) so that (why) With the help of these stories, you can structure your website in a logical, user-friendly way. First, write easy-to-read and SEO-friendly content, and only then can you get started on the graphic design of your website.