Mufaddal Sadriwala is betting on Web Stories in 2023 and encourages all SEOs to start understanding the basics of how to create them, why they are important, and where they can be visible.
Mufaddal says: “My number one tip is all about Web Stories (formerly known as AMP Stories). That is going to be a huge thing in the near future, in my opinion - for Google and for the users as well. It is going to improve a lot in 2023 and, obviously, further down the line. I would recommend all brands, and all SEO consultants, start some of the basics around them.”
If an SEO hasn’t heard of them before, what are the advantages of Web Stories, and what target markets and businesses is it best suited for?
“We all know about Instagram Stories and social media Stories. A Web Story is the same as the Story that goes on Instagram and other social media platforms - the difference is that it has been added to your website. You also have a shareable URL, which you can send out to anyone who is wanting to view your Story on your website, and on any other platform too. You have more control over your Story, and you can track them in web analytics tools like Google Analytics or Adobe.
The best part about this is that your Stories can be featured on Google Discover. If you’re putting out a Story, Google will index it and it can feature on the Discover playlist feed on the Google Search app. Google has all the data about our browsing history, our search history, the websites that we have visited, etc. - and it will display your Story to the users that it feels are relevant.
If I’m a sports enthusiast that’s into soccer, and I have done a lot of searches in the past about the players, scores, and everything about the matches that are coming up in the future, Google will identify that I’m a soccer fan. If a sports or news website puts up a Story around Ronaldo or Messi, then Google might start showing that Story in my Google Discover feed.
Another great thing about Web Stories is that Google has recently started featuring them in the search results. All the shifts that we are seeing in terms of higher visual content consumption happening across platforms are also reflected in Google search. Google is realising that, so they’re putting out Web Stories in the search results as well. If someone is searching for a very visual-heavy search, Web Stories will show up, along with the image and video snippets.”
Google Discover is a relatively new concept. What is it exactly?
“Discover is a machine learning-generated feed. It features content from across the web - not just Web Stories, but other content like articles too. It shows content dependent on the user’s preferences and personalization. It takes into account your browsing history, search history, the kind of content that you consume, etc., to determine what will appear on your Discover feed.
It’s like your Instagram feed. Based on the type of content that you engage with on social media and the accounts that you engage with, the algorithm pushes those kinds of content to you. Google Discover works in more or less the same way. It shows websites, articles, or Stories in your Discover feed - depending on what you have been looking for, what your interests are, your location, and things like that. A lot of factors are taken into account.
What Google shows to the user is much more accurate, and much more relevant, because Google has the most data about what we have been searching for. It’s not just your Web Stories that can be featured on Discover, it’s your articles too, but Stories are more visually appealing, so I’m putting my bet on that.”
How can you publish Web Stories on your website, and what does that look like, technically?
“There are two ways that you can create Web Stories on your website. The first is that Google has created a plugin, which is specifically for WordPress websites. If your website is not on WordPress, you can buy a subdomain (i.e. ‘webstories.thedomain.com’) and install WordPress on that subdomain. Then, you can start creating Web Stories using that plugin, which is very easy and very user-friendly.
It’s just drag-and-drop. It works in the same way that you create presentations: you have a couple of slides, you can add images, you can add text, you can visualise it, and you can create a design and make it beautiful. You have all the control at the click of a button. People who have used WordPress know how easy it is to create content using the platform.
That’s one way of doing it. The other way that Google lays down, if you have to code it yourself, is that you can use AMP as a technology to create Web Stories. For that, you will need the help of a developer. The way that works is that you have to decide upon the slides that will go into that story, and then check with a developer, and get that as a hard-coded page. That can then become a Web Story attached to the URL, or to the website where you’re publishing it.”
What is the best practice in terms of format for a Web Story?
“Web Stories should be more in the listicle format, and they should be more on the visual side of things. One of the ways that I started doing Web Stories was that I figured out all the best-performing textual content that I had on my website (blog content, articles, etc.), and I turned them into Stories. Not just copying and pasting things from there, but figuring out the top 10 or 20 articles, deciding how many slides I needed to create, and then adding more media to that - more images, audio, videos, etc.
Web Stories should be very visually appealing. It’s not like your usual text content, like your articles or the long-form content that you have. You want to be putting information out in a visual way, rather than just adding a block of text.”
Is video supported on Web Stories?
“Yes, you can add video. It supports video, it supports GIFs, it supports animation, and you can also add audio. The great thing is that you can also add a call to action at the end of the Web Story, or even in between any of the slides that you are looking at.
If you’re wanting users to subscribe to your newsletters, to read more about the story that you’ve created in a textual format, or to buy your product, then you can add a call to action. Let’s say you have created a Web Story on ‘10 Wedding Dresses for Brides to Consider’. You can actually add a link to each of the slides for each of the dresses that you’re talking about. Then, people can explore the product and also make a purchase accordingly.
Everything is possible with Web Stories. You can add a link, you can add a call to action, you can get more subscribers, and you can also promote your advertising now. For every 10 slides of Web Stories, you can also add one slide of ad in between. You can integrate your ad platform and your ad can start showing up in your Web Stories. Google is looking at it as a long-term thing. They are putting their best technology forward and improving it on a daily basis.”
What does analytics look like for Web Stories?
“When you create a web story it generates a unique URL, just like you have for articles and long-form content. You can measure the traffic and the impact of it by putting the URL as a filter in Analytics and Search Console. You will get to know what type of users, what countries, how many, etc.
You don’t need a specific analytics tool for Web Stories - it’s like analysing traffic or performance for any other URL. You have the URL, and you can put that as a filter in any of the tools that you’re using to analyse the performance or the traffic. It will give you all the same information, like gender, demographics, locations, languages, etc.
In AMP HTML you had to create a separate GA code but, for Web Stories, you don’t have to do anything like that. It’s just like a normal Analytics code.”
What shouldn’t SEOs be doing in 2023? What’s seductive in terms of time, but ultimately counterproductive?
“As SEOs, we should stop looking at SEO from a narrow perspective - ‘This is my on-page. This is my off-page. This is link building. This is technical. This is my job.’ Also, stop looking at SEO in silos. We should look at SEO from a broader perspective and consider how it fits into the marketing budget. Where does it fit in the product market? What value can we add as SEOs? Where do we stand in the bigger picture for the brand, for the marketing team, and for the product?
We need to think about how we can contribute beyond just the SEO changes that we are recommending. Web Stories is one example of that. If you’re using Stories, a marketing strategy can go much further. Let’s say the social media team is creating a campaign for IG, Facebook, etc. We can recommend a strategy and use that in our Web Stories as well. Whenever stories are going on Instagram, we can also utilise that and put it up on our Web Stories as well. The performance that is being measured on these social media platforms can act as a test for Discover, and it can feature on Google search results as well.
Stop looking at SEO as just an SEO thing. Start looking at it with a more holistic approach. Look at what we can do better, how we can work with each other, how we can work cross-functionally with other departments, and how we can make our product, our website, and our brand better.
Another piece of advice is that I’ve seen a lot of agencies still talking about obsolete techniques, like social bookmarking and directory submissions. These kinds of techniques have really been obsolete for the last 10 years now, but I still see them in the decks that are pitched to clients. It’s high time to stop talking about these techniques and start looking at SEO from a more holistic approach. Look at the bigger picture, rather than just looking at on-page, off-page, and the technical side of things.”
Mufaddal Sadriwala is SEO Manager at Assembly Global and you can find him over at mufaddal.digital.
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