How many times have you noticed brands struggling with their content marketing techniques? You see their content and you can tell that a lot of effort went into it. It just seems so… dry.

Then there are those brands that capture your interest with unique points and style that flows. That content grabs and holds your attention.

Storytelling is the key element that makes this difference!

We’re not talking about boring stories, which we usually see as an introduction to a recipe. You see a great photo of something you’d love to eat and all you want is the recipe. But then you scroll through a never-ending story about the blogger’s grandmother who used to make this, her husband and kids who loved it, and the occasion when she prepared it. No; the audience wants relevant stories that prove a point. We’re talking about user experiences and real-life examples that add real value to the content without making it boring and too long.

When done well, storytelling will be your ultimate SEO secret.

We’ll give you a few simple storytelling tips that will take your content from “meh” to WOW!  

What Is Storytelling for SEO?

To answer this question, we should combine the answers to two other questions:

What is storytelling?

According to the National Storytelling Network, storytelling is an “ancient art form and a valuable form of human expression.” That’s a broad definition, so they define a few characteristics that clarify the concept:

  • Storytelling is interactive
  • It presents a story
  • It uses actions, such as gestures, physical movement, and/or vocalization
  • It encourages the active imagination of the listeners

What is SEO?

Search engine optimization (SEO) is a process of boosting the website traffic numbers by making it more visible in search engine results. To do that, you include several techniques in your marketing campaign:

  • Content writing based on keywords that people would use to search Google
  • Building links through guest posts=Creating great landing pages
  • Improving the speed and overall user experience of the website
  • Including sitemaps, which indicate the type of content featured across the site
  • Optimizing image descriptions
  • Optimizing the site for mobile search
  • Including keyword-optimized meta tags, and more

When we combine the concepts of storytelling and SEO, we’ll get the definition of storytelling for SEO. You’re still developing content in accordance with all the principles of SEO. You can use a free keyword rank checker to figure out what phrases would get your pages ranked in the search results. However, the type of content you create will be based on storytelling. You won’t make the content about you and your brand. You’ll make it about your users, and you’ll use their stories as the guiding factor.

Don’t worry; it’s less complicated than it sounds. We’ll give you a step-by-step guide on how to write for SEO. 

Tips for Introducing Storytelling into Your SEO Strategy

  1. Always Start with a User Story

This is the main rule of content marketing to remember: the content should never be about you and your brand. Your users are in the spotlight.

It’s amazing to see this tip being repeated so frequently, yet many brands not listening to it. Just open the About page at a few websites. You’ll see the same pattern: me me me!

“The brand was founded in 1996, and we started expanding to international markets in 2002. Since then, we’ve produced six lines of products and met the needs of millions of customers around the world.”

That’s not the type of content we’d call SEO storytelling. It will lose a reader’s attention after the first sentence. Unless someone is writing a research paper about your brand, they have no interest in reading such a dull page. It’s much better to tell a story that answers these questions:

  • Who is your main customer?
  • What do they get by using your brand?
  •     Why do they choose this one over any competitive brand?

You’ll follow this rule for any page you feature on your website. Whenever you write product descriptions, start with a user story.

Check this nice blog post that recommends perfumes for those born under the sign of Cancer. It’s nothing like “we recommend these scents, so you have to buy them from us because our brand is the best of the best!” It starts by telling who the user is, and it goes on explaining why they would love each of the suggestions made across the post. The brand is mentioned at the very end of the content.

This is the kind of text storytelling that works.

2. Write for People; not for Google

When writing for SEO purposes, you have the search engine’s algorithm to mind. That’s why you search for all those keywords and carefully implement them in your content.

SEO comes with many elements:

On-page SEO factors

  • Simple and clear URL
  • Keywords, especially in the headings and the first third of the text
  • Heading tags
  • Description and title tags
  • Social sharing buttons
  • Content length (long-form is better)
  • High-authority outbound links
  • Internal links that revive old content at the site
  • Visuals
  • Lower loading time

Off-page SEO

  • Quora and Reddit answers
  • Contributing to article directories
  • Guest posting at high-authority blogs
  • Featuring guest posts
  • Posting blog comments with links to your site
  • Creating a YouTube channel to promote the website
  • Social media sharing, and more

It’s easy to get carried away in all this hassle and forget a very important rule of content marketing: you write for people; not for Google.

Many content marketers are afraid that if they include user stories in the text, they would deflate the keyword density and negatively affect the rankings. That’s not true. Keyword density is not a ranking factor. In fact, if you include too many keywords in a small chunk of text, your content will look spammy and the algorithm will not award you for that.

Even if SEO is your main purpose, the content should still be legible. When someone reads it, they should quickly understand your point. Engaging them with a user story is the way to go. You’ll use consistent, clean voice throughout the entire content. You’ll abandon jargon and fluff, and you’ll make both the readers and the search engine happy. It’s mostly about the readers, though.

3. Suspense Will Keep the Reader’s Attention

What keeps you watching 2-hour-long movies without blinking? It’s suspense.

In literature and film, suspense is defined as “a state or condition of mental uncertainty or excitement, as in awaiting a decision or outcome, usually accompanied by a degree of apprehension or anxiety.”

When sharing user stories, you want to keep the outcome somewhat mysterious. You’ll start by explaining a serious problem that the user had before they started using your product. Let’s say you’re selling skincare products. The story can start with the user’s prom when they felt rejected and isolated because of their skin issues. They went through college without finding a solution, and they felt like their appearance negatively affected job interviews as well. Then, when they started using your products, their skin broke out like crazy at the beginning. See? Suspense. The reader didn’t expect this. As the user kept implementing the recommended regimen, their skin gradually changed.

When using suspense in storytelling blogs, you should stay away from the “tacky” effect. You know those cheap TV movies that use outdated suspense methods and you see right through them? The woman is alone in the kitchen, she hears a sound and she’s sure there’s someone behind the curtain. Scary music plays in the background. She slowly approaches. Slowly, slowly, she opens the curtain and BANG, it’s her cat playing behind it.

You don’t want that effect. When you’re using suspense, you make the reader expect something. Deliver that something; otherwise, your post is just a clickbait that will make the readers angry for wasting time.

To create great suspense, you should make the reader care about the final solution that you’re about to present. They should find themselves somewhere in the story, so they will identify with the character. This is possible only if you know a lot about your audience. What issues do they face? You can use a survey to find out, and you’ll create stories out of the average results.

4. Make It Powerful Enough for People to Share

“Shareability” is a factor that the search engine definitely takes into consideration. When high-authority resources link to your page, the search engine will consider it’s more relevant to the target audience. Thus, it will boost its ranking when people use adequate keywords to search for content like yours.

Of course, you can get links through guest posting, However, authentic links are more realistic and valuable. Others do the linking for you, so you won’t have to write more content.

Great SEO includes storytelling as an aspect that boosts credibility and shareability. When you include case studies and user experience in your posts, people will link to them. Storytelling is not about imaginary content that sounds like a story. It’s about the reality of your brand. If you use numbers, percentages, and real effects that users got when they relied on your products or services, you’re boosting the content’s shareability factor.

Here are a few tips to help you with that:

  • Choose a good topic. It should be emotional, relevant, and tied to the identity of your readers.
  • If possible, include images that prove the story is real. If you’re sharing user experience about skincare products, include before-and-after snaps. That will make it easier for people to pin the content. Pinterest will suggest it to other users, and it will get more shares from thereon.
  • Feature social media buttons on each page, so it will be easy for people to share your content across platforms. 
  •     You’ll also need keywords. You want Google users to find your content, so they can share it further.

5. Create Content for Brand Awareness

You absolutely, positively want to tell the story of your brand. It won’t be based on the “me me me” concept. You’ll talk about the brand and its founders, but you’ll put it in the “how it helps users” context.

DECIEM’s About page is a great example of that. It creates brand awareness since it makes people aware of what the brand stands for. It shares some history, but the content is focused on the final user. “We choose to serve the educated, the curious and the intelligent who appreciate our dedication to this very genuine definition of quality.” That gives us an answer to the “who” question. Who benefits from these products?

When you share content for boosting brand awareness, you help your customers to learn something more about your company and products. This is not the time to share a dry story about the year when your company was founded and all that. You want to tell a personal story, so the users will identify themselves with it.

Here are a few ideas that help you create stories for raising brand awareness:

  • How does your brand contribute to social causes?
  • Are there any announcements you’d like to share? If you’re restructuring the business, reinventing the offices, or hiring new people in important positions, you have opportunities to share stories.
  • Each goal you achieve is a foundation for a story. You just got one million subscribers on Instagram? You can share something about the stepping stones and memorable moments that got you there.  

Tell Your Stories!

SEO storytelling is a relatively simple concept. You follow all your SEO techniques, but you introduce storytelling as part of the process. You’ll still be using keywords, guest blogging, and everything else involved in search engine optimization. But stories will add a personal element to your content. To the readers, it will be obvious that you developed the content for them; not for the search engine.

But remember: your stories have to be relevant, real, and credible. There’s no room for made-up stories when you’re trying to raise brand awareness.

Kate Peterson

Kate Peterson is a digital marketer, graphic designer, and content developer. She’s currently developing a beginners’ digital marketing course that aims to provide a comprehensive online marketing methodology.  In her free time, Kate contributes to various social causes through non-profit movements.

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Content marketing guru at MailMunch. I’m passionate about writing content that resonates with people. Live simply, give generously, stay happy.