Are Google Web Stories an essential tool for your WordPress website?
A colleague recently alerted me to the new phenomenon of Google Web Stories, perhaps I had been napping at the wheel, or just so damn busy… but hey I’m not complaining. Start-ups and established companies alike, seem to be adding new features by the week! So here’s another new one for you to dig your digital teeth into. If you are unfamiliar with Google Web Stories and why you should or should not worry about them, then read on my friends. Cheatsheet pending.
What are Google Web Stories?
Google web stories are a “snackable” web content designed to tell a story or convey a message in micro chunks of content. This new content tool created by Google is a mobile-first user experience, and all design follows this mobile-first philosophy.
The format of a Google Web Story is using a full, portrait mode mobile screen; the user taps through the story ingesting the content over several pages. Stories are recommended by Google to be between 5 and 30 pages, with an optimal length of 10 – 20 pages. As the name suggests, a Web Story tells a complete story without the need to click off to other web pages or without being overly commercial. Each page of the Google Web Story can incorporate text, imagery and video however the bite-sized philosophy applies here also, with videos recommended to be around 15 seconds long (with captions) and any text is to be less than 200 characters per page.
Google Web Stories can display in several ways on Google. The first is as a classic web search result, however as there are more stories created the stories will be displayed in a separate section of the search results as a grid; similar to how Google Maps display search results. The Google Web Stories can also appear as news items and in image search results.
What is AMP and why should I care?
The development framework behind Google Web Stories is the AMP (Accelerated Mobile Pages) framework. AMP is an open-source HTML framework that elevates UX as priority in design. The purpose behind the framework is not just mobile-first, but also speed and performance. The Amp Framework was created by Google and launched in 2016.
You may not realise it, but you have probably been interacting with AMP sites for quite some time. AMP sites appear in mobile search results with a lightning symbol (see image below).
Who is currently using Google Web Stories?
More corporate content creators than you may realise are taking advantage of the AMP platform and co-publishing their content as Google Web Stories. CNN, Mashable, Australian Broadcasting Corporation (ABC) and People magazine are all producing Google Web Stories in an AMP format.
What is the Google Web Stories Plugin for WordPress, and should I install it?
Now that we understand what a Google Web Story is and how to develop one, we need to take a closer look at the next piece of the puzzle – the new Google Web Story WordPress plugin. The plugin enables WordPress content authors to create Google Web Story content in the (relative) peace and tranquillity of their WordPress website.
I downloaded the plugin at the beginning of my research on this article, without understanding the full scope and purpose of a Google Web Story. At that point, I found the plugin a little pointless. Whilst easy to operate and understand, the plugin did not import any of my site’s CSS, the templates were limited, and the design environment was too disconnected from my site. I can see many, many improvements that could be incorporated into future iterations of the plugins and will most certainly keep my eye on these as the plugin is updated. #watchthisspace
In short, the plugin is a bit lacklustre; however, that does not mean you shouldn’t start moving some of your content to Google Web Stories for SEO purposes. Or at least do some more research around it to see how it may fit in with your website strategy.
How will Google Web Stories affect my SEO?
Like with any innovation from Google, it will favour content that is designed for Web Stories when it comes to SEO. Whilst occasionally, there is a Google Flop – think Google Wave, most Google led innovations carve the way for a new path. You could fight the machine and resist the move to Google Web Stories, but the only sufferer of this will be yourself. Never fight the machine, make it work for you.
We know that Google indexes WordPress websites effectively, but I have always been wary of the continuity of this relationship. I am encouraged to see Google producing the Web Story Plugin to bring the AMP technology into the WordPress platform; however, I will be watching with caution as this relationship continues to develop. There is one thing we know for sure about Google, and that is that it is most certainly in control. When it comes to SERP the one thing that will make your widget stand out among all the other widgets is how well you play with Google’s toys; and the Google Web Story is the newest and shiniest toy in the Google toy box.