Get a peek at the new Google Web Stories plugin as well as its pros and cons, plus whether it’s something you want to jump on or not.
How to Create Google Web Stories [Video] – see all the tips and tricks to make a great Web Story
What Are Google Web Stories?
Web Stories are a subsect of the AMP framework. They are intended to be quick, bit-sized content that is visually immersive.
They will only appear in mobile Search. And they are intended to be a supplement to AMP news type posts, in an effort to bring in more variety.
Two Versions of Google Web Stories
The original version of Google Web Stories required coding and styling animations from scratch.
There is a new, free WordPress plugin called Web Stories that became available in late September 2020.
At the time of its release, the plugin provides a robust, but intuitive interface for creating Stories.
However, it lacks the animation features that are only available from the hard-coded version. Perhaps those will be included in later versions of the plugins.
One of the most striking elements of Web Stories is that they are squarely intended to be viewed on mobile.
The default layout is vertical.
And the Stories will only appear on mobile Search, not on desktop Search, which could limit their reach, depending on how your traffic views your site the most.
It’s All About Motion
From the examples Google Web Stories features in search, it’s also clear that they intend to feature Stories with video and/or motion.
That’s why it is a little surprising that all of the animation features for still images are not present in the plugin upon release.
And there are a view caveats with using video for Stories, which we’ll cover in a bit.
Custom Post Type
In WordPress, the Web Stories plugin creates its own new taxonomy as a custom post type.
At the time this post was written, there is no listing for controlling it in the Yoast SEO plugin. Perhaps that will be added soon now that the Web Stories plugin has been officially released out of beta.
Because it is a custom post type, Web Stories have their own URL.
The Story page can literally be accessed via its link directly.
That has a scary caveat too, covered in just a bit.
Embedding Web Stories
Having its own link, a Web Story can also be embedded directly into a post or page on the site too.
In fact, the plugin supports its own Stories block for Gutenberg. And Post block in Elementor has an element for Stories under the Query tab. Other page builders may also have a Stories block/element.
And, the Publish dialogue box includes an option to create a new post with the Web Story embedded into it.
The post’s title will be the same as that of the Web Story.
If the direct Stories link is clicked, it will appear in its own frame, almost like a lightbox of its own.
Links in Web Stories
One of the best marketing features of Web Stories is the ability to place a link on every page of the Story.
You can have a maximum of one link per page and only one affiliate link per Story.
This makes Web Stories a marketing magnet for CTAs (Calls to Action) as well as for products.
Obviously, being a Google product, there are SEO benefits galore to using Web Stories.
But, as with so many other Google products, this is Google’s “me too” entry to compete with all of the other social media platforms that have some type of story feature.
In other words, Web Stories could go away at any time.
The huge difference with Web Stories is that they can be prominently featured in Google’s mobile Search.
This gives content creators another way to hit the front page of Google by being featured in the Stories carousel.
It could also give a huge boost to ranking for the post in which the Story is embedded.
There are most definitely good and bad ways to use the features in Google Web Stories that will bring the most or least SEO benefit.
For instance, the use of Headings is much the same as it is for any post/page on a site.
Creating engaging content is another key.
Plus, the branded logo, Cover image, and title are all important in getting the Story ranked and getting viewers to click to open the Story.
My DIY SEO course covers all of the SEO tips and tricks to getting the most benefit from using Web Stories.
More Dos and Don’ts
Google Web Stories has a few caveats that you’ll definitely want to consider prior to using it.
Don’t Use Canva or Pinterest Images
Since the layout for Stories is vertical, many site owners who are big on Pinterest may be tempted to use the 2:3 ratio images they have already created in apps like Canva.
That’s not a good idea.
It’s far better to upload the raw image and use the Web Stories interface to add the text overlay. In fact, that’s the only way Google can crawl/read the text in the Story.
So, you can either crop and resize your raw image to fit a Web Story, or you could use the raw image you create in Canva or PicMonkey or another editor, but with no text on it.
Don’t Upload Videos to Your Site
Another no-no is to upload videos to your WordPress Media Library for use in Stories.
Even though Google suggests keeping your videos to 15 seconds or less, and shooting the video in low resolution 480p, those video files are still huge.
You’ll quickly run out of hosting disk space by uploading them to your site.
And while many hosts promote unlimited bandwidth, you may discover that it is not so unlimited after all, as videos chew up a lot of bandwidth at a time.
While there are fairly inexpensive file storage solutions like Amazon S3 (AWS/AS3), Google Drive, and even Dropbox, they have bandwidth limits too and may charge for the extra bandwidth needed to deliver a hot Story that goes viral.
Exclude from Cache
Before you get too deeply involved in creating and perfecting your Web Stories, you may want to create a page with a simple one embedded and have a few of your buddies visit the page to see what happens.
I’ve heard that some caching setups don’t play well with the embedded stories and you may need to exclude them in both your local caching plugin and in your CDN, like Cloudflare.
(For those with the free Cloudflare plan, you only get 3 Page Rules, which should all be in use. You will need to purchase another set of 5 rules to add another one for the Stories exclusion.)
I’ll be testing to see if this is an issue too, and will update this post or create a new one with a fix for it if it turns out to be a problem.
Potential Plugin Conflicts
While the Web Stories plugin was in beta, there were several reports of plugin conflicts.
Perhaps those kinks have been worked out for the most part.
We’ll see as more folks install the post-beta version of the plugin.
No Hotlink Protection
Another serious caveat of Web Stories is that there is no hotlink protection for them, as there are with images.
Hotlink protection keeps others from getting the URL to your image and placing that URL on their site.
If someone did that, it means that every time someone visits that page/post on their site, your image on it must be delivered from your hosting, chewing up your hosting bandwidth.
Because Web Stories have their own active URL, there is nothing to stop another site owner from getting that link and embedding it in their site.
This is also why it is so insanely important that you properly brand every page in your Story too.
As Pinterest creators can attest, that branding won’t stop scrapers from using it, just like it doesn’t stop them from stealing watermarked images from your site. But at least there will be no denying that the Story is yours.
I actually see this as being a bit of a nightmare and Google needs to make an option for Stories so that others can’t embed them on another site, just like there is an option for that on YouTube videos.
Keep Web Stories Short and Entertaining
With Stories, Google intends for us to provide a bit of entertainment to mobile searchers.
They want you to make your Stories eye-catching so that you get the click too.
And then make your Story engaging so that viewers click over to your site for more info.
So, the point of a Web Story is literally to tease viewers into clicking over to your site.
And that’s good for content creators who need to drive more traffic to their site.
Web Stories vs AMP
Google’s Web Stories are a far better bet than AMP ever was for most bloggers.
With the new WordPress plugin, Web Stories are content that bloggers can easily create using tools that they are already familiar with if they’ve ever worked in Canva or Photoshop.
And, Web Stories will not drop your revenue lower than whale poop because it does not require you to have stripped down, special formatting for your entire post just to get featured in the Search carousel.
Web Stories vs YouTube
Just like social media is considered micro-blogging, think of Web Stories as micro-vlogging.
Stories are way faster to create than a proper YouTube video.
And, with Google pushing Stories in mobile Search right now, you’re just as likely to get featured in the top carousel with them as you are with a YouTube video.
Plus, the Web Story has a link directly back to your associated post. Whereas a YouTube video links to your YouTube channel, not to a post where you may have the YouTube video embedded.
This is exactly why Stories are so popular on other social media platforms. They can lead traffic directly to the creator’s site. And that’s the whole reason why creators make these things.
But, I don’t believe Stories are as powerful as full videos on YouTube itself.
Keep in mind that YouTube is the 2nd largest search engine in the world. There are a LOT of searches that happen on YouTube itself.
Plus, YouTube videos get featured in Google Search already, both desktop and mobile.
And, a full length YouTube video embedded in your post can significantly raise your time-on-site metric. And that’s very beneficial to your SEO.
So, while Web Stories are another way to gain an SEO edge in mobile Search, they are not a replacement for creating videos for YouTube.
The bottom line is that Web Stories is a Google product that they are heavily pushing creators to make and will be featured prominently in mobile Search.
That’s enough reason to jump on the bandwagon of using this shiny, new thing.
But, Google does have a very long history of:
- creating “me too” products
- promoting them with extra SEO perks
- tweaking them every 5 minutes so that they become insanely hard to use and/or implement
- complaining that no one is using them
- then finally dropping or demoting them
G+ comes to mind as a recent casualty of this process. Hangouts is another example. AMP is yet another example. The list is long.
However, with this new WordPress plugin, Web Stories are easy enough for site owners to create to make them worth trying.
But, if you do embed them in your posts/pages, keep track of where they are, in case Google does drop support for them.
That could be a nightmare to clean up if you feature Web Stories prominently in your post.