Telling Your Story for People… and Search Engines


In 2021, Roberto lost 100 pounds and reversed diabetes and high blood pressure. He started a blog, hoping to share his story and help others lose weight. For two years, he created daily blog posts full of helpful information. He got vulnerable, sharing personal stories of triumph and defeat. His content never ranked above the second or third pages on Google.

Losing weight was proving far easier than getting Google’s attention. Out of frustration, Roberto stopped blogging. There weren’t any loyal followers reading his content, so why would he continue?

It wasn’t until much later that Roberto learned about search engine optimization (SEO). He returned to his blog posts and updated each one to focus on a primary keyword. He improved his metadata. He exchanged low-quality links for authoritative sources.

Roberto started to see his blog ranking better with Google. That gave him the motivation he needed to continue with fresh content.

This post isn’t about Roberto. It’s about what you just read: a story. It’s about the power storytelling has to push your content to the next level in SERPs.

What Does Google Really Want from You?

There’s a reason content creators spend so much time on content analytics. You want to understand what Google considers excellent content. Then you want to apply that knowledge to your content and check with Google to see how you score.

It’s like a game with endless levels. It’s easy to get stuck in frustration on what seems like a pointless endeavor. Right when you find something that works, your competitors find something better and jump a level ahead. If it seems random, or you focus on the lack of transparency by search engines, you may give up before you have the chance to succeed.

Google’s mission isn’t as secret as many assume. No, they’re not going to give you a checklist of things to do to make it to number one on every keyword. That’s because there is no exact formula that applies to every niche equally. They may never share details of their algorithm or explain the logic behind the algorithm.

We still know that Google is a search engine that promises to deliver relevant content suggestions. Real people come to the search engine to find something that they consider valuable. Google wants to deliver that something as quickly as possible.

That tells us that Google values content that is all of the following:

  • Well identified
  • Accurate
  • Detailed
  • Entertaining
  • Organized
  • Updated

Well-identified simply means that Google can crawl the content and easily determine what it’s about. How else will the search engine match each page of your website to the most relevant search terms? If you miss that point, even the best content won’t rank well.

Accurate, updated content is also critical because Google wants searchers to count on them to deliver trustworthy content. That’s what keeps them coming back to Google instead of going to Bing or another competitor.

Then we have organized, detailed, and entertaining. Those points are all about delivering content that searchers want to view. If someone loses interest in five seconds and bounces back to the search engine, Google has failed.

We may never know how Google judges each of these points. We do have a good idea of what the search engines are looking for in content.

Storytelling and SEO – Give Google the Goods

It’s clear that storytelling is a great way to pull in human readers. There’s something rewarding about peeking into the lives of other people. We want to hear about the major wins and learn how to earn our own. We want to hear stories of others overcoming obstacles that we also face. It gives us hope.

It may seem like stories are only for human readers. In fact, it may seem to work against SEO. It’s difficult to work your target keywords into a story, right? Google may also struggle to decipher the relevancy of content told through the story.

All of that is valid, BUT:

When you get good at implementing storytelling in your content, you realize that it does help with SEO. How? There are many answers, including:

  • Reduced Bounce Rates – Readers are more likely to stay on the page and read to the end when elements of storytelling are implemented.
  • Improved Engagement – A story may lead to more comments, likes, and social shares.
  • Return Visits – When visitors become invested in your personal stories, they’re likely to return often. They want updates on your journey. You offer something extra that your competitors may lack.
  • Enhanced Authority – Personal experience qualifies you to talk about your niche. Storytelling can show Google and human readers that you have authority and are trustworthy.

Storytelling Tips to Enhance Your Content

You can’t watch content analytics to determine the effectiveness of your storytelling. You also don’t need to take a creative writing class to learn. The easiest approach is to connect your personal experiences to the content you want to share. Open your content with the story and allow it to resurface throughout the content and in the closing.

To bring your story full scale, get creative with keyword insertion. Select keywords that will fit into the story naturally. Maybe it won’t appear in the first two paragraphs every time, but you can usually get a keyword in the first quarter of text if you adjust the story a bit.

Here is a quick list of additional storytelling tips that will help you take your stories to the next level for human readers:

  • Focus on one clear message. That message should support the goal of your content to ensure it’s relevant for SEO and clear to the reader.
  • Take advantage of conflict. Don’t shy away from your stumbling points and failures. Show your human side to connect with your audience.
  • Think about the needs and desires of your target audience. You’re more likely to establish strong connections if you share stories they want or need to hear. How do you relate to your audience? How have you overcome problems that they are now trying to solve?
  • Cut irrelevant details even if they’re your favorite parts of the story. Storytelling in content marketing is brief. You aren’t writing a novel. Your goal is to make a point through the story. Anything that doesn’t move the story forward is fluff. Cut all the fluff.

What if you want to tell more of your story than you can fit into one piece of content? You simply have more content to write. That’s always a good problem to have, right?

When you master the art of storytelling and combine it with SEO, you can write amazing content. You can reach human readers while giving Google exactly what the algorithm craves.

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