I spend most of my time as an SEO copywriter for ecommerce stores and at least once a week, this question pops up:
Does anyone actually care about this copy?
The short answer is that if you tell a good story, they do.
Storytelling is something we've used as human beings since our earliest days. Through oral tradition, art, and eventually written language, we're able to make sense of the world around us and convey information in a way that sticks. Think about the kinds of conversations you have in the office on Monday morning when everyone shares how their weekend went. Those kinds of stories are easy to remember. They're also great to share if you find something interesting in them. But what makes you want to share them in the first place? What is it that make storytelling so powerful?
In my mind, it's emotional connections.
Let's Get Emotional, Baby
When you tell a story, you're not just conveying information. You're also using a method of communication that allows the listener, or your audience, to develop an emotional reaction. Sure there are lots of studies on this that can help you dissect the emotional response we have to stories, but from a more practical point of view, I would just take a look at what you're more likely to listen to.
Would you rather read something that's a stream of statistics and charts? Or would you rather read a narrative piece that talks about how someone overcame a challenge in a way you can relate to?
I'm pretty sure that most, if not all, of us would choose the narrative.
What About SEO Content?
From an SEO copywriting perspective, storytelling is a powerful ally that we can use to not only reach our target audiences, but also to motivate action. Companies like Starbucks and Apple leverage stories all the time to boost their sales and create brand loyalty. You can do the same thing with your site, even if you don't have million dollar marketing budgets.
The cool thing about storytelling is that it's universal. It doesn't matter how much you spend on marketing, how big your SEO team is, or even how much revenue you bring in each year. Telling a story on your site can help you make a bigger impact because, well, that's just human nature. We like stories. We like feeling an emotional connection to the story. We also like sharing stories.
Storytelling creates an emotional relationship with your audience and as a result, they'll be much more likely to share, trust, experience, and take action when it comes to your brand. This is crucial when it comes to SEO. When good content has the potential to be shared, it only increases your brand reach and we've all seen the power of social media. Not to mention, if you have people frequently interacting with your content and sharing a link back to it, your organic traffic and rankings can be improved.
But will it improve conversions in an e-commerce store?
With e-commerce sites, the goal is usually the same: drive conversions. In fact, all businesses consider their bottom line when it comes time to make decisions about marketing and copywriting. But conversions can only be generated under the right conditions. The visitor has to trust in your site's security. The price has to be competitive. The product must look appealing. The checkout must be simple. Granted, these are just a few of the factors that come into play when you start talking about conversions, but I've found that the most important impression is the first one. If your site doesn't "feel" good, it's likely no one will buy.
Storytelling can help you make that good first impression with a visitor so that they can keep diving deeper into your site and eventually, into the shopping cart. The key is to start a visitor's experience on your site by NOT treating them like a customer. Instead, treat them like a friend you would share a good joke with at the water cooler. Be conversational. Share information that he or she can relate to. If you build a connection to a visitor's heart, it's much easier to get them to take action in his or her wallet.
Every SEO Should Tell A Story
The art of storytelling can be used in every page of a client's site, every social media profile, every e-mail marketing blast, and every blog post. The fact that it's so universal makes it a key point for any good copywriter to consider. Our jobs as SEO copywriters are to tell stories that compel visitors to action while remaining search engine friendly. Notice that I'm saying we need to compel visitors first.
Although our goal is to do well in the engines, it makes more sense for us in the long run to focus on the visitor first because we can only make emotional connections with people. Through good storytelling in our SEO copywriting, we can get our visitors to share our site and trust us enough to keep reading. We can't make a search engine crawler's heart swell.
How do you use storytelling in your work?
Mandy Boyle is the Director of Internet Marketing at Net Driven. She is also a published freelance writer and co-founder of NEPA BlogCon. She enjoys theater, not taking herself seriously, and adventurous eating.