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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

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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?

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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?

Driving Conversions

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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

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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

Mandy Boyle gets her daily fix of copywriting as the SEO Team Leader at Solid Cactus. She is also a published freelance writer , co-founder of NEPA BlogCon and was probably a baker in another life. Cupcakes, anyone?

Mandy Boyle

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24 Responses to “Storytelling: The Effective SEO Copywriting Tip You Shouldn't Ignore”

  1. Unmana says:

    I wanted to be a writer of fiction. I became a marketer. Turns out, there's not much difference. :)

  2. Bob Nunn says:

    Nice piece Mandy. Near & dear to my work and love your mash-up of story and SEO. There's some research on the power of stories in the post I did that you readers might like here: http://bit.ly/pawnstar

    • Ruud Hein says:

      Thanks for the link, Bob. Would you have a simple rule of thumb to help readers choose when to go for story and when to list "just the facts, ma'am"?

    • Bob Nunn says:

      Short answer; when engaged in activity to get you found by active buyers, stick to the facts and let the story take a backlink. When you're working further up the funnel seeking fame or when talking to your fans, look for ways to more aggressively promote your story. Why? Because when stories are crafted well they get re-told/shared. Make sense?

  3. Mandy says:

    Thanks Bob! I enjoyed the post on Pawn Stars :)

  4. Guy Bailey says:

    Very true Mandy – Just because a release is SEO compliant and optimized doesn't mean it has to bore the pants of you and mention 'Product X' every two lines…

  5. [...] The One Effective SEO Copywriting Tip You Shouldn't Ignore (searchenginepeople.com) [...]

  6. Mac says:

    Story telling is essential. Even in the most mundane of professional service activities like how to win new clients. Here is an example:

    http://clientonomy.com/improve-listening-skills-to-win-more-clients

    Regards, Mac

  7. Patty says:

    Great article, Mandy! I'm currently in a three-way debate with a client and his Web developer about whether SEO articles need to be engaging or not. The Web guy says "No" since their main purpose is SEO. I say "Yes" becasue we can't assume that those articles will be read by search engine crawlers alone. Your post definitely adds power to my argument.

    • Mandy Boyle says:

      Patty, glad to be of assistance :)

      It's a debate that I've been in before as well. Arm yourself with info! It definitely makes a difference.

  8. Good tip. I will start telling more stories now… like the time I…

  9. Leonard says:

    SEO compliant copywriting that is also entertaining is pretty hard to do.

    Oh I see the Canon XL2 lying around in one of the pics. Are you a videographer?

    Leonard

    UV Studio

  10. [...] The One Effective SEO Copywriting Tip You Shouldn't Ignore: SEO meets effective storytelling? Sign me up! [...]

  11. [...] The One Effectual SEO Copywriting Tip You Shouldn't Snub: SEO meets effectual storytelling? Sign me up! [...]

  12. [...] here, ever since Ruud Hein asked me for a guest post. Then I thought, hey, he contacted me after he saw my comment on Mandy’s post, so that should be a good starting point, [...]

  13. [...] story. Why tell a story? Because it connects with people. Good SEO copy has heart and can help you tell a story about a company, a brand, or a service. It could help you reach an audience and propel them toward [...]

  14. [...] writing affects people. When you want to engage your reader, tell a story. Storytelling is at the core of human communication and it's something we all can relate to. Make your SEO [...]

  15. [...] you can craft your writing around a compelling narrative, you'll draw your reader's attention and keep him or her engaged in the [...]

  16. Jenny Brown says:

    A person who knows how to write while keeping his viewers entertained is a talent. I know some SEO sites who embrace the informal ways of writing. These sites gain large amount of regular readers. :)

  17. Roman says:

    I think the "feel good" factor for a site is as much about design as storytelling. They work together to create this "feel good" feeling you are talking about. If story is good but site looks amateurish – nothing will happen…

  18. Bogdan says:

    Storytelling means sharing information in a way. However I guess we all grew up listing stories. I still wanna become an astronaut, and I don't mind being lied to, that I still have a chance :)

  19. Julia McCoy says:

    Storytelling is powerful, even in SEO copywriting. A great copywriter always sees the potential for the story he or she can tell.