Thousands of stories are circulating the internet: some true, some false, some short, some long. Some are for entertainment, and others are a source of knowledge.
No matter whether for online shops, company websites or image sites, websites always require high quality content to persuade users of certain products, services or opinions. People have their own free will; therefore, a person will decide which stories to take into consideration and which websites to ignore.
For SEO-optimized texts, storytelling isn’t a new thing. Websites that are still operating but pursue keyword spamming are punished by google. With the panda update, the quality of the text has become more important and it is therefore worth optimizing website texts for online shops and brand websites. In this article, I explain how psychological basics can be integrated into the creation of content, and which positive effects evergreen storytelling has on the ranking of a website.
We write for every reader, user, interested party and potential customer. However you want to name your reader, the times in which online magazines were only written for search engines is in the past.
It’s easy to know what the user wants – they want websites they can trust in, with high quality information. This type of content is also important for the company behind the website, as they want to have a strong presence on the internet. High quality leads and conversions can only be generated with a good reputation. So how can we make our users happy?
In marketing, there are many different ways in which you can influence the psyche of a user. I would like to focus on the four most important that are useful for the creation of content.
Of course texts also have to be optimized for search engines. The topic should be structured in a way that creates an entire picture. So-called Keyword Clusters are assembled using the main keyword and semantic terms. This serves as the basics of text creation. In this way, the topic can be displayed in its entirety on the website, giving the reader a detailed overview.
With the Hummingbird update, search queries should be answered quickly and precisely. The algorithm recognizes the everyday language of the user, and is particularly focused on longtail search queries, in which every word has a meaning. In this way, a semantic relationship is created between the words, and the search results can be given more precisely.
Entertaining content is shared particularly often, but informed content that portrays opinions is also often shared among friends. These factors should always be taken into account when producing content to be more successful with outreach.
Whilst Push-Marketing used to be very popular, now, Pull-Marketing is used more frequently. Potential customers want to decide themselves about whether to purchase a product. You should always try to motivate the buyer and interested parties.
This understanding is called User Psychology. Website operators have to understand the motivation of the user. The question is no longer "What does the user need?", but "What does the user expect?", "What are his intentions?" At the same time, so called reception profiles are created which can define the user more precisely.
These can be split into four categories:
1. The realist who knows exactly that he is being manipulated
2. The passive person who enjoys the story/storytelling and utilizes the information
3. The extrovert who wants to impress their friends with the acquired knowledge
4. The player who discovers new platforms and would like to be a part of the story
With the creation of texts, the recipient always has to be considered.
The well-known trick of the marketing world is simple – negative emotions are triggered, which can then be turned into something positive with an innovative product. Through this, companies put themselves onto the level of a potential buyer, because they know what the users are looking for, and what solutions they require.
1. The cushion material of the patio furniture dries quickly. Or: the cushion material of the patio furniture will be quickly dry again after a summer storm. What appeals to you more?
2. A summer dress is promoted in an online shop on a white background. Isn’t this a bit boring? If a fashion item is combined with a styling tip – i.e. matching shoes, jewellery or make up – this can really say something, and the chances of a conversion increase.
Figure 1. Dress with jewellery suggestion (Source: Debenhams)
The brain thinks in pictures and meanings. Abstract ideas are therefore difficult to understand. It is therefore clear that the user wants in-depth information which can be shared with friends and acquaintances. Advertising campaigns or posts that don’t tell a story are quickly disregarded.
With the creation of content, this question regularly comes up: what type of content should be created? Short-term content can be generated quickly and easily. However, the hype then declines. Creating evergreen content requires however a lot of effort and research. The value of it, however, is enormous.
The term “Evergreen Content” comes from evergreen trees (conifers). The trees never stop photosynthesizing and therefore stay green the all year round. The same applies to content that stays relevant. The creation of evergreen content, as well as making the target group aware of it, takes up a lot of time.
However, when the first links are created, the content seeds itself. Advice, guides, and e-books are shared by users, and recommended for research or as source of information. With evergreen content, a static landing page is created which, if necessary, can be supplemented with new information. They always have the same URL so that users know: "I’ll find the necessary input here." If good content already exists in the form of blog entries or short stories, these can and should be constantly expanded.
Short term content is the content of choice for many bloggers and social media marketers: catchy content that stays in your head and is widely shared. This type of content will usually have lurid titles such as "This happens to your body when you stop smoking" or "Shock! Concert from Mega-star in Cologne is cancelled – and there is no replacement." The aim is to generate clicks. Obviously, these headlines want to create a sensation. However, after a while, the hype is over, and the website disappears in the depths of the internet.
Good examples of this kind of content are websites like buzzfeed.com, which is full of clickbait and cliffhanger headlines.
Figure 2: Homepage buzzfeed.com (04/10/2017)
As a pure content marketing strategy, this type of content wouldn’t make sense for a brand who wants to generate trust. Good content has to be targeted towards a company and towards a target group to achieve long term success. That’s why Evergreen content is necessary.
Through stories that have been shared for centuries and millennia, a pattern has developed, which is frequently used again. The hero's journey is an important aspect of storytelling, and this should always be referred to.
The basis of the hero's journey is based on a model developed by Joseph Campbell (an American professor and author). As he researched in the area of mythology, his hero's journey contains many mythical elements. It consists of 17 steps and begins with "the call of adventure"
Figure 3: Joseph Campbell's hero journey (Source)
For storytelling with content production for the internet, the hero's journey can be clearly shortened. Of course, it can also be expanded if the story should be very comprehensive. Mythical elements shouldn’t be seen literally - they should represent a metaphor. The storytelling begins with picking up the reader where they first feel that they are lacking something, and ending with a reward – the product.
The biggest danger with producing texts for the internet is that you research and write, research and write, and suddenly 1000 words are written where actually only 300 are required. This should be avoided with Storytelling. It’s not about trying to integrate as many set phrases as possible, or saying something positive about the company. Storytelling describes the honesty that the company and website operator should show in order to appear approachable for their customers – they want to offer their customers an added value which can be shared with other users.
Telling stories is not something that started with digitalization – stories have been told for centuries to convey knowledge and experience, and to report on moral and ethical aspects of life.
Website content shouldn’t be created only for search engines, but above all for readers. How the different target groups can be picked up is clear from User psychology and the type of recipient. How should the content be prepared?
...through classic storytelling...
Fairy tales are the perfect example for typical story telling. They tell a linear story from start to end: once upon a time, there was a little girl who went into the woods to bring coffee and cake to her grandmother. She came across a big wolf who wanted to lure here away from the path. She refused, and went further to her grandmother’s house. The wolf was waiting, dressed as her grandmother, to eat the little girl…
Everyone knows how the story continues. But can’t stories be told in a more visual way?
...Liveliness with storytelling...
With storytelling, a landing page is created, which displays a story holistically. The reader scrolls through from chapter to chapter and experiences the story with the help of visual effects.
...variation with Storytelling...
With Storytelling, lots of different visual elements like videos, pictures and illustrations are used to tell stories. In social media, posts without pictures are usually disregarded, and that’s why it’s important to supplement posts with touching images.
...create attention with transmedia storytelling...
Receive attention – that’s what big and small brands want. They want to be seen on the internet. An exciting story is created, which is then the basis for image posts, videos or quotes. This can then be adapted for and published on other platforms.
Informative content strengthens the trust of the user in the website. Firms can convey their entire Know-how through Storytelling, and they can show internal processes. Users obtain an overview into a world which they otherwise wouldn’t have seen – an important way of increasing the trust in the brand.
This concept can also be used for online shops. With online shops, classic SEO texts are often generated. That means: lots of content as quickly as possible. In the worst-case scenario, keyword stuffing is pursued, and then the text is finished – the quality of the text is neglected. However, even transactional texts can be informative, and can serve as comprehensive sales consultants.
The text should target the emotion- and motivation system of the user. When emotions are aroused, this influences the decision-making process and makes a conversion more likely. Moreover, when producing a text, it is important to think about the motive of the user. These factors play an important role when creating texts to describe products and categories – the users are made aware about the necessity of why they need this specific product. In order to design the content suitably, you have to place yourself in the mind of the user. Think about the emotion- and motivation system, and define what information is important for the user, and why. Some people want security, whereas others love adventure. These product characteristics should be highlighted and advertised through suitable formulations.
If the target group is defined exactly with their motive, texts can be directed towards this. The consequence: more trust, high conversion rate.
Evergreen storytelling is a great way to appear in first place in the Google search results. With this, the added value of the information should be in the foreground, and a concise structure should be used. Through this, users will be stimulated to share the content, and not just on a whim. They should actively participate in the conveying of knowledge. Firms and online shops profit equally from evergreen storytelling. Firms can share exciting insights about internal processes, or even negative stories with their readers.
Online shops can also profit from storytelling, not only in blogs, but also in the product and category texts. Potential customers can be collected through storytelling. Moreover, through the positioning on the category page, interested parties can see products and advice in one overview, and this won’t interrupt their search during the customer journey.
Summed up, Evergreen Storytelling offers the following advantages:
Practice makes perfect!
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Published on 10/04/2017 by Lydia Hagen.
Lydia Hagen is an editor at the agency xpose360. She enjoys researching topics in detail and creating high quality texts for readers. At xpose360, she is responsible for (SEO-optimized) content- conception and production for websites.Become a guest author »