Now this is exciting...
You just read "Building a StoryBrand" by Donald Miller, or took his online course, and have about 20 ideas to implement into your website. Surely you'll double or triple your conversion.
But there's a problem.
You know you can't create website content for your visitors alone. Google is always watching. So you ask:
- What will Google think about my website changes?
- Is StoryBrand ok for SEO?
- Could I lose traffic by "StoryBranding" by site?
When it comes to SEO, you must be careful...
Mess this up and you could lose a ton of traffic.
The good news is you CAN clarify your message while maintaining good SEO.
In fact, I've done it.
As a Certified StoryBrand Guide, and someone who has built multiple websites on the back of SEO and Google search, I feel I'm uniquely positioned to help you with this topic.
So if you're a business owner, marketer, or even a StoryBrand guide looking to implement StoryBrand into a site, follow these Do's and Don'ts to stay in the good graces of Google and increase your traffic.
If you're in a hurry, here's a quick guide for the article:
- SEO Do's and Don'ts for StoryBranding/Redesigning a Blog Post
- StoryBranding a Home Page or Sales Page
- StoryBranding a New Page
Let's begin with a few clarifications.
You Must "StoryBrand" a Blog Post Differently Than a Home Page or Sales Page
By now, you've probably heard the following StoryBrand mantras:
How this applies to your website:
When a visitor lands on your site, you should picture them getting on a treadmill.
The more confusing you are, the less likely they'll continue to pay attention.
Don would say you have about 5 seconds for your visitor to figure out:
- what are you offering?
- how is going to make my life better?
- and how do I buy it?
... or they're likely to hit the back button.
So here's the problem.
When I first discovered StoryBrand, I was already getting over 50,000 unique visits per month from Google that were landing on plain, boring blog posts with massive amounts of text that looked like this:
So I wondered:
"Is this wrong? Should I tear these pages down and start from scratch?"
If you have blog posts getting traffic, perhaps you're asking the same questions.
But it gets worse.
If you've seen a keynote by Don, you'll know he even pokes fun at sites with too much text on them.
He actually takes quite a funny jab at Jeb Bush's website when he was trying to get the Republican presidential nominee. One of the things he points out are the two paragraphs to the left here.
Image credit to the Wayback Machine
"Now look at these two paragraphs here. Who wants to read that? NO ONE has ever read these two paragraphs in history. I've given this keynote 5 times and still haven't read them. Jeb's wife told him she read them, but she lied to him."
All the "example pages" Don gives in a keynote or anywhere else you see StoryBrand are super slick and clean like this homepage from Klientboost.com:
But how would I do that to my website if 99% of my top ranking pages were to blog pages comprised mostly of text?
"StoryBranding"Blog Pages Does NOT Equal Mass Deletion of Text
After a bit of thought, I realized that I couldn't possibly remove 90% of the text or add a slick header or image to my blog posts.
In fact, if I did, it would be detrimental.
The fact is, the in-depth, lengthy content on my site was probably the #1 reason I was getting so much search traffic in the first place.
According to Backlinko, who analyzed over 1 million search results, the average word count of an article ranking in position #1 in Google is now 1890 words.
So we actually NEED long-form content to rank.
After all, even StoryBrand has a blog, and guess what... its articles are filled with text too!
What about Adding a Home-Page-Like Image?
You might think, "Ok, I get not deleting my text, but what if I added a giant, nicely designed full-width image or header to my blog posts to greet my visitors similar to a homepage?"
Well, that would also be a mistake.
Multiple websites have reported that Google favors ranking pages whose text starts higher up on the page "above the fold."
In other words, we want our content to appear right when a visitor loads our page without having to scroll down. That's the part of your page that's "above the fold."
We want to avoid enormous images like this one, at the start of our blog post:
Besides the SEO benefits, content placed above the fold also grabs an estimated 80% of our visitors' attention, according to Moz.
So we need to use your area above the fold wisely. I like to make sure my headline and introduction are both visible above the fold, so if I use an image at all, I make sure it's small or I add it after a couple paragraphs.
So I came up with a different plan.
Here's how I "StoryBranded" my articles without removing text or making major design changes.
How I "StoryBranded" My Blog Posts While Improving SEO
Like I said, if you want to rank in Google, you usually don't want to be deleting your content. If anything, you want to add more.
And what I found was this:
By going through my content and making sure I had hit all 7 points of the StoryBrand framework, I ended up adding images, more video, and even MORE text to all of them.
... all things Google absolutely LOVES!
For example, here are a few additions I made to my blog articles:
#1 - I added the following "fork in the road" phrases to my conclusions:
This was the perfect way for me to talk about what success would look like if they bought from me, and what failure would look like if they did nothing or used a competitor.
Here's an example below where I described the success bucket and failure bucket, and forced my readers to "make a choice" between the two.
Note that by editing my conclusions, I was ADDING text, which is GOOD for SEO.
#2 - I Made it Easier for Visitors to Find What They Were Looking For
Helping your visitors "conserve calories" does NOT mean you have to delete content, especially on blog posts.
But what you CAN do is make it easier for them to navigate your page and make it easier on the eye. You can:
- add a table of contents
- use headings and sub-headings for easy scrolling
- add bullet points and numbers to create more white space
- turn comparisons into charts
- add video
- add images and icons to break up the text
As an example, on an article where I discussed the different types of life insurance, I embedded multiple videos by Dave Ramsey on why he dislikes a particular type of insurance.
... it wasn't even my video. I grabbed it from Youtube, but I added it anyway.
It helps break up the text, keep people on the page longer, add a different perspective than my own... so many benefits.
Making it Easier to Read
Here's another example where I took a LONG paragraph and condensed it for quick viewing by creating this side-by-side comparison chart:
You can read about more elements I added to my site by clicking here.
Blog Page Do's and Don'ts for SEO
Again, good StoryBranding does NOT mean deleting all your content. Focus on the following best practices for your blog's SEO:
Do: Use keyword rich Title tags, URL's, and meta descriptions, image titles and alt tags, and link to related content off-site
Do: Use H2's and H3's as paragraph headings
Do: Test your page for conversion and user engagement
Do: Ensure your site loads quickly and looks great in mobile
Don't: Delete your content
Don't: Add a full-page image/header at the top of your blog posts
Don't: Sacrifice use of searchable keywords for "cute" or "clever" sounding headings and phrases
Home Page and Sales Page Do's and Don'ts for SEO
Now when we're talking about redesigning a home page or sales page, which typically has less text on it than a blog post, our ability to delete text is much easier.
You can add or change images, add whole sections, remove whole sections... and can usually make pretty radical changes with little-to-no traffic impact.
But you have to do it correctly...
Before we make any changes to our key pages, we want to find out:
- If our target page gets any current organic traffic
- If so, what words we're ranking for
- Continue to optimize for those keywords
#1 and #2 - Are we getting traffic and what words are we ranking for?
I recommend you use a tool like ahrefs.com to search your traffic and what your specific page is ranking for.
Be sure to grab the EXACT URL of the page you are considering changing, and set ahrefs to only yield results for that exact page.
Example of Safer Site to "StoryBrand"
Say you were the owner of Remax.com and wanted to "StoryBrand" your homepage.
An ahrefs search shows the homepage is getting about 204K organic visits per month. That's definitely nothing to sneeze at, so we'll need to proceed with extreme caution.
However, if you click to view the "organic keywords" their homepage is actually ranking for, we see it is mostly ranking for its brand, "Remax," and variations on its brand.
This is a great page to "StoryBrand" since they don't have much going on SEO-wise on their homepage anyway.
It is highly unlikely making even sweeping, large scale changes to the homepage will change its ability to rank for its own brand name.
#3 - Continue Optimization for the Keywords the Page is already Ranking for
Now the Remax homepage does also rank for a handful of "non-brand" keywords like:
So when making any changes to this page, you'll want to concentrate on keeping those keyword rankings. A few SEO Elements to look for their keywords are in:
- The title tag and meta description
- Image titles and alt tags
- H1, H2, H3, etc.
- Navigation menu/s
- Paragraph text
- and outgoing links
Note: If you're creating a new "Storybranded" home page or sales page, you'll also want to be sure to include keywords in the SEO locations above.
Generally speaking, if you're already ranking for some keywords, and your page includes those keywords in the SEO elements listed above, you want to keep them in a redesign.
Let's take a look at the title tag, description, and H1 on the Remax homepage, as an example.
(Note: you can't "eye" this on the site. You must inspect a site's "page source" to find this info like this.)
Remax's Keyword Use in Key SEO Locations
- Title Tag: RE/MAX - Real Estate, Homes for Sale, Home Values, Agents and Advice
- Meta Description: Trust RE/MAX and our team of real estate agents to help you find homes for sale or to sell your current home. See the newest real estate listings at RE/MAX.
- H1: Each year, our agents help hundreds of thousands of families buy or sell a home
What we find in these 3 key SEO areas is that Remax does include its own brand name in the title and description (so we want to keep that in any redesign), but they don't optimize much for other words they are ranking for like "real estate companies," "realty companies," or "realtor websites."
In other words, there's probably nothing they're doing "on-page" to help them rank for all their non-branded keywords. My guess is they're ranking highly for these words because they are a massive, authoritative brand with thousands of backlinks, as well as other content on their site.
Again this reinforces my belief that you could probably redesign this entire page with little-to-no SEO impact.
The Strategy for "Storybranding" or Redesigning Riskier Pages
Now let's say you have a sales page or home page that's ranking for quite a few various keywords.
You can STILL "StoryBrand" the page, but again, you want to keep the following SEO locations in mind, and try keeping the keywords in these areas the same:
- The title tag and meta description
- Image titles and alt tags
- H1, H2, H3, etc.
- Navigation menu/s
- Paragraph text
- and outgoing links
How to Change SEO Elements without Impacting Rankings
Follow these guidelines and you'll usually be safe making changes to a page. (No guarantees, of course. Google is very fickle.)
Also keep in mind any changes to a page could bring about a temporary decrease in traffic (sometimes, not always), but the page may come roaring back after a month or two.
Title tag and description - these are not typically found within the content of your page, so redesigning your page should have no impact on these
Images - feel free to switch out images but you might consider keeping the old image titles and alt tags
H1, H2, and H3's - Yes, you can change/improve them but keep your ranking keywords. Say you're ranking for "auto repair" and have a terrible H1 like "We do auto repair work." You want to keep "auto repair," which you could do by changing it to something like, "Say goodbye to auto repair headaches."
Navigation Menu - Yes, you can change it, and most nav menus need to be reduced, but watch out for removing navigation links to other pages on your site that are ranking.
Paragraph Text - Text is often one of the things we want to delete after going through StoryBrand. If you can keep some or all of your text, especially if it contains keywords you're ranking for, that would be best. You might try hiding some of the text under a "click to see more" button so Google's bots can still see it, but your visitors can't.
Bottom Line: Keep these key SEO elements in mind, and you will usually be safe making StoryBrand changes to ANY page on your site with little impact on your rankings.
How to "StoryBrand" a New Page
The strategy for designing a new page that follows StoryBrand guidelines AND that will do well in SEO is to follow the same guidelines I detailed in the page redesign section above.
(For example, you'll want to use keywords in your title tag, meta description, image alt tags, H1, H2, etc.)
Even if your page doesn't have a lot of content in it, you need to be sure all these elements are used to give you the best chance at ranking.
Ultimately, though, other factors go into ranking your page besides "on page SEO", such as backlinks to the page and overall authority of your site, so don't sweat it too much.
The bottom line is you should feel safe creating any new page or redesigning most pages to follow StoryBrand principles, if you follow the guidelines above.