A new era for Google: information in social format

Sergio Jurado

21 October 2021

wp 1 15

Have you ever wondered how our consumption habits of digital information determine the way we interact with devices and content? The content that captures our attention may vary depending on the storytelling and the channel through which we access information. Devices and content engage in a constant dialogue and determine the codes, language and dynamics with which we interact with users, so it is no surprise that mobile phones rank as the main device for accessing the Internet, both for consumption of information and for general use.

Among the predominant codes are, of course, those of social media. The crucial role that images play in the digital ecosystem influences how we build and organise online narratives, replicating social dynamics and developing interconnected contents in order to create information flows. And Google knows that. Users are used to consuming information in social formats, so why not adapt the content on Google’s SERP to their new habits?  

Said and done: in the last few months, the platform has restructured both the formats and contents appearing in the SERP, prioritising images, user-generated content and engagement (the recent introduction of the infinite scroll is a good example). At Good Rebels, we have analysed these new formats to understand how your brand can leverage their potential. Keep reading to learn more! 

image 6 2
Source: Statista

Google’s Web Stories: storytelling as a cornerstone

As its very name implies, Google’s web stories are stories integrated into a website. They are very similar to social media stories in terms of design and functionalities (tap, swipe up, etc.), but their main advantage is that, besides being shown on a given website, they can also be indexed by Google, and thus be shown on Google Search, Google Discovery and Google Images. Web Stories have been specifically developed for Accelerated Mobile Pages (AMP), aimed at optimising websites’ loading time on mobile devices, but they can also be accessed through desktop browsers. 

image 7 1
 Web Stories Experience Playbook (Google)

In terms of visual design, Google’s Web Stories resonate with our idea of social media stories. That is: it’s a vertical format containing videos, images, sounds, animations or text, with thin lines on the top of the screen indicating the length and number of stories.  However, unlike Instagram or Facebook stories, Web Stories don’t expire after 24h, and — although some of the content is interactive — users can’t react or reply to them. Its purpose, then, is more informative than social media stories’. 

imagen 1

The aim of this format is complementing and adapting website contents to the way we usually consume content online, prioritising creativity and interaction in mobile browsers in order to create visually appealing narrative experiences. Online media such as The Washington Post or Forbes are already using it to present news and stories in a visual and accessible way, but we can also find other types of content such as beauty tips, DIY, recipes or virtual tours. 

image 8 2
Web Stories Experience Playbook (Google)

Web Stories, which have their own URL and are editable, are indexed by Google and shown on three different search processes: 

  • On Google Discovery, which displays content on users’ feed based on their interests, without them performing any previous search. For now, this feature is only available in the US, Brazil and India, and displays content in two different formats (card or carousel). 
  • On Google Search, as a unique result or in a grid with stories from various editors (only available in the US).
  • On Google Images, as an image card with the Web Stories icon. 

Moreover, Google has developed a free plugin to create stories in WordPress through pre-defined templates and settings, as well as a Google Stories Playbook, a Youtube channel — Google Web Creator —  especially dedicated to the creation of Web Stories, and even a shared Figma design kit.  Moreover, it has reached agreements with third parties such as MakeStories and Newsroom AI, which allows users to develop interactive stories such as polls and quizzes, links, stickers or shoppable tags. 

image 9 1
Web Stories (Google)

But what opportunities do Google’s Web Stories bring to your brand or digital outlet? First, this format can be a differentiating factor in your digital content strategy and increase your chances of reaching new audiences in the mobile era through storytelling. Web Stories will allow you to develop creative proposals that capture users’ attention and give your brand that competitive edge, improving its visibility and strengthening its brand image. 

This will allow your brand to provide an experience which is similar to what users are familiar with on social media, and thus improve your relationship with them. For example, you could use Web Stories to raise awareness about events and new products, and also to improve organic SEO by appearing in Google Discovery, Search and Images in an attractive and immersive way. Moreover, the format is not expensive, and it can be easily measured and monetised through Google Analytics and AdSense, respectively. 

Google Post: content as a lure

The end of Google+ in 2019 didn’t necessarily imply Google was leaving social content behind for good. Through the Google My Business (GMB) ecosystem, the company is powering Google Posts. Now as you may know, My Business’ structure can be broken down into four levers: 

  • Information on GMB cards(description, address, etc.)
  • Products and services, positioned through keywords. 
  • Audiovisual content, such as images and videos which are geolocalized and included on GMB’s cards. 
  • Social Media, reviews, instant messaging and posts.  

This last lever, which is based on the interaction between users and businesses, is a crucial asset within the My Business ecosystem, as it can boost a brand’s positioning by strengthening its relevance and authority, mostly thanks to users’ reviews. In this context, Google Posts have come to take over social media in terms of content formats. 

Google Posts are enterprise publications which look like social media posts and can include videos, images or text. Posts are shown during 7 days on the company’s My Business card, and may be shown on the “Latest” tab after that. They are often used to announce changes in stores’ schedules, new products, discounts, news or events. Posts can be easily created through the Google My Business suite and can include a CTA button (“Buy now”, “Book now”, etc). The downside? They can only be 1500 characters long and users cannot leave comments (at least, not yet!)

image 10 1
Google Post (IKEA)

In Google Posts lay infinite possibilities for companies who know how to get the most out of this innovative format. First, they are visually appealing contents where images play a major role, thus generating added value and connecting with the mobile user experience. But their main advantage is their positive impact on SEO positioning. In terms of reach, posts including keywords tend to rank higher in the SERP, capture users’ attention more frequently and therefore bring more traffic to the website. Similarly, Google boosts the most active accounts, helping them rank among the first positions of the SERP. In this context, Google posts are likely to become a strategic pillar of your digital omnichannel content strategy when it comes to presenting new products, discounts and events, as it will for sure help you generate  value, improve positioning and, therefore, drive website traffic. 

The rise of these new formats is Google’s response to the paradigm shift in users’ attitudes towards digital content, and to its own long-running ambition to join the social club (remember the resounding closure of Google+?). It seems the tech giant finally achieved its goal thanks to its new hybrid model combining social codes with their expertise on web and search. But the genius behind its strategy lies in the way it leverages on one of its most powerful assets to foster the use of new formats. As websites hosting Google Web Stories and Google Posts rank above those that don’t, Google indirectly encourages brands to try its new formats in order to improve their SEO positioning. 

A refresh that turns Google into a more human-centred platform, as it puts consumers at the heart of their innovation. At Good Rebels, we will continue to keep an eye on the latest updates to make sure your brand successfully adapts to new digital consumption habits.