I love the StoryBrand framework. I recommend it (and have implemented it) to all my clients- and even my websites. The only problem I have is that it makes bold claims about its SEO benefits- which aren’t true.
I think SEO fits together nicely with StoryBrand. In fact, if you keep reading, at the bottom of this post I’ll share a worksheet I use to implement StoryBrand on websites. However, implementing StoryBrand alone is not a real SEO strategy.
Why doesn’t StoryBrand lead to SEO success?
One of the first points of confusion between StoryBrand and SEO is a clear definition of “SEO.” So many times, people equate “SEO” with “any way to market a website.” That’s not true. SEO is one way to promote a website- by doing the things necessary to be found by people looking for what you have to offer in the search engines. There are other ways to market a website: email, social media, paid search (which, again, is different than SEO), etc. These are all different ways to promote a business’ website. Sometimes when people think that StoryBrand should “help your SEO,” they believe it is the solution to all their marketing woes. It’s not.
A couple of people reached out to me and asked why implementing the StoryBrand framework didn’t result in more traffic (and customers) from the search engines. They understood that SEO is about marketing your business on a search engine and noticed it didn’t help. Let me explain why.
One of the problems in the StoryBrand framework is an over-reliance on your homepage. You can’t just rely on one page (even the homepage) to achieve SEO success.
Sure, most of your visits will always come to your homepage. It’s the most important page of your website. However, if you’re doing good SEO, people will land on the most relevant page for their search query- and that’s not always your homepage.
Take, for example, my website (granted: the cobbler’s kids have no shoes). I have a homepage that talks about the broader category of my services: internet marketing consultant. But I also have pages dedicated to the different kinds of internet marketing I consult. These pages help people looking for specific types of internet marketing- as Google sends them to those specific pages in response to their queries.
If you want SEO success, you need to have a page dedicated to each of the services (or product lines) you offer. These pages not only help as different people search for different solutions but sometimes each of these has different audiences and different problems. Work through the StoryBrand framework for each product or service page on your website. Produce a one-liner and BrandScript for each of these pages. You might even create a different version of the StoryBrand wireframe for each page.
SEO is not just a bunch of topically-focused pages (even if they’re StoryBranded) on a website. The real secret to good SEO is an active blog. Blog posts will help you pick up valuable long-tailed traffic for customers you don’t expect to be searching for you. Blog posts also help build essential internal links to your core product and service pages. You can (and should) use the StoryBrand framework to write a blog post or, at least, use it to help you think about what you want to say. It makes for great content that avoids the temptation to be the hero of their story.
But what pages should you create? What blog post should you write?
Keyword research is finding out how your customers search for what you have to offer. It’s not only about finding the words they use in a Google search but identifying the different topics about which they’re interested (and you offer), so you can know what pages your website needs to have.
Often, companies make assumptions about how their customers search for what they have to offer. They use internal phrases or technical terms with which some of their best customers are unfamiliar. If your customers don’t know to search for these phrases, the best “optimization” won’t help them find you. Keyword research will help check your assumptions and ensure you’re using the words your customers are doing. It will also confirm that other people are searching for those phrases.
StoryBrand overlooks this when it comes to SEO. Although I’ve heard that some StoryBrand guides recommend you put your “keyword” here, they don’t take the time to research to figure out what the proper “keyword” might be for your customers. Without knowing the word your customers are using to find you, you might not choose a phrase to focus on for which anyone else is looking.
StoryBrand makes a common SEO mistake when talking about the “customer’s desired solution” or keyword: they forget about location. For example, if you rent Electric Bikes, you probably only do that in specific cities. That could be a problem if you fail to mention that on your page. Even if you were to “rank” for “electric bike rentals,” you might not be able to provide those to your customers if they aren’t in your city. Don’t forget to explicitly mention where your customers are if you want to be found by them.
I’ve read it in several books- and even heard this claim in the seminar: the BrandScript is all you need for SEO. That’s misleading. While Google does not “rank” websites based upon the number of words on a page, the more words you have on a page, the more opportunities it has to serve your website to potential customers. While the BrandScript might have a bare minimum amount of content to be found by the search engines, I’d recommend you add more content to your page if you want your customers to see you.
I’m not saying you need to have only words on your page. Nor do you need a giant wall of text. I suggest you add more than just the BrandScript and One Liner.
It’s not hard to do this. Add it to your “junk drawer” (at the bottom of your page). If you do keyword research, you’ll uncover lots of questions about your topic/keyword that people will want to know about to include on your page.
For claiming to be a fan of StoryBrand, I might seem like I’m hard on it when it comes to SEO. Let me change focus here to show you how they work well together.
If you work through the StoryBrand framework (on every page, like I mentioned above), you’ll have lots of great things for specific SEO elements on each page. For example…
Your page’s title tag is probably the most essential SEO element. It is a strong suggestion for the blue-link text in the search results. Please do not confuse it with the headline of your page. The <title> tag appears at the top of your browser. If you take the time to StoryBrand your title tags for each page, I think you’ll have better than average title tags.
Sometimes, SEOs (and I’ve been guilty of this) will add their favorite keyword to the <title> tag. This practice is good SEO but lousy marketing. Instead, if you understand the solution you provide (your keyword) and the problem you solve, it will make a much better title tag for your website than just a keyword.
There are a couple of tricks to make this work for the best. For instance, the order of words matters in the title tag: you want your “keyword” in the front of your title tag. Sometimes people start their title tag with their company name, but that’s a bad idea. Think about this from a StoryBrand perspective: don’t start by talking about yourself! The best title tag that uses the StoryBrand framework would look like this:
Customer’s Desired Solution for External Problem | Company Name
I prefer pairing the solution with the external problem because these might be ways people could search for you- the solution or the problem. If you want to combine the solution with other elements, go ahead! Different powerful combinations might include:
If you want to be fancy, try out a couple of different combinations (even different combinations on separate pages) and see which one works best. Just be sure your title tag leads with the solution- the keyword for which you’ve determined customers are searching.
A title tag needs to be short. Massage this into a fragment (it doesn’t have to be a complete sentence) and squeeze it into something less than 66 characters. Now you have a great title tag uniquely written for each page on your website. That will make a significant impact on your SEO results.
The meta description does not appear on the content of your page. It’s a code in your page’s header that summarizes your page’s content. The meta description suggests what Google can add beneath your blue link in the search results. It isn’t a “ranking factor” as much of an opportunity to tell people why they should click on your page instead of the others appearing in the search results.
If only the StoryBrand framework would help us come up with a summary of what we have to offer?
It does. The One Liner makes a great meta description. Do some finessing to squeeze it within the 155-character limit. Don’t worry if it seems too short- a well-written meta description will encourage people to visit your website, where they can learn more about how you can guide them to solve their problems. Repeat this process for every page of your website, and it will help your SEO.
SEO is not about rank! It’s about getting found by the customers who are looking for you. The “Cash Register” (CTA) is one of the most significant values StoryBrand brings to SEO. It is a reminder that you need to ask for the “sale.” A solid call to action will help your website generate more customers- whether you’re doing SEO or not.
While StoryBrand alone will not lead to SEO success, it works very well with a PPC (or even a paid social) campaign. StoryBrand works well here because you’ve paid for the click to your website, so you need to make a big splash and get that conversion! If you’re following the StoryBrand wireframe for your website, you’re setting yourself up for success! StoryBrand quickly establishes that you have the solution your customer needs but also because you have a soft lead (a lead magnet). The secret to a successful PPC campaign is to get a customer if you can, but make sure you have a soft lead if you can’t.
If you were disappointed about a misleading promise of SEO success thanks to the StoryBrand method, I hope it doesn’t discourage you from using it. As you can see, SEO and StoryBrand work well together- even though StoryBrand is not all you need for a successful SEO campaign.
If you’re interested in rolling out StoryBrand to the other pages on your website (and even using it to write title tags and meta descriptions), I’ll send you a worksheet to help you. Just tell me where to send it:
Of course, if you need some more guidance in rolling out a successful SEO strategy in light of the StoryBrand framework, contact me, and I’ll see how I can help.
Reliable Acorn will help you create a custom digital marketing strategy that does just that.Ready to Talk?