Chances are you’re probably familiar with short-form content on social platforms TikTok, YouTube Shorts and Reels on Instagram. But did you know that Google also has its own form of visually driven content called Google Web Stories? These Stories are gathering traction — and quickly becoming a highly effective marketing channel for destination marketers.
What are Google Web Stories?
Just like TikToks or Instagram Reels, Google Web Stories are full-frame, immersive pieces of content. But unlike other short-form content, you can easily find Web Stories on Google, making them key for targeting travelers who are using Google to plan and book their next trip. This type of content surfaces in a dedicated section in Google Search results called “Visual Stories” which can be found on mobile in the U.S
Google is proactively rolling out this new Visual Stories section for more destinations, meaning if you’ve got the content, Google wants to show it off. This presents DMOs with a great opportunity to reach travelers where their website can't, without competing with their site's SEO efforts. Not only that, but the number of distribution channels for Web Stories is expansive. They can be easily embedded in a destination’s website or shared on social media platforms. That means more people can view these Stories and they have permanence and stickiness because you can find them on the Web.
As we mentioned, you don’t have to worry about these efforts cannibalizing your website’s SEO. Web Stories support increasing traffic to your website as they surface on Google and built-in CTAs drive travelers back to your site, essentially creating a new source for organic traffic to their website. Because Web Stories show up for search terms related to your destination (e.g. beaches in California) these are highly engaged leads and represent high-intent traffic to your website. Proof that this traffic is highly engaged is evident in the performance stats of Stories which have an average completion rate of 52% and an average of 90 seconds spent on each Story.
Web Stories created by DMOs are also showing up in Google Discover, which might just be the best marketing channel you’ve never heard of. Google Discover is a curated feed from Google; it appears on the Google homepage on mobile and, based on a user’s online activity, it will deliver personalized content to that user–including Web Stories. Users can also customize the types of content they see in their Google Discover feed by following topics of interest. With Google Discover, DMO Stories see high click-through-rates because they’re being delivered to users who are more likely to want to engage with that content.
Google’s Investment in Web Stories
Google’s investment in this new marketing channel is a sizable one, and all indicators suggest that it’s something they’re investing in for the long term.
For one thing, Stories are a visual content format that’s proven to have staying power . It’s a format that more and more people are accustomed to, and that they enjoy using and watching, and it’s not going away anytime soon. Google has recognized that roughly 40% of young people are no longer using Google Search as a search engine, and the same goes for young folks looking for travel inspiration. TikTok and Instagram have become the go-to place for information, so Google has no choice but to make Search more visually engaging in order to keep up.
Google’s investment in Web Stories isn’t slowing down, either. In addition to appearing in Google search results, Google is also continuing to enable the “visual stories” section on the first page of search results for more and more destinations and attractions. By creating Stories that show up in the section, DMOs can control their own narratives and can ensure that their own content takes center stage.
How DMOs Can Create Google Web Stories
For DMOs, creating Web Stories that boost SEO performance and drive more website traffic is easy using Localhood.
DMOs can use Localhood to create Web Stories (or Localhood Stories), using the purpose-built Story Creator on either desktop or mobile. It allows DMOs to quickly edit, crop, and trim videos without needing complicated software, and even makes it easy to convert horizontal video or b-roll footage into vertical video. Localhood also comes with an extensive knowledge base of articles and videos to help DMOs get started in creating their own content. Simply put, Localhood was designed to be simple and intuitive, making it easy for DMOs to create beautiful and captivating Stories that promote their destinations.
Another advantage of using Localhood is the ability to track the metrics of these Stories via Google Search and Google Discover, as well engagement data on a DMO’s website if the Stories are embedded in a Gallery or as a single embed. It’s invaluable information that can help DMOs track trends in travel content and to gauge the reach of their content, as well as track traveler behavior.
Since Localhood was launched in 2019, DMO-created Localhood Stories have reached 13 million monthly impressions on average (the number of times a user sees a link to a Story in search results). In January 2021, the number of monthly impressions for these Stories was approximately 4 million. In less than eight months, impressions have increased by more than four times. Since then, CrowdRiff has been working with Google as they continue to experiment with how visual Stories are displayed in Google Search for users as it looks to make this more widely available over time. This decision should only increase the amount of impressions for DMOs who create this kind of content.
DMOs can purchase Localhood at either the state level or at the city level.
Let us do the hard work for you
Influencer content is hard to acquire - it’s time consuming and pricey - and until now, this content has been confined within social media apps. Now DMOs can breathe new life into previous influencer content and open it up to much broader audiences by transforming it into Localhood Stories that are discoverable on Google.
We also offer Localhood Creator Services, where DMOs can access short-form content made by local content creators, without any of the admin work. We partner with local creators to provide DMOs with high-quality, authentic vertical content to use in Localhood Stories. DMOs also get access to the raw files to use as Reels, TikToks, and your website. Simply put, you get access to more vertical video, without the work.
DMOs that have used Localhood to create Stories are already seeing impressive results.
North Lake Tahoe used Localhood to create a recent Story about tips for winter transit, which was also based on a blog post, received more than 200,000 impressions on Google Discover; purely organic results with no paid media behind them. The Story turned the long-form blog into a visually engaging, mobile-friendly format, with multiple CTAs directing users back to their website that have an average CTR of 8.78% .
Using Localhood, Louisiana Travel created a Story on its state museums which received more than 3.5 million organic impressions on Google Discover over the past three months and generated more than 80,000 clicks.
Visit California recently created a Story using Localhood that showcased things to do in Yosemite National Park and it received more than 1 million organic impressions on Google Search.
Visit California sources much of their short-form content from Localhood. In fact, Localhood Creator Content was used in 50% of this DMOs TikTok strategy. They've also used this content to create Localhood Stories which have achieved very impressive results on Google.
Visit Phoenix saw the long-term ROI of Stories vs TikToks and Reels when they created a Story about the Top Things to do in Phoenix - originally published in October 2021. The Story has been steadily performing since then, receiving 1.6 Million impressions on Google Search in the past 6 months alone. Multiple CTAs within the Story direct people back to their website, making it an effective way of taking travelers from Google Search to their site.
The Future of Stories in Destination Marketing
It’s pretty clear that visually driven pieces of content, especially short-form content, are becoming more important content marketing pieces for DMOs everywhere, and that’s only going to continue. The levels of engagement and impressions are already high, and it seems likely they’ll only grow from here.
What is also clear is that anything that can help DMOs leverage this important marketing channel, like Localhood, is worth investing in. It helps save time and produces efficiencies in creating dynamic and engaging content that can be shared on multiple platforms.