What is storytelling and why should you use it?

Once upon a time, there was a young girl. She was 9 years old and her name was Wende. Wende was incredibly intelligent, yet she had a hard time learning things by heart. No matter how hard she tried, she just could not memorize the planets of the solar system. It just did not stick in her head. One day her teacher told her a story about all the planets. A story about how the sun was lonely and Mercury was his first friend. How Mercury fell madly in love with Venus and how Planet Earth got jealous. After telling her the story, Wende was able to remember all of the planets in the right order. Why? Because of the magic of storytelling. Wende could remember the story and with that, she could remember the planets.

In this blog post, I will tell you what storytelling is and why it is an important tool to use in the texts on your website. This post will be the first of a series of blog posts about storytelling.

What is storytelling?

The word storytelling pretty much speaks for itself. Storytelling is about telling stories. It is about using stories to engage your audience, or to make something more clear. Photos, pictures and film of course really help to tell a good story too.

Stories have always been a way to communicate. Before people learned how to write, they would tell each other stories. Stories are much easier to remember than simple facts. That’s why Wende from the story remembered the planets. Also, stories are enjoyable; they stimulate your imagination. That’s why parents tell their children stories. That’s why we like to see movies and read books. People love stories, people are addicted to stories.

Some examples of (great) storytelling

In 2017 I visited a conference and I saw David JP Phillips on stage. He talked about the magical science of storytelling. I was blown away. His talk was such an inspiration for me. Two weeks later, I had to speak at a WordCamp and I was so very inspired by David’s talk, that I did some storytelling of my own.

Next to using storytelling in presentations, you can use it in writing. Lots of travel blogs, personal blogs or mom blogs use storytelling throughout all of their posts. Geraldine DeRuiter has a really funny blog about travel and many other things. Every post is a little story on her blog. But even informational blogs could use storytelling by adding an anecdote or an example. In my post about site structure and why it is important, I use the exact same story as in my presentation at the WordCamp.

Storytelling

Why use storytelling?

Using storytelling in your blog post will – if you do it the right way – make your post a more engaging one. Your blog post will become something people want to read. Stories increase the attention of your audience.

If you use stories the right way, stories will help you to make your message more clear. Stories can help you to provide proof for your argumentation. They can add clarity. My story about Alice (see image above) is written in order to help people understand the importance of a clean site structure. This is a rather difficult subject to grasp. A story adds clarity.

Most importantly, people will remember your story, and with that, they’ll remember the message of your post or even your brand. And, if you use stories in a good way, you could even inspire people to take action. Maybe you’ll inspire people to clean up their website or to get started with storytelling in their blog posts and presentations.

Up next in this series

If you Google ‘storytelling’ you’ll see amazing things. Lots of online storytelling is about brand storytelling. Perhaps I’ll write a blog post about that in the future. For this series, I’ll be focussing on using storytelling in your writing. And, I will also focus on the topic of storytelling and SEO.

In the next part of this series, I want to focus on how to use storytelling in a blog post. I want to start off by discussing the elements that are necessary for a good story. Also, I will share some practical tips and examples of how to start using storytelling in your blog posts.

If you have nice examples of your own use of storytelling, I would love to see those! Maybe I can even share a few of your examples in one of my next posts!

Read more: How to use storytelling in a blog post »

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28 Responses to What is storytelling and why should you use it?

  1. Anand Gupta
    Anand Gupta  • 5 months ago

    Thanks Marieke for this article,
    As you give the example of wende, the important thing to remember here is that when the teacher converts the solar system information into an entertaining story it is not only engaging but also memorable for wende.

  2. arjun
    arjun  • 5 months ago

    Storytelling is really an art.

  3. Bhakra Gani
    Bhakra Gani  • 5 months ago

    Thanks for sharing this article. Previously, I think storytelling is not suitable for my information post. Who wants to read my funny story in my educational articles? However, after I read your article today, I think it is important for me to carry on with storytelling article post. Thanks again.

  4. Muskan Khan
    Muskan Khan  • 5 months ago

    Now I completely understand what storytelling is. Thanks for describing with good examples. :)

  5. Jill
    Jill  • 5 months ago

    Thanks for the article! I do try to use stories in my posts since it’s a blog for grandparenting. And, I’m a pretty good storyteller when I’m talking, because I use lots of facial expressions and voice inflections. I’ve been able to captivate many audiences that way. However, I’m not sure how to apply that to the written word. I try to use parenthesis, ellipses, and dashes. Those kind of make things stand out. But I think you’re right about it being an art. I feel I’ve mastered that art pretty well when I’m talking but need some help in translating the expression in my writing. Any suggestions?

    • Marieke van de Rakt

      In my next post, I’ll share some tips on how to use it! So a little patience and than I’ll answer your question!

  6. Carlo
    Carlo  • 5 months ago

    Storytelling is one of the most abused and misunderstood term these days. But yes, great rewards are waiting for those who carefully learn what it means.

  7. Zola Johnson
    Zola Johnson  • 5 months ago

    Thank you for sharing this article. It really gives a different insight on how to better engage with readers. I sometimes use storytelling within my posts, even if they have different style. Very useful!

    • Marieke van de Rakt

      thank you! glad you liked it!

  8. Justin
    Justin  • 5 months ago

    I have to ask:

    Why does it seem so many complain about not getting the gist of a webpage? Are they just a vocal minority, or are their concerns legit?

    If stories are more engaging and good for SEO, why do people complain about having to scroll through that stuff to get something like a parts list or recipe?

    Would it make more sense to put the meat and potatoes at the top, above the fold, then the story after? You’d still get the SEO benefit, and people would get what they really want more quickly.

    • Marieke van de Rakt

      It’s a though balance. If you write lengthy articles, you’re writing should be really really awesome. You can use storytelling, but I think you should still help your readers to get the message out of the blog post. In my post, I made a separate paragraph right after my story in which I state the message of the post. Subheadings also help people to read your article and instantly get what your article is about.

      I’ll write a different post on the value of storytelling and SEO. I need to do a little bit more research for that one!

  9. Ingrid
    Ingrid  • 5 months ago

    Thank you for your positive article. I like it a lot. And I dó believe you’re right! I would really like to apply your tips to my website and my posts on social media. However… I am not a good writer, and certainly not a good teller :-( How can I learn that?

  10. Zain Shabir
    Zain Shabir  • 5 months ago

    Really amazing.. I like it.

    • Marieke van de Rakt

      thank you!

  11. Blockchain ideas
    Blockchain ideas  • 5 months ago

    Storytelling is really an art. There are a lot things to learn. Thank you for your sharing.

    • Marieke van de Rakt

      you’re very welcome!

  12. wedealmeetandgreet
    wedealmeetandgreet  • 5 months ago

    I really like your blog and very helpful exactly the content i was looking for. Please keep writing and make it easy for us.

    • Marieke van de Rakt

      You’re welcome!

  13. steve ashby
    steve ashby  • 5 months ago

    Love your clarity of expression! And I love telling stories. In fact my favourite quote is “never let the facts get in the way of a good story!”

    • Marieke van de Rakt

      That’s a good one! I’m going to remember that one!

  14. Anthony Fattore
    Anthony Fattore  • 5 months ago

    Huge fan, but I noticed you have “His tolk was such an inspiration for me.” instead of “His *talk was such an inspiration for me.”

    • Hanneke
      Hanneke  • 5 months ago

      Hi Anthony!
      Thank you. We did change it to the correct words before publishing but it didn’t come through right. Sorry for the inconvenience. We hope you like the post!

      Hanneke -Yoast

  15. Holly Callender
    Holly Callender  • 5 months ago

    Great article! FYI: there’s two typos in the “Some examples of (great) storytelling” section – “tolk” and “anekdote”.

    • Hanneke
      Hanneke  • 5 months ago

      Hi Holly,

      So good to hear that you liked the article! We did change it to the correct words before publishing but it didn’t come through right. Sorry for the inconvenience. Good luck with your storytelling!

      Hanneke -Yoast

  16. Anecia
    Anecia  • 5 months ago

    Typos…😱”tolk”. “anekdote”. Hard to take a story seriously when it’s jumbled with grammatical and spelling errors.

    • Joey
      Joey  • 5 months ago

      I think it’s beautiful writing especially when you consider English is not the author’s first language. So we can forgive any tiny spelling slip-ups. Great post :)

      • Marieke van de Rakt

        Thank you…. actually, I do think I should do better. I had a fever when finishing up the article though….

    • Hanneke
      Hanneke  • 5 months ago

      Hi Anecia,

      I totally understand the “😱” emoji! We did change it to the correct words before publishing but it didn’t come through right. Sorry for the inconvenience. We hope you did like the post, despite the two typos in it.

      Hanneke -Yoast