Have you heard of Narrative (now called Narrative Publish)? It’s a new-ish app that helps people (photographers especially) attractively lay out blog posts that have LOTS of images.
I have had a few clients jump on board with Narrative for blogging, and… it has some drawbacks.
As an objective outsider who gets asked about Narrative for SEO (search engine optimization), I wanted to share both the pros and cons to the app. My perspective comes as an SEO consultant for the wedding industry, who has worked with multiple photographer clients who have started to use Narrative.
PROS of Narrative
It is super easy to lay out your images in an attractive grid— Huge time-saver!
You will for sure save time blogging by using Narrative. Their tool makes it really easy to take a whole folder of images and drag-and-drop them quickly into a grid layout.
If Narrative helps you go from not blogging at all to blogging on your website, that will likely help your SEO!
Endless image grid options
The layout options are really flexible. You can create whatever layout you want and make your blog posts really unique.
You can put each image exactly where you want it, next to whichever images you’d like. While other photo grid blocks from WordPress or Squarespace dictate the layout, Narrative gives you full control.
CONS of Narrative
ONLY YOU can edit your images/blog post if created using Narrative
The BIGGEST drawback of Narrative is that it is a desktop app, accessed on your computer only.
When blog posts are created in Narrative, all you see in your website platform is code that looks like this, not the full blog post:
That means if you hire a virtual assistant or an SEO person like me, we cannot edit your blog posts created in Narrative.
Or— if your VA or copywriter creates your blog posts in Narrative you can’t ever edit them!
I have now had several clients who have blog posts created in Narrative, and it’s SO FRUSTRATING to me that I can’t edit and optimize them. It’s like trying to do SEO with one hand tied behind my back. This is the biggest reason I can’t recommend Narrative.
The Narrative for WordPress plugin conflicts with Yoast SEO
Both plugins add SEO titles and descriptions into the code of your website, which is a bad idea. I really hope Narrative fixes this issue soon, to not include SEO settings when the Yoast plugin is active.
*Tip: WordPress and Narrative users, do not enter your SEO title and description into the Narrative boxes. Use the Yoast plugin instead.
You’re stuck paying Narrative forever
When you use Narrative, your blog posts are saved on their server. As I understand it, if you stop paying Narrative, your blog post images disappear.
If you choose to stop using their software, they do have an option to continue hosting all your blog posts with Narrative at the cost of $10 per calendar year, which is really reasonable. But… it seems to me that they could change that anytime.
Be prepared for an ongoing cost above the cost of your website, forever.
So does Narrative help or hurt your SEO?
For SEO, I have not seen evidence that using Narrative helps or hurts your SEO. If it helps you blog more on your website, that’s a great thing! Just know there are trade-offs.
The biggest SEO trade-off? If you ever decide to hire help for your photography SEO, your SEO professional will not be able to edit or optimize your blog posts. Such a missed opportunity!
Can’t I just try Narrative and export my blog layouts later if I don’t like it?
Several Narrative users told me they feel comfortable using Narrative because they can always just export their layouts later if they want to stop using the app.
Unfortunately, exporting your Narrative posts isn’t as quick as it sounds and has a few drawbacks.
- Exporting a Narrative layout as JPGs combines multiple images into one. This is a bummer because multiple-image images don’t perform well on Google Image Search. As an SEO consultant, I would prefer each of your images to be uploaded individually.
- You’ll essentially have to re-build your blog posts. Exporting your layouts means you end up with a folder full of JPGs. You’ll then have to go into your website and re-upload the images for every blog post you originally created in Narrative. Be honest if you’ll really want to take the time to do that down the line.
- You’ll have to re-do all your image alt text. If you entered image descriptions/alt text in Narrative, that won’t get exported for you. You will have to re-enter each image’s alt text if you rebuild your blog using exported JPGs in the future.
- You may have to re-enter your posts’ SEO titles and SEO descriptions. If you’re using Narrative to enter your posts’ SEO title and descriptions, you’ll have to save and re-enter those too.
So what’s a better solution, Sara?
Before jumping on board with the Narrative app for blogging, I recommend you really, thoroughly explore the image layout options provided by your website platform.
Squarespace has a “Gallery” image block and WordPress blogs (for WordPress or Showit) have gallery plugin options that you could try for making WordPress galleries more attractive.
Reviews from Photographers Using Narrative
I’m using it but I have verrrry mixed feelings about my blogs being hosted elsewhere. On the other hand, the ease/formatting can’t be beat!
I probably will [continue to use Narrative]. With a young kiddo it feels like every second counts. But I dread the (inevitable) day when I decide to manually move everything back to be hosted natively.
– Shaina Sawyer, Golden Door Photography
I use Narrative! I like how easy it is to create the image layouts and I can do all the photos’ image descriptions at the same time by selecting all of them. Super easy and convenient. Also, it gives me an option to export the whole layout, so I could probably just export all my blog layouts later if I ever wanted to stop using the app, right?
– Kayla Law of Kayla Nicole Photography
I LOVED narrative for the exact same reasons you stated. It was super easy to layout my blog images and rearrange them. Those two items are harder on WordPress- especially the rearranging of the image sets. It was so easy on narrative to where i wish you could just purchase an option to use that service instead of the whole shebang of linking it to your blog.
I ran into the same issue with seo—it confused me. It was duplicating the information and my girl that was editing my posts and doing alt text couldn’t really do it for me anymore.
I also hated the fact that everything lived on their server. I am someone who likes to be the owner of my content so it never disappears and I hated knowing that if the company went under or decided not to be in business then there goes my blog! I’m sure they would have a fix to download your blogs… but you never know so I wasn’t a fan of that. I could have overlooked the seo as a minor inconvenience, but having my posts live on their server was what killed it for me.
Great concept though for an app but needs some work.
– Krista Piper, Pipers Photography
Narrative App Review: Bottom Line
Using Narrative for blogging may make your life easier now, but harder in the future. Make sure you’ve tried all other options for image layouts on your website platform before choosing to host all your content with Narrative.
Narrative users, tell me what you think!
Do you use Narrative? How do you like it? Comment below!