What is UGC?
The production of content by the general public rather than by paid professionals and experts in the field. Also called “peer production,” and mostly available on the Web via blogs and wikis, user-generated content refers to material such as the daily news, encyclopedias and other references, movie and product reviews as well as articles on any subject, all of which have been traditionally written by editors, journalists and academics. It is one of the hallmark features that distinguishes Web 2.0.
- Definition of: user-generated content, PC Magazine
In simple terms, UGC stands for User Generated Content, and is anything that a user creates and adds to a website. Typical examples of UGC are blog comments and product reviews.
If you can only read one resource on user generated content that you find in this post, make it this one:
- User Generated Content – by Jon Curry
Why is it good for SEO?
User generated content is like super-fertilizer for your SEO efforts; sure, you could do just fine without it, but imagine the heights you could soar to with a little extra help?
UGC is great for SEO because it is written by the people, for the people. When a user visits your site or blog and leaves feedback (a comment, a review, etc) they are often writing in “plain English” that is aimed at other users just like them. User generated content is also filled with keywords that are relevant to your business / products / services and indicates activity around your website, all things that search engines love!
An added benefit of content that is generated by the people who visit your site (and hopefully do business with you) is what you can learn from their opinions and experiences. Through positive feedback you can learn what you’re doing right and keep going strong in those areas; through negative feedback you can identify areas that need attention and work on those to improve consumer satisfaction. It all comes back to regarding feedback as a response pool from a free focus group; many big businesses pay a lot of money to get opinions, and you can benefit from a similar stream of data without spending a penny on tracking it down.
Other bloggers weigh in on how and why user generated content is great for SEO:
- SEO: Letting Customers Generate Long Tail Search Terms – by Jill Kocher
- The Significant Benefits of User Generated Content – by Lianne Froggatt
- How User-Generated Content Is Changing SEO – by Cathy Halligan
- E-commerce consumer reviews: why you need them and how to use them – by Graham Charlton
User Generated Feedback Examined
Video: Virginia Heffernan: User-Generated Content
Why location matters
For this example, let’s use a blog.
Each time you create a post, you’re creating a new page on your blog. This new page and the post on it are both opportunities to bring more traffic to your blog by attracting visitors via search engine results. But you probably already knew that, so we’ll move on to the good part!
Every comment on your blog is seen as activity by search engines (Google especially loves this) which is one of the many factors that influences how highly your blog will rank when someone searches for terms related to your post topics. Once a visitor arrives at your blog and reads your post they are very likely to read on through at least the first few comments. What this means is that they are spending even more time on your blog which also looks great to search engines!
Now let’s shift gears to user generated content that appears in places that you cannot control such as third-party review sites and social media networks.
Whenever someone leaves a comment / review / etc on another site regarding your business, they are generating activity around your business and bringing attention to your brand. When someone posts something about your business / product / service using social media they are also drawing attention to your business and giving this attention a much greater opportunity to spread if anyone else interacts with that original post. Search engines (Google in particular) like to see that people are talking about you outside of your website; regardless of the tone of the information, activity around your brand is seen as a good sign that you are an active site providing something useful and beneficial to people who visit you.
User generated content which points back to your site and appears on other websites and blogs creates links back to your site or blog. While links don’t play as large of a role as they used to in terms of SEO, they are still very important especially when they come from places with a decent amount of authority and/or PageRank.
The moral of the story? User generated content is an amazing resource regardless of where it is located!
Why language and tone matter
Very few people leave comments or reviews in formal language; the same can also be said for posts made to social media sites and networks. When users are generating content related to your business, it is almost always written using language that is easy for anyone to understand. Why does this matter? It matters because the language that this content is written in is the same language that other people will be using when they search for something with their favorite search engine. When the words, phrases, and ideas in UGC match up with what other people are searching for your business benefits from increased awareness, traffic, and exposure regardless of the tone of the content.
Why do we mention tone?
While no one likes to see negative content about their business, it can actually be beneficial to you as well in terms of SEO. Negativity (in small doses) can make people curious; curious people will often follow a link to a negative comment or review just to see why that person said what they did about your product or service. Once they read the review they might go in search of other opinions, especially if they are already searching for information about your business before they make a purchase from you. Studies have shown that products or services with plenty of positive reviews plus 1 to 3 bad reviews are more attractive to customers and likely to be purchased than the same products or services with only positive reviews. The negative reviews actually help the positive reviews to seem more trustworthy because by just being present they prove that real people are leaving feedback; the presence of only positive reviews can lead potential customers to wonder how many are real and how many are fake.
Adding social media to the mix
In terms of social media and blog comments, how you deal with and respond to negative UGC can really define your business in addition to boosting activity and awareness around your brand. By allowing consumer feedback and constructive negative comments to stand, you are showing the world that you are not afraid of opinions that don’t mesh with your own all the time, and this can help your business seem more trustworthy and relatable. By responding to negative feedback when you can and doing so in a calm and polite way you are creating even more activity with your responses and encouraging other users to chime in and contribute their own content. The end result for you is an increased awareness of what your customers want and need and a boost in SEO through activity and engagement.
More information on customer reviews as a form of user generated content:
- Customer Reviews Can Grow Your Business – by iNet SEO
What You Can Do To Encourage UGC
- Plainly ask for it – Post to your blog asking for opinions and comments, or post to your social media accounts asking people you are connected with for their feedback.
- Create a survey or poll – Whether you simply add a survey or poll to your website or blog or email it to anyone who has subscribed to your mailing list, both of these are excellent ways to gather information and feedback from the public.
- Add a rating system – This is especially important for businesses with an online store; by adding an option for customers to rate their experience (a common example is a 1-5 star system) you are making it quick and easy for someone to share their opinion.
And these are only a few of the most popular ways to encourage users to generate content and provide feedback for you. Use your imagination and get creative; maybe provide an incentive for email subscribers to complete the survey such as a discount on their next purchase?
Special Feature: 19 Ways to Build Relationships With Blog Comments – by Marcus Sheridan
As a bonus, here are two great documents you can save and review any time for more information on making UGC work for you!
- Social SEO: How to Drive More Traffic with User-generated Content - by PowerReviews
- The Strategic Use of Consumer Ratings and Reviews – by InfoCommerce Group
User Generated Content .::. Infographic Spotlight
(( Click on each graphic for a larger version that’s a little easier on the eyes ))
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