In the coming epic battle, who will stand victorious when the dust has settled?
In one corner we have User Generated Content (UGC) and in the opposite corner we have Editorial Content. Both are fighters in their prime with many positive things going for them; UGC has speed and variety on its side, but Editorial Content has the weight of experience and expertise.
What will decide the outcome of this match-up?
Only you can decide who wins and who walks away defeated.
User Generated Content – The Rising Star
User Generated Content is a hot topic in SEO and content marketing circles; with more and more emphasis being placed on user engagement and social signals it is easy to see why so many eyes are turning towards UGC. Website owners are seriously considering how it can add value to their websites, while at the same time users are trying figure out where they stand. The rules of UGC are changing rapidly from a free-for-all to a more orderly moderation; some communities self-regulate, while others have outside influences who maintain the peace and help keep discussions on the right track.
UGC has a lot of good qualities including:
- It is fresh and updates / appears in new forms often
- It counts (in many cases) as a ‘social signal’, something search engines are going wild for
- It is a great way to optimize for hard-to-capture long-tail traffic and secondary keywords
- It has the potential for endless variety through each individual user interaction
- It follows a cycle that begins with spontaneous creation, or creation due to an outside event and progresses to publishing and/or moderation before reaching the public
- It has the advantage of volume; UGC derives much of its influence from the strength of numbers.
How can the apparent majority be wrong?
Apart from the speed with which UGC is published and multiplies, it carries great strength by virtue of popularity / volume. Users who are searching for information give a lot of weight to UGC because it was created by people like them, for people like them. There is (supposedly) no ulterior motivation beyond sharing an opinion or an experience, and this makes it very valuable to potential customers browsing a website with its own UGC (i.e. product reviews or testimonials) available. Unfortunately some User Generated Content is manipulated by third parties; some UGC is purchased outright, and some is put forth by people in exchange for something other than money, i.e. a favor for a favor. This has led to a slight disillusionment with UGC, but it nevertheless remains very popular and a go-to information source for many web users.
Video: Virginia Heffernan: User-Generated Content
Spotlight on User Generated Content:
- User generated content causes CNN layoffs : Opportunity for lawyer blogs? - by Kevin O’Keefe
- The User-Generated Content Myth – by Scott Karp
- What is User Generated Content? – by Paul Bradshaw
- 6 benefits of crowdsourced content – by Rob O’Regan
- Welcome to the Jungle: Shaping User-Generated Content - by Erin Kissane
Editorial Content – The Heavy-weight Contender
If User Generated Content is the scrappy young fighter rising through the ranks, Editorial Content is the seasoned professional who has been around the block a time or two. Though it may move more slowly, there is a certain momentum behind Editorial Content that cannot easily be interrupted. Editorial Content has been the staple diet of content marketers and SEO professionals for quite some time now; this is especially true of “recent” developments like blogs which have given rise to different classes of Editorial Content. Blue-blood Editorial Content will always be that which can be found in most newspapers and magazines. This is content that has been extensively researched, validated, and prepared with a loving hand by a professional journalist whose job it is to bring the news to the table. This is not to say that any content found on a blog cannot have been subjected to the same rigorous quality standards, because it can, but it is never going to be quite the same.
Editorial Content has the weight of experience on its side, true, but what else is good about it?
- It is written and / or validated by subject matter experts
- It is controlled from creation to publication
- It has an “official” feel
- It is ideal for optimizing for short-tail or primary keywords
- It is typically of higher quality than User Generated Content
Editorial Content is (for the most part) respected and seen as more of a reliable resource than purely User Generated Content; the reasons behind this vary from person to person, but many opinions center around Editorial Content’s ability to be verified independently.
Going Head to Head – Comparing User Generated & Editorial Content
Comparing these two giants would be like comparing Wikipedia with the Encyclopedia Britannica; each has its merits but it is clear still which one would be the favored resource chosen by academics and which would be the resource of choice for the average web user. They are as apples and oranges; their similarity lies in the fact that they are both fruits, but beyond that their differences unfold and separate them that much more.
Comparing User Generated Content and Editorial Content – Other Bloggers Weigh In:
- Online community SEO: User-generated versus editorial content – by Kevin
- User-generated content: what went wrong and why it still matters – by Jani Patokallio
- 12 Best Practices For Content Marketing – by Benjamin Spiegel
Infographic Special: Slideshare, a quiet giant of User Generated Content
What do you think?
Which type of content should win the fight?