Without high-quality content, there’s no good SEO. However, creating unique and valuable content is getting more and more expensive. No copywriter will write your texts for free, right? But your website users can! Check how to improve your SEO process and website performance with a little help from your friend – User-Generated Content (UGC).
What is User-Generated Content?
UGC is a content created by web users that has to meet these three requirements:
- Being publicly available online
- Being, at least in part, creative
- Not being the result of professional activity.
Can such content really increase your website’s potential and improve its SEO processes? Well, at this point it’s worth realizing that nowadays websites based on the content provided by its users are the majority of the most popular services. Just think of the social media platforms like YouTube or Wikipedia.
Of course services like Facebook or YouTube contain also a lot of professional materials provided in the course of business activity – mainly on official profiles or brand channels. The core, however, is made of posts, photos, or videos published by users with no-profit purpose.
The popularity of these kinds of websites – much bigger than, let’s say, regular, country, or world-wide sites – is clearly showing the dominant trend on the Internet. Users want to have their voices heard and appreciate places where they can express their say.
What’s the UGC value?
Allowing your users to create content within your website have numerous advantages:
- Additional content. Most of all, your website gets more content: to the entry length or product description adds everything that your users will write.
- Regularly updated content. For Google, one of the criteria for evaluating content is its timeliness. Subsequent user-added content will automatically update it – both in the minds of potential customers and Google crawlers.
- Reducing internal duplication. Especially in the case of big online stores, UGC is one of the methods to differentiate product descriptions within the site.
- Simplifying keyword research. User-Generated Content gives you a chance to see how customers name your products and will probably look for them on the web. This makes it a great base for keyword phrases analysis, especially long-tail ones!
- Helping with optimization for natural long-tail keywords. A larger amount of content containing naturally used long-tail keywords will help your website get displayed and ranked on Google for more queries with long tails.
- Enhancing credibility. The fact that you are not afraid to give your clients the opportunity to share their opinions makes you more trustworthy in the eyes of new users. Did you know that 89% of users trust other users’ opinions on the internet the same as they trust their friends’ recommendations? Automatically, when they find those opinions on your website, you’ll also benefit from this.
- Increasing conversion. The UGC impact is well proven by the fact that 80% of users are willing to pay more for the product that has other users’ reviews. Also, an indirect effect is making your snippet appearing on the Google search results page. UGC can appear there as a number of reviews or average grades.
- Showing your customers they matter. It translates into building an engaged community around your brand that will automatically support your marketing efforts.
Content created by users proves to be highly effective as it’s based on a social proof mechanism. The term has been defined by Dr. R. Cialdini in the book “Influence: Science and Practice”, published in 1984. When put in a situation when we don’t have the competences to make a particular choice, we’ll choose to act like the majority of others.
Just imagine – when leaving a train in a city you’re not familiar with and don’t know where the train station exits, you’ll instinctively go with the crowd.
What’s more, Google encourages business owners to implement UGC elements as a method of generating more content within the website. Answering to a user question on Reddit.com, John Muller said:
“What I’d recommend there is to find a way to get more content onto the page. A simple way to do that could be to let people comment. UGC brings some overhead in terms of maintenance & abuse, but could also be a reasonable way to get more text for your pages.”
He also admitted, during Webmasters’ hangout session, that “We don’t differentiate between content that other people have published on your website and content that you’re publishing”
If that’s the case, why not use this tip?
Types of UGC
You can create a possibility to post user-generated content within your website in many ways, depending on the website type and your business goal. To name a few, it can be:
- Reviews and opinions,
- Discussion forums and Q&A sections,
- Single posts,
- Photo and video content.
Not every type of UGC can be adapted to every website’s needs and specifics. Some are already a standard for a given website type and users just expect it to be available – just like leaving a comment under the blog article.
How to use User-Generated Content?
It’s good to think through how you’d like to use UGC at the very first stage of creating your website. Here’s what you can choose from:
- Reviews & opinions – great for both product websites and guides or ebooks. Thanks to implementing structured data it will be displayed as a rich snippet in SERPs. This way, you can increase your CTR, even if your website ranks lower – the snippet will be more attractive to users than your position!
- Discussion forum, Q&A sections – you simply can’t create product descriptions that will answer all clients’ questions. If you give users the ability to exchange questions chances are you won’t even have to be part of the answering process. See how Amazon did it:
- Comments – usually posted under articles or blog posts, allow users to elaborate on the topic. It can also be a great source of information whether the entry needs refreshing or what piece of content would be useful for the readers.
- Single Posts – typical content for social media platforms. Can be shared on other websites in an easy way and therefore increase the traffic to your site.
- Photo and video content – really engaging for website visitors and can go viral. Usually posted on social media, they are a great way to obtain natural links to your site!
When it comes to the SEO process, it’s directly influenced by ratings, reviews, comments, Q&A sections, or discussion forums (in the form of a catalog within the site). With their help, you get an additional amount of content and as result, your website appears in search results for more keywords. Engaging with social media content also can help, but requires much more work.
|Remember! Pay attention also to the users’ reviews and rates published outside your website, especially on Google My Business. It contributes to better results of your Local SEO.|
User-Generated Content – The Risk
Allowing users to publish content within your website also comes with a risk. Long story short – you limit your control over what will appear on your site for creating (kind of) anonymous groups. In practice, this means:
- The risk of low-quality content (e.g. language-wise),
- Content duplication with other websites (some users can post similar content on many sites).
The degree and impact of these threats depend on the industry and the type of content you allow to post. Even if you’re the best, it’s almost impossible to have only positive reviews in the long-term. There’ll always be someone who will not be fully satisfied.
Also, you never know if your users will be writing on the topic. More likely they’ll express their personal views, often not related to facts. The long, non-substantive discussion won’t have a positive impact on your SEO. There also comes link spam.
Of course, you can do something to prevent the above-mentioned threats. You’ll have to devote some time to moderate UGC. Along with the human factor, that’ll be the most reliable here, you can automate the process by using spam filters, based on the CAPTCHA mechanism.
|All links should be moderated manually!|
Remember that, as a website owner, you’re obliged to delete all aggressive, offensive, discriminative, and violating anyone’s copyrights content. It’s good to create a status that will be based on deleting and banning users who don’t follow the rules or spam on your website.
How to make your users’ engaged with content creation?
Users don’t necessarily have to be open to publishing content on your website. However, it’s worth encouraging them to do so. How?
- Make it easier. Make sure that adding content on your website is user-friendly and doesn’t require multi-level verification.
- Remind them! People forget about the possibility of publishing their opinions. After someone purchased a product on your site you can send a reminder to encourage them to share their opinion. It’s worth featuring a short guide on how to do it, as well!
- Appreciate, thank, and answer. Don’t be afraid to interact with your users, especially when their opinions are less enthusiastic. If you think that negative comments have no solid grounds, present your point of view! In the case of positive feedback, your response will make users feel heard, appreciated, and will create a great bond with the brand!
User-Generated Content – Takeaway
Well-prepared and implemented User-Generated Content can bring noticeable profits – not only when it comes to search engine traffic. It’s good to think about your users as your team members responsible for creating content. Despite the fact that the control over the content is limited, with UGC help you can consistently and successfully realize your SEO strategy.
Wojciech Urban – SEO Specialist at Delante from November 2018. A historian and journalist by education, although his first steps in his professional career led him to the path of Internet marketing and SEO. Since then, he has been following it towards the first positions in search engines. After hours engaged in the Light-Life Movement, fantasy novels, and HoMM 3.