It is no secret–fresh and engaging content is the lifeblood of any successful website. It drives traffic, promotes conversions, and provides searchable material for Google and other search engines to scan and evaluate. Without a steady flow of new content the Internet would virtually grind to a halt. But creating new and engaging content takes time and effort, and SEOs and webmasters are constantly on the look out for new ways to bring rich content to their sites.
User generated content (UGC) provides one solution to the ongoing search for new content. UGC not only provides a steady stream of rich, searchable content for a given website, it also helps to keep webmasters and SEOs informed on the trending topics that their customer base finds most interesting. But just what is user-generated content, and how can it play a part in your SEO strategy?
What Do We Mean By User Generated Content?
User-generated content is, quite simply, any content that is created and submitted by your website visitors. It might be a blog comment, a product review, an uploaded image, social networking updates, or five other ideas as discussed on Moz. We see user-generated content everyday, particularly on e-commerce sites, and we tend to take it for granted. But UGC can actually play a significant part in a business’ SEO campaign.
UGC Provides Unique Content for Your Website
Search engines thrive on a steady stream of unique, searchable content. This can be particularly problematic for e-commerce sites whose product descriptions are likely to be blocks of boiler-plate text provided by the manufacturer. These product descriptions are, more often than not, identical across a number of different online retailers and a clear violation of Google’s Panda update. This gives the search engine bots very little material to work with when they crawl a website looking for information to incorporate into their page ranking algorithms.
User generated content, such as product reviews and customer testimonials, give the search engine spiders the content they need to properly evaluate a website. Moreover, that user-generated content tells the search engine that your site is active, and providing a valuable service to online customers. That factor alone can set your website apart from those sites that may not be open to user’s comments, reviews, and testimonials.
UGC Is a Great Source for Long Tail Keywords
Allowing visitors to your site to leave comments, post reviews, upload images, and participate in forum discussions, gives you the opportunity to see exactly how consumers are talking about your products and services. This can be invaluable when researching keywords and phrases for your SEO campaign. By looking at the language your customers use, and the phrases that get repeated across a number of different postings, you will be able to identify new long tail keywords that will be invaluable in your on-page optimization strategies.
UGC as a Source for Your Own Content
One of the biggest challenges facing webmasters and SEOs is creating their own stream of unique content for their websites. User generated content provides a great source for blog topics. By monitoring the UGC on your websites, you can get a good idea of what your customer base is talking about, what questions they may have about your products and services, as well as related concerns they may have with your industry in general. This is a rich vein of information that can be mined for blog topics that will be timely and address the specific interests of your customer base.
UGC Allows You To Interact With Your Customers
This is another area that is particularly important for e-commerce sites. Enabling reviews, testimonials, and customer forums may be a great way to generate content for your site, but they should be closely monitored. If a customer has an issue with your service, or a complaint about a product, other customers will judge you according to how well you deal with the complaint. So be quick and courteous in your replies. It is also important to use a strong spam filter on your site to avoid getting a flood of spammy content. Search engines hate spam as much as potential customers, and you want to minimize its occurrence as much as possible.
Advanced UGC & Tips to Really Shine
If you really think about it, every major platform is UGC based. This includes everything from blog sites, like Search Engine Journal, to major social sites like Flickr and Instagram. It’s all user-generated content. So, how can these sites help you think outside the box?
Our team has been developing an auto glass repair site for a few years now. Recently, we launched a new feature on the quoting process where the visitor can upload a picture of their broken glass for a discount on service. We used the year, make, model, and part name of the image to generate the image name and alt tag. We then placed the image in strategic areas of the site. I’m sure your niche has a solution to create UGC to increase your SEO beyond product reviews and blog comments. Other ideas might be to create user profiles on your site or build an embeddable widget for your fans to share, possibly with tabbed content of some sort.
Search engines thrive on a steady stream of unique content, but it can be difficult for SEOs and webmasters to continually feed that need. User-generated content is one way to produce a steady flow of unique content, making your website more attractive to both customers and search engine bots. Opening up your website to user-generated content will not only contribute to your SEO strategy, it will ultimately help you better connect with the visitors to your site, building brand loyalty and online success.
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