User Generated Content – UGC
What is User Generated Content?
User generated content can help a forward-thinking company solve a very critical SEO issue: predicting user and/or searcher intent. Making those predictions on intent in developing content and setting up and SEO strategy is a difficult task and critical to driving website traffic. You need to know which keywords are most relevant to them, and most of the time this becomes an educated guessing game. In SEO, there is a lot of talk about long-tail keywords, which are those longer phrases that a searcher will use in order to focus on a specific product or topic. These phrases often have very little traffic, but are key in identifying those searchers who are more likely to make a purchase on your website or leverage your website content in some other fashion.
How is user generated content typically gathered? There are a number of ways and they typically come in the form of user forums, product reviews, consumer reviews (think consumerreports.org) user uploaded content (videos, images, etc.), and blog comments.
Is making an effort at obtaining user generated content worth it? Let’s answer that by telling a story on the power of internet users.
The Power of the User
In advance of a decision from the Federal Communications Commission (FCC) in regards to net neutrality, John Oliver, host of Last Week Tonight with John Oliver, marshaled the unruly hordes of internet commenters to flood the FCC website with comments. Calling them out by their pejorative name, trolls, Oliver implored them to “Turn on caps lock, and fly, my pretties!”
Shortly after Oliver’s rant, the FCC’s comments page was overloaded with activity. So much so that the website was temporarily shut down as network administrators scrambled to figure out a way to handle to unexpected traffic.
At the same time this event is a study in the influence of a television show, a television personality, social media (the clip was surely shared countless times on different sites), and finally, the users who took action.
How to get things started with UGC?
User generated content is for more than making government websites crash, it is about understanding what brings people to your website. There are a few things to consider as you look for ways to leverage user generated content.
To make user generated content work for your company, you need to have a big enough base of users that includes enough people who are willing to take the time to engage with your company. For Amazon, having a big enough base is not an issue and customer reviews have become a key part of the Amazon experience.
Reviewing product ratings and customer reviews on Amazon before making a purchase is a part of the purchase process on Amazon for most users. One study found that the sheer number of reviews on Amazon for a product has a positive impact on the sales of that product, regardless of the tone (positive or negative) of the majority of the reviews. Customer reviews have enable Amazon to get insight into the common jargon used by buyers of the product–which can be invaluable to identifying the long-tail keywords that will lead searchers to your site.
If you do not have the luxury of a large number of users like Amazon, you may need to get a little more creative with how you engage your audience.
Some companies have taken novel approaches to doing this and have executed successful and memorable user generated content campaigns.
British clothier Burberry encouraged users to upload their own photo of them wearing a Burberry trench coat, and to comment on others’ photos. The result was a 50% increase in ecommerce sales. Starbucks launched a campaign that encouraged customer engagement by having them doodle on their white coffee cups with the chance for their drawing to be featured on a limited edition version of their cup. Almost 4000 customers participated.
Moderation of UGC
As Mr. Oliver reminded us, internet commenters, trolls, and as he called them, “my pretties”, are not always seen as the most erudite segment of our society. This reputation is well-earned by a small, vocal, and offensive segment of the internet commenter population. For those interested in improving SEO, this user generated content is not necessarily helpful for identifying long-tail keywords (unless the segment you are interested in is racist, judgmental demagogues.)
To control the inflow of comments, and to ensure that nothing objectionable will make it onto your user forum, the moderation of comments and user uploaded content becomes extremely important. Beyond offensive material, you need to ensure that what users are posting does not violate any intellectual property laws, and that your comments are not rife with spam. Effective moderation will cost extra resources from your company, but the ROI may reveal itself in the form of previously undiscovered long-tail keywords, increased site traffic, and increased revenue.
One Final Word on User Generated Content
Think of your typical website users as a consultant that is full of ideas of how to increase activity on your website. The cost of getting their consultation is reaching out to them by creating compelling content, creating a forum to host their ideas, and then making what they say easy for other users to find.
Once you are able to establish a user generated content strategy, a forum for engagement, and a moderation process you will open the doors to a resource that will provide ongoing long-tail keyword insight at a relatively low cost.