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How User-Generated Content Can Fuel Your SEO Engine

Jennifer Starr

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User-generated content (UGC) has become a powerful tool for businesses and digital marketers through social networking. The rise of Facebook, Twitter, Pinterest and Instagram has given Internet users various platforms to publish their opinions, videos and images. UGC is also an important component in a brand’s search engine optimization (SEO) program.

Intouch senior search analyst Jeff Hinds recently explained that user-generated content, such as comments, send social signals to search engines that those pages are popular, relevant or important. Search engines measure social engagement in their algorithm to rank listings on the search results page.

“Examples of real-life experiences related to the article and resources or links from users that would benefit the audience are the type of UGC that is most beneficial to SEO,” Hinds said.

Nathan Stewart, also a senior search analyst at Intouch, explained that UGC provides trustworthiness and shows faith in the brand by allowing users to contribute content.  However, advocating for UGC means relinquishing control, which is something pharmaceutical companies can be very hesitant to do thanks to regulations.

“We have to prove that users can generate content, but that it can still be policed before publishing automatically,” he said.  “You demonstrate a sense of trust and openness if you are willing to relinquish some level of control to allow users to write content.”

Encourage users to generate content for you

According to Filemobile.com, 92% of consumers around the world say they trust earned media, such as word-of-mouth and recommendations from friends and family, above all other forms of advertising. Promoting user-generated content is promoting your brand. In addition to featuring user-generated content in your social media ads, there are many ways you can leverage UGC to improve SEO.

Encourage consumers to write product or service reviews. In a Forbes.com article, SEO columnist Jayson DeMers explained that online reviews – positive or negative – have a significant impact on a website’s organic search rankings.

“Businesses who have frequent reviews are seen positively by Google and by potential customers. Thus, a herd of raving customers is good for both sales and SEO,” DeMers said.

A number of sites such as Everyday Health and WebMD solicit and display rankings from patients who have used pharmaceutical products.

Create hashtags with keywords and ask your audience to incorporate them when sharing brand experiences. This is an easy way to optimize keywords and allows you to track and feature user-generated content. The hashtag phenomenon has been embraced by social networks and most search engines. Google Search even provides a live feed of hashtags in progress. Worth noting: Hashtags, when implemented poorly, have been known to make companies easy targets, as in this example from McDonalds. Devise the right strategy and carefully weigh the risks before implementing a hashtag campaign.

Soliciting testimonials and offering contests or incentives are more great ways to encourage users to generate content. Hinds also recommends using a comment rating plugin for registered users to rate comments.

“Ask visitors to comment on the article and ask if they have any experiences they would like to share,” he said.

It’s important to remember that user-generated content does not only have SEO benefits. UGC can help maximize conversions and increase sales opportunities, and UGC campaigns present even greater opportunities for marketers to increase engagement among a passionate group of consumers.

“Allowing people to give their opinion is beneficial and can inherently help a business decide to improve,” said Intouch senior search analyst Terri Greene. “It’s good to hear those comments rather than not because they can use it to make things better.”

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