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Wednesday, July 29, 2009

The Benefits of User Generated Content

By Helen Walker

In today’s evolving web, consumers want to be more involved with the products and brands they purchase from. These types of consumers have been nicknamed, “prosumers”, entering us into an era of prosumption. The voice of these consumers come through in many forms of user-generated content (UGC), such as blogs, product reviews, testimonials, tweets, Yelp reviews, ratings, etc.

As any SEO expert can attest, these types of UGC can be used to improve the organic search results and conversion rates by many websites who are online for business purposes. Before you leverage UGC for your online business, take note of these benefits so that you can make the most educated and informed decisions.

UGC can benefit a company in several different ways. It can be very precious and free content for your site that will feed search spiders well. It is also a great source of information for any unique visitor to your site. They will be able to understand how your products and services can better help solve their problem. It is also reassuring to know that real people have solved their problems as well.

Consistent and quality user-generated content can also help create a community environment, empowering these content creators to feel like they not only used your service, but are contributing to its implementation toward other people in need.

Some of the most popular forms of user-generated content are: ratings, reviews, lists, customer images, tags, discussion forums, blogs, and social networking.

Some companies who utilize the benefits of UGC will offer incentives to those who continue to come back with more reviews. These UGC creators can become a “trusted” user of your product and service and may carry more weight with their comments than others.

User-generated content, however, is not risk-free. When a website allows users to submit content, they run the risk of being attacked by competitors, unsatisfied customers, spammers, or unscrupulous people. You also lose some power over what is being published on your site.

It is recommended that you develop a user guideline and offer it to any contributors. This gives you moderating power and the ability to efficiently handle any challenge that may present itself in the advent of a nasty contribution.

You can use similar metrics to UGC that you use to evaluate any SEO efforts for your site. It is recommended that you focus on these four areas:

1. Content quality

How many pieces of content have been created and what level of quality do they measure up to. If there are tons of misspelling, profanity, bad grammar or unnecessary slang, it may be time to erase that user.

Content linkability

Is your UGC interlinking the content on your site? If the UGC is improving the navigational ability for your visitors to find what they want, you are on the right track.

Content Strength

Is the content keyword-optimized? If so, how can you optimize that particular post? Take these in consideration when monitoring any contributed content.

Content Conversation

What is the conversation that is happening about? Are they satisfied with your business? This is a great way to gain constructive criticism and improve your business overall.

In this increasingly digital era, the power of the online brand and business falls more into the hands and voices of the consumer. These prosumers want to be heard, whether it be to evangelize your brand or bash it into the ground. Either way, it boils down to how good you are at what you do.

You can have an excellently built site with optimal SEO tactics, amazing navigation and very useful content. However, if your product or service leaves everyone unsatisfied, you should focus on changing your business fundamentals. If UGC is bringing you in tons of traffic and conversions, your momentum will carry you far into this century.

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Ethan Luke. seo - At Volacci, we have top SEO consultants who know what it will take to make your SEO campaign a success.