Harnessing User-Generated Content for Search Optimization

3 minute read
Marisa Peacock avatar

We all know that optimizing content is often the key to unlocking your company’s potential. Good content can make it easy to sell widgets and improve the customer experience as well as make it easier for others to find your content. When it comes to SEO, content is the king. But when it comes to user-generated content, how does it influence SEO and what can you do to leverage it even further?

The Search for User-Generated Content 

It used to be that user-generated content (UGC) was for blogs and YouTube. Thanks to social media, user-generated content can be anything from Facebook posts, Tweets, online reviews and everything in-between. What users say about you and your products influences others’ consumer behaviors, at times even more than search engine results pages. Now that search engines, like Google, have begun to incorporate publicly available UGC into search engine results and into Google properties such as Shopping and Hotel Finder, users are more likely to find the right product at the right price, without much effort.

Learning Opportunities

The good news is that Google relies on businesses to generate this social content from their customers. The more social content generated helps make search results more relevant, while businesses benefit from increased traffic to their sites. Don’t wait for happy accidents to ensure that your website benefits from Google’s improved algorithms. Instead, take control.

  • Be social. As more search engines index Twitter and other social media, it’s not just that companies need to establish social media accounts, they also need to remain active -- not only for customer service reasons, but for SEO as well. Being active in one’s presence in any social media is about creating regular streams of content, whether status updates or newsfeeds or Facebook’s new Timeline.
  • Increase the quantity and quality of customer reviews. Don’t just integrate consumer reviews into your site -- make them a visible part of the user experience. As well, optimize mobile sites so reviews are easy to find, browse and share.
  • Expand your definition of user-generated content. Content doesn’t have to be just text -- blog posts, articles, reviews or comments. Instead, provide appropriate multiple media format options for your community including audio, images and video. By optimizing digital assets for multiple media formats, companies can increase the types of distribution channels available via search engines, not to mention improve the depth of a brand’s visibility in search results on a single query.
  • Go beyond your website. It’s essential that you manage content from alternative channels. Businesses need to ensure their details on these channels, from Google Maps to Yelp and other online directories, are current and provide the right information to engage with their market.
  • Gather data. You’re already tracking what’s being said about you online, what your customers are searching for and from where they are coming. Why not apply this information to help you monitor consumer’s expectations? Developing quality and relevant content, processes and measurement tools are among the most effective ways to respond to the evolving online landscape.

Another Component of Social Media Strategy

User-generated content’s impact on SEO further serves as a reminder to the enterprise that social media cannot be ignored. Its impact on how a company and its products are discoverable and the subsequent convergence between search and social makes UGC more critical than ever. Smart companies will use it as an opportunity to further optimize their site, while those who fear or ignore the voice of the customer will continue to be on the defensive when it comes to managing the customer experience.