UGC and Small Business – What Works & Why

Two Frequently Asked Questions by SMEs


  1. How do I make sure UGC is optimized and ranks well?
  2. Are there strategies I can use to get the most out of my UGC from an SEO point of view?

The simple answer is that the optimal solution will likely be different for each business and/or site, but in general you should begin by controlling the pages on which the UGC will display, as well as the primary pages within your remit that link directly to them. And remember, your target market may be more tech savvy than you think and ready and willing to start engaging more actively, especially if you have a large loyal return base.


(this is BIG because this is both a really big pain point and a really big stumbling block; funny yet just a smidge tragic if you like)



A common example that comes to mind when thinking about a business and the ways users provide feedback about an online offering are ‘Customer Reviews’. These reviews are enormously important in that they have proven to be the primary medium used to facilitate the transition of the traditionally powerful word-of-mouth referral system from offline to online. The question remains: How best can you make use of the power of reviews on your site?


For product reviews and commentary, there are two main approaches to enable UGC integration on product pages (the most relevant place to put them). One; it is possible to list a few reviews on the page with a link to a full review/feedback page; or, two you could simply include a hyperlink on the product page linking to the reviews. If you choose the former, ensure feedback is provided by registered purchasers if you sell online, or via registration or captcha requirements for non-purchasers.


The next step would be to ensure that you optimize the review pages themselves. Conduct keyword research on the product or brand, targeting words of negative and positive association. For example; this is one way to encompass the issues (in summary):


Scenario: I conducted some preliminary keyword research on iPhone looking at very generic research phrases like ’good iphone’, ‘bad iphone’ [sounds like a puppy in training] ‘great iphone’ and ‘iphone fail’. It generated a number of insights; we’ll look at three (please note, these findings are drawn from an external keyword research tool, and do not reflect the opinion of the magazine, nor those of the author of this article, regarding the iPhone’s ability or lack thereof to send emails, to deal with mobile messaging, or to work ‘overseas’):


  1. A common question: ‘is the iPhone good overseas?’
  2. Some people are concerned about iPhone email failing
  3. iPhones are ‘good’ with mobile messaging

 How might you deal with this information?

  1. Create one optimized page for each issue,
  2. Link to each page from a hub area on the primary product page.
  3. Generate external buzz and links to these pages by monitoring online conversation around the primary topic and answering and linking back using nofollows where warranted.


There are, of course numerous other strategies you can utilize to optimize your UGC including:


· Use featured reviews, where you place the reviews that receive the most ‘votes’ in a defined top area nearer to the fold included by date and possibly subtly. Never place your most positive reviews at the top and your negative reviews at the bottom; users may become wary of manipulation. If you’re getting a lot of bad reviews, think about your offering or the associated service, investigate and rectify. It’s great for R&D, for in-house cleaning and for in-house acknowledgement when individual people get named as ‘stars’!


· Inviting ‘opt-in email’ purchasers to review with a non-monetary incentive to do so


· Ensuring that ‘cleared’ reviews go live immediately. Frequent updating is important to rankings due to the fact that fresh content encourages more ‘frequent’ crawling by the ranking algorithms. Frequent caching has been found to impact positively on search results. Use webmaster tools if you don’t already.


· Minimizing bounce rates; those who surf to a review page are usually more qualified than those who bounced or left somewhere in their visit without clicking to the review page. They have already moved along the pathway in their quest to find a product to satisfy their need or want. Time spent on site is usually greater with reviews than other types of content, and conversion rates are higher than those who only visit the product page.


Consumers want to know what’s great about a product. If positive reviews include objective emotional feedback, the review can ‘speak’ to potential consumers who are looking for the same kind of experience. For example, a book review written by a mother highlighting the positive emotional bonding she experienced sharing the book with her teenager will be a sure hit for many moms trying to connect with their teenage daughters. 68% of consumers trust ‘people like me’ first for product advice. (Edelman Trust Barometer).



Dealing with Questions


· FAQs are an area that can be enhanced by UGC to make your site more usable and more valuable to visitors. Enabling an advanced UGC based FAQ hub can not only provide a more satisfying user experience while facilitating R&D via disclosure, it may also facilitate actual transactions due to easy question-response detection and direction, and decrease product returns. Also, include post sales service UGC as a primary link off the main product page.


· Live Q&A with a tech support member dedicated to all FAQ and other support issues should be enabled, with the option to allow the question and to be published online, incognito, or with some or full disclosure at the users discretion. If you service multiple time-zones, ensure you have staff to deal with the potential service requirement.


Negative vs. Positive Feedback


Don’t silo negative and positive feedback into separate areas. Negative feedback must be included with positive. In most cases, the majority of feedback will be positive, unless it is a really bad product or service in which case you withdraw it from the market, but keep the reviews live as Amazon did with the apparently diabolical HotWheels Slimecano;


· My six year old son bought this with his own money and has already offered to give it away,’ and

· ATTN: Do not buy this toy, even if it is on sale for 5 cents…’ are two relatively mild reviews.



Despite being discontinued, Amazon retains product information along with the more than 170 reviews which most certainly contributed to the Slimecano’s withdrawal from the shelves and halted production.


Bear in mind that negative consumer feedback provides authenticity and an opening for brand evangelists to offer alternative solutions; such as other consumers mentioning to potential iPhone customers that, even though the surface scratches easily, you can simply buy a case – thus providing great feedback for R&D and rebuttal.


This is Part 2 of a three part series on UGC. If you’d like to read part 1, it’s here UGC – Maximize Your Online Exposure with People Power!


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