While less than 9% of internet users contribute the majority of user generated content (UGC: Rubicon 2008), many people who use the internet on a regular basis have at one time or another contributed to the web in the form of a blog comment or product review – that’s UGC.
Online UGC is something that has been growing in incidence and importance over the last few years, but it’s only recently that search marketing practitioners have seriously begun to consider the impact of UGC on SEO, and actively tried to harness its power to boost search engine rankings, exposure and enhance site usability. The growing importance of UGC can be seen in the following data:
1. Consumers are relying more on UGC
83% of shoppers said online product evaluations and reviews had some level of influence on their purchasing decisions. (Opinion Research Corporation, July 2008)
As of October 2008, almost half of US online adults read ratings and reviews at least once a month (Forrester)
2. Marketers are relying more on UGC
In a BazaarVoice Case Study of a major electronics retailer site search visitors landing on user review pages converted 60% more often, spent 50% more time, and viewed 82% more pages than search visitors to other pages.
The Shop.org State of Retailing Online study, conducted by Forrester Research, found only 26% of the 137 top retailers surveyed offered customer ratings and reviews, but 96% of them ranked customer ratings and reviews as an effective or very effective tactic at driving conversion.
3. Offline sales are influenced by UGC
According to eMarketer (a 2007 study), for every $1 in online sales, the Internet influenced $3.45 of store sales.
More than 75% of review users in nearly every category reported that the review had a significant influence on their purchase, with hotels ranking the highest (87%). (comScore/The Kelsey Group, October 2007)
From a purely SEO point of view, a telling statistic is that 26% of search results link to user generated content (Nielsen Buzz Metrics). The fact that users are increasingly turning to UGC is compounded by evidence that the engines are displaying this information. It is vital that online marketers actively and proactively investigate and integrate user generated content into their online mix.
If you think your site might be ready to benefit from UGC (and almost any site can), then its time to consider how UGC can best fit your online offering. You need to determine which of the multitude types of UGC will most effectively and efficiently complement, supplement and/or push your online SEO initiative including:
· product reviews (e.g. Amazon.com)
· service reviews (e.g. Google Local),
· seller reviews (e.g. eBay),
· blog comments,
· news comments,
· forum posts or comments,
· video/audio and photo sharing sites (e.g. YouTube and Flickr),
· social networking sites comments or posts (e.g. Twitter, SecondLife, Facebook, MySpace),
· wikis and composite review sites (e.g. ConsumerReport.org)
Targeting for Acquisition
Once you have determined where and what UGC you wish to employ, it is vital that optimization be applied to reap the full benefit.
Optimization can take many forms; UGC help you rank higher in search engines, particularly through manipulation of the long tail according to a recent Search Engine Land post. There is also the fact that effective navigation and internal linking based on a UGC acquisition and inclusion initiative will make your UGC both more visible on your site and more useful (or applicable) to visitors. The two are not mutually exclusive, and working together they can increase your visibility in the SERPs and rocket your conversion rate and ROI.
What is important is that you don’t mess with the actual UGC itself. In other words you target optimization efforts at the review page’s URL, Title, META description and header. Then let the UGC flow freely, within reason.
User generated content – it’s all about YOU!