When it comes to SEO, there’s no shortage of tactics and strategies that you can use to try and improve your site’s rankings.
And there’s no shortage of speculation about what does and doesn’t work.
One—of many—areas that are prone to debate in search engine marketing is user-generated content (UGC).
Some SEOs believe UGC can directly impact your site’s rankings.
Others will tell you it doesn’t matter at all.
So. Which is it?
Should getting User-Generated Content be a key part of your SEO strategy—or is just it a big waste of time?
I actually have the answer—and it’s not speculation. It comes from Google’s own mouthpiece.
While UGC can certainly have a positive impact on your SEO, it’s important to understand that it’s not that simple—there are some potential risks involved as well.
What is user-generated content (UGC)?
User-generated content (UGC) is any content—text, videos, images, reviews, etc.—that is created and published by users on your site or elsewhere on the web.
The key is that UGC is created for your site, company, or brand by someone who isn’t associated with your site, company, or brand.
UGC can be a valuable asset for your website because it can help improve your site’s search engine optimization (SEO)—at least that’s the theory many subscribe to.
But let’s look at the evidence that makes this theory a fact.
Does UGC affect SEO rankings?
As usual, we’ll have to sift through the breadcrumbs that Google and John Mueller have left on this topic in different places over the years.
This may seem like it takes a little bit of mental gymnastics—but hang in there.
According to Mueller in a May 2020 Google Search Central video, Google doesn’t differentiate between content written by your users and content written by you.
And content is—obviously—a ranking factor.
So therefore, we can confirm that user-generated content affects your rankings.
But here’s the other question: Are the effects of UGC always positive ones?
It’s very possible for UGC to backfire and adversely affect your website’s SEO. If your users’ contributions come across as low-quality or spammy, they can definitely hurt your rankings.
It’s worth a reminder here that Google may also penalize your site if they detect a pattern of manipulative behavior. (Paid reviews, and so on.)
But the benefits of high quality UGC aren’t “pure” SEO benefits. They also act as social proof, which is incredibly valuable. Humans are influenced by the actions and opinions of other humans, and UGC on your site provides that social proof in a very obvious, tangible, actionable way.
In other words, prospective customers are much more likely to buy your products or use your services if they see that other customers have had positive experiences with them.
Because when we don’t have any pre-existing knowledge about a subject, we’re much more open to the opinions of our peers.
Think about the last time you bought something new—say, a pair of headphones. You probably did some research and read a few reviews before settling on a pair. And chances are, the reviews you read were mostly positive.
The same principle applies when users are considering using your site or service. If they see that other users have had positive experiences with it, they’re more likely to use it themselves.
This is where user-generated content really shines. Not only can it improve your SEO, but it can also help increase traffic to your site and—importantly—conversions on your site as well.
Types of UGC that can help improve your SEO ranking
There are several types of UGC that can help improve your SEO (Keep in mind that these things can hurt your SEO as well—so for each of these, we’ll assume that they aren’t spammy or otherwise low-quality).
- Blog comments: Blog comments give readers the opportunity to leave their thoughts and feedback on your posts. These comments can help improve the CTR of your blog posts, which can in turn lead to better SEO.
- Ratings and reviews: Ratings and reviews are another type of UGC that can help improve your site’s CTR. This is because they provide valuable information about your products or services that can help potential customers make informed decisions.
- Tagged social posts: Tagging social posts is a way of indicating to search engines that a particular post is relevant to your site. This can help improve the visibility of your site in search results.
How do I get my company’s users to generate content?
When it comes down to it, the best way to encourage your users to generate more UGC is to make it easy for them to do so.
Obviously, you can install a blog comment system on your site, add a rating and review system for your products or services, make it easy for users to share your content on social media by adding social sharing buttons to your posts—all the usual suspects.
But I have a feeling you know that those things alone aren’t enough to inspire users to take the time to generate content.
So what else can you do?
Here are a couple of effective, proven strategies that are versatile enough to work for the majority of businesses, no matter what industry or niche you’re in:
- A great, effective way to get UGC from your users is to run a contest or giveaway. This will incentivize your users to generate UGC in the form of comments, reviews, social shares, etc. in order to win a prize.
- A similar effective tactic is to offer a promo code or discount to users who generate UGC. This can be an awesome way to get more UGC, especially if you offer a decent discount.
As you can see, the common thread here is that you need to provide some sort of incentive for your users to generate UGC for you. They’re not going to do it out of the goodness of their hearts.
If you make it easy and worthwhile for them, they’ll be much more likely to contribute to your SEO efforts.
- User-generated content is indeed a valuable asset for your website. It can help improve your SEO, increase traffic to your site, and boost conversions.
- There are several types of UGC that can be beneficial for your site, including blog comments, ratings and reviews, and tagged social posts.
- The best way to encourage your users to generate more UGC is to make it easy for them to do so. You can do this by installing a blog comment system, adding a rating and review system, or adding social sharing buttons to your posts.
- You can also incentivize your users to generate UGC by running a contest or giveaway or offering a promo code or discount.
If you’re looking for an easy way to help improve your rankings—start by creating some great content that encourages users to get involved!