The flag has been waved and the bat­tle between user– gen­er­ated con­tent and SEO is over. User-driven web­sites have pushed global dig­i­tal infor­ma­tion past the zettabyte line, adding over 9X more con­tent to the dig­i­tal uni­verse since 2005. User-driven photo shares, video uploads, tweets, and arti­cles are sim­ply cast­ing a wider net around online traf­fic and rev­enue poten­tial. If you’re a search mar­ket­ing geek like me, you’ll likely scurry to locate the cross­roads where SEO and user-generated con­tent meet only to find that despite an irrefutably shaky begin­ning they were always on the same path. And here’s why:

SEO has a touch point in every area of a web­site. As an off­shoot of social mar­ket­ing, user-generated con­tent helps to shape basic SEO attrib­utes such as key­words, titles, back-linking, and often­times inter­nal link­ing, increas­ing its poten­tial to serve as a fierce con­tent mar­ket­ing tool. Away from your web­site, it is vir­tu­ally impos­si­ble for shared and tagged user-generated con­tent to cir­cum­nav­i­gate basic SEO appli­ca­tions. Unlike user-driven web­sites that rely heav­ily on user uploads and onsite shar­ing, the traffic-driving aspect of user-generated con­tent on an SEO dri­ven site occurs pre­dom­i­nately once users leave your web­site and begin the process of adding to your brand’s over­all dig­i­tal pres­ence, known covertly as the dig­i­tal shadow.

But what will they say? I strongly believe that user-generated con­tent is far from ran­dom. Web­site con­tent and the con­tent mark­ing tools employed therein help to shape user responses that, in turn, either part from or rein­force SEO.

This reminds me of a TED talk I watched recently by behav­ioral econ­o­mist Dan Ariely that touched on the extent to which we are in charge of our own deci­sion mak­ing. In essence, Ariely found that ratio­nal think­ing takes a back seat to the amount of avail­able options and how they are pre­sented. I may be going out on a limb here, but from a prac­ti­cal stand­point this means the con­tent on your web­site, when done cor­rectly, can serve to guide users to cer­tain out­comes. Nat­u­rally, these out­comes also help to estab­lish SEO.

Before we dart off to explore any mind con­trol the­o­ries that Ariely’s talk may have gen­er­ated, let’s get back to the basics. The best rank­ing sites are con­stantly devel­op­ing ways to suc­cess­fully lure SEO and user-generated con­tent back into the same rev­enue cor­ral. Their dig­i­tal mar­ket­ing strate­gies empha­size short and pow­er­ful micro­com­mu­ni­ca­tions that tap into the 400 mil­lion tweets occur­ring every day and add to the pool of YouTube’s 4 bil­lion hours of video watched every month. They stay abreast of con­ver­sion track­ing stud­ies such as Invodo’s most recent, which found that con­sumers are 174% more likely to buy some­thing after watch­ing a video about it online. They lever­age social media insights and har­ness pow­er­ful social media opti­miza­tion tools to lis­ten to the voice of their cus­tomers. The best rank­ing sites imple­ment less com­pet­i­tive long-tail key­words that result in highly rel­e­vant search results, higher con­ver­sion rates, and lower bounce rates, allow­ing their busi­nesses to rank num­ber 1 for 100 key­words instead of num­ber 1 for one core keyword.

Most impor­tantly, they are bring­ing into har­mony solid SEO prac­tices and plat­forms for user-generated con­tent. But there is still much more to be done.

While I admit­tedly believe that the task of guid­ing user responses is not for the faint of heart, I also believe it can be done. Cir­cling back to Ariely’s TED talk, my mind veers toward the sharable aspect of user-generated con­tent– more specif­i­cally, how most enter­prises are striv­ing to share more. But what if we strived instead to share less? What if we only allowed the shar­ing of con­tent that directly sup­ported our mar­ket­ing strate­gies; alter­nated sharable con­tent or lim­ited shar­ing to cer­tain times of the day? Believe it or not, busi­nesses around the globe are increas­ing their rev­enue expo­nen­tially by sim­ply think­ing out­side of the box and employ­ing sim­i­lar strategies.

After notic­ing repet­i­tive slug­gish lunch time sales, Emart Sunny Sale, a Korean com­pany known widely as the Wal­mart of Korea, launched a shadow Quick Response code cam­paign that ulti­mately resulted in a 58% mem­ber­ship increase and a 25% increase in lunch time sales. Using sun­light and shadow, the code only worked between 12 p.m. and 1 p.m.

Snapchat, the sec­ond largest photo-sharing plat­form behind Flickr, is also reap­ing the ben­e­fits of cre­ative mar­ket­ing strate­gies via short-term shar­ing. The plat­form allows users to choose how long their “Snap” lives. By set­ting a perime­ter around this option, the com­pany is actu­ally giv­ing users a greater sense of con­trol even if, as Ariely stated, it feeds into irra­tional thinking.

If you’re strug­gling to make rank amidst this new era of Web devel­op­ment, take a sec­ond to explore just how user-generated con­tent and SEO are inter­act­ing on your web­site. Remem­ber that although the amount of indexed con­tent on your site is still highly rel­e­vant, the goal is to be opti­mized and mon­e­tized. Highly engag­ing user expe­ri­ences and well-designed site archi­tec­ture trump in this area. Still, as an old school search mar­ket­ing geek I would be remiss if I didn’t end this seg­ment by say­ing, “Long live the king.”

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