User-Generated Content & SEO: When Content Isn’t King
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.”