|Good user generated content can be optimized to boost your search engine rankings.|
User generated content is simply the comments, reviews and feedback left by visitors to your site.
So, why is it so important?
First, it’s free content for your site or blog. You didn’t have to write it or take the time to come up with the ideas.
Second, those impassioned contributors are actually free marketers for your site (so you want to nurture them and cultivate them!).
Third, it generates credibility and demonstrates the usefulness for your site. As SEOs tend to preach, content is king and the more good user generated content the search engines find, the better they consider the quality of your site.
Fourth, the search engines love it because it feeds them rather than competes with them. In other words, more content equals more crawling.
Fifth, it provides a longtail solution for keywords. No more keyword stuffing to try to catch the longtail!
Sixth, quality user generated content makes it easier to get link love.
Finally, did I mention it’s FREE?!
So, now that you’ve got an idea as to why you should be adding user generated content to your SEO toolkit (If you haven’t, you’re going to fall behind the pack fast, so get with it!), how do you go about optimizing your site to make the most of it?
1. Consider your site’s SEO: Before you do anything else, review the optimization on your site or blog. See my post S E O 101 for basic optimizing tips.
2. If you don’t have a blog or forum, get one! This is the first step towards user generated content because blogs and forums are all about comments. If you are just running a static web site, a blog or a forum is a quick way to get started on the road to user generated content land. Better yet, get both! Do some research first and be sure the blog or forum software is search engine friendly. I can’t tell you how many help e-mails I’ve gotten from forum owners who discovered too late that their forum wasn’t and none of their content was showing up in the search results.
3. Remove fluff: Posters frequently add self-serving content, including links, which you will have to moderate. Remove it to keep your content targeted and theme centered. This also helps keep the PageRank flow where it belongs and makes the site look better, too.
4. Moderate topic titles: If a poster simply makes the title of his post “Help!” you should change it to something more keyword rich like “I need help with keyword!” where keyword is whatever the topic is.
5. Hard code main keywords: Do this to the main page of your forum or blog (H1 tags) and do the same with the title meta tag on that page.
6. Promote good comments: When you get a really good comment or post, promote it to the main page of your blog or forum and post a notice that you have done so. This rewards the hard work of the poster and they love it!
7. Offer a badge or widget: Make it easy to copy and use and include a link to your site or to the poster’s profile. You’ve seen these on all kinds of social sites. For instance, take a look at the front page to my blog, The Web Optimist. You’ll see a Recent Reader list over in the right navigation bar. That’s a MyBlogLog badge that lets you join my community.
8. Make your URLs friendly: Don’t make them a jumble of letters. Not only do readers hate that, so do spiders!
9. Have content on launch. If your site is new, fill it with content prior to going live. The quickest way to get folks to click away from your site is for it appear barren and vacant. Write content yourself, get friends and family involved, use a few syndicated articles, whatever it takes. No one wants to be the first to comment, so get some friends to get things started.
10. Automatic review e-mails. If you are an e-commerce site, send an automatic e-mail to buyers after a sale requesting a review. It works for eBay and Amazon.com!
11. Give incentives to top producers. Reward top contributors with ranks, points or perhaps discounts. Even the big boys do it. Just take a look at Yahoo! Answers, one of the biggest success stories over at the possibly-soon-to-be-bought-by-Microsoft search engine. It rewards points to contributors. Other than bragging rights, the points aren’t good for much, but that doesn’t stop folks from racking them up with answers!
If you’re serious about your SEO, you need user generated content to stay competitive. Review your site or blog today to see how you can go about adding it in the form of forums, reviews, comments and so forth. The longer you wait, the harder it will be to catch up with the pack!