If you’ve read previous chapters of my S E O 101 series (download the free search engine optimization ebook), you’ve probably noticed that I keep drilling the idea of good content into your head as the backbone of top rankings (The old content is king idea).
Believe it or not, your users can be a top source for that content. Comments, testimonials, reviews and the like can be great information that catches long tail search phrases that you might never think of when deciding on keywords and phrases you target. And, since you really shouldn’t try to target a page to more than a couple anyway, user generated content can fill the void.
In addition, statistically more web site customers (for you ecommerce sites) read reviews than not. Something like 3/4 of online shoppers read reviews before they buy. That’s a lot!
Credibility is extremely important, so those reviews and testimonials not only help with your long tail optimization, but can help position your site as trusted and an authority site.
So, here are a few thoughts to help you get started with your own user generated content strategy.
1. Add Reviews, Testimonials or Comments – If you don’t have any of these on your site or blog now, get them. In particular, retail sites with reviews have a higher conversion rate and order size than sites without.
2. Make it easy – The easier it is for users to read and post, the more feedback you will receive, thus more content and long tail spider bait.
3. Put it above the fold – Reviews should be high enough on the page to be seen, preferably next to the product and with ratings, as in stars. Ratings go hand in hand with reviews, so provide a star rating as a quick look graphic. Want proof? Just take a look at what Amazon.com does with theirs:
Amazon.com puts their reviews and ratings right at the top of the page and follows up with individual review ratings on the user review pages, which you can see at my review of Who Killed the Electric Car?
4. Give them incentives – The best thing you can do for your customers or visitors is to provide them with service, but to encourage participation and provide some good vibes, give them something special like the opportunity to win a prize, to get a “Top Contributor” badge for their web site or whatever feel good promotion you can come up with.
5. Provide suggestions – Instead of 301 redirecting the page of a defunct product to your home page (so annoying!), provide a page with alternative suggestions. Not only is this useful to the customer, but you might get some feedback, comments, testimonials, etc. out of it. More content and link bait!
6. Extend the tail – Did you know that reviews extend the long tail more than you could probably do on your own (without getting real spammy)? This is because search terms for reviews tend to be much longer. In addition to “keyword1 keyword2 keyword3” your page might be found for “keyword1 keyword2 keyword3 keyword4” or “keyword1 keyword2 keyword3 keyword4 keyword5” for instance.
7. Moderate – Yep, it’s time consuming, but it just has to be done on your own site (You have less control over reviews and comments about you on third party sites). You’ve got to watch out for inappropriate comments or attempts to game you for back links. You’re acting as editor to make sure your content remains good, quality information.
8. Require registration – Some folks will click away when they have to register, but having registered users gives you some control over who posts what. Spammers and trouble makers can better be controlled and registration provides a level of credibility to the users.
9. Make them happy – People are inherently happier when they are allowed to contribute and interact. Your site and your visitors will be better for all of the comments, testimonials, suggestions and reviews you let them post.
10. Videos and images – Up until now, I’ve discussed textual content, but allowing customers and visitors to upload images and videos can be super effective and a powerful motivator for them. Just ask YouTube and Flickr! And, again, Amazon.com has jumped on the video bandwagon. I did a video review of the Linksys WRT350N router a while back and as I write this, my video review is the top listed review.
The video review can also be viewed on Linksys WRT350N Customer Review page. Free content for Amazon.com!
There you go. User generated content basically turns your customers and site visitors into SEOs for you while generating fresh keyword rich content for the spiders to devour.
Also remember that customer/user feedback and interaction on your site or blog can help you with branding, stickiness and reputation management.