User-Generated Content gives your business a big advantage over your competitors, not only by making Google-friendly unique content for your site but also as a form of word-of-mouth marketing. Read on to find out what it is, and why you need it.
Google has been around for a long time and has evolved into a customer-centric platform giving users useful relevant results based on the intent of their search. It's the majority of users' first port of call into the internet, and everything starts with search.
Why are we talking about Google search? Well, because without search, you won't get access to all the content on the Internet. And Google is the Lord Commander of search. So it's important to note right from the start that whatever appears in Google search is going to have a dramatic impact on your business. If you're not in there, you won't get found. If you don't get found, nobody will buy anything from you.
So let's move right along and get into the many types of UGC available online.
This is probably the biggest one. There are so many forums online on a vast variety of topics. Many of them provide useful UGC in the form of question/answer topics, as well as keeping users and potential users informed as to recent events/updates. If you've ever typed a question into Google, chances are you've been directed to a web forum for the answer. If someone else has asked that question before, there'll be a group of other people answering it.
Wordpress powers almost 20% of all websites. That's a phenomenal figure, and a huge amount of content published using the world's most popular blogging platform as its foundation. Like forums, blogs are available on a wide range of topics. Many blogs are run by individuals, while others are run by companies with multiple contributors. Either way, the presence of comments in blog articles is good place to collect user-generated content. Often, people will read a blog post and want to contribute in some way with questions or corrections, and the comments box is the best place to do this. Over time, more unique content and information is added to the post (which itself is unique and useful). All these small changes and additions will gradually give the page more use and relevance to Google users searching for its topic. This is often the reason why blog posts and forums rank well in Google when you type a question in.
One of the best ways to get great visibility in Google and beyond is by collecting reviews. There are generally three main areas where reviews can be found, but again, they all originate in Google Search.
The first is the presence of reviews on the business' website. Both company and product reviews are possible, and depending on the type will depend in what format they appear. Company reviews, for example, are the overall rating of the company rather that it's products. Factors influencing company reviews include customer service, ease of ordering and delivery. They're generally shown in the more general areas of the site, for example, the header, footer or home page.
Product reviews are more specific and the best place for these are on the individual product pages for the products sold. This is pretty easy to integrate, and in fact on the main eCommerce platforms like Shopify, Magento, WooCommerce and Wordpress, Reviews.io has a simple app/plugin/module which can be added to the website with ease.
The reason product reviews are great is because the content of the reviews generally tends to answer any questions that users have about the product. Let's say you land on a product page for something you're interested in purchasing, but you don't know whether it's suitable for your application. It's easy to have a quick scan of the product reviews content to see if anyone is using it for the same thing you want to. If so, your question is answered, and you'll probably buy it.
Google search results
The second place you'll find reviews are in Google itself. You may have seen stars appear in Google Search results underneath certain hits - these stars are Google Seller Ratings and are an aggregated score given by Google based on reviews collected by licensed third-party review platforms such as Reviews.io. These stars are really important because people notice them, and they give an indication of the quality of your company before a user even reaches your website.
Local review sites
Thirdly, reviews can appear across a wide range of localsites, like Facebook, Google Local, Tripadvisor and Amazon. Google indexes these sites very highly, and also gives stars and seller ratings to them in the search results. It's important therefore to keep your eye on these local sites and collect reviews on them, so that your overall review score remains consistent.
If you choose to collect reviews for your business (and they are so important) then using Reviews.io will help you collect and publish reviews from genuine customers not only on Google (to get Seller Ratings), but also across the local sites listed above. You can do this all in one place automatically, saving a huge amount of time and effort. Have a read of this for more information on local review collection.
Wikipedia is the source of all knowledge on the Internet*. It's created by individuals and is editable by users, subject to moderation and proper referencing. It is one of the best examples of user-generated content online. There are something like 30,000 active contributors on Wikipedia each month. Articles are written, edits are suggested by other users, and so continues the information debate for the definitive version on any given topic. The thing to remember about Wikipedia, is that it's never finished. In fact, this is important to remember for all UGC.
Because the software powering Wikipedia is open source, it's allowed users to generate Wiki's onto their own site containing all sorts of useful information such as user guides, support, or feature lists.
(* - It might not be).
Facebook, Twitter, Instagram and Linkedin. Sites built in their entirety on the generation and distribution of user-generated content. People are encouraged to talk about themselves, like or share others' updates, and generally interact with their friends, strangers, companies and celebrities on a vast range of topics. The growth of social media has been unprecedented, especially since the advent of mobile computing and the iPhone. We're all connected, and for better or worse, we all want to look at pictures of cats on the Internet.
All these sites rank in Google pretty well if your search term is specific enough. As mentioned above, you'll also see stars under Facebook search results when you search for a company by name - these are sourced from reviews of businesses written on Facebook by visitors to their page.
Video sharing sites
Sites in this category include Vimeo and Youtube. Youtube is the most popular of all video-sharing sites. A quick Google search tells me that something like 300 hours of YouTube videos are uploaded every minute. That's an insane amount of content. All of it generated by people who just want to share, inform, educate and entertain through the medium of film. It also lets us see videos of cats on the Internet.
Photo sharing sites
Flikr, Photobucket, and Google Photos let users create and share albums of photos online. If they're sufficiently titles and tagged then they'll be indexed by Google and appear in the "images" search results.
But how does UGC actually help me?
You've probably already gathered how important Google Search is, and how UGC influences what is displayed there. So at the very least, more UGC will get you more visibility in Google. Your customers will be better informed, because they'll be reading your blog and other blogs about your products, and even watching video reviews of your products). Encouraging your customers to create this content for you will not only save you time but will add social proof. People like buying based on recommendations from friends, families, and other online shoppers.
Not all these sources of UGC will be relevant to your business. However, at the very least, you should start collecting reviews because they give the most immediate benefits.
If you're interested in Reviews.io as a review collection platform, take a look at our plans here, or just get started with a free demo by signing up using the button at the top of this page.