What Is User-Generated Content?
UGC (or user-generated content) is a term that gained popularity as social media and websites based on user activity rose into power. User-oriented content should be the basis of your SEO content activities. Taking care of UGC posted on or concerning your website is one of the most interesting takes on this approach.
In simpler terms – user-generated content is every piece of content that was written and published by the users themselves. It doesn’t matter whether it is an image, a sound recording, a longer piece of text content, or just a short comment.
UGC is what separates traditional media from “new media”. While watching TV, listening to the radio or reading your favorite newspaper you’ll only encounter professionally-crafted content.
The Internet is different. Here, you’ll see content created by people who aren’t necessarily pros in the given topic or industry, but they can be heard – and give others the value of their own.
On September 10, 2020, a new attribute for links, rel=” ugc” was introduced. Its purpose was to distinguish “normal” outbound links from links posted by the website’s users. The attribute may be used ie. for links published by users in the comments section.
Content created and published by users instead of professional content creators is often well-received by website visitors.
User-generated content can be created from scratch or based on existing content. To fully classify it as UGC, the user has to add a certain value. For example – adding a previously screened TV show on YouTube can’t be considered UGC.
Why do users want to create content? Their motivation may be establishing a connection with other users, gaining fame and prestige – or perhaps just expressing themselves and their views.
How Can User-Generated Content Impact SEO?
UGC offers a specific value proposition in terms of social media. The whole concept of social media is based on engaging certain groups of people or communities. The methods of gathering user-generated content are universal in the Internet world. This is why they prove to be useful outside of Facebook or Twitter. SEO is a great example. Why?
Well-used UGC is an important signal for Google and other search engines. It can help you build your website’s visibility. More unique content on your website – what’s not to like?
What about off-site user-generated content? We’re talking about content published on social media, private websites, or blogs. It can be a valuable source of backlinks – or even a key part of your branding activities. Both aspects are important in terms of SEO. The first is self-explanatory – natural link building brings undisputable value to your website. What about the second one? If Google recognizes your brand, this kind of content can work like backlinks – it can be a social signal, communicating and raising your website’s value.
Is All User-Generated Content Rainbows and Sunshine? What About Its Risk?
Is UGC an ideal solution? Not really. User-generated content is an unpredictable tool. Especially when it comes to the content published on your website. It carries a certain risk – both in terms of your image and your website’s organic performance.
That doesn’t mean you shouldn’t focus on user-generated content or that you can’t do anything about spam or fake info in your comment section. Be sure to moderate your content and encourage local users to interact with your content to make the most out of UGC.
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User-Generated Content: Examples & When to Use It
Let’s take a look at how user-generated content looks like live. What should you look for searching for UGC and how can you make it appear on your website?
Contests, Polls, Questions
If you’re searching for an interactive solution – contests are the way to go. If the reward is attractive enough, you’re sure to get a large number of users eager to join the competition. Contests can be carried out in different ways.
You – the organizer of the contest – are in charge of its rules. The users supply text or visual information depending on the contest’s formula. And every single part of this process can be considered content.
Remember that contests need to adhere to local law. Be sure that your contests fulfill all the legal requirements.
How to organize a contest? It shouldn’t be too complicated. For example – ask your audience for a humorous answer to a simple question on social media You can also utilize visual entries as part of user-generated content ranked in the contest.
Polls are a bit different. Let’s call them a tool allowing for gathering information and opinions from your audience. Perfect for checking out your clients’ satisfaction, and reviews, or gathering demographic information. They are also a great starting point for interaction with your users!
Of course – e-mail or linked polls are just a sample. You can create live polls. Do they have a significant impact on your website’s SEO?
Well… that depends. Their bigger pro is improving user engagement (both in terms of interaction and content creation). Some polls can be so popular that they fulfill a link building function and bring more valuable traffic to your website. This in turn can positively impact your website’s rankings in the SERPs.
What about questions? Visitors gain the ability to ask and answer them as part of the comment section, in your FAQ, or as a forum user. You can also use them differently – ask users a question and discuss it further.
Using questions as part of your user-generated content allows you to troubleshoot customers’ issues, makes it possible for them to seek help, and gives your site an opportunity to create a community of particular interests. And let’s not forget – that’s more content for your website.
E-commerce Reviews as Part of User-Generated Content
Want to turn users’ attention to your product? This is where UGC can help you. Social media users and other online creators love to boast about products that fulfill their needs.
Remember this: you should not only make it easy for them but rather encourage content creation by creating hashtags for your brand or product or actively replying to posts that feature your products.
Product opinions and reviews are also a part of UGC. Focus on that – they are absolutely crucial for your site’s ranking in SERPs. Why? By utilizing them, you can build credibility. Of course – that applies to situations in which the reviews are positive. However – we don’t recommend censoring the negative ones. Work on your services’ quality instead!
How does that translate to the e-commerce world? It serves as a valuable tool in trying times when you can’t afford to publish unique SEO product descriptions. UGC can be a lifesaver for particular product pages. What’s posted by users in the review sections will differentiate pages from each other.
How to encourage your users to post reviews? Discount codes, automated messages after completing an order, and so on. Be aware that the message ought to attract your customers and give them a certain value. In cases of small businesses – the explanation of why users’ opinions are so important to them might do the trick.
Don’t be afraid of negative reviews. By replying to them – you have a chance of dispelling your potential customers’ uncertainties and doubts. By showing your viewpoints – you can encourage them to come back to your store.
Utilize Images and Video
The usage of user-generated content in marketing activities was perfected by smartphone or computer manufacturers. They can show their products’ capabilities through content created by the devices’ users.
Which companies benefit from such tactics? Let’s take Huawei, for example. They regularly organize contests for the best photo taken with the use of their phones. The winners get their photos posted on official fanpages, followed by hundreds of thousands of users. Samsung does similar things, too.
Both sides benefit from such actions. Take a look at some clothing stores: items or even whole collections can be promoted by tens or hundreds of photos, confirming their quality and building a community around the brand.
As an example – Nago utilizes Instagram photos from users who tagged the brand in their posts. Everyone wins – the customers’ profiles are promoted by the brand, the brand’s website gains additional content and potential customers can see the clothes’ fit firsthand from other customers that are happy with the purchase.
Remember – Opinions Are Important!
Do you know anyone who decided to buy an expensive item online without checking user reviews? Me neither. Opinions, ratings, and reviews are much more trustworthy than professional descriptions on ecommerce sites.
And let’s get this straight – reviews and opinions are also part of user-generated content. But that’s not all. If they’re positive, they may have an impact on your website’s rankings in search results. In turn – they can serve as a way to attract new users to your website.
Take a look at Sephora’s website. There are tens of opinions on a single product which may help a potential customer decide whether the product will be the right choice for them.
Want to know more about their impact on your website’s SEO? Read more about the importance of reviews in ecommerce stores.
Good Comments vs Bad Comments
The majority of user-generated content is comments left by users on websites and social media. Every comment is a unique opportunity to connect with your potential customers and strengthen your brand’s image.
Your answers broaden the reach of your posts. This is a factor that may strengthen your website’s popularity.
Don’t divide comments into “good” and “bad”. Every single one deserves a reply. By replying to negative comments – you can dispel your customers’ doubts and strengthen your brand’s image.
When it comes to social media – discussions with users bring out the true reach of the posts. This leads to attracting more engaged users. Creative conversations with your haters can do a lot of good for your brand. See how Ryanair does it!
Comments are a common example of user-generated content on various websites – especially blogs which allow them to express their opinions and comment on the published content.
Recipe sites are often good examples of websites rich with UGC in the comment section. This comment was posted under a pumpkin rigatoni recipe – note that a variation of the keyword “pasta with pumpkin” was used in the recipe before (as “pumpkin pasta”), but being a common phrase it also keeps getting repeated in a natural way thanks to user-generated content in the comments.
They can add value to your site, as they allow you to interact with users and create a community. However – be wary of spam comments. Unwanted content (links or promotional comments) can be utilized as a part of black hat SEO techniques – this is why you should moderate and filter UGC, deleting spam.
If you want to minimize risks – add rel=”ugc” (a variant of the nofollow attribute) for user-generated links. This lets search engines interpret them as part of users’ activities which should not be indexed. This way – toxic links will not harm your website’s reputation.
Other than spam – you should monitor your website’s comments for swear words, slurs, or other content that breaks Google’s guidelines. Comments are an integral part of your website and such – every guideline violation can affect your website’s visibility. Don’t forget about that!
Websites can display comments from external social media platforms (i.e. Facebook) under some entries. Remember – you don’t have full control over them. This may lead to inappropriate content appearing on your site. For example – your Google Discover traffic may disappear overnight because of swear words in comments.
However risky we made it look – it may be worth it to gather positive, valuable comments on your blog sites. How? Be sure to read our article about blog comments and SEO.
Are forums an extinct species? Not really – we can still encounter active forums, especially in niche, technical topics. A forum connected to your website’s domain can be your main source of user-generated content, allowing you to build your website’s visibility in Google’s search results.
The main challenge here is moderating the content. Minimize spam bots’ and black hat SEO practices’ impact when proceeding this way.
Users are still eager to discuss topics that connect them as a group. A great example of this phenomenon is Facebook groups. As AI content continues to flood the Internet people may want to return to the traditional way of opinion exchange on forum websites. This way they can be more sure that they’re discussing with real people – not bots or AI.
The Significance of User-Generated Content for Users
User-generated content is important not only for your website – of course, it accumulates additional content which affects your site’s organic performance and its image, but that’s not all.
Most importantly – UGC is valuable for your website’s users. For example, they view reviews as much more trustworthy than content created for and used in e-commerce stores. Reevoo’s research shows that 70% of online users trust other users’ recommendations and opinions.
The State of Social & User-Generated Content (SOSUGC) report for 2023 shows that users trust and prefer authentic, unpaid reviews over any other type of content. Their trust level may vary depending on the type of content – according to the interviewed online consumers, the most authentic type is pure user-generated content, followed by content published by creators, brands, and influencers. The least trustworthy content type is staged UGC: seemingly user-generated, but in fact the result of marketing specialists’ diligent work.
Content created by users is especially important for younger and middle-aged people. As researched by Spark Reel, 70% of all UGC is created by those groups. The youngest users pay the most attention to the presence of user-generated content on websites.
According to Bazaarvoice’s research, 86% of millennials think that UGC can be a sign of high-quality products and services. This in turn means that brands’ social media profiles and websites are of paramount importance in everyday purchase decisions. This clearly shows that even small businesses need to pay attention to everything that users publish on their websites.
Why Is It Worth It to Utilize User-Generated Content?
You already know how user-generated content should look and why it is important for modern audiences. It bears the same importance for companies that can successfully transform it into something that gives them an advantage without engaging in high-cost campaigns. UGC is very cheap to create. Everything you need to start utilizing it is a website or a social media profile – and a bit of time and effort on your part.
This kind of interaction with users is highly engaging and happens to be a process that feeds back on itself. The more comments or photos are left under our posts, the bigger the chance that more people will comment and post more.
You can support the creation of UGC, too. But how? The most important thing is to answer questions, appreciate the praises you have received, and counter critical opinions. This way you’ll influence your brand image and recognizability.
These activities also help increase your social media posts reach, which in turn can attract more potential customers. It’s a combo that makes UGC not only effective but also helpful in reaching new, untapped audiences – including those interested in your business and in creating more content.
This is an update of an article published in 2019.