Getting Started / Marketing / Multichannel / Pureplay / Site Optimisation & Design

The Benefits of User-Generated-Content Part One: Search

If it isn’t already, User Generated Content (UGC) should be high on the list of things for online retailers to investigate, initiate and integrate into their e-commerce stores. Why? E-commerce experts are touting UGC as the next step for retailers looking to improve their discoverability and increase engagement with customers. Not only is UGC great […]

If it isn’t already, User Generated Content (UGC) should be high on the list of things for online retailers to investigate, initiate and integrate into their e-commerce stores.

Why? E-commerce experts are touting UGC as the next step for retailers looking to improve their discoverability and increase engagement with customers. Not only is UGC great from both technical and marketing perspectives, it can also be used for feedback on the products you sell and the customer service you provide. Still need convincing? This two part article will explain the benefits of UGC for optimising your discoverability and search engine results and also the potential for using UGC in conjunction with your marketing and customer service efforts. Read on for insights.

Australian internet retailers have traditionally been a little tentative in opening their sites to public customer contributions, but search engine optimisation (SEO) benefits and the growing demand for transparency are forcing retailers to rethink this.

According to Graham Jackson from the world’s leading supplier of ratings and reviews, Bazaarvoice, UGC is the preferred content of search engines, and by including UGC in product categories, product listings, and product attributes, site discoverability can only benefit. “Traditional product pages tend to all say the same thing, often from the manufacturer’s perspective,” says Jackson. “The only unique content that can be distinguished from any other site is UGC, and its uniqueness makes this kind of content ‘Google Juice’.” In other words, the content free of marketing speak acts as natural bait to attract users to your site.

Tom Funk, VP of Marketing at Timberline Interactive, agrees. “By the nature of user-created content, user reviews are conversational, informal, rich in the keywords searchers actually use, and often full of the kind of misspellings, slang, and colloquialisms that you as a brand-conscious marketer would never use—but search-engine spiders gobble right up,” he says.

“Ratings and reviews are the best, most obvious source of user-generated content, and they can really help your search-engine optimisation efforts,” Funk continues. “Every time a customer rates one of your products, he or she creates a new web page linking to your product—enhancing your search engine visibility even while you sleep.” It sounds too easy, doesn’t it?

Jackson is quick to underline that UGC can be used in many ways to improve SEO, as long as it’s in the right area of your site. “This is not just a cool widget, it needs to be indexable. You need to talk to someone about how you can collect and display the content where it’s most powerful. This could be anything that’s written on your product pages, provided it’s put in the right place.”

And the benefits don’t stop at SEO. Integrating UGC into onsite search refinements can have huge benefits. Using this technique can help customers find products that others with similar tastes have bought and liked, and find out little known features of listed products, which may provide added incentive to purchase. By opening your product descriptions to others outside your marketing department, you’re giving customers practical advice and recommendations from other people just like them.

“I see UGC working especially for searches that contain the phrase ‘reviews’ or ‘ratings’, or searches that use comparatives or superlatives like ‘best’, ‘cheapest’, ‘easiest’, or for searches in the form of a question,” explains Funk. Facilitating search queries like these on your own site prevents customers reverting to Google search to find what they’re after and possibly ending up purchasing from someone else’s site.

Funk adds that ‘popular search’ links can also trigger purchases by making things as easy as possible for those who don’t know quite what they’re looking for. Shoppers will often look for “What do people like me think about this product?” type information. And Jackson explains, “What other people think about those products is a big thing to help with conversion.” Reassurance from other customers, as opposed to marketers, is often what consumers are looking for when purchasing online.

User Generated Content doesn’t only benefit your SEO. To learn about how to use UGC in your marketing, stay tuned for The Benefits of UGC Part Two: Marketing.

Lara McPherson

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Lara is a former content creator for Power Retail.

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