What excites me about SEO is that it’s always changing. You can’t stand still – staying ahead is crucial.
Small advantages matter in the competitive battle for audience attention.
One activation that is seeing growing prominence for brands is user-generated content (UGC). This article tackles UGC and its potential as a driving force for our SEO content efforts.
Before we delve into its impact on SEO, let’s start with the basics and define what user-generated content actually is.
At its core, UGC includes content created by users or customers, ranging from product reviews to comments and discussions.
UGC is a game-changer in digital content. It shifts from brands telling the story to your audience speaking collectively.
UGC is now a key part of our online experience, shaping opinions, influencing decisions, and fostering communities.
The role of UGC in SEO
So, why should search marketers like us pay attention to user-generated content?
UGC has the potential to be a key activation within your search SEO strategy, especially now that:
- “Experience” sits within the E-E-A-T guidelines.
- Google is developing a UGC-prominent search feed with Perspectives.
- Users are migrating searches to platforms where first-hand experience is more obvious.
The evolution of UGC
The concept of UGC isn’t new, but its prominence and influence have grown exponentially, specifically as younger audiences, who are true digital natives, have begun to contribute to the search landscape. Several factors drive this shift:
- With the proliferation of social media platforms, users have more opportunities to voice their opinions and share their experiences.
Ease of creating content
- TikTok, Instagram and other social platforms have made it easier for audiences to create content.
- This has enabled them to join, lead and create their own conversations alongside contributing to the existing brand conversations on platforms.
Authenticity and trust
- Audiences tend to trust peer recommendations and authentic content more than traditional advertising or brand-generated content.
- UGC fosters a sense of belonging and community among users, increasing engagement and loyalty, even contributing to advocacy.
Search engine visibility
- Search engines led by Google have recognized the value of UGC in providing fresh, relevant, and dynamic content. As a result, they’ve gone as far as to create their own UGC search filter, Google Perspectives.
Why UGC matters in SEO
User-generated content can attract and engage users in unique ways. It can supercharge our brand activations, enabling us to deliver truly helpful content.
Away from Google, UGC enables us to grow visibility throughout the emerging search universe effectively. You can prompt your communities to guide important conversations and repurpose that content on your blogs or landing pages.
All this helps you showcase experience, display expertise, build trustworthiness and develop authenticity – E-E-A-T signals you should be looking to showcase within your content.
Reward your audience with discounts, free products, or exposure as they contribute to your search content library, filling content gaps. Just ensure you follow local guidelines on paid partnerships and advertising legislation.
This approach allows SEOs to build keyword universes aligned with UGC content. Brands can motivate their audiences to generate UGC, creating a scalable search strategy supported by a brand community.
When you incorporate UGC into your SEO strategy, you can reap the following benefits:
Enhanced search engine rankings
- UGC can be used to ensure your content is fresh and constantly iterated upon, alongside improving keyword diversity. These factors should positively impact search engine rankings.
Increased user engagement
- UGC fosters user interaction. Audiences are likely to spend more time on your page watching UGC elements or engaging on social platforms, always learning about your brand and putting you top of mind.
- UGC introduces a wide range of content types. The content is only restricted by the imagination of your audiences. This means your content library could become more diverse. Your audience is likely to create UGC that resonates with your audience, sending you signals of where you should be investing content creation efforts.
- UGC naturally includes long-tail keywords and phrases, broadening your keyword coverage and attracting audiences with focused pains, needs, wants and desires.
Authenticity and trust
- UGC is perceived as authentic and unbiased, building trust and credibility with your audience. This can then be leveraged on your branded website.
- UGC creates a sense of community around your brand or website, encouraging repeat visits and user loyalty.
- Communities are emerging as a vital part of search marketing, and UGC can enable you to grow your branded community at scale.
- UGC often gets shared on social media platforms, generating signals that indirectly benefit your SEO efforts and connecting with your audiences on social search platforms like TikTok and Pinterest, keeping your brand visible across multiple touchpoints.
- High-quality UGC can attract natural backlinks from other websites, enhancing your site’s authority. This can be huge within niche publications that discuss the activities of influencers and content creators within your industry.
Lower content creation costs
- UGC reduces the need for constant content creation, saving time and resources. You establish your strategy and become content curators looking for UGC that works for the needs of that strategy.
Feedback and insights
- UGC provides valuable insights into user preferences, pain points, and product/service improvements. This should enable your brand to constantly iterate and develop your “owned” marketing channels and SEO content.
- UGC brings diverse perspectives and opinions to your content, catering to a broader audience and once again growing your brand community.
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Tips for leveraging UGC in SEO
Leveraging UGC effectively requires a strategic approach for seamless integration into your SEO workflow.
Actively encourage and incentivize user contributions
You’re not here to exploit your audience for free content but to empower them to create great content alongside your brand.
We’ve already touched on how discounts, free products and events can be used as compensation.
If a user creates UGC for your brand, they likely have an affinity for you, and these techniques would likely be well-received.
Strategically showcase UGC on your platforms
After asking permission from users, showcase UGC on your website your social channels or maybe even within your next TV ad.
Use it wherever works best for your brand, whether testimonials, product reviews, commentaries, or guides to enhance your existing content library.
Invite UGC creators to contribute guest blogs
Consider inviting UGC creators to contribute guest blog posts or articles. Protect your brand, but let them create content in their style, especially if it has resonated with your audience.
Remember, UGC often contains long-tail keywords naturally used by users. Identify these keywords and optimize your content around them to capture search traffic.
Integrating social sharing options can amplify the reach of UGC while engaging with user comments, and any content they create fosters a sense of community.
You should encourage customers to leave reviews and ratings and then use structured data markup to display star ratings in search results as you look to improve your click-through rates.
Another option is to organize UGC-friendly contests and challenges, such as encouraging users to:
- Check out and review specific city restaurants on TikTok.
- Recommend outfit ideas for specific holidays on Instagram.
Monitor UGC analytics based on user behavior and engagement metrics to refine your strategy.
Gymshark’s effective use of UGC
Gymshark has masterfully utilized user-generated content to bolster its brand presence and connect with its audience.
At the heart of their strategy is a community-centric approach. They have built a robust brand community, encouraging customers to share their fitness journeys and experiences with Gymshark products, thus fostering a sense of belonging and loyalty.
Successful hashtag campaigns, such as the #Gymshark66 challenge, have been key to this. This campaign encourages users to share their fitness progress over 66 days, generating significant attention for the brand.
In terms of social media integration, Gymshark excels on platforms like Instagram, Pinterest and TikTok, where fitness content thrives.
They often repost content from their users, blending professional and user-generated content to enhance authenticity and reach.
This integration extends to collaborating with fitness influencers and regular customers, further amplifying their brand visibility.
From the outset, Gymshark’s strategies prominently feature UGC showcasing their fans using their products. Take their flagship store as an example, where the mannequins were created based on members of their community.
This is a powerful tool for product promotion and builds trust among potential buyers. The brand also features a user-generated content gallery on its website, showing customers how others benefit from their products.
Engaging the community through contests and events is another cornerstone of Gymshark’s strategy. They organize contests where participants share content related to Gymshark products, often featuring winners on their social platforms or rewarding them with merchandise.
This approach engages the community and serves as an effective marketing tool. Additionally, Gymshark uses UGC as a feedback loop for product development. Insights gathered from user content help them understand customer preferences, shaping their product and marketing strategies.
By showcasing a diverse range of customers, Gymshark promotes inclusivity and body positivity, reinforcing a positive brand image that resonates with a wide audience.
Through these multifaceted strategies, Gymshark has adeptly harnessed the power of UGC, demonstrating its significant impact on brand growth, customer engagement, and overall digital marketing success.
Now, most of these successes have taken place away from “traditional search.” However, with Google’s E-E-A-T developments and its move toward Perspectives, I anticipate Gymshark to start reaping benefits on a Google SERP, alongside its successes with social-search platforms.
Risks of UGC in SEO strategy and how to mitigate them
Quality control challenges
- Risk: UGC may vary in quality, with some content being poorly executed or irrelevant.
- Solution: Implement a robust moderation system. Use automated tools for initial filtering and have a dedicated team for manual review to ensure content quality and relevance.
Negative or harmful content
- Risk: UGC can include negative reviews, inappropriate comments and undesirable content.
- Solution: Establish clear community guidelines and enforce them consistently. Create a reporting system for users to flag inappropriate content. Beyond this, ensure as SEO content curators. We don’t showcase such content when leveraging UGC.
Dependence on user participation
- Risk: Difficulty in generating enough quality UGC.
- Solution: Encourage user participation through incentives, contests, and active engagement. Foster a strong community feeling to motivate content creation.
Impact on page load speed
- Risk: Slower page load times due to media-rich UGC.
- Solution: Optimize images and videos for the web. Implement lazy loading and leverage content delivery networks (CDNs) to improve loading times.
Vulnerability to spam and malicious content
- Risk: UGC areas may attract spam and malicious content.
- Solution: Use anti-spam filters and regularly monitor UGC areas for suspicious activities. Implement strict registration and posting guidelines and educate SEO teams on best practices.
Potential for echo chambers
- Risk: Creation of echo chambers where only certain opinions are amplified.
- Solution: Promote a diverse range of views and opinions in UGC. Encourage respectful discourse and discourage groupthink.
As should be becoming clear, most of the risks can be reduced by an effective content curation effort by SEOs, considering the various risks and looking to eliminate or reduce these risks as we leverage UGC within our strategies.
Managing risks and maximizing benefits of UGC in SEO
Integrating user-generated content into an SEO strategy offers many benefits, from positively impacting search engine rankings and driving better user engagement to providing authentic and diverse content.
However, as with any strategy, it has unique challenges and risks. The key to successfully leveraging UGC is balancing its advantages and potential drawbacks. And this is where I see our evolving role as SEO content curators coming to the forefront of SEO strategy.
Effective moderation and quality control are essential to maintain the credibility and relevance of UGC. Implementing robust guidelines, educating the user community, and employing both automated and manual moderation processes can mitigate risks associated with our brand’s content quality.
Encouraging diverse and active user participation while maintaining the brand message ensures a consistent and positive portrayal, allowing us to scale our activations effectively.
While UGC can significantly boost SEO efforts and enhance brand visibility and credibility, it requires thoughtful strategies and vigilant management.
By acknowledging and addressing the potential risks and continuously engaging with their communities, brands can harness the full power of UGC to enrich their SEO strategies and establish a strong, authentic, and dynamic online presence.
Opinions expressed in this article are those of the guest author and not necessarily Search Engine Land. Staff authors are listed here.