User Generated SEO

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I’ve written here a little bit about how about comments on a blog are a perfect SEO opportunity.  If you’re paying a content writing firm to write articles or blog posts, comments are like free content.  In this way you can judge a content-writing firm by the number of comments the site generates because commenting is as much proof of a site’s popularity and traction as site traffic.  If you come to a site that has a zero comments for every post, this can make a site lonely, not a “place to be.”  The number of comments is a component of site branding.

Keep in mind that new sites are frequently employing comments throughout the site – not just on blog posts.  This is a major way that blogs have transformed the internet.  Many, many sites now run on a blog platform, or at least are blog-like.  The entire purpose of a blog is to retain viewers, which is exactly what any website owner wants to do.  Nowadays, a static site looks so uninviting, even old fashioned.  So it makes sense for site owners to employ blog features on a standard website.

Blog Comment Tips

Writing a comment on a site is one step closer towards making a purchase.  It’s said that people won’t buy an item from the site until the fifth time or more that they visit: sometimes much more.  The process of commenting will make a person more attached to a site, which will hopefully make a person make a person more likely to buy a product or click an affiliate link.  Over time, this will pay dividends.  Running a website is all about playing the percentages.

So while a site that’s rampant with zero comments can make a site appear neglected, the benefits of user-generated comments outweigh the negatives.  It’s not as though site owners can’t write their own comments – to help start the conversation and help the site appear as if it’s well-received.  However, writing comments is an artform just like writing article content.  Surfers are very attuned to spam, so writing a comment saying, “This is the best article I’ve ever read.  Your insight is mesmerizing,” is pretty transparent.  It shouldn’t take too much time out of the day to write a comment or two that adds to the discussion.  If this seems duplicitous – that’s the name of the game.  Creating a title tag that will rank well is duplicitous to a small degree, so writing comments is just an expansion of this process.

Other Types of User-Generated Content

Amazon is a pretty good model for a site changing with the times.  The site is full of user-generated content: blog posts, comments on reviews, listmania lists, forum posts, etc.  All of it is searchable.  If the internet has proven one thing it’s that everybody’s got an opinion – and everybody’s eager to let it rip, so giving users an avenue to express themselves is important for any site going forward.

User-generated reviews are particularly effective – not just for their searchability but because consumers tend to trust a user review over the marketing copy for the product.  Of course, some reviews these days read like marketing copy these days, but users can sniff these out like they can sniff out spam.  Like comments, reviews will be indexed.  If you’re worried about bad reviews affecting sales, these can be deleted – however, throwing in a few bad reviews gives the good reviews legitimacy.  I know when I see a product that only has good reviews, something is being left out.  Most every product is going to have somebody who doesn’t like it.

A forum is another key form of user-generated content.  One thing to watch out for is the fact that forums often run on a different platform, so the forum appears “off site.”  It’s important for the forum to be integrated within the site itself.  Though third-party software is easy to use, the best way to ensure affiliate clicks and sales – in addition to site interaction – is to integrate the forum within the main domain.  Again, like comments, an empty forum is pretty lonely so you’re going to have to market the forum just as you market the site in order to get people interested and active.  Starting forum threads of your own will be necessary.

Uploading other types of content, such as articles or blog posts, is trickier because you can’t trust anonymous users to write well-researched and readable articles.  Typos and incomplete thoughts are tolerable in a review or comment.  The same cannot be said for article content.  However, a subdomain containing user-generated articles would be one way to get around this problem.

Finally, adding social networking to a site, in which users open up a profile, add friends, etc., can be a form of SEO.  Every user’s page is searchable.  There are apps that let you add social networking to a website.  You don’t have to be Myspace.  If an add friends feature is too ambitious, merely requiring a log-in for writing comments is an alternative.  Every commenter will have a unique page on the site.  The drawback here is this can reduce commenting because people need to register in order to comment.  The advantage is that you’ll get users’ email addresses if you want to contact them for special offers or other promotional opportunities in the future.  Remember, everything’s potential content and everyone’s a potential lead.

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