Though it might seem intuitive, a number of search marketers claim that leveraging user-generated content (UGC) is a challenge. According to the JupiterResearch SEM Executive Survey, building inbound links was the No. 1 challenge listed by approximately 60 percent of search marketers.
However, according to the Forrester Research report Boost Organic Rankings With User-Generated Content by Evan Andrews, UGC found on review sites (e.g., Yelp and Trip Advisor), social networking sites (e.g., Digg and Twitter), video and image sites (e.g., YouTube and Flickr), blogs, wikis, and forums are all viable options to boost content and links for marketers.
Before you take the plunge and invest in a UGC strategy to increase your Web site's organic search results, consider the following:
1. You need a budget. User-generated content is rarely free, though it might be less expensive than typical site optimization efforts, according to Andrews. Marketers need to factor in the cost of developing UGC efforts and consider if they are a better option than deploying paid search and traditional SEO strategies.
2. Users can generate content, but they can't optimize your site alone. Yes, that's right: SEO rules still apply, no matter how much user-generated content you have at your finger tips, states Evans. To be successful at building a UGC community, blog, forum, etc., remember two things: tag your content well—this makes it available to search engines—and use a clean and user-centric design. Fortunately, marketers have options when it comes to software that automates the more complicated aspects of building what Evans calls "a search-friendly UGC platform."
3. Don't let duplicate content kill your rankings. Search engines don't catalog duplicated content, which is created when users post similar content to multiple sites (i.e., when spammers fill forums with numerous links to sites selling Viagra and designer handbags). To avoid duplication dragging down your search rankings, require users to register/provide information—such as name, e-mail address, Web site, etc.—instead of the option of anonymous posts. This ensures better quality of content, as well as relevancy.