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User Generated Content: the “Big Secret” to SEO?

I don’t know about you, but I’m noticing pattern in sites that rank high in the search engine results. The more user interaction they have, the better their search engine rankings. This is true in just about every niche. Sure, there are some industries, like plumbing or HVAC, where content isn’t as valuable, but there are a few other ways in which the search engines are measuring the value of content, and all of them seem to be focused around the theme of user generated content.

Here are a few examples of how user generated content is ruling the search results and why every marketer who wants to attract more online traffic should be doing about it…

Review are Ranking Higher than Websites

Go to Google, Yahoo or Bing and search for a local business type. It can be any business, just make sure you don’t type the word “reviews” in. You’ll notice that customer reviews on Yelp or on Google places are now ranking ABOVE the company websites in the search results. You don’t even have to type “reviews” into the search engines.

Why is this happening? Because user generated content is considered to be more trustworthy than advertising. That should be no surprise to anyone, but what are you doing about it? Are you building up your online reputation by getting reviews from your customers and posting them on your social media sites and on your website? Do you have a Google places presence and a solid page of reviews on Yelp? It could be the perfect way to get ahead of that competitor who is consistently ranking above you in the search results.

Q & A Websites Are Ranking Higher Than Blogs

Most people who search for solutions to problems online are typing questions into the search bar. If you’ve ever done this, you’ve probably noticed that Q & A sites come up in the search results, not blogs. I’ve seen websites that try to get traffic to their blogs by writing articles that answer questions. Good strategy, but why not go directly to the Q & A site to post your responses and THEN leave a link back to your article?

This way, you get the authority of the Q & A site on your site, you get a back links and you get qualified traffic. Good responses on credible Q & A sites can bring you a lot of evergreen traffic because the Q & A sites are built with user generated content.

Blogs with Engagement Are Ranking Higher

The most popular blogs in any niche are blogs that have engagement from readers. Just type something into the search results and see what comes up. If you find blogs and YouTube videos, you’ll notice that the top ranking content also has a good stream of user generated content. There comment threads are often more interesting than the blog and they contain more content. Every time someone comments on your blog, that post becomes more valuable to the search engines because the spiders crawl it to index the new content.

Of course, the question is, what’s the secret to getting user generated content and user engagement? It starts with building a subscriber list and creating a loyal following. I’ve been following a lot of the big authority blogs for years and noticed that all of them are big on list building and mailing their newly posted blogs out to their mailing list. In SEO, building following is more important than building rankings.

If you become known as an authority in your niche by creating a following, you’ll get more engagement, more user generated content, and the rankings will take care of themselves.

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