On day 3 of PubCon Vegas, a great session I attended was Optimizing Forums For Search & Dealing with User Generated Content with Dustin Woodard, Lawrence Coburn, and Roger Dooley. User generated content is content generated by users in the form of message boards, customizable profiles, forums, reviews, wikis, blogs, article submission, question and answer, video media, or social networks.
Some good statistics were presented about why to tap into user generated content. Nielsen research recently released showed that 1 out of every 11 minutes spent online is on a social network and 2/3rds of customer "touch points" are user-generated.
Dustin provided some interesting details about long tail traffic. He looked at HitWise's data of the top 10,000 search terms for a 3 month period. The top 100 terms accounted for 5.7% of all traffic, the top 1000 terms accounted for 10.6% of all traffic, and the entire 10,000 data set accounted for just 18.5% of all traffic. With this data, representing the long tail would be analogous to a lizard with a one inch head and a tail that was 221 miles long that represents the long tail traffic.
Dustin gave the following steps for developing a user generated content community:
- Seed it with a few editors and really good initial content.
- Give them a voice.
- Make it easy to contribute.
- Make it cool or trendy.
- Provide ownership.
- Create competition with contests, ranking or by highlighting expertise.
- Build a sense of community or a sense of exclusivity.
- Give the people community a purpose.
All SEO best practices apply to a user generated content, but throughout the session, I learned several specific user generated content tips:
- Predefining keyword rich categories, topics and tags will go a long way with optimization. The better structure for topics that is created up front, the better the user generated content can content in the long run. Users are not inherently good at content organization, so content can be easily buried with poor information architecture.
- Developing automated cross-linking between user generated content helps improve authority, build clusters of content, and enrich the internal link structure. Dustin had experience with building widgets to automatically links to 5 pieces of user generated content and another widget to allow the user to select several pieces of user generated content from a set of related content.
- Examples of battling duplicate content include disallowing duplicate page titles and meta descriptions. Content that is moved, renamed or deleted should be managed well.
- Finally, building a badge or widget to display user involvement helps increase external linking to your site, but this should be carefully managed to avoid appearing spammy. Widget best practices are that the widget should have excellent accessibility, widgets should be simple with light branding and always have fresh content.
- Developing your own tiny URL helps pass and keep intact external links to your site with user generated content. Lawrence suggested to "gently tweet" user generated content that is the highest quality.
Several of End Point's clients are either in the middle of or considering building a community with user generated content. In ecommerce, blogs, forums, reviews, and Q&A are the most prevalent types of user generated content that I've encountered. Many of the things mentioned in this session were good tips to consider throughout the development of user generated content for ecommerce.
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