SEO & User Generated Content

Feb 27, 2008 - 8:56 pm 2 by
Filed Under SMX West 2008

Search engines love good content, but good content can take a lot of time to prepare. So why not turn to your users and visitors? User Generated Content -- UGC -- has the advantage of often being full of passion plus the "authors" who create it in turn may turn into marketers for your site. Learn more in this session.

Moderator: Vanessa Fox, Features Editor, Search Engine Land Q&A Moderator: Chris Winfield, President and Co-Founder, 10e20

Speakers: Andrew Goodman, Founder and Principal, Page Zero Media Rebecca Kelley, Search Marketing Consultant, SEOmoz, Inc. Roger Montti, Founder and Owner,

First up is Roger Montti. He's going to concentrate on SEOing a forum or community site in order to make it rank better.

Optimizing a forum: - Goals - Remove Fluff - Target Keywords - Moderate for Search and Users

Goals: - Attract more users via search - Improve user friendliness - Make your community site more useful

Roger's used these techniques, and his forum ranks quite well across the engines. This brings in a lot of new users. Sometimes if you put up a forum, you have it stagnate if you don't get new users. Also good for AdSense.

Attracting more users: Benefits of optimization - Improves ranking ability - Improves long tail phrase performance. Users talking about the product is great, they use keywords you wouldn't use, but they use keywords that users would use in search engines. - Raises CTR with better title and description. Often have to tweak your software to be able to put in the better title and description. - Makes site easier to research and browse - Improves user retention

To improve user friendliness. Moderate topic titles. This makes it easy to research, and improves site navigation. A lot of people will make titles like "I need help" or "help me". Have you or your moderators change the title to something descriptive. You can leave an occasional misspelling, as people might type the same thing into the search engine.

Remove links to fluff. You want to keep users and search engines focused on the content. This keeps the page rank flow going to the content instead of stuff like member profile. You need to tweak some of the forum software, as the features out of the box are not always best. Fluff can include: - Links to site visitor stats - Links to member profiles from select pages. -- From main page -- From main page of sub-forums - Forum links to moderator profiles.

Removing the fluff helps because: - It allows maximum PageRank to flow to pages that matter. - Helps pages rank better. - Tightens focus of topics.

Improves site usefulness - Too much fluff distracts. - Helps focus on site mission - Simplifies navigation and topic research

There are exceptions to every rule. The exception is when member pages have useful content.

Targeting Keywords - Associate topic titles with title tag. A lot of forum software doesn't do this out of the box and needs to be changed. - Associate topic titles with meta description. Meta descriptions are great for getting people to click through from SERPs. - Moderate topic titles. - Hard code pet keywords into main page of your forum: H1 the forum name and title tags. - Alter code so topic title is a H1 tag.

Fun Forum Hacks Site Map Generator for phpBB from RSS Feed generator (Standard feature on Invision Power Board)

If you do want to show search engines different content (such as signatures in forum posts) you can do a nofollow, or show signatures only to registered users.

Andrew is up, talking about Pure-Play User Generated Content (UGC): Business prospects, tactics, and strategies. Why is he doing this, since his company does paid? He got involved with that has a lot of UGC.

Name of company in each city is easy to rank on. Much harder to rank on terms like kitchen renovation and more competitive to bid. Graph of how much things have changed in ten years, looking at how many more sites are competing.

The bar has been raised. - If Yelp has 400k relevant inbound links, 1,000 semi-relevant links probably isn't going to cut it. - Content getting indexed doesn't help rank. You need unique content, you could have a lot of duplicate content when you have just basic business info for a page.

First Generation UGC: Examples Open directory project - army of volunteer editors categorized - supposedly overcomes the scalability problem of directories - directories then fell out of favor - issues with quality control - outcomes: much more widespread awareness of value of "crowdsourcing" before anyone called it that.

TripAdvisor - Users write reviews about their experiences.

Epinion, etc. - Among other things, blazed a trail of legality of opinions. Nobody knew what this meant legally.

UGC 1.0 Prototype: TripAdvisor Search visibility strategy and tactics: - Not risky - Feeds Google, doesn't compete. Results – millions of top ten rankings. Long tail poster child. - What's the incentive for users? - Will ___ sink it? Long term, unless they evolve, this is what can sink UGC 1.0 -- need credible reviews (fake reviews can be a problem) -- appropriateness of recommendations – matching like-thinking users.

Lesson Learned? ODP and Trip Advisor made a lot of money. Now you have all kinds of companies – Yelp and lots of others that Andrew only showed on slide for two seconds.

Unique advantages of UGC (potentially) Search engine strategy: - Dovetails with what SE want to index and rank well - Doesn't compete with SEs but "feeds them" - Is often just what searchers are looking for - Marginal cost of creating more content is close to zero.

SE tactics: You need to architect site properly, and relatively easy to get link love as it's quality content.

UGC solves long-tail weakness of editorial driven media.

Changes on the way: Cult of personality opinions vs. wisdom of the crowd. What are the real shortcoming of traditional media? It used to be an expert told you what you might like (Consumer Reports, wine critics), now it's someone like you telling you what you might like.

Andrew likes lots of sites, and likes to go very very quickly through slides and doesn't let us read too many of them. He does like Plenty of Fish, Yelp, and Squidoo.

What he's doing at HomeStars: They want it to be "The Zillow for after you own the place" [and have everything go wrong with it.]

Search strategy: key (similar to Yelp) Tactics, important but more focused on quality that drives mentions and delights users (indirect). They showed up at a home show with laptops and had people write reviews right there.

Incentive? Similar to TripAdvisor, but localized. You want these people to feel like your online neighbor. Replaces, augments online word of mouth. Charitable + pecuniary incentives considered. They thought about the incentive method, and are still thinking about what to do. This has been somewhat unsuccessful. Non-monetary incentives work better. Light social networking key to building credibility of review

Andrew flew through a bunch more slides, again.

It's kinda like running a search engine (running the HomeStars site), you need to make sure the best results are most visible and ads are relevant. Credibility is a key.

Closing question: If it's not hard, it's not worth doing? Going from nothing, now huge, rich databases of new information are being built by the crowd and technology.

Rebecca Kelly is up next talking about her experiences with UGC. She takes us through some examples and case studies Why UGC? - It's free. Duh. - It's a simple way to create fresh, unique content for your site. - More content leads to more crawling, more often, more pages indexed, etc.

Is UGC for you? Think about what do you want it to accomplish? How can you make it relevant to your site? Are you able to effectively monitor UGC? Time to monitor is a big deal.

Implementation. - Promote it prior to the launch to create buzz. - Maybe fudge the numbers a bit, don't make it look like an empty site. - Acknowledge UGC sections after the launch, don't let it just try to stand on its own. For YOUmoz, she promotes good content to the main blog.

Monitoring: - For a smaller site, you can do it in-house. - For a larger site, use a flagging system and moderate as you go. Examples are social media sites or YouTube.

UGC Tip #!: One man's trash is another's treasure. Try to be as objective as possible with UGC. If you control the community too much, it can lead to hostility. Communications Decency Act is a good thing, you're not always held responsible for what is posted on your site.

UGC Tip #2: Don't forget to optimize. Title Tags: example could be "User Name Member Profile Page | Fast Company" Header Tags: put profile names or blog titles in h1 tags.

UGC Tip #3: Badges Play to user's vanity. Make widgets that look cool and are easy to share. You can put a link back to the profile or story on the site, but don't be spammy.

Case Study: Yelp They worked with Yelp and recommended URL changes - Changed URLs from weird random characters to name of company being reviewed. - Removed parameter strings to just /city for the location - User URLs: change from parameter to username

Title Tag Changes - changed from "Restaurants – San Francisco – Yelp" to "San Francisco Restaurants" – people more likely to search on the second version.

Rankings did improve. They have four million monthly users, and a bump of users in September. They added a "Yelp Bling" widget for your website to show what reviews you made.

Case Study: Drivl - Their only goal was they wanted traffic. - 250 page views/month and 90 inlinks to start. - They wrote a bunch of stories, then moderated new stories. They created a widget to share articles.

Results: - 529 stories submitted, 409 of which were user-generated. - 2400+ user signups - 3100+ comments - 210k page views in June 207 - 116k monthly unique - 24k links They started out with having written a bunch of stories themselves, then users started writing more.

Case Study:YOUMoz Launched February 2007. Benefits to users: - drive visitors to your blog/site - build personal brand - get input from the search engines / other marketers

Results: - 435 posts to date - hundreds of mentions from other sites - about 800 links to the UGC section - established strong community

Contributed by Keri Morgret.


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