Today, let’s look at User-Generated Content (UGC) and its impact on search engine optimization (SEO).
UGC refers to the content created by users, rather than brands or organizations themselves, and it plays an increasingly important role in building trust and credibility for a brand. As search engines like Google place more emphasis on experience (E-E-A-T), leveraging UGC can be a powerful tool for brands looking to boost their visibility on SERPs.
In this guide, we’ll talk about the benefits of UGC, best practices for implementing UGC into a brand's marketing strategy, and how to measure and analyse the impact of UGC on your SEO efforts. Whether you're a seasoned marketer or just starting to explore the potential of UGC, this guide will provide valuable insights and actionable tips to help you achieve your brand’s goals.
What is User Generated Content:
User Generated Content (UGC)? It’s the content created by users, rather than brands or organizations themselves.
Typically, this can include things like reviews, comments, social media posts, Images, videos, and more. UGC can be found on a variety of platforms, including many social media platforms, online forums, review sites, as well as on a brand's own website. One of the major benefits of UGC is that it helps to establish trust and credibility for a brand. When potential customers see that other people are actively engaging with a brand and sharing positive experiences, it can make them more likely to do the same. UGC also allows for a more authentic and diverse representation of a brand, as it comes from a variety of sources rather than just the brand itself.
Another key benefit of UGC is that it can help to improve a brand's search engine optimization (SEO). Search engines like Google use a variety of factors to determine the relevance and authority of a website, and UGC can play a significant role in this. For example, when a brand has a high volume of positive reviews, it signals trust (EEAT) to platforms, leading to a boost in its visibility on SERPs. And, in a world that sees SEO moving away from just referring to "Traditional Search", to an all-encompassing search function across varying digital platforms (Search Everywhere), UGC is going to become a vital function of search.
Traditional Search and User-Generated Content:
Let’s start with traditional search though, a move by Google to add “Experience” as a consideration in its new E-E-A-T (Experience, Expertise, Authoritativeness, Trustworthiness) guidelines in late 2022 is a move that will allow brands to leverage User-Generated Content (UGC) to aid their SEO.
The latest ‘E’ for “Experience” is concerned with ensuring that content demonstrates that it was produced with some degree of experience, such as with the actual use of a product, having actually visited a place, or communicating what a person experienced. You see where this is going, right? What better way to fulfil the requirements of this consideration than to leverage user-generated content?
If brands can develop and nurture a community that is actively creating content that meets the needs of their search strategy, such as through social media engagement or incentivizing user-generated content, and feature that content as a section or replacement for their on-site content, they can begin to positively impact their search ranking by signalling to Google that they meet the E-E-A-T standards Google is looking for when considering search results for it’s SERPs.
“Search Everywhere” and User-Generated Content:
User-Generated Content (UGC) has become an increasingly important part of social media. Product reviews, Instagram posts, and TikTok videos, people are keen to share their experiences and opinions with their friends and followers online. This type of content is not only engaging for social users but is increasingly becoming part of the user journey and therefore the search journey for users. Whereas traditionally, users may turn to search engines at all stages of their journey towards making a purchase decision, we are increasingly seeing users turn to social platforms, like TikTok and YouTube to handle aspects of their user journey.
As more users incorporate this into their user journey towards a purchase decision, user-generated content is going to prove vital for brands in cutting through and meeting the needs of their users.
Gymshark and #gymshark66:
A Case Study of User-Generated Content and the emerging "Search Everywhere" User Journey.
Fitness Giant and all-around Branding GODS, Gymshark, have built a strong community of loyal users, many of whom actively share their experiences and opinions about the brand on social media, today though we’re going to focus on a specific campaign, the use of the hashtag #gymshark66 and its related challenge. This user-generated content (UGC) is a powerful tool for the brand, as it helps build trust and credibility among potential customers at a time Gymshark knows people are seeking to be inspired and educated on making positive changes.
Gymshark leverages UGC through TikTok & Instagram, but creators have even created content further afield, including the likes of YouTube, Pinterest and Reddit. This hashtag is used by their community of users to share their individual workout routines, advice, progress photos, casual gym posts, and testimonials about Gymshark products, with the majority seeing the content-creator sporting the now-famous Gymshark badge upon their attire. And, put simply, Gymshark has owned leveraging this media!
Gymshark regularly promotes, encourages, and engages with this content, even involving Its own set of influencers/athletes in the challenge to further the campaign, developing exposure to its target audience and furthering participation. By doing so, Gymshark is able to increase engagement and drive more traffic to its social media pages, through hashtag searches, and website, via referral traffic, but also through people eventually searching the challenge as a traditional search term on Google.
One of my favourite SEO tools, GLIMPSE, estimated this volume to be around 1.7K at its peak (January 2023), with searches for the key-brand term “Gymshark” also heightened during this time.
This increased engagement and traffic on social media can then lead to further benefits for search. You see, one of the biggest issues with search, and something that has been leveraged on social platforms for years, is that users only turn to search when they realize they have some kind of problem, and if your product can assist with that pain/need/want and desire, you create content for the related query and start building a relationship with the user.
But this “search everywhere” approach enables Gymshark to reach its users when they are not trying to, onboarding their users onto the user journey BEFORE a user turns to search (Something that Traditional Search simply cannot facilitate).
Search Everywhere, which Gymshark facilitates through User Generated Content, leads to the brand becoming more visible to its audience in a meaningful way, driving traffic to its website and ultimately driving sales.
Social media search isn’t the only place where Gymshark is leveraging UGC either. Gymshark also uses customer content on its website, such as customer reviews/testimonials, photos, and videos. This helps to provide potential customers with a more authentic and relatable experience, which can Increase trust and credibility in the brand and potentially lead to increased sales.
Imagine a user sees your product in a video by their favourite TikTok creator, heads over to your website to learn more about a product, or simply purchases that product, but when they do their trust is further increased by seeing several trust signals upon your website, such as TripAdvisor, TrustPilot, Google Reviews & More… It’s a really powerful tool that UGC can facilitate with ease, you just then have to make sure you're doing what you say you will (The hard part).
So basically, Gymshark's use of UGC is a powerful tool for building a strong user community of loyal brand ambassadors whilst simultaneously adding a new pathway for users to enter the user journey via search everywhere.
By encouraging and featuring user-generated content on their social media and website, brands like Gymshark can signal to search engines that they are popular and trustworthy, whilst also furthering E-E-A-T, leading to higher search rankings and more visibility in search results for generic terms whilst also driving demand (Demand Generation) by creating new branded terms for traditional search and social hashtag efforts.
How User-Generated Content can Impact the SERPs.
So, we can see that UGC has become an increasingly important part of SEO, both for Traditional search but also for brands adopting a “search everywhere” approach. SERPs are heavily influenced by the quality and relevance of the content on a website, and UGC can play a significant role in improving a website's SERP ranking.
One way UGC can impact SERPs is through the use of keywords. User-generated content, such as product reviews and testimonials, often includes relevant keywords that can improve a website's SEO. By featuring this content prominently on a website, brands can improve their visibility in search results for those keywords.
Another way UGC can impact SERPs is through backlinks. When other websites, such as social media platforms, feature user-generated content that links back to a brand's website, it can improve the website's search ranking.
This is because search engines view backlinks as a sign of credibility and authority.
UGC can also impact SERPs by increasing engagement on a website. When a website features user-generated content that is engaging and relevant, it can lead to increased traffic and longer dwell times. This signals to search engines that the website is valuable and relevant, which can improve its search ranking.
Lastly, UGC can impact SERPs by providing valuable information for search engines. When a website features user-generated content, such as product reviews and ratings, it can help search engines understand the relevance and popularity of the website's content. This can improve the website's search ranking for relevant queries.
User-Generated Content Considerations and Best Practise Tips & Tricks
So, we’ve established just how valuable UGC can be to your search efforts, especially if utilizing a “search everywhere” approach. However, it's important to approach UGC strategically to ensure that it aligns with your brand and values, and is effectively utilized to meet your marketing goals. Let’s look at some examples and considerations on the best practices for collecting, curating, and displaying UGC to maximize its impact on your brand's online presence and impact those search rankings.
👉 Clearly communicate the brand's guidelines and expectations for UGC, including what types of content are acceptable and how it will be used. You can do this organically by utilizing influencers who can establish your expectations for a campaign.
👉 Make it easy for users to submit their UGC by providing clear instructions and a simple submission process. If they use your desired hashtag, that should be the end of the process for them, don’t complicate the process!
👉 Regularly curate and moderate the UGC to ensure that it aligns with the brand's guidelines and values. This is vital when sharing your UGC on a feed, make sure everything is what you’d be happy putting out as if you owned that content, it all reflects on your brand after all!
👉 Use a variety of platforms to collect UGC, including social media, review sites, and a dedicated section on the brand's website. This one is specific to reviews and testimonials. My recommendation would be to make sure you leverage the key platforms for your audience. If you know they check out TripAdvisor, leverage that!
👉 Use calls-to-action (CTA) to encourage users to submit UGC. Whether it's a free product for selected participants, discount codes or simply sharing content on a dedicated feed, the more you can do, with an effective CTA to push the effort, the more you will get back.
👉 Use UGC in a variety of formats, such as text, images, videos, and audio. Think about what your audience will respond to and create that type of content though.
👉 Use UGC in different parts of the marketing funnel, such as in the awareness stage (Social media - Gymshark66 Challenge) and consideration stage (Website - Reviews/Testimonials)
👉 Make sure the UGC is easily accessible and prominently featured on the brand's website and social media channels.
👉 Use UGC in your SEO strategy, integrate user-generated content as a means of utilizing Differentiation through Creativity - Get a loyal user to show your audience “Things to do in Lisbon” as opposed to a blog article telling people, for example.
👉 Use UGC in your Ad campaigns, by creating dynamic ads based on user-generated content. A great way to further your influencer efforts!
👉Consider the legal implications of using UGC and obtain the necessary permissions and releases. LEGAL Stuff, I’ve no clue how this works but it's VITAL, especially with influencers and their managers!
👉 Evaluate and measure the impact of UGC on the brand's online presence and search rankings - Ahrefs, SEOmonitor, GA, GSC, GLIMPSE.
👉 Continuously re-evaluate your UGC strategy and make adjustments as needed to ensure it remains effective. Your UGC efforts are dependent on your user, if their behaviours change, pivot with the user!
Discover the key metrics and methods to track the success of your UGC and make data-driven decisions for your brand
Measuring and analysing the impact of your UGC is crucial for understanding its effectiveness and making informed decisions about future campaigns.
Let’s look at some key metrics and methods to measure and analyse the impact of UGC:
1. Engagement rates: Track engagement rates on social media posts featuring UGC, such as likes, shares, and comments. This can provide insight into how well the UGC is resonating with your target audience.
2. Traffic: Monitor the traffic to your website or specific pages featuring UGC, as well as the bounce rate and time spent on these pages. This can provide insight into how well UGC is driving engagement and conversions.
3. Brand sentiment: Track the sentiment of UGC, such as the number of positive, neutral, and negative reviews or comments. This can provide insight into the overall perception of your brand among your target audience.
4. Search engine rankings: Monitor your search engine rankings, specifically for keywords that are relevant to the UGC, like your brand name, products, or services. This can provide insight into how well UGC is impacting your SEO efforts.
5. ROI: Track the return on investment (ROI) of UGC campaigns, by comparing the cost of collecting and curating UGC to the revenue generated by the resulting increase in website traffic, social media engagement, and search engine visibility.
6. Social listening: Utilize social listening tools to measure the reach and engagement of UGC across social media platforms. 7. A/B testing: Use A/B testing to compare the performance of UGC against other types of content, such as branded content or stock photos.
Let’s Wrap this up
In conclusion, User-Generated Content (UGC) is a powerful tool for brands looking to build trust and credibility, Improve SEO and drive engagement.
By providing a platform for users to share their experiences and opinions, UGC can help to establish a more authentic and diverse representation of a brand - through the creation of a true, brand community. With the rise of "Search Everywhere" and the increasing emphasis on user experience, leveraging UGC can be a smart strategy for brands looking to boost their visibility on SERPs. We still have to be aware of our brand and how we want to be perceived but by following best practices for implementing UGC, brands can effectively collect, curate, and display UGC on their website and social media channels, whilst sticking to their brand messaging and tone. And then finally, by measuring and analysing the impact of UGC, brands can track the success of their campaigns and make data-driven decisions.
By taking into account all the information discussed in this guide, brands can effectively use UGC to build community and take over search!