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How User-Generated Content Can Help Boost Your Business’s Local Search Visibility

How to use User-Generated Content to boost your Local SEO

What is User-Generated Content

User Generated Content seems like a self-explanatory term but it has many practical implications in online marketing. You don’t just need to know what it is, because it can be many things. Rather, you should have a clear idea of why you need it. This post will help you get that clarity.

In a nutshell, user-generated content, or UGC, is anything that regular Internet users (non-brands) create and publish online.

To name some of the types of user-generated content – social media posts, images, tweets, articles, reviews, testimonials, blog comments, social media comments, and many others.

The modern internet is dominated by UGC – Instagram is built on user-submitted images and videos, the same goes for TikTok and pretty much every other social media platform.

Most user-generated content is platform-specific, i.e. different for each app or site it appears on.

Sites like G2, Trustpilot, Capterra, and Google Maps are also huge aggregators of user-generated content. At the same time, these are all authority domains that matter a lot in local SEO. In reality, UGC and local SEO intersect so much that you need to work on one to improve the other.

Big businesses figured out the importance of UGC a while ago and have been using it in their online marketing strategies. You will see it all around after reading this guide – every single big brand is hunting for quality, meaningful user-generated content, and there are zero reasons your business should not be doing the same.

At this point, over 25% of all search results for the 20 largest brands are linked to UGC.

What “Using UGC” Means in Practice

When we write about “using” user-generated content we mean several things:

  • re-purposing UGC that’s already posted and re-using it on the same or on another platform
  • extracting information from UGC and embedding it into our strategy
  • funneling the power of UGC as a tool for facilitating other marketing tactics

When you get used to all three concepts and start combining them in your local SEO strategy, you will find dozens of creative ways to leverage UGC.

In a way, UGC is the glue that binds social media, local SEO, online reputation, and content marketing. UGC is a versatile medium that can be used in dozens of different ways to achieve absolutely different goals.

At the same time, using UGC is not “free”. You have to have a clear intent and invest time and effort, otherwise, nothing will just happen on its own.

This post will hopefully inspire you to be creative and proactive with UGC.

Meaning of UGC for Local SEO

The main benefits of UGC come by definition due to the way it’s produced. 

User-generated content (UGC) is created by consumers in relation to brands – which means this content has maximum relevance to your brand and products/services, and it is based on true customer interests. 

As a result, literally every party loves UGC and finds it valuable – brands, other consumers, and search engines.

Since search engines rank content based on how relevant and useful it is, they do their best to go where people are and understand their conversations. 

A large number of reviews, comments, or social media activity around a business or its online properties are all definitive authority signals. The more UGC appears online around your brand – the better for your SEO.

Local SEO is all about content, relevance, and backlinks, and all of these features are achievable with UGC.

Conversion And Trust Are Authority Signals

Reviews, testimonials, and anything else written by other consumers are rightly considered the ultimate conversion boosters. Your every product or service page better have a review or a testimonial on it.

Website visitors that interact with user-generated content are 2x more likely to make a purchase.

At the same time, behavioral factors (what website visitors do on that website) are a ranking factor in SEO and local SEO.

UGC Beyond Reviews

Most marketing agencies only mean online reviews when talking about user-generated content.

We advocate for a broader, more strategic approach – UGC can take any form and benefit your brand in many different ways. You can pick any social media platform for submissions, contests, or giveaways.

You could even use UGC to increase the word count on your own service pages (e.g. by adding dynamic comment blocks).

5 Ways to Work With User-Generated Content

1. Plan For UGC

First things first, if you want to leverage user-generated content in local SEO, you need to plan for it and be strategic about it.

Make sure you have included UGC in your promotion plan. Justify why you are aiming for that specific UGC type and the platform to build it. See where your business is active the most, and what platforms and social media are the most important for your goals – focus on them.

There are many tactics for getting UGC – so incorporate them. Have goals and KPIs and have tools that measure these numbers.

2. Encourage UGC

If you are serious about getting a decent amount of UGC and using it to your brand’s advantage, you need to proactively encourage it.

There are several practical ways of encouraging UGC creation:

Make it easy to submit

Make sure that everything on your web properties is set up and is easy to use. Comments, feedback forms, direct messages, – test everything that you want a consumer to do.

Make consumers feel heard

Maintain discussions, respond to comments, and do everything else to make your users feel that interacting with your brand is rewarding.

At the beginning, have several alternative profiles to support conversations, if you have to.

Provide incentives

Monetary value is the easiest and most commonly used way of harvesting user-generated content. You can use discounts, extra products or services, coupon codes, referral programs, and so on.

Please be careful not to overspend on this and don’t go heavy on giveaways if your campaign goals are unclear or you have no way of properly tracking UGC. Reach out to us if you want practical advice on this.

3. Use convenient channels

Don’t try to funnel Instagram audiences into LinkedIn and vice versa. Go where your people are and take what you can there first.

Consumers are unlikely to change their online habits because of your campaign, so make sure you are not asking them to do that.

4. Guide and Manage UGC

You need to be actively managing your UGC and guiding the audience’s content creation efforts to where YOU need them the most. This comes from the UGC strategy you’ve developed and adopted.

As an idea, you can have UGC campaigns power up certain services or products you’ve launched. 

Or – you can use UGC to achieve your local SEO goals – e.g. accumulate backlinks or grow the relevance of your pages.

Alternatively, you can run UGC campaigns to fix online reputation incidents.

5. Audit and Optimize UGC

UGC can pick up all kinds of unexpected keywords in search – that happens just due to the way people write when they express themselves.

Inspect these search queries and see if you can use them in your on-page SEO or content strategy.

SEO optimization of user-generated content goes both ways – first, you need to do things to your UGC (short-and mid-term SEO goals), and then you need to do things to other pages of your website based on the data produced by the UGC. Each of these SEO tactics can be appropriate.

You can encourage your customers to leave UGC containing certain SEO keywords – a good way to do that would be to suggest hashtags for campaigns or ask consumers to complete a phrase (e.g. “I love getting SERVICE/PRODUCT from YOUR_BRAND because…” or “the last time I GOT_THE_SERVICE was when XYZ”)

Make sure to always use structured data markup like Schema in and around the UGC snippets on your website.

7 Local SEO Benefits from User-Generated Content (If You Do It Right)

1. Freshness

If you find a way to keep your UGC coming, your web properties will win big.

Google loves fresh content and you will keep Googlebot coming back to your site if it gets updated often. Fresh UGC like blog post comments is one of the best ways to keep your website updated.

2. Relevance

Relevance is a major SEO ranking factor. Fresh and natural content that’s relevant to the semantics of your domain and your services will only help your website rank better.

Relevance is a major ranking factor in Local SEO as well, along with prominence and distance.

UGC has no trouble staying relevant because people naturally discuss your products, services, and their needs related to your offer.

The best part of getting good amounts of UGC on your web properties is that people use a lot of little details in their writing, which is very hard to emulate and costs a lot from professional writers. This helps “humanize” the text on your website and listings, and Google loves it.

3. Uniqueness

No one really copies and pastes anything when expressing opinions, so you can be sure that when you ask your visitors or customers for stories and submissions – they will be sending unique content.

4. Backlinks and Mentions

Ideally, people will use their accounts and blogs to share the story of their interaction with your brand. They can be pleased by the way you handle communication or they can be incentivized – both ways get you what you need.

A UGC marketing campaign that results in backlinks is an ideal scenario that every brand should be aiming for. These backlinks will be extremely hard to replicate for your competition because they will be coming from your loyal customers.

Backlinks from local accounts and blogs will have the most effect on your Local SEO as well.

5. Bragging Rights

UGC can become a source of news – and an inspiration for future content and new engagement campaigns. If you get good reviews, awards, listings, or any other customer-based recognition – let everyone know!

As an example see how we leveraged becoming the top reviewed San Jose SEO Partner on The Manifest and Clutch to produce a blog post and run a social media marketing campaign.

Consider this: consumers loyal to your brand love reading about other consumers being loyal to your brand. This type of content reinforces and praises their own choices, and we all look for that. 

As a result, this “vanity” content leads to even more customer engagement and even better reviews, which leads to even more bragging rights and more “vanity” content. That’s how your branding efforts snowball into something beautiful – all thanks to UGC!

6. Better Engagement

Google pays attention to behavioral factors in SEO in general, and working with UGC will help you improve them.

Behavioral factors like requested driving directions and click-to-call metrics play a huge role in Local SEO.

Leaving a comment on your site is also an authority signal – and you can use that in campaigns, provided, of course, that commenting on your blog is easy and fun.

7. Insight Into Your Audience And Their True Interests

Encourage your customers and target audiences to speak – and listen carefully.

Have a system of monitoring customer feedback and all the content they generate.

Review the content regularly and decide what each submission can be used for. 

Some of the UGC can go into marketing materials such as reviews and testimonials, other pieces can be used by sales managers and in outreach pitches. 

Very often UGC can be repurposed into blog posts or even whole new marketing campaigns.

Monitor Your UGC

We’ve always been stressing the importance of tracking your local SEO efforts. UGC activities are no different.

As you track your local SEO ROI, know where UGC stands in your numbers.

Our Local SEO software, Direction Local, offers you the power to manage, track, and respond to reviews from a single dashboard.

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