User-Generated Content (UGC) is an authentic way to promote your brand as people are more likely to trust what customers have to say about you. That said, there are considerations for you to make before deciding whether to allow UGC on your site.

In this article I’ll be highlighting the pros and cons of allowing user-generated content on your site as well as sharing some tips on how to use UGC to reap the rewards.

What is user-generated content?

User-generated content (UGC) is essentially any type of content created by individuals and not the brand itself. For example, posts, images, reviews and videos are all forms of UGC.

Pros of user-generated content

1. It’s authentic and can build customer trust

Fighting for the spotlight can be challenging, but getting your customers involved with your brand and being authentic can go a long way. It’s easy for a marketer to sing and dance about a new product, but users are well aware that your aim is to sell and are more inclined to believe what other consumers are saying. In fact, 92% of consumers trust word of mouth over other types of advertising. User-generated content is essentially social proof of the quality of the products you sell and the services you offer.

2. It helps to create a community and can encourage brand loyalty

UGC allows customers to get involved with your brand and can help to build better consumer/business relationships. Not only does this help to increase engagement, it can also lead to brand loyalty as customers feel as though they’re a part of a community.

3. It’s cost-effective

Some customers may be happy to leave a review and share content such as images and videos with you (which will save you time and effort). That said, there are other ways to get user-generated content which won’t cost an arm and a leg, such as running a competition or offering contributors a discount on a future purchase.

4. It can help with market research

By allowing customers to publish reviews or share their own content on your site, you can gain insight into how they feel about your brand and your offerings. You can use this customer insight to inform your marketing strategy, discover any new opportunities as well as determining whether you need to make any improvements to your services and products.

5. It can boost your SEO ranking

Search engines such as Google look at a number of different factors when ranking your website, including the content on your page. Having UGC can ensure that you always have fresh content published to your website and reviews can increase your site’s credibility.

6. You’ll have more unique content

It’s not always easy thinking up new and exciting ideas for your content. By opening your arms to UGC, you won’t have to rely on your team to think of innovative ideas - your customers can do that for you! Not only will this help to save you time and money, UGC has a personal touch which you simply can’t replicate yourself. You’ll also be able to drive more traffic to your site which could lead to more conversions.

7. It can lead to higher conversion rates

As UGC can lead to higher customer trust, more engaged audiences and better online visibility, you may see an increase in conversions. Word of mouth can be an extremely effective form of advertising and more conversions and sales leads to increased revenue - what’s not to love?

Cons of user-generated content

1. You may see negative UGC

As mentioned earlier, positive reviews can inspire users to convert. However, if you enable customer reviews to appear on your site, there is also a risk of negative reviews being posted - something which you can’t prevent. Whilst a negative review could potentially put others off of your product or service, you do still have an opportunity to rectify any problems. For example, if a customer leaves a poor review, you can respond to them and offer to resolve the issue. Not only does this give you the opportunity to settle a dispute with a customer, it shows that you offer great customer service.

2. Content contributors can be unreliable

Not everyone can be trusted. If you allow people without authority in their background to write content, people may not be willing to buy into it. Even reviews can be sniffed at if they don’t appear to be genuine.

3. You’ll need to supervise UGC

As mentioned above, negative reviews are inevitable and you can’t prevent them from being posted. This means that you’ll need to up the ante on your customer service skills and be ready to respond to any negative feedback.

If you’re allowing users to write content for your site, you’ll need to check this before publishing.

4. You need to be cautious of usage rights

There are some legal issues to be aware of if you’re thinking about publishing UGC. Just because you’ve had customers take part in a contest does not mean you automatically have the right to use their photos on your website. You should always get permission from customers to use their content to avoid paying fines over usage rights.

5. You may need to offer an incentive to get UGC

Not everyone is going to be willing to share their content with you or take the time out of their day to write reviews. You should therefore be prepared to offer some sort of incentive, which may come at a cost.

How user-generated content is changing SEO

There are a number of ways in which user-generated content can impact SEO, including:

1. It can improve your E-A-T score

E-A-T stands for Expertise, Authority and Trustworthiness. Your site’s E-A-T score is important because it’s essentially telling search engines that people trust your site, you are an expert in your field and your products and services are recommended.

Good reviews are an excellent way to show that your site can be trusted and your offerings are recommended. Reviews can also appear on Google’s rich results on the SERP which can improve your click-through-rate.

Product review on SERP example image

Having backlinks is still one of main ways to build trust with Google but they can be tricky to acquire. By jumping on the UGC wagon, you may be able to get more links to your site (for example, a review could link to the product in question). That said, you still need to be careful; there is such a thing as toxic backlinks so you need to be mindful about where the links are coming from.

1. It creates more content

You’ve probably heard it before but content really is king. Content creation takes both time and effort but UGC can help with this and you may get some fresh ideas from your audience. Authentic content can go a long way with inspiring others to convert and it’s important to publish content regularly to keep your audience engaged.

2. It can drive more traffic to your site

Following on from the above, UGC can drive more traffic to your site - whether that be from users posting on social media, inspiring others and linking to your site or driving traffic through a blog. Moreover, social metrics (such as the number of times a page has been shared on Facebook) correlate with higher rankings and earning links.

3. It can optimise your site for semantic search

The user intent and context around a search is becoming increasingly important. Gone are the days where SEOs rely on keywords - we need to be pinpointing what it is users want and what they need from a result relating to their search. Google wants to give users the best results and is becoming more advanced to interpret natural language. UGC can help you to discover the phrases and keywords that your customers are using which can inform your SEO campaign to draw in the right leads.

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How to use user-generated content

Decided to embrace UGC? Here’s how you can start making the most of it:

1. Enable reviews on your website

With 93% of customers reading online reviews before they make a purchase, having positive reviews on your website can encourage prospective customers to buy your products and services.

Encourage customers to leave reviews where possible (this could be directly on your site or on a third-party review site such as Feefo, Tripadvisor or Google - both options are valuable). You could send customers follow-up emails to ask them how satisfied they are with their purchase but remember, you may not get as many reviews without some sort of incentive.

You must also be vigilant about negative reviews and respond to your customers to demonstrate that you care. It will also show other prospective customers that you have strong customer service skills and are willing to resolve any issues. Negative reviews aren’t preventable, but they are opportunities for you to learn and you’ll have a chance to rectify the problem at hand. As you can see in the below example, Premier Inn has been quick to respond to a TripAdvisor complaint, indicating that they take customer feedback on board and will look to improve their services.

Negative review UGC image

2. Run contests on social media

Get your target audience involved with your brand by running a contest. You can ask them to do one or several activities to enter which will help spread brand awareness. For example, competitions on Instagram can ask users to like or share a post, follow the brand’s social media account, post an image of themselves with your product or tag their friends on your post. Hashtags are also used as part of such campaigns which makes it easier for you to track users’ involvement. Below is an example of an Instagram competition KFC ran during Christmas to get users involved and share images of themselves with the KFC branded filter - customers really can be your best brand ambassadors.

Kfc instagram contest UGC example image

3. Encourage customers to share their experience

Ask your customers about their experience with your product or service and ask them whether they would be willing to share any images or videos with you for your site - again, an incentive such as a voucher may be needed. For example, the Smile Direct Club displays it’s customers’ before and after photos following the use of their retainer product. Not only does this get your customers involved, but it is a great way to showcase the credibility of what you’re offering.

Sharing user generated content on your site Smile Direct Club example image

Final thoughts

User-generated content is a great way to spread brand awareness, get your target audience involved with your brand, build strong consumer/brand relationships as well as helping to increase your authenticity and credibility. That said, if you’re going to allow user-generated content on your site, you need to supervise customer content contributions to ensure it won’t harm your site’s E-A-T score and be ready to respond to any negative reviews.

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Meet the author ...

Anna Heathcote

Content Manager

Based way up on the Northumbrian coast, Anna uses her creative copywriting expertise and SEO experience to ensure clients have fresh, relevant and optimised content on their ...