Why start-ups should embrace user-generated content

Fear should not be a reason to avoid user-generated content. Here’s what your site could gain from reviews, videos, photos, and other posts from users

Sharing your opinion online is easy. No longer do you have to be a business with a big budget to be seen and heard on the internet, unlike the early days of the technology. Pretty much anyone can create their own website, blog, or social media account for free and start sharing their own content.

Because of this, user-generated content – produced by the end user, or consumer, rather than by brands themselves – is becoming more and more prevalent. Customer reviews, photos, videos, blog posts, social media posts, and forum comments are all examples of user-generated content.

Why should businesses care about user-generated content?

While some businesses may live in fear of user-generated content with the worry of gaining negative reviews and comments, and others remain oblivious to it, they should in fact be embracing it. User-generated content is essentially a free form of PR and marketing, so start-up companies can use it to their advantage if they have a limited marketing budget. This kind of content can have a huge impact on your reputation and awareness of your brand because it is authentic, so other consumers trust in it more than promotional content straight from brands.

Search engine optimisation

Getting your website found online can be a difficult task, especially for start-ups that are new and don’t yet have a wide reach. This is one of the great advantages of embracing user-generated content for your business; it helps to boost your SEO.

If people are talking about your brand online, whether that’s the name of your business, a product or service that you sell, or a resource that you have available online, you are getting repeated mentions on multiple sites. You can optimise your own website for the keywords you want to rank for in search, but getting brand mentions and backlinks to your site from other sources is much more valuable.

You can earn this type of attention through lots of different forms of user-generated content. If you manage to create a blog post or video that goes viral, everyone will be talking about it and about you, creating really valuable backlinks to your website. Similarly, mentions of your brand on social media, in forum comments or in customer reviews will help to get you found more often in searches related to your business.

UGC as customer reviews

Customer reviews can help you in other ways, too. You have probably seen listings in Google search results that contain more information than others, such as a map of the business premises, images, and options to contact the business directly from Google. These listings are Google My Business listings and are an invaluable tool for local businesses looking to get found online.

Google My Business listings can also display any customer reviews that a business has gained through Google. This will display as a star rating under your business name, along with the number of reviews that have been contributed. Having customer reviews in your Google Local search listing makes you stand out from other listings and helps to increase the number of people who click.

Think about which business you would rather consider contacting, one with 4.5 out of 5 stars from 300 customers, or one with no rating at all. To prove how valuable they are, statistics show that 88% of consumers consult online reviews before choosing a local business to use.

Customer reviews give more credibility to your business, showing that real customers have been satisfied with your products or service. Other users on Google are likely to trust these ratings because they have come from real people. If you need some ideas for how to get more reviews for your local business, have a look at this local SEO checklist by user-generated content platform Yotpo.

You want to encourage user-generated content as much as you can, so you should make an effort to interact with your customers on social media platforms to start that dialogue. Once you create a community between you and your customers, and also among your customers themselves, they will feel much more comfortable engaging with you and talking about you in a positive way online. Read more tips on how to build customer connections.

User-generated content can really help to boost your website’s search engine rankings, but it’s not the only factor you need to consider when improving the SEO of your site. Google search is a complicated tool that is constantly evolving, so it can be difficult to understand the intricacies of ranking well with it. New start-up businesses especially will find it difficult to be found via search engines.

For a more in depth look into optimising your website for search, try these 101 actions for a complete website SEO technical audit. Fine-tuning all of the details on your website, from content to coding, along with the help of user-generated content will help to see your website ranking on the first pages of Google for your most valuable search terms.

Remember, good SEO coupled with top user-generated content can really give your start-up a lean approach to making it big.

Victor G Snyder has served as a consulting business coach since 2003. He founded BossMakers.co in 2014, empowering entrepreneurs to filter out the noise, to achieve flow, to tackle the challenges that will actually get them where they want to be. Victor can be reached via Twitter @victorgsnyder.

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