How to Optimize SEO with UGC
Table of Contents
How to Optimize SEO with UGC
What is UGC?
User-Generated Content (UGC) is text, image or video content created by the consumer or the customer vs. the brand or the seller. UGC may include:
- Customer Ratings and Reviews
- Questions and Answers (Q&A)
- Community or User Forums
- Social media posts - text, video, images
- Customer unboxing videos and product review videos
UGC helps to improve organic search results, increase site traffic, and improve conversion rates.
What you’ll learn in this special report on the power of UGC to improve SEO, Conversions, and all of your marketing KPIs:
- Increase page rankings
- Increase organic traffic up to 400%
- Generate up to a 75% conversion rate
- Increase CLV up to 200%
- Reduce return rates up to 20%
- Reduce customer support costs up to 60%
In this report, we are going to cover several aspects of UGC, the benefits of using UGC, and the various tools to generate and distribute UGC, as well as how it works to improve online visibility in search results, and how it drives traffic and sales.
We will also address the underlying psychology behind UGC, why it matters, and how it works to influence decision-making.
The primary areas of focus in this report will be the persuasive power of UGC as it relates to customer ratings and reviews, and product Questions and Answers (Q&A).
We take this approach, because we have data to support the results, and because this is the easiest and most persuasive UGC available.
And ironically, the most misunderstood and underutilized throughout the buyer journey.
UGC (User-Generated Content)
The Secret SEO Weapon
UGC is one of the most effective ways to create a highly successful, long-term SEO and conversion strategy. Here’s why:
- UGC leverages psychology and behavioral economics using the persuasive power of Herd Behavior and popularity...
- It’s free
- It’s generated automatically and consistently, giving you fresh content daily
- It’s the most trusted and credible content you can have, according to both Google and online shoppers, because it comes from independent third parties...
- It’s packed with keywords that are directly related to your products and website
- The keywords and content associated with UGC are very diverse, and highly valued by search engines
- It provides valuable and actionable user feedback and business intelligence to help you make better decisions
- It adds a constant stream of valuable content and social proof to your website
- It significantly increases your online footprint and search visibility
- It gives you the highest possible ROI and SEO benefits, with the least amount of ongoing effort
- It gets better and provides more search and conversion benefits over time
Keep reading to learn exactly how this hidden gem can completely change the way you look at SEO.
Herd Behavior and Customer Reviews
Before diving into the benefits and mechanics of UGC on SEO, let’s start with establishing a baseline of understanding around the power of herd behavior as a purchasing and decision-making motivator. This is an important point because without persuasion and conversions, driving more site traffic is far less beneficial.
The principle of herd behavior and why it works so well is rooted in basic psychology and behavioral economics. When making a purchase decision about a new product that shoppers are unfamiliar with, they typically look for signs of a product's popularity as a primary trust signal.
Social proof, especially in mass quantities, is pivotal at the critical moment when shoppers ask themselves these common questions before making a final purchase decision: “Who else has purchased this?”, “How popular is this product?” and “How do I know that I can trust this product or brand?”
Without trustworthy evidence or social proof to adequately satisfy these uncertainties, shoppers are much less likely to trust both your products and your brand, and significantly fewer buyers will make it to the checkout page.
Let’s break these pre-purchase questions down, and look at how customer reviews can effectively address them.
The Power of Reviews on Behavioral Economics
The most common pre-purchase questions above can be quickly and easily answered by looking at the sheer number of reviews left by previous customers, with a large number of reviews acting like votes of confidence that creates a preference for the product.
Behavioral Economists have coined this concept “herd behavior” or “herd mentality”, which falls under the broader concept of “herd theory” to predict future preference and purchase behavior based on popularity.
Herd behavioral theory essentially means that when in doubt, and lacking evidence to the contrary, people tend to do what others are doing. And the more people that are doing it, the more likely others are to follow. Just like busy restaurants with long waiting lists create even more demand and longer wait times. It’s herd behavior at its finest.
This social behavior works, because in general, people tend to doubt their own decisions, their own taste, and even their own capacity to make the best decision - especially if they are new to a brand, product, or category - so they rely on the opinions, reviews, and actions of the herd, or the population at large, as well as real or perceived “experts”.
The influential power of herd behavior is supported by a recent study that found: “Given two products with similar ratings, consumers are more likely to buy the product with more reviews.” (Psychological Science, 2017).
In the psychological sciences, reviews also play a role in the decision-making model of “heuristics”, which is an efficient mental process or "mental shortcut" to help humans solve problems, make decisions or learn new concepts, while avoiding analysis paralysis.
So having a lot of reviews to create trust and popularity, facilitates decision-making in both the mental shortcut model of psychology and the herd behavior model of behavioral economics.
There is also an “accelerator effect” of how existing reviews impact future reviews. According to the American Marketing Association: “Although herding exists in online ratings, the source matters. Consumers rely heavily on both their friends’ and the overall crowd’s opinions when rating products online.
On average, crowds exert a stronger herding influence on the average rater.” In other words, if raters see a large number of positive ratings and reviews for the product they are reviewing, they are more likely to do the same. So a lot of positive reviews create more positive reviews, which creates more positive herd behavior, and more sales.
But there are more layers to the influential power of having a lot of reviews. There’s also the impact of review recency and review frequency to create even more trust and value in the reviews.
An article on Wharton Online states that “40% of consumers only consider reviews written within the past 2 weeks.” This makes sense because people know that a product's quality, features, and attributes can change over time - especially in relation to new options in the market. This means that how a product performed two years ago may not be nearly as relevant as how it performed two weeks ago.
In order to make sure that you have a lot of reviews, and recent reviews, you also need frequent reviews, a high volume of reviews, or a high rate of review conversion.
In other words, all things being equal, if product “A” collects reviews at the typical review conversion rate of 5%, and Product “B” collects reviews at a conversion rate of 30%, and they both sell 500 products per month, at the end of the first year, product “A” will have amassed only 300 reviews, vs product “B” with 1,800 reviews. Making product “A” is essentially non-competitive because they do not have the benefit of mass social proof and herd behavior.
Ultimately, the higher the review frequency of a product or service, the higher the review volume or the total number of reviews, which is also a highly influential factor in the decision-making process - especially when compared to similar competing products. If a review platform is not effective at converting a high percentage of customers to leave reviews, then the review recency, frequency, and volume will all suffer.
More 5-Star Reviews Generate More 5-Star Reviews
At Shopper Approved, We have found that our clients not only collect up to 10x more reviews but also generate a higher average star rating than their counterparts. It’s a statistical fact, that the more customers who leave reviews, the more positive reviews you will receive, which, as we have already substantiated above, will generate even more positive reviews.
Also, once someone leaves a positive review, they have essentially endorsed the product, and become an advocate, which means that in order to avoid the mental discomfort of cognitive dissonance, they will often continue to be an advocate and a repeat customer.
The Bottom Line Impact of Reviews as UGC on Customer Lifetime Value
Customer Lifetime Value (CLV), is typically calculated by the average value of the average customer’s total purchases over their lifetime, plus the value of their referrals over a lifetime.
Because ratings and reviews improve trust by conveying popularity and driving herd behavior, reviews directly improve CLV in the following ways:
- Off-site reviews in organic search results and PPC ads significantly increase traffic and visibility and predispose potential customers to trust you, making them more likely to buy.
- On-site ratings and reviews - especially product reviews prominently displayed on product pages - are highly influential in the decision-making process, further increasing the likelihood to buy.
- The increased trust and credibility from ratings and reviews also improves the likelihood that customers will increase their average order value, and leave a positive review.
- Once a customer has made a successful purchase, and has left a positive review, they are more likely to make repeat purchases and recommend your brand to others and are less likely to return their purchases.
In essence, CLV cannot be maximized without first creating trust, and trust is most often established through the voice of the masses in the form of UGC, and high-quality, verified customer ratings and reviews.
How it Works
Keyword-rich UGC in a variety of search-friendly media formats (text, images, and video) is automatically created and distributed throughout the web.
This powerful social proof, in the form of Ratings, Reviews, Videos, and Q&A is strategically placed at the optimal touch point within the Buyer's Journey.
Each touch point that is enhanced with product answers, details, and reviews, improves consumer trust and drives further engagement and conversions.
Improve Your KPIs
The impact of UGC on all your marketing KPIs can be extraordinary. Of course, everyone's results vary, but here are some of the typical results that can be realized from a comprehensive UGC-driven SEO strategy:
- Increased organic traffic up to 4x
- Generate up to a 75% Conversion Rate
- Increased customer Lifetime Value (CLV) up to 2x
- Increased Google Ads Click-Through Rate (CTR) by an average of 17%
- Reduced return rates up to 20%
- Increased Average Order Value (AOV) up to 18%
- Reduced customer support costs by up to 60%
- Lower cost per lead, and increased Return on Ad Spend (ROAS)
Dominate Search Results
It’s entirely possible to literally dominate the organic search results for your brand and your products when you understand the unique power of being able to automatically create a constant stream of highly valuable UGC assets in a wide variety of different formats that the search engines love to display.
And not only that, but as mentioned above, the same trusted UGC will also increase your website’s conversion rates, AOV, LTV, and reduce your return rates.
Search Domination Starts With Reviews
The entire UGC-driven process starts with collecting Seller Ratings and Reviews, also called Merchant Reviews. These are ratings and reviews that are provided by your customers about their shopping experience on your website. These are the reviews that help the website appear in search results for the branded searches, and searches about the brand's reviews.
Seller Ratings are also called “Google Seller Ratings” if they are collected by a Google Review Partner, who is then authorized to syndicate those Seller Ratings and Reviews to the Google search engine, which then allows them to appear in Google Ads and organic search results, as well as Bing and Yahoo, on your own website, and other 3rd party review sites.
Reputation Management Also Starts with Reviews
Serious shoppers who are further down the buyer's journey, are going to do a search for your brand, website, or product reviews sooner or later. And these days, shoppers are “triangulating” their review searches to get a quick average of your rating across multiple review sites. So, having a relatively consistent rating across the web is more important today than ever.
Shopper Approved solves this problem with their unique and powerful ‘Review Destinations’ tool, which collects reviews from verified customers, and then sends a predetermined percentage of those reviews to whatever open review platforms you desire.
This not only gives you more reviews and more content in more places, but it also helps you to establish a much larger online footprint, while giving you naturally higher and more consistent average star ratings across the web, making your brand more trustworthy.
UGC as Customer Ratings and Reviews to Manage Your Reputation
When you use customer Ratings and Reviews strategically to manage your reputation, you can create more positive reviews in more places, create a higher average rating score, and more trust across the web. And trust equals more traffic and more sales.
Example A does not use the Shopper
Approved Review Destinations tool to
automatically distribute their reviews across the web.
Example B does use the Shopper
Approved Review Destinations tool, and look at the difference in their high average rating across the web!
Google Loves Reviews
Shoppers love reviews, and so do the search engines, because the search engines love what the shoppers love. That’s what keeps them in business.
So, by generating more Seller and Product Reviews, and making them available across the web, and on your website, you are essentially giving Google and your future customers exactly what they are looking for.
How to Increase Page Rankings with UGC
Page Rank is predominantly a function of the number, variety, and quality of inbound links. Variety refers to both the number of different domains and servers and the variety of domain authority rankings. Whereas quality refers to the domain authority (1-100) and the relevance of the link in relation to the search term and the page and site theme that is linking from and to. The closer these match, the higher the quality.
Both the quantity and quality of backlinks are a byproduct of creating high-quality, helpful, original, and recent content.
Typically we assume that we need to either create that quality content ourselves or pay someone else to create it for us, such as writing blog posts, articles, unique product descriptions, etc. Then we need to engage in a proactive link-building outreach effort to ask for backlinks, and/or wait for others to find the content, and link to it organically. Both are expensive and slow processes to build links.
There is an easier, faster, and less expensive way however to create engaging and sticky content, and build quality links at the same time, relatively quickly, and automatically using the scalability and passive nature of UGC.
When the right UGC is properly collected and distributed it can also be more valuable to both the search engines and your shoppers than your own branded content:
- When UGC is regularly collected from Seller Reviews, Product Reviews, Video Reviews, and Product Q&A, you will increase the volume, variety, and frequency of product descriptions and high purchase intent (low funnel) keywords. And the volume, variety, and frequency of content updates are important signals to the Google search algorithms.
- Both Google and shoppers alike tend to trust “unbiased” content in the form of reviews and Q&A, more than your own content.
- Review videos add a unique format of search-friendly content that is critical to increasing both the physical domination on the search results page, and increasing time-on-page, and conversions.
- Product Q&A is often exactly what shoppers are looking for, and when properly marked up, the answers can be seen at the top of page 1 as a Featured Snippet, as well as organic listings.
Seller Ratings and Reviews
Seller Reviews provide keyword-rich UGC both on and off-page. At Shopper Approved, we typically generate 3 reviews for every 10 transactions (30% average Seller Rating and Review conversion rate), that’s a lot of UGC. For example, 5,000 transactions = 1,500 Seller Ratings alone. If the average Seller Rating includes 3 keywords, that’s 4,500 valuable keywords, in the context of a customer review, which can be even more valuable than your own copy. Keep reading to learn why.
Seller Ratings are what we refer to as 'Top of the Sales Funnel' content, meaning that its main benefit is creating more visibility and traffic to your website. Seller Ratings, when collected and syndicated by a trusted 3rd party review platform, show up in a variety of strategic locations online, including; Google Ads, Google Shopping, your Google Seller Ratings page, and Google Organic Search Listings.
Product Ratings and Reviews
Product Reviews are unique in the fact that they can directly influence every stage of the sales funnel. They can be displayed in a variety of strategic locations in Google to increase brand visibility and traffic - just like Seller Ratings. Plus, they can be actively displayed on your category and individual product pages, to educate and influence more potential customers to buy.
In addition, Product Reviews have a huge impact on your on-page SEO, because they have product-specific descriptions and keywords, that are critical for direct, target searches. These are your highest converting searches and site visitors.
Shoppers LOVE watching video reviews!
Video Reviews on your website, YouTube, Google search, and social media channels are often the most powerful and influential marketing tools you can have because customers often see them as the most helpful, authentic, and trustworthy type of recommendations and product info online.
Google loves video reviews too!
Video Reviews on YouTube optimize incredibly well in a Google search and are often prominently displayed on page 1 search results. By adding customer-generated product review videos to your own branded YouTube channel, you will significantly improve your search results and your conversions.
Top 5 Reasons Why You Need Video Reviews
There are at least 5 reasons why video reviews are a ‘must-have’ tool in your overall review, SEO, and conversion strategy. Let’s count them down...
- It’s 50x easier to achieve a page 1 ranking on Google with video. Making video the simplest SEO tool available. (Source: Forrester Research)
- Video attracts 2 to 3x as many monthly visitors, doubles their time spent on the site, and has a 157% increase in organic traffic from search engines. (Source: MarketingSherpa)
- When you have a mix of video and text-based reviews, you create content variety, which attracts more and different types of people and significantly improves your social proof and overall search results.
- Video Reviews can be displayed in several strategic locations (ie. your website, emails, YouTube, Google, Shopper Approved, and social media sites), creating a very large and positive brand presence.
- Video Reviews create an emotional connection and have a high level of trust with potential buyers - making them more likely to buy.
Use Q&A to Increase UGC and Improve Google Page Rankings
Historically, to create content and backlinks, online merchants have had to wade through the mire of having to hire people to constantly write articles and do tedious link campaigns. No longer.
With Q&A, you simply answer questions that customers have about your products, and when done correctly and marked up with the proper code, these answers help to naturally improve your individual product page rankings in Google, and become prime content for Google to use in Featured Snippets, which content is prominently displayed at the top of search results, and is directly attributed and linked to your individual product pages.
Q&A Done Right, Makes ALL the Difference
There are 6 Ways the Right Q&A Will Improve Your SEO and Profits
1. Improve SEO and Traffic up to 4x
Content is king, and there are several ways that Shopper Approved Q&A can create more search-optimized copy in more places to drive better traffic. As well as provide built-in SEO best practices to improve your site's authority and visibility.
- Depending on what they want, each client is given the tools to implement either a dedicated subdirectory (subfolder) or subdomain for each and every question and answer, giving the search engines a clear and focused target to index and serve.
- Each subfolder or subdomain is optimized for search and indexing, with the ideal schema markup for Google Featured Snippets.
- Product Documents and Descriptions can also be included for a better UX and optimal google indexing in your Q&A search tool, adding additional SEO content.
- Product Articles or blog posts can be automatically suggested and created based on the most common product questions searched and answered. This creates an additional and significant content strategy and SEO lift to ensure that your product searches are highly visible in the search results.
- Each Q&A creates an additional deep link on your website, creating a pathway for the search bots to index more content, and giving your site more authority.
- Q&A resides on both the product pages and dedicated subfolders or subdomains. Gives you two different search results, and more search domination.
- Q&A increases time on the page and reduces bounce rates, which then improves SEO.
- When you combine Q&A with Product Reviews and Product Review Videos from Shopper Approved, you generate even more User-Generated Content and Social Proof in a variety of formats to improve both your SEO and conversion rates even further.
2. Increase Customer Lifetime Value (CLV)
Content is king, and there are several ways that Shopper Approved Q&A can create more search-optimized copy in more places to drive better traffic. As well as provide built-in SEO best practices to improve your site's authority and visibility.
3. Reduce Return Rates
As you answer more of your potential customer's questions before they buy, you effectively help to eliminate concerns and set proper expectations once they receive their order. This means that they will be more likely to be satisfied with their purchase and less likely to return it, which effectively lowers your return rate, and also increases the likelihood of a positive review.
4. Reduce Support Costs
Eliminate duplicate tickets and Reduce Support by up to 60%.
Every time you, your existing customers, or your support team answers a question in Q&A, it creates less work for support in the future, because new potential customers can simply look up the answer right on the product page before they buy.
By answering each question once, and making your answers easy to see on your product pages, every future customer directly benefits by getting immediate resolution when they have the same question, leading to happier customers and more sales. As your number of answers increases, your support needs decrease by as
much as 60%.
5. Get More Leads
Shopper Approved Q&A will help you collect more leads, because every new question that is asked requires a form, giving you all the information you need to follow up and increase your sales.
6. Improve Sales and Conversions
Turn up to 75% of Customer Questions into Sales.
Not only does Q&A help you create a constant stream of high-quality, free, organic traffic flowing directly to your product pages, but it also predisposes visitors to buy, based either on your answer to their question, or your answer to a previous customer's question, which means that your sales will also increase.
In fact, up to 75% of visitors who get an answer to their product question via Shopper Approved Q&A, end up buying.
Shopper Approved Q&A turns your customer’s product-related questions into valuable SEO content that Google uses to funnel laser-targeted traffic - with a high purchase intent - directly to your website and product pages.
A Visual Example of How UGC Can Work Together to Dominate Search & Drive More Traffic
Our job is to get your ratings and reviews to display in as many strategic locations as possible
It starts with us collecting verified customer reviews as an official Google Review Partner.
Once Seller Ratings, Product Reviews, and Video Reviews are collected, they are posted on the Shopper Approved Certificate page for your website and the product being reviewed, which also contains unduplicated and unique copy about your website and offerings, as well as a high-quality, and high Domain Authority (DA) “Do-Follow” link to your site, which improves your website domain authority, and generates more unique traffic linking directly from the Certificate.
Think of the dedicated review Certificate as a specialized microsite, dedicated to and optimized for a brand “review” search. This is a critical search term to own.
Seller Ratings Drive Visibility and Traffic from the 'Top of the Funnel'
Video Reviews Dominate Search Results and add Visual Social Proof
Q&A Also Plays Double Duty and Establishes Your Brand As The Expert
Additional Ways That You Can Leverage Ratings and Reviews To Effectively Promote Your Brand
How Product Q&A Dominates Search and Drives Traffic
Q&A is featured on your product pages, encouraging users to ask questions and read the answers. For search engines, the goal is to provide the best answer to a question, and Q&A by Shopper Approved is designed to provide the best answers, in the most visible and indexable format possible. Giving the very best shot at owning the SERP.
Each Question and Answer are optimized for search on your website, with the proper schema markup and URL structure that makes appearing in the Featured Snippets a snap.
Reviews Seals & Widgets Improve SEO and Conversions
Social Proof on your website makes the difference.
Your Seller Ratings, Product Reviews, Video Reviews, and Product Q&A should all appear on your website in strategic locations to drive engagement and conversions at the optimal time. They also provide both deep internal linking opportunities, and additional page content, recent content, and content diversity.
Reviews can be displayed in a variety of customizable Review Widgets or as featured elements, and your overall rating and total reviews collected can be displayed in customizable Review Seals.
Review Seals and Widgets come in a variety of shapes, colors and sizes to best match your website.
There are almost endless ways to incorporate powerful social proof into your website to improve SEO and conversions. For example, you can customize our review widgets, and add your overall review stats next to your widgets like this...
Or, you can add our category widget on your product pages next to the Buy Now button at the top of the page...
Video Reviews on Your Website Improve SEO and Conversions
Video Reviews on your website improve SEO, as well as time on page, and conversions.
You can even use an excerpt from a video review as a written testimonial (see the example below).
We now have more and better reviews than any of our larger rivals. We owe our success and Inc. 500 Fastest-Growing Company award in large part to Shopper Approved.”
Billboards, Banners, and Brochures, Oh My!
You can also feature your Reviews on your website, in your print collateral, emails and ads. The more you use your Reviews in more places, the better your messaging converts.
Add a Review Page On Your Site, to Create a Bonus Listing in Google
You can improve your domain authority, organic search results, and reputation management with a simple branded “reviews” subfolder on your main domain such as https://www.signs.com/customer-reviews/
This will optimize well for a “your company name reviews” search, which is a very high purchase intent, low funnel longtail search.
If you don’t own the top organic search results for your own brand name, your core products or product category, and your brand reviews, you are missing out on most of your sales opportunities. UGC, as it has been laid out here, is one more way to improve your results in all of these searches.
Social Evidence 'Animates' Your Social Proof
We have been talking a lot about how UGC improves SEO by creating keyword-rich content, backlinks, and credibility in the eyes of Google, as well as how UGC improves clicks and conversions through the power of social proof, perceived popularity, and tacit endorsements, which then in turn trigger herd behavior.
But, there is one more piece of the social proof puzzle that needs mentioning. If you think of ratings and reviews, and product Q&A as top and mid-funnel SEO enablers and traffic drivers that create online search visibility and initial clicks to your site, think of Social Evidence as the decisive piece at the bottom of the funnel that helps get that final click to purchase.
Although Social Evidence as we will define it here does not impact SEO, it certainly makes all your SEO and UGC efforts pay dividends by driving even more trust, herd behavior, and conversions at the moment of truth.
Social Evidence physically displays what others have done, purchased, and downloaded, as well as gives visibility into those who are visiting your site, and what they have said about their experience, in real-time. It’s like crowdsourcing confidence into your site and products.
With Social Evidence, you can use the power of crowdsourcing to build confidence in real-time, adding a data-driven dynamic layer to your social proof strategy.
It adds more life, motion, and relevance to your reviews and customer interactions at the most critical moments of decision-making. Giving shoppers that extra nudge has translated into an average conversion lift of 15%.
Trust is the biggest hurdle. And trust largely comes from social proof. Social proof is the story we end up believing. Your job as a marketer, then, is to take the threads of social proof and weave them together into something powerful." - Seth Godin (Expert Marketer & Best-Selling Author)
When shoppers see the number of others who are visiting your site right now, how many have recently viewed a product or offer, or how many have recently added it to their cart, it creates a sense of demand, popularity, and legitimacy by leveraging the influence of herd behavior.
Display How Many People Are Visiting Your Site in
Show Actions Taken
When site visitors see that others in their local area have recently purchased, registered, or downloaded your content, it builds confidence in your offer.
Display Evidence of Sales
You can also leverage social proof by dynamically displaying select reviews as
a pop-up at key decision points.
Conversions can also be increased with triggered notifications that convey urgent messaging, such as a flash sale, a special limited-time offer, or any announcement or incentive you can think of.
You’re In Good Hands
As a two-time Inc. 500 award winner with over 10 years in the review industry, we know how to get our clients ‘real’ transformational results.