A Little Help from your Friends
Leveraging User-Generated Content
Successful merchants hype the concept of “word-of-mouth advertising” It’s hard to dispute the value of satisfied customers singing your praises to other potential clients, and making it an element of an overall marketing strategy is a win-win. But in the digital era, there are greater opportunities to engender positive input from people who are giving a thumbs-up to people they don’t even know.
Through social media and review sites, happy clientele can boost your rankings in search engines and make your brand become known to millions. The mining of user-generated content is recognized as equally important to your outreach through advertising, website excellence, and devoting countless hours to employing search engine optimization’s best practices.
And it works.
An oft-used example is the now infamous Coca Cola Co’s clever bottle labels that featured common first names. Consumers went wild for the homey idea, snapping images of themselves imbibing with a personalized bottle. That viral campaign cost the corporation absolutely nothing, and generated a windfall of invaluable advertising.
If you’re not a Fortune 500 mega-corporation, you’re not alone. The rest of us need to expend more elbow grease into successfully employing user-generated content. Organic customer input doesn’t fall in your lap, but it’s not that difficult to find.
The simplest way to harness user-generated content is to gather and emphasize user reviews. First, they lend legitimacy to your page by increasing its word count, which translates to more exposure and confidence ranking on Google. The behemoth King of Search Engines employs “quality rater guidelines” that involve actual human beings evaluate the quality and integrity/trustworthiness of each page. Your well-organized presentation of customer reviews goes a long way toward impressing the raters.
To do this, maintain integrity by resisting disguised self-reviews, family and friend reviews, or an unusual amount of activity by a good customer you suspect may be trying to help by offering glowing praise far too often. Not only will this look legitimate to Google judges, but it pays off directly by impressing actual prospective customers who read your page carefully and pay close attention to customer input.
This is a proven concept. Studies show that product purchases are most favorably influenced by reviews that carry an average star rating between 4.2 and 4.5 (out of a possible 5). It makes sense, since typically they may cast aside reviews that are perfect and glowing, as well as the inevitable zero-star missives as being suspicious.
Studies also show that user reviews raise sales by almost 20 percent, and that more than 60 percent of users will be more inclined to buy from a site that includes them.
There is another way to make your page rank higher for potential buyers hitting the Google search window. Curating content means gathering and repurposing content others have created, or that generated by your own audience. Unsure of how to do this? Easy. Start a campaign soliciting images, writings, and other content. Upload the results to a landing page on your site, and watch your ranking grow as backlinks and referring domains spiral.
Always remember to make it as user-friendly as possible for your customers to add their voice and input. Lagging pages and confusing instructions will likely turn them away instantly. If done correctly, however, you can create an entire community of fans who ultimately become customers, delivering the success you’re seeking to grow as an ecommerce merchant in a vast universe.
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