Content comes in all types, lengths, and mediums. From an SEO point of
view, we simply know that it's important—no, crucial—to add content on a
regular basis to our web sites. The content we add must be of value to our
But truthfully, "writing content" is the most difficult and
time-consuming part of the search engine marketing process. I've been in the
SEO industry for nine years, and I can honestly say that writing content is
the part that most SEOs dread. Optimization isn't a problem. It's writing
content that's the problem!
One solution: User-generated content.
User-generated content is just what it sounds like: Content generated by
the visitors or users to your web site. This is content that you, as the web
site owner, don't have to create. Think about it for a minute. If the users
generate the content and get more involved with your site, don't you imagine
they'd want to link to your site?
Don't get me wrong-you'll still have to create content. Success will never
be handed to you on a diamond-studded platter. It will always be the product
of hard work. But if you get your visitors involved with your site, the
content they can create for you will make your job much easier.
Let's look at an example.
Let's say you own a hotel on St. Simons Island, Georgia. Rather than just
providing content about your hotel, why not open additional windows of traffic
into your site by providing information about St. Simons Island itself?
St. Simons and surrounding islands are rich with history dated back to the
1500s. Famous artists and writers live in the area, the beaches are quiet and
peaceful, and fresh seafood is in abundance. People ride bicycles on trails
that stretch across the island beneath exquisite oak trees that aren't found
anywhere else on earth except in Georgia. It's a perfect place to get away
from the world. You can feel the peace as soon as you cross the bridge to the
Next, let's consider your target audiences. Virtually every web site has
more than one target audience. Your target audiences might be families with
small children; the artsy crowd; harried business people; writers; history
buffs; newlyweds; and so forth.
The type of content you provide on your web site will need to vary
depending on which target audience you're considering. The artsy crowd will
have totally different needs than stressed business people who want to get
away from the crowds of living in big city Atlanta.
Let's take the artsy crowd as an example.
St. Simons is well known for its famous writers and artists. Bookstores
have book signings by local authors and art exhibits are frequently held.
Because of the laid back atmosphere, authors and artists don't go into hiding.
What can you do with this information if you own a hotel in the region?
Post upcoming book signings, art exhibits, museum exhibits, art festivals,
etc., in an "arts" section on your site. Why not offer to host
author readings at your hotel and promote the events on your web site? Post
writers' support group meetings, story tellers' meetings, area art events, and
so forth. Let them have the meetings at your hotel.
Host spectacular holiday events at your hotel. Waive the meeting room
space, but you'll still make money on the food. Publicize the event online,
and post pictures on your web site.
Let each group have an area of your web site where they can talk about
their group, post examples of their work, encourage new members, etc.
Set up a blog on your site and talk about the art community. Introduce new
artists and writers. Let them talk about what's happening in the world of art
on St. Simons Island.
Host contests for new artists and writers. Offer them a free meal at your
hotel (or a free weekend getaway) for the winners. Either let the art
community as a whole vote, or let area judges be the ones who choose the
winners. Post all of the entries on your web site as well as the winning
Host children's writing contests and post those entries on your web site.
Have a local sand castle competition outside of your hotel, if your hotel
is on the beach. Bring in sand castle artists from around the world and comp
their rooms. Make it an annual event. Let the artists write content about
their backgrounds and post it to your site as well as pictures of their art.
Link back to their personal web sites.
Think user-generated content—content that you don't have to create but
your users are creating for you because you've cared enough about your
potential customers to provide valuable information geared specifically for
Do you see the link popularity building naturally to your site as you
create an art section that's full of valuable information for that one target
audience? As you build this art section, do you see the publicity and buzz
you're also creating surrounding your hotel?
Set up an e-mail list and inform your past guests of upcoming art events
and any specials you're offering at your hotel. Be sure to have a calendar of
events listed on your web site. Link straight from your web site to separate
web sites for area artists and writers.
If someone were interested in the art community on St. Simons Island, isn't
there also a chance that they'd be interested in staying at the hotel that's
in the middle of the art events on the island? Of course. Plus with each page
you create, with each link you build, you're making your web site that much
We're only beginning with ideas, but we're off to a great start.
We've only covered one target audience. We haven't touched any of the
others. Just think of the additional muscle we could add to the site once we
begin adding content, both our own and user-generated, for the other target
audiences for the site.
How can you encourage your web visitors to get more involved with your
Eight tips for encouraging user-generated content
1. Give them a reason to participate. Offer them a discount off your
products or services, for example, if you can do so. Having a contest is a
reason to participate. Offering free meeting space and helping the art
community become a united front is a reason to participate.
2. If you have a contest, have a decent prize. This reminds me of the time
that I won a contest at Disney World and won three stickers. Three stickers.
Forget that. Make the prize worthwhile if you expect people to enter.
3. Offer a question and answer area where they can ask questions from an
4. Treat everyone who is involved in your "inner circle" (the
ones who post to your site) with the utmost respect. These are your special
people. In essence, your web site is becoming theirs. Allow it to evolve in
whatever manner it needs to change to fit their needs.
5. Encourage your inner circle to write "how to" articles to be
posted on your site, tips, articles, etc. In our example above, each artist
could write tips or information for new artists. What wonderful information to
share with the arts community.
6. Offer a poll on a subject of interest to your visitors. What's happening
in the news that's related to your web site?
7. Ask your visitors a thought-provoking question and start a discussion.
This could be a slightly controversial topic or not. The idea is to get them
thinking and talking to you, possibly through a blog post. Be sure to post the
question on the main page of your site, with a link to your blog post.
8. Finally but most importantly, don't be afraid to have ideas. One idea is
the cornerstone of another idea, which can branch off into another idea, and
so forth. Be creative. Creativity and the ideas it sparks can be all it takes
to make your web site spectacular. Take a step and see for yourself.
Every web site needs content focused on the needs and desires of the target
audiences for that site. Your goal is to get your visitors involved in your
web site so that they'll help you create the content. After all, the site is
theirs too, isn't it?
About Robin Nobles:
Robin Nobles teaches 2-, 3-, and 5-day hands-on search engine marketing workshops in locations across the globe as well as online courses
in SEO. They have opened the first networking community for SEOs called The Workshop Resource Center for Search Engine Marketers, and they have expanded their
Engine Academy workshops to communities across North America and
a Free SEO Tip and have it sent to you by e-mail every day - hundreds of
Copyright 2008 Robin Nobles. All rights reserved. This article
was originally published in SearchEngineLand.
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