The Sinful Guide to User Generated Content

The Sinful Guide to User Generated Content

In only two weeks, I hacked my way to:

  • 183% increase in traffic
  • 317% more unique entrances
  • 7% of new entrances going beyond FAQ pages
  • 0% increase in FAQ entrance resulting conversions
  • 1 UGC comment

Here is the why, the how and what things look like going forward:

We want each of our clients to be THE authority in their respective space. If they sell manure, they should be the most-renowned dung slingers in the world. Brand is king, and if being a brand means I can shed a penalty like a bad hangover, you can bet that’s where my money’s going. We have the following goals:

  • Generate new, relevant traffic
  • Provoke UGC
  • Look like a brand
  • Monetize traffic

Lastly, for comparison purposes, it would probably be helpful that you know what we are working with:

  • Page Rank 3
  • Domain Authority 31
  • Page Authority 41
  • Citation Flow 33
  • Trust Flow 18
  • 184 Referring Domains
  • 3 years old
  • 300+ pages

1. FAQ/Q&A plugin + Edits

I like this version (paid), but there are surely lots of other good ones out there. When we got it, it wasn’t perfect and we had to make a number of changes to get it where we wanted it, including:

  1. Making the barrier to leave questions and answers as simple as possible.
  2. Adding “recent questions” to the side bar for existing traffic, but also to allow some PR to flow to the FAQ pages.
  3. Disabling questions voting. I thought it was dumb.
  4. Adding a jQuery front-end validation plugin to validated, required fields to prevent users from reaching the default backend validation page of the plugin when the field validation error occurs.
  5. Adding Infinite Scroll because I am not a fan of pagination-style browsing
  6. Adding Register Plus Reduc to improve login forms
  7. Adding WP User Avatars so that not only did our client’s avatar show up, but also the other users.
  8. The way the plugin displays names of and dates is just ugly, and bad for UX. I would def recommend you have your dev clean it up.

The following SEO considerations we would recommend:

  1. Titles on the individual question pages: Since the question becomes the title, it’s often way too long for the title tag. For those your writing yourself, try to get the main phrases into the first 70ish characters. Or if you’re getting a lot of UGC, maybe you can set good title tags for each page manually after the question has been submitted. Meaning, someone posts a long question, then you go in to edit the new page that was created for the question and set a better title.
  2. Meta descriptions on the individual question pages: By default there aren’t any meta descriptions. Have your dev make the first 170 chars of the answer/question the meta description. Or you could write good ones manually.
  3. I don’t recall, but I believe we made the question title a H1 (wasn’t standard).
  4. By default the question becomes the URL, and you will have some crazy long URLs. It’s not good form for on-site SEO and might even be a bit detrimental (ie might be perceived as keyword stuffing). I’d have a dev set a max length for those auto generated URLs, something like 100 chars. Peep this for good info on the matter.

2. Creating the Process

If this was to work at all it would have to be highly scalable, and done cheap. We took a couple swings at it at first, but they weren’t consistent. It was taking way too much time and costing far too much. Our team member Dax developed the following process:

  1. Buy/create ~20 Gmail accounts.
    You can waste your time with some VPN software, outsource it, or buy quality US IP PVA emails. We did the latter, but had to go through a couple vendors before we found accounts that didn’t die after two days.
  2. Find ~5 credible forums in the client’s niche.
    We ended up wanting to find many more, but this was a good start. We also combed other FAQ style sites like:

    • Yahoo Answers
    • Ask.fm
    • Quora
    • Cha Cha
    • Stack Exchange
    • Answer Bank
    • Answers
    • Fixya
    • Blurtit
    • Askville
    • Answerbag
    • and more…
  3. Search the forum for client keywords, singling out posts w/ more than 5 responses.
  4. Rewrite the original question with one of our accounts and post to the plugin
  5. Repeat about 2-3 times per day
  6. Wait an hour or so after leaving question, and use another account to post a re-written response.
    Once we have this down, I want to get to the point where we start hosting long drawn-out conversations, adding tons of valuable content to the page, which will surely go a long way bringing in long tail traffic and such.

  7. Ask client to come in and give his .02
  8. Rinse and repeat.

Right now this is the work of one guy – one of our copywriters. Eventually he will go mad, and resent me for putting him on this tedious project. So, if I want to keep my copywriter, and really scale this thing, I am going to have to involve more people. First I see us having one of our VAs do step C above, collecting a number of URLs per day/wk that meet a strict criteria.

Loading them in a DOC/XLS and Q’g them for quality assurance (QA) to approve that they fit the template. QA will Q up for our team of writers (our content marketplace is a blog post in itself – it’s beautiful – tear worthy), where writers will grab the “gigs” as they become available. QA comes in again, vets the questions and answers that have been re written and Qs them up for the VA to post in a roughly standardized fashion. Well, that’s just how I see it going down in my head at this very moment.

3. Drive Traffic

We haven’t actually gone this far, but I have some ideas:

  1. I would imagine whether by tool or manual search operators we find questions similar to those on our website that have gone unanswered. We would partially answer, and drop a link if they wanted the rest of the answer.
  2. Do the same, but for questions we don’t already have answers to. We would quickly draw up an answer on our site, and do as suggested above.
  3. Create a number of accounts on Quora or Yahoo answers, build a little cred on the platforms, and start asking our own questions, and you know the rest.
  4. One thing we are already doing is encouraging our client to be a “thought leader” and visit QA sites and fish for questions he can answer. In the future I see us providing him with the URL to a couple questions each day, and jumping in. We want him to not only build his personal brand, but also that of his business. Surely this will drive some traffic too.
  5. It might help to add social sharing buttons to the question pages. Or at least like a “send to a friend” thing. In fact, we may want to periodically tweet/FB these so that they turn into social content and show value to the followers and bring people back to the site for more answers.

4. Monetize

As mentioned a couple times, we don’t have any conversions resulting from an original FAQ page entry…Yet! Eventually we will, and that will be great. However, if these current percentages keep up, we are going to have a lot of traffic that is of little use (beyond possible UGC and links). Our client is from British Columbia, Canada, and runs a business that requires patrons to visit the premises. These are the current numbers:

  • 19% Canadian traffic – SOME folks will travel out of province to visit him, but not many
  • Near 100% (strangely) of the CAD traffic is from BC – Many may travel in-province to see our client
  • 80%+ traffic is from out of country

So how do we monetize this traffic? I have a few ideas:

  1. Of course I’m going to say E-book. If the value is high enough, we could charge a couple bucks for it, or simply grab an email address and monetize at a later date.
  2. Adsense: My client might not sign off on this for aesthetic reasons. Also, I am not sure this would do his brand, a local business, any justice. Ads might just seems weird and abrasive to his customers.
  3. Lead sales? Ever since I told my client of my previous exploits selling leads in the optometry industry, he wants in on a piece of the action. Problem is though; he just doesn’t know where he can get in. He can’t think of a complementary business that isn’t his competition. However, his out of country traffic is definitely not his competition. Suppose we identified what IP they came in on (city) and had a geo-specific link in the sidebar that referred them to a business across the boarder? Suppose we worked to create a mini directory, outlining in detail and splendor the amazing work our friend in Georgia does. As long as there is a deal in place, and we can track the lead correctly, perhaps this might create a new revenue stream for our client. Maybe a monthly fee for inclusion? Long game for sure.

 5. Pitfalls so Far

  1. Not all clients are willing, or have the time to make the effort required. In some industries we could get by answering the questions ourselves, but in niches like legal, medicine, etc I think this would be bad news bears.
  2. As far as I can tell, we have only one real UGC question. I fully expect this to take some time, but if you have a client who is struggling to wrap their head around the future ROI, this may not be your best bet.
  3. If you have a site with no authority, you will likely have to wait a very long while to see the fruits of your labor. My client’s site is decent, and this sort of material hits page 1 for many QAs real quick. Other clients of ours will undoubtedly have to be more patient.
  4. We need more authority to our /FAQ page. Even though we 301d the old questions page to the new one and interlinked it well, it is still a new page. In retrospect, I would have used the original questions page.  To remedy this, I will probably do some light link-building to my top level FAQ pages and allow authority to trickle down.
  5. Not a damn conversion resulting from an entry via the FAQ page. I figured we’d have at least one by now, but perhaps I will need to work on my funnel from FAQ to informational or quote pages.

This is just a rough outline, with some observations we’ve made thus far. We have only done this for two clients, but seen a measure of success in both instances. Budget dependent, this could be revved up big time, and I would bet the results would be substantially larger. Until my processes are tighter, I will be keeping it pretty small time.

Am I breaking the rules? Bending for sure. Am I the first to do this? To “fake” UGC to build up their platform…think again. Burn me at the stake, or love me, let me know below.

Special thanks to @alexfusman, @smbusinesscoach and @Daxamion for the inspiration and help. Oh, and my copywriter :P

About Adam Steele

A SEO & Local SEO by trade, Adam spends the majority of his time creating new efficiencies through smart processes and the leveraging of technology. He is ruthlessly passionate about building smart, lean businesses, and exploring new, lean, internet marketing techniques. Find him on Twitter @AdamGSteele.

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