Ashley Zeckman

7 Principles for User Generated Content: Michael DeHaven SES Chicago 2011

SES-Chicago-Michael-DeHavenMichael DeHaven’s presentation at SES Chicago on “User Generated SEO” started with some actual user generated content from the audience. Before the session DeHaven gave 5 volunteers a bite sized Ghirardelli chocolate bar. In exchange for the treat he asked that each of the volunteers write a review of the chocolate and then share it with the rest of the audience.

What Was the Response?
The chocolate was called everything from waxy, to too sweet, messy, and melt in your mouth goodness. In contrast the packaging created by the Ghirardelli marketers was quite different, “take time to slow down and feel yourself melt with each bite.” As you can see the professional marketers took a much different approach than the consumers.

The Marketer vs. the Consumer
According to DeHaven 80-90% of total content on many major ecommerce sites is written by end users who come to the site and give their opinions or post reviews. He then proceeded to provide a few examples of what companies believed the best keywords for their product or services were and the actual keywords consumers used to describe the business. In both of the examples listed below the keyword lists were not at all aligned.

Marketing Keywords: romance, fine dining, gourmet food
User Generated Keywords: great drinks, partying, view

Marketing Keywords: cleanser, gentle, healthy looking
User Generated Keywords: soap, younger, looking great

7 Principles of User Generated SEO

#1: Don’t Forget SEO Fundamentals
While user generated content can be extremely powerful it is important not to forget the basics such as link building, optimization, and proper tagging.

#2: Search Engines Get Bored
When Google bots are crawling your website they are looking for fresh and relevant content. If the bots return week after week and the content has not changed they become “bored” and will be less likely to return. In order to remain competitive in the online marketplace frequent updates are a must.

#3: The Primanti Principle
A Primanti sandwich is unique because of the French fries inside the sandwich. If you add too many fries to the Primanti it can become overwhelming for the user. Similarly as a marketer you want to make sure that you aren’t overwhelming Google with too many “French fries” but a reasonable combination of foundational information and user generated content.

#4: Beware of Dilution
Typical product descriptions are optimized and written by professional marketers, user reviews are not. While user generated content is important it has it’s place. Beware of what too much user generated content can do for your SEO.

#5: Unlock the Long-Tail Vault
Marketers are constantly working to determine what keywords users are typing and which ones will drive the highest ROI. An additional challenge is determining which content should be housed on the top-level domain and which ones are better suited for microsites.

#6: Ask For Content at Relevant Times
Spending time to determine when your audience will be most willing to write a review and determining their level of qualification for submitting a review is key. If you’re promoting a concert emailing attendees the morning before the concert and asking them to share their photos on the site is a great way to entice user generated content.

#7: Convert Reviewers into Advocates
It is important that marketers set next steps for reviewers. An example provided was that of a user that wrote a laptop review and then spent the next hour (in the middle of the work day) answering over 130 laptop questions asked by other users. If that user had a great experience using the laptop think of the number of people they are reaching and advocating to on behalf of the company selling the laptop.

I really enjoyed that DeHaven’s presentation covered the ways that content can be generated by users but also what we must do as marketers to facilitate, moderate, and encourage user generated content.

I’m curious to know how much of your content you believe is generated by users? If the number is low, do you have a plan for increasing interaction? If the number is high, what have you done well that encourages users to generate content on your behalf?

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Ashley Zeckman About Ashley Zeckman

Ashley Zeckman is the Senior Director of Digital Strategy for TopRank Marketing. In addition to finding innovative ways to showcase the exceptional work of her team, she is also responsible for creating digital marketing programs that drive customer acquisition and growth for the agency. Her background includes expertise in everything from content marketing strategy to branding, account management and social media.

Outside of her role at TopRank Online Marketing, Ashley prides herself on being a great home chef, painter, prankster and dog mom.


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  2. Avatar Jennifer Worden says


  3. Informative Principles of User Generated SEO. Thanks for Sharing

  4. Avatar Sujit Singh says

    Google sktool is a must have if you want to increase your business to
    higher levels. First you need to know what are the important keywords people
    are looking for . 

  5. Avatar Zishan Ahmed says

    Fantastic article. Thanks. But I have a question, Which task should get more priority ? User Generated Contents or Link Building ? Thanks a lot again.