For more than 12 years, I've worked with consumer-generated content as a core component of my strategic SEO work. About half of that time was focused on the search optimization of job postings for a well-known job board. The other, more recent half focused on consumer content in the form of end-user reviews.
Throughout the latter period, I was responsible for the organization and optimization of content written by millions of people, about an infinite number of topics, whose writings were to be published, unedited, on some of the world's most popular websites.
At first, working with this vast, seemingly uncontrolled content asset felt a bit overwhelming. Then it hit me: The people writing this content were the same ones performing search queries. So, the sentences, paragraphs, and ideas written by the masses had the potential to become crowd-sourced search optimization.
As you consider your strategy of working with consumer-generated content, keep the following points in mind.
1. Consumers and marketers use vastly different lingo
It's a simple reality that marketing professionals are constrained. Often, professionally written marketing content is eloquent, on-brand, and powerful, but it also often completely misses valuable search keywords.
For example, when doing some optimization work with an online travel agency, I discovered that branding rules blocked the use of the word "motel." However, in certain markets around the United States, that is the primary search keyword that people used. By excluding the word from their marketing materials, the site may have been missing out on as much as 20% of the combined hotel/motel keyword search opportunity.
Opportunity: Use consumer content to help reveal the words that brand guidelines restrict marketing professionals from using.