I was talking with an SEO expert recently who was commenting on how the whole Internet marketing industry is so Google centered, and the extreme power they have on the industry.
While I agree that the economic engine that Google engenders for anyone marketing on the web is huge, I had to kindly disagree that it was all Google and their relative power was growing. Pointing out that numbers in DM News about the amount of traffic internal (self generated rather than search engine generated) on Facebook and LinkedIn has become so substantial that it is shifting the PPC (Pay Per Click) price models. This creation of ‘internal’ traffic is a continuing movement toward user generated content (UGC). UGC is a major component of web2.0 or web3.0 (depending on whose definitions you use). But looking at the statistics of how many HOURS people spend on Facebook per day and week clearly shows that the power of people writing what interests them is very impactful on the overall web. It is no longer just what the professionals write and what Google feels we want.
The retailer Amazon recognized this shift of power from the corporation as well. Look at their Amazon.com site these days and you will quickly see 3 main sources of content:
Publisher provided – title, price, ISBN number and editors review. The facts are seldom disputed, but the ratings on the editors review show that everyone understands the publishers editor always loves it’s own book.
Mined content – pulled from the content of the book – Top phrases in the book, key words in the book, number of pages. This is content that reflects Amazon’s ability to use computers to infer real information just by counting and running programs against the data of the book. The actual information and wisdom comes from a visitor to take these snippets of information and see answers that are useful.
User Generated Content – even the rating of the editor’s review is user generated. But the other reviews and the ratings of the reviews is where gold mine of content and traffic to Amazon trumps most other retailers. More and more Amazon becomes the Wikipedia of a card catalog – UGC. It provides more information than professional abstracts and paid professional summaries found in the old dusty paper based card catalogs or their digital equivalents these days. The reviews can be biased, but the ratings and openness of them allow their value to be taken in context.
That last source – UGC is such a gold mine that Amazon went and bought a collection of it for future use – it was all the UGC about movies and TV shows – IMDB.com (Internet Movie Data Base) that was predominantly UGC (what was not was almost, as the staff generating the content were mostly paid low wages for a labor of love according to rumors).
This is all a long way of saying that UGC is one of the forces that has the potential to knock the powerhouse of Google off its throne and leave space for all of us to consider different sources of ‘truth’ and wisdom of crowds. This will affect how we optimize our sites. More and more it will be the UGC that is key. UGC are Forces beyond our control, but well within our influence. One of the many areas I have seen the models change – managing volunteers compared to professional staff. There are commonalities, but there are differences.
How have you experimented with User Generated Content and what were the results?
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