How to Improve SEO Rankings with User-Generated Content

Through interactions with thousands of ecommerce retailers, one of the most common goals we hear about is increasing traffic. There’s plenty of tactics available to drive more shoppers to your site, yet one topic always seems to work it’s way into the conversation: search engine optimization.


Why is SEO so important?  


According to Google, over 40,000 search queries are processed every second. Each search represents an opportunity for a potential customer to find your business.

Let’s take a look at some SEO basics, and identify how user-generated content can help you get a leg up.


The Basics

How Does a Search Engine Function?

The purpose of a search engine is to crawl and index the web, and then use the information gathered from each site to deliver relevant results to an internet user’s query, or search.

In regards to crawling, “spiders” or “crawlers” visit each page, analyze the content that loads, and then click through links in a similar fashion as a human. As each page is crawled, information is pulled into the search engine’s servers.

All websites have the same crawling resources available to them. You can request a call, or use webmaster tools to specify how a search engine crawls your site.  

Once content is pulled from a page it is indexed, which means the search engine stores and organizes the content.

What Shoppers See in Search Results

After a user submits a search query, the search engine results page (SERP) is broken into three sections:

  1. Paid search results
  2. Local search results
  3. Organic search results

Here’s a quick diagram to help you identify these sections:

Breakdown of Google search results.

Looking at individual search results, there are two key elements that will appear from your site. First, your title tag serves as the top header for the result. This tag is important because it tells a search engine what your site is about. For best results, include your business name and keywords (in moderation of course) that are unique to your store.

The other key element of your search result is your meta description, which provides additional information to visitors about your site. Write these with your audience in mind, as users heavily analyze these as part of their decision to click through.

Breakdown of what information appears in search results

How to Improve Rankings With User-Generated Content

Now that we know how a search engine works, how does your business get ahead? Google isn’t going to give you the key to their algorithm, however, they do provide guidelines by which to optimize your website for search. You can check out Google’s SEO Starter Guide here.


As you’ll find, there are a variety of factors that increase the likelihood of your site coming up in search, but let’s take a look at a few key opportunities that any store owner can take advantage of, and why user-generated content is a natural fit for each:

Freshness of Content 

Adding content on a consistent basis is a great way to improve rankings. Each new piece of content is something for a search engine to crawl. The more often you provide reason for a crawl, the higher you will rank.

Engaging your customers to share their experiences with your products is a great way to constantly update your site with fresh content. The best part — depending on what tool you use to engage, this value comes with limited-to-no effort!


Does the content on your site deliver value to a user based on the keywords in their search? The purpose of a search engine is to provide the absolute best recommendation, so if product pages are lacking on relevant keywords and visuals, it’s time for a change.

User-generated content, especially when featured in the purchase path, is keyword rich and features relevant visuals of specific products. As image search continues to gain prominence, having more product-specific photos will earn your store high marks for relevance.

User Experience

Is your site easy to navigate? Does the site have a high bounce rate? Does your content match the information in your meta tags? Lower your bounce rate and keep visitors engaged, and Google will view your content as valuable, improving your search rankings.

Visual UGC is key here. To have SEO success, you must pass the 8 second test, which is the length of the human attention span. Engage shoppers quickly, or watch them bounce to another site. The human brain processes images 60,000 times faster than text, and four times as many consumers would rather view video than read, meaning your visuals will quickly pull shoppers in and hold their attention. Linking your content to relevant category and product pages is also important in removing friction from the purchase path.


Does Google Crawl JavaScript?

We get this question quite a bit — contrary to what you might have heard, it’s reported Google has had the ability to crawl JavaScript for nearly 10 years! How much of your JavaScript is crawled depends on how it is structured. You can pre-render your JavaScript content to preload its elements, making the content visible to crawlers. For this reason, Rivet Works is designed to pre-render star rating, text, and image information when a page is loaded, meaning the search engine will crawl and index this content.

As you see here, Rivet Works’ JavaScript display is crawled and indexed in both web and image searches:

Examples of Rivet Works content in search results.

*Bonus* How Seller Reviews Work

Another hot topic in SEO is seller reviews. These reviews from Google insert a 5-star rating into your AdWords results. The important thing to know about seller reviews is these are not a setting that your business controls, rather Google determines when they appear. Here is some additional information about where seller ratings come from:  

  1. Google Customer Reviews, a free program that collects post-purchase reviews on behalf of advertisers.
  2. StellaService, an independent company that analyzes the quality of your customer service through the measurement of your customer care, shipping and returns.
  3. Aggregated performance metrics from Google-led shopping research. Ratings from Google Consumer Surveys, a market research platform which we use to collect data for certain domains and businesses.

Google provides an article on how to make seller ratings more likely to show. You can access it here.