Brands should publish user-generated content, but different types of UGC help to meet various kinds of business goals, depending on where customers are in the sales funnel.

User-generated content is a great way to increase engagement and improve the effectiveness of content marketing in general. However, marketers need to be smart about how they treat UGC on their websites when they’re attempting to reap SEO benefits.

According to G+ comments made by Google’s John Mueller, webmasters need to be careful about the kinds of original user media they put on their websites. One commenter was curious as to why his schema markup wasn’t providing the SEO boost he wanted. One respondent suggested it was because of seemingly deceptive practices used to hide content from viewers. However, Mueller explained that the webmaster was confusing testimonials and reviews, which serve different purposes in terms of user experience and Google indexing.

Mueller said reviews weren’t appropriate for this particular site (an SEO provider) and that testimonials would be a better fit.  

Why is this distinction important? Consider three types of UGC:

Reviews are usually created and shared on third-party sites or by outside services – and usually for products. They’re supposed to paint an objective picture of a business or service without any interference from the company in question. They cut both ways and can lead to bad publicity, but a freely given positive review can really boost a brand’s image.

Testimonials are generally something a business solicits from customers. Testimonials can enhance a brand’s site, but it’s not a good idea to mark them up as reviews with the intention of deceiving Google and visitors. They shouldn’t be construed as freely given UGC on a third party site.

Case studies are for customers much further down the sales funnel. They’re in-depth pieces that explore what a relationship with a brand actually looks like and they’re good for helping business partners and potential customers actually pull the trigger and convert.

So what should businesses be trying to achieve with different types of UGC? Encouraging reviews is great for improving a semantic search profile across the web, as it helps with Knowledge Graph visibility and clicks from SERPs. Testimonials help people who have actually clicked on links dive deeper into a website, and case studies try to make qualified leads convert into customers. Confusing these three resources won’t just make content marketing less effective – it could draw the ire of Google.

Alex Butzbach is a Marketing Writer at Brafton. He studied Communications at Boston College, and after a brief stint teaching English in Japan, he entered the world of content marketing. When he isn't writing and researching, he can be found on a bike somewhere in Metro Boston.