The Ups and Downs of Socializing Your Content

There are many ups and downs to adding a user generated content section to a site. It has been interesting watching the effects of SEOMoz's user generated content and points systems. The ups:

  • users feel they are part of the brand.

  • they are more likely to push the brand and link to the site
  • points are created free but give some perception of value
  • users create free content for the site even when you are not doing so.
  • some of their content will rank in search results. today I did a search for search engine marketing and saw Google listing a link for recent blog posts listing this post
  • contributors might give you good marketing ideas or help you catch important trends before competitors do

The downs:

  • people who spend lots of time contributing tend not to value their time too much AND are hard to profit from (especially in savvy marketplaces that ignore ads).

  • having many relationships allows you to be a connector that knows someone for just about any job, but focusing heavily on building community and maintaining the many relationships needed to do so may hold you down on the value chain. A few strong relationships will likely create more value than many weak ones, especially as we run into scale related issues.
  • if your site is not authorititative, user generated content may waste your link authority and lead to keyword canibalization
  • if your site is authoritative many people will look for ways to leverage your domain or authority
  • as you get more authoritative more people will try to exploit it. even friends get aggressive with it, and unless you call people out it gets out of control quickly.
  • as you extend your commitments, spending time to police a site, it is harder to change course. I get frustrated when I see spam on the homepage of ThreadWatch, but I guess I can't be surprised people do it, and due to database issues I am uncertain if I will be able to upgrade TW without just archiving the old information and switching to a new CMS.
  • some people looking to promote their work may spam or aggressively associate your brand with the articles they wrote. For example, is this comment spam? Or is it good?

If a relationship is affiliate based it is quite easy to police undesirable activity by banning accounts, but if people are adding content to your site and marketing it aggressively in ways that may not bode well with your brand it might be harder to police it, especially as you scale your community. And typically the people that are most likely to give you crap for it are hypocritical with their beliefs.

I think on the whole a community section is a pretty good idea if you tie it into a paid content model, but even when you do that you will still run into scale issues if you provide any type of support for the paid content. I have over 600 emails in my inbox, and recently stopped advertising free consulting with an ebook purchase because I stopped scaling as a person. As your profits scale the opportunity cost of any one revenue channel become more apparent. That is one of the things which has prevented me from putting a forum or community section on this site.

Published: March 22, 2007 by Aaron Wall in seo tips


March 28, 2007 - 6:05am

You can semi-easily update your Drupal, really. I believe it can have anything you need to improve moderation and give more power to your trusted contributors to moderate the site.

Do you really think a new domain can be hurt by spreading too thin with user generated content? I believe it can get up fairly quickly, if it is promoted. Your thoughts?

March 22, 2007 - 4:22pm

Great article.

I am sorry you are having problems being an authoritative figure. Maybe one day I will have your issues.


March 22, 2007 - 8:38pm

Hi Keith
At what point do you build your authority though? When does content become so heavily monetized that it detracts from your credibility?

You have AdSense above your content, your heading at the top of your SEO blog has Anna Nicole Smith, most (maybe all) of the content is paid posts, with a huge list of off topic text links between each post

March 22, 2007 - 8:40pm

Great post, love the links, fun reading - well done pulling together various controversies in this context.

And you're spot on with the message, too. I've been here before (and yeah it was ancient times) but how communities with paid models can scale is problematic. SEOmoz is a fabulous resource, really a gem and I think they're trying to leverage their position into more community, resources, and memberships rather than focus so much on SEO services.

More power to 'em... if they're aiming for addendum value adds with an SEO firm identity at the core then they'll do well. The challenge is to keep that identity intact while growing community.

March 22, 2007 - 8:54pm

FWIW, I don't see it the way an earlier commenter does.

To me, the points raised in this post are exactly the kind of forward thinking a person needs to do when formulating their business model.

Before you invest time and effort going down a road, it sure is smart to think about if you want to end up where a given road goes. If not, then don't even start down that road.

This is along the lines of knowing what business you ARE in -- and what business you ARE NOT in. And since time can become THE limiting factor, best to consider before hand if a person will keep up time consuming activities a "social site" requires.

It's nice to have a specific list of factors (like those in this post) to consider from someone who has experienced and thought about them rather than HOPE you are lucky enough to think all this up before you get the (time and opportunity cost consuming)experience leading to the specifics listed in this blog post.

Life's short. SO much nicer to be able to learn things to consider from others who have real life experiences, than to have to learn and discover it all on one's own.

Thanks, Aaron. Please keep sharing as you do. I suspect most of us know post like this ARE NOT whining on your part, but instead are "words to the wise" for us to consider in our own journeys. Thank you!!

Take care,


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