May 03, 2012
Case Study

User-Generated Content: Organic search up 10%, conversion up 125% with rich product reviews

SUMMARY: MarketingSherpa research has shown that creating content is one of the most effective tactics for improving your site's SEO. Of course, creating content takes time, money and expertise. So, why not ask the true experts -- your audience -- for help?

One e-commerce site increased organic search traffic, conversion rates and time-on-site by encouraging customers to write product reviews. You'll see how the marketers taught customers how to write content-rich reviews and how they got more of them.
by Adam T. Sutton, Senior Reporter

Product ratings and reviews are proven to increase conversion rates on product pages. The team at Coffee For Less, though, used them to increase something else: organic search traffic.

Coffee For Less is an e-commerce site for coffee and related products. By offering customers an easy way to create and read reviews, its marketing team has added about 6,000 reviews to its site over three years. The reviews provided a 10% lift in organic search traffic, says Zachary Ciperski, VP, Coffee For Less.

"It gets new content onto our site, which is great," Ciperski says. "We have fresh content that's always updating our various product pages, and it's done in a language that tends to be a little more colloquial and a little more accurate to how people are actually searching."

The reviews also brought the following results in Q4 2011:
  • 125% higher conversion rate for visitors who interacted with them

  • 157% higher time-on-site for visitors who interacted with them

  • 111% higher page-views-per-visit for those who interacted with them

Coffee For Less uses these five tactics to boost results by getting more reviews onto its site.

Tactic #1. Make reviews search-friendly

An important requirement for using user-generated reviews for SEO is to make sure that they are visible to search engines. If the reviews are not visible when the search engine's spiders visit your site, then they will not help your rankings.

The reviews at Coffee For Less are fully visible to spiders, Ciperski says, and the system the team uses for comments also includes the following:
  • Multimedia -- although it is not done often, visitors can include pictures and videos with their reviews that are also visible to search engines.

  • Deep ratings -- customers can write a review, provide an overall rating, and rate different aspects of a coffee -- such as its aroma, acidity, body and color -- all on the same review form. Customers are not required to score these attributes, but when they do, it contributes to the amount of content on the page.

  • Sorting -- a product's first four reviews are listed on its page, and visitors can click to see more if they're available. They can also use a drop-down box to select one from 11 types of sorting for the reviews, including by oldest, newest, top contributors and most helpful.

  • Voting -- visitors to the page can click "yes" or "no" to indicate whether a review is helpful, which gives the team another way to sort the reviews and highlight the audience's favorites.

Tactic #2. Moderate reviews for more than profanity

As with any user-generated content, the reviews at Coffee For Less have to be moderated for offensive or abusive language.

"We give ourselves 72 hours after a review is written to go in and take a look and make sure that it is appropriate," Ciperski says.

The team looks for more than bad manners, though. Here's what else it looks for:

Reviews about shopping experience

If a product review is about a customer's experience in ordering and receiving a product rather than about the product itself, the team will take down the review and contact the customer.

Anyone who writes a review on a product page that describes a problem with shipping or packaging, for instance, is contacted directly to resolve the problem after the team removes the review. That said, the team does not remove negative reviews that are about products, Ciperski says.

Ratings mistakes

A large portion of the team's customers are between ages 40 and 60, and some are not computer savvy, Ciperski says. About twice a month, the team sees a raving review with a mere one-bean rating (ratings are given on a scale of one-to-five coffee beans instead of stars). In these instances, the team reaches out to the customer via email and asks if the rating is accurate.

Tactic #3. Teach customers how to review

One of the benefits of publishing user-generated reviews is that they are often written in the same language that customers would use in a search engine. This makes for great SEO content, Ciperski says.

Here are two ways the team encourages the audience to make reviews as content-rich as possible.

Provide detailed instructions

The Coffee For Less website includes a link in its persistent footer titled, "Write a Product Review," which brings visitors to a page with instructions and screenshots. The team links to the page when it encourages the audience via email or Facebook to write reviews.

Promote good examples

The team will occasionally select a well-written review to feature in its emails or social media outlets. The point, Ciperski says, is to show customers how to elaborate on the acidity, color and other attributes of a type of coffee for a better review.

"It's a demonstration so when they write a review they don't just write 'great coffee,' but they'll talk about the quality of the coffee and why it tastes good, etc."

Tactic #4. Encourage customers to review

Since the reviews improve performance of the team's site, it periodically promotes review writing to its audience. Here are a few examples:
  • Sweepstakes -- the team periodically enters any customers who write a review for a drawing for $100 in free coffee. It promotes the sweepstakes via its website, email, Facebook profile and Twitter feed.

  • Email -- about once each quarter, the team sends emails showing examples of great reviews and encouraging its audience to write.

    "That tends to provide quite a lift, but it depends," Ciperski says. "We get a few hundred sometimes, and other times we get a thousand."

  • Post-conversion emails -- although not yet live, the team hopes to launch an automated email that will reach customers several days after a purchase to encourage reviews.

Tactic #5. Share reviews on social networks

With more than 13,000 likes on Facebook and more than 12,000 followers on Facebook, Coffee For Less is active in social networks and encourages its audience to engage.

The team encourages customers to share their content in several ways:

Auto-tweet high ratings

Any time a customer reviews a product as three-beans or higher, a tweet with a link to the review is automatically sent from the company's Twitter feed.

Here's a recent example:

"New 5 star Review on Green Mountain Coffee Breakfast Blend Decaf K-Cups 24ct Mild: My go to evening coffee of choice If"

Optional Facebook sharing

Customers can click a checkbox on the product review form to have their reviews sent to their Facebook profiles. If they have not connected their Facebook and Coffee For Less accounts, the visitors will be asked to log in to Facebook before sending.

Publish feedback

Since the team does not allow feedback about the shopping experience to be published as a product review, it offers a dedicated tool to solicit feedback. Anytime a visitor comes to Coffee For Less's site, the left-hand corner of the Web browser features a "feedback" button. The button stays in the corner of the screen whether visitors scroll through a page or navigate to another part of the site.

Once clicked, the button brings visitors to a feedback tool where they can contact the company and also have their feedback on Facebook.

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Creative Samples

  1. Additional attributes rated

  2. How-to-write-a-review page

  3. Email for contest

  4. Facebook checkbox on confirmation page

  5. Feedback button on site

  6. Feedback tool

  7. Product page with reviews

  8. Product review form


Coffee For Less

Bazaarvoice - powers the team's review tool

Related Resources

How a Simple Email Increased Customer Reviews 1000%

Product Q&A Emails Get 7.5% Conversion Rate: 5 Steps to Turn Visitors into Buyers

Boost Customer Reviews to Weather the Recession: 5 Steps to 17% Conversion Lift

Content Marketing and SEO: The world doesn’t need another blog post

SEO Research: Why opportunity is knocking for marketers doing SEO

Local SEO: How geotargeting keywords brought 333% more revenue

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