User-generated content (and building your community) | Sustainable Monetized Websites

♪ [Music] ♪ Welcome back to the series
Sustainable Monetized Websites,
a series for online content creators and content managers… Who also handle monetization. I'm Monetized. And I'm Organica. In this episode, we'll talk about user-generated content and building your community. Organica, do you also feel
there's someone missing? Yes, where's Aurora? Aurora? Aurora? Hey, ladies! Have you seen Aurora? We haven't. What are you doing here? Oh, right. I'm Martin Splitt.
I'm an Open Web Cheerleader. And I received a special invitation
from Aurora to participate in an episode on user-generated content.

That's so 2008, by the way. How is that still a thing? User-generated content is a great way to engage your users
on your website. Let me start by explaining what it is. User-generated content is content that users contribute towards and that is visible to at least a subset
of other users of your site. User-generated content can include comments
at the bottom of your pages, images, video,
discussions between users, or complete pages created by users. This is content submitted by users who operate independently from your site. Frequently, user-generated content is different to the content
that you create and, hence, it can
be difficult to supervise. Any content published in your website created by you or your users will generally be considered
together as a whole for monetization policies and ranking purposes.

Let's deep dive
into user-generated content in comments, forums, photo, video, and file sharing, and online dating sites. Wait. Did you say comments? Really? Is that still a thing people do? What's the deal? If you want them, enable them in your CMS or block system, and you're done! You've got to take this
more seriously, Martin. Comments are a great way for site owners to build community and readership. Because of that, comment sections
are often used by spammers who run automated programs that post spam to abuse them. If you've come across comments that looked like an advertisement or a random link to an unrelated site, then you've encountered comment spam. Google might not always
be able to differentiate between your content and the user-generated content on the same page, so you want to make sure that it meets the guidelines. Otherwise, these spam comments on a page can impact your site's rankings. If you allow automated spam to appear on your site, you'll be violating
our AdSense program policies and risking demonetization. Right, so comments are valuable, but I should take care of them so that they are actually
constructive and useful.

Exactly! Remember, your content can be undone by hateful or vulgar comments from users. Beyond violating monetization policies, this has the potential to hurt your brand and offend your user base. That's why you should approach
user-generated content with care, creating a thriving community while minimizing the risks. How can I stay on top of all the comments that users are posting on my articles? There are a few things you can do to that end, like exercising active moderation, for example, by publishing
the respectful comments and filtering out the hateful
or abusive ones. Consider using a trusted
third-party plugin for commenting. Many of these have robust moderation and content filtering functionalities. Having said that, another way to tackle this could be through a simple design change.

Rather than placing comments on the same page as your content, you can transfer comments to a separate page with no ad code. At the end of your monetized content, place a call to action, such as "User comments"
or "View comments." When a user clicks on this, they are taken to a new page with no Google ad code. What about these good old
bulletin boards? Are they still around? You mean forums? Yes! They're still a very important place for online communities to gather around a variety of topics. That is good, right? Well, they can be an excellent way of fostering a community. People will share text, images,
and videos with each other and get to know each other. Unfortunately, sometimes automated bots invade these communities and spam users.

Yeah, I understand that, but moderating an active forum on your own can be a little overwhelming. Well, if there's an active community, you can rely on it and create different levels
of trusted users. For example, consider giving
moderation abilities to trusted community members or limit posting for new users. As your users provide
their trustworthiness, you can progressively allow
them to post directly. A variation of this could be to limit the types of content nontrusted users can submit. For example, allow them to post text but not images or links.

Yeah, that certainly helps build
trust in the community. Also, keep an eye on nontextual content, like photos, videos, or other files. These can be problematic in terms of adult content, copyright, malware, or even illegal content, and, therefore, violate publisher policies or cause issues in Google Search. Right, but… I do like sharing
my diving photos and videos with other content creators
and seeing theirs. Is there a risk there? As with text, they can be a wonderful way to build a community around shared interests or creativity, but you want to take similar measures as you do for textual content to prevent unwanted content from showing up on your site. That makes sense because Google might not
be able to distinguish between the user-generated files and those I put on the page. Precisely! Also, these services can be abused to violate copyright, spread malware or unwanted software and violate publisher policies, so constant surveillance is important. I'm a bit confused. If those things require
a bit of extra care, how is it with online dating and user-generated content that's potentially quite sensitive, too.

Online dating sites are places where users
add their photos, videos, and other content to their profiles. They can often include revealing images that are not family safe. While these types of images may be relevant to the website, non-family safe images are prohibited under our AdSense publisher policies. Therefore, don't monetize pages with photos that are
potentially non-family safe or dating profiles that may have non-family safe content.

Also, if a site is primarily oriented
toward adult dating, it is likely not compliant with the Google AdSense Program Policies. Let's say, I were the site owner
of a dating platform, and users uploaded those pictures, would that still be my responsibility? If you want to monetize
your content with Google, you will be responsible for all content on your pages where the Google ad code appears. This means that to participate in Google's
monetization programs, you need to ensure that all content, including user-generated content, complies with all applicable
program policies on pages with ads. Because users can post anything, you need to ensure that what they post complies with all applicable
monetization policies. Hola! Am I late? No! Not at all. We were just discussing
what to keep in mind when having user-generated content on your site. Great! Did Organica and Monetized
convince you already about how cool it is when creating and engaging
online communities? Yes! They also told me what site owners should look out for.

I got to say I'm a little bit scared now of user-generated content. Fear not. Let's look at some
implementation recommendations to prevent abuse. First and foremost, assess the risks associated
with user-generated content before monetizing a page that has it. For most publisher sites, we recommend not to place Google ad code on pages with user-generated content. Any page that displays Google ads is subject to policy enforcement. Google applies its monetization policies to the entire page.

If, for example, you have
a comment section below an article, and one of the comments a user makes contains dangerous or derogatory content, which violates our policies, your entire page could be demonetized. To prevent this from happening, you can apply a simple design change. Move the user-generated content, in this case, the comments section, to a different page with no ad code. Let your users know that they can visit
and participate in that section with a call to action,
such as "View comments." Unless you can actively
manage user comments, this is likely the easiest solution.

Publish a content policy on your site. Setting the rules of the game
is important. Clearly let your users know what they're allowed
to publish on your site and what they're not. Block user-generated content pages to be indexed by default so that you have control over what pages you want the index to include. This can be done
with a noindex robots metatag in the head section of a page. You can remove that once you have approved the content on that specific page. Another great and actually underused way of telling Google when links
posted on your site have been added by users and not by you is to mark such
user-generated content links in, for instance, comments or forum posts, as rel="ugc".

That discourages comments spam and prevents these links from being associated with your site. If you want to recognize
consistently trustworthy contributors, you can actually remove this attribute from the links they post. Enable your users to report violations. Next to each element
of user-generated content, add a flag or a report violation option that allows your users to report potentially problematic content. Make sure you regularly
review these reports and act on them. Yeah! Your community can support you
in running a tight ship. Definitely. In that sense, recruit moderators. Right, because as your site grows, a passionate community
will, hopefully, form around it.

Then you can recruit moderators to help you review content and maintain a healthy
community engagement. Disable ad serving until a post is reviewed. Only enable ad serving when you're sure that a post complies
with publisher policies. Build or use an automated
content filtering system to detect the violations. You can learn more about content filtering in the resource linked
in the description box. Use a Captcha on content submission to fight back against bots. Before users can submit content, ensure that they're human beings
and not bots, For example, by using Google's reCAPTCHA. I see, so user-generated content is not a blast from the past but it actually continues to be great to gather a community and engage people around the content we produce and publish? 100%! Yes! Also, with this great power, comes a responsibility, too, like, for instance, moderating
the user-generated content empowering trusted community members to keep the platform clean and safe and actually paying attention
to what's happening on my site in order to make sure it does follow the guidelines
for certain ads.

Bravo, Martin! Remember, user-generated
content on your site may be considered as another element of it as a whole, so don't neglect it, but don't leave it out entirely either. It can be a great way
to foster a community around your content. Thank you for entering
our community, Martin, and sharing your views on user-generated content. The next episode will be around tools and understanding their benefits when creating sustainable
monetized websites. Like and share this video and subscribe to this channel so that you're the first one to get it. Can we actually do this again? ♪ [Music] ♪

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