Message BoardThese days when it comes to SEO the name of the game is content creation. It’s no secret that Google privileges sites with lots of fresh, quality content. Plus, if visitors find it useful and engaging they are more likely to become customers, and maybe even loyal brand followers.

The need for content is a no-brainer; the problem is creating it. Content creation is a full-time job, but the resources of many businesses are already stretched thin.

One solution that requires very little manpower is a discussion board. Not only is it a great source of fresh content, but visitors will create the content for free. Here’s a breakdown of the benefits of adding a discussion board to your site:

Long Tail SEO Benefits

A discussion board indicates to Google that there’s lots of fresh content going up on your site, which will help it perform better in search. And if visitors are actively engaged in your discussion board, it will likely improve the average amount of time visitors spend on your site and the average number of pages they visit – both positive indications to Google that the site provides value and deserves a higher ranking in the SERPs.

Plus every page of the discussion board can serve as a landing page itself, increasing overall traffic to the site. Discussion boards naturally target long tail keywords that it might not be practicable to devote an entire page to and for which there is generally a low level of competition. The more long tail keywords a site is able to target, the greater its share of search traffic. Plus those long-tail keywords might attract visitors interested in niche subject matter who otherwise wouldn’t have discovered your site.

As an added benefit, visitors come up with the topics and keywords themselves. In other words, they’re doing keyword research for you, letting you know what keywords people are interested in. The discussion board pages that attract the most search volume can then be expanded into separate landing pages in their own right.

Increase the Conversion Rate

Discussion boards can also smooth out some of the problems that prevent potential customers from converting. If one person brings a problem or question to your attention in a discussion board, chances are there are dozens of other people with the same problem who don’t bother reaching out to you. They simply leave the site and make their purchase elsewhere. Providing a public forum will keep more of these customers on your site, and hopefully answer their questions so they feel comfortable making a purchase.

Brand Loyalty

Discussion boards also provide an important opportunity to interact directly with potential customers. As convenient as it is to make purchases online, it’s still reassuring to know there are actual human beings behind the webpage. A discussion board can help convince skeptics your site is not a scam and turn dissatisfied customers into evangelists.

Some companies are afraid of criticism, thinking that opening themselves up to complaints might discourage others from becoming customers. In fact the opposite is true. The best way to win loyalty (and new customers) is to publicly acknowledge and address customer problems. Doing so can turn angry customers into fierce brand loyalists.

The downside of a discussion board of is that you actually have to provide good service and respond to people’s complaints. But if you aren’t willing to do that, you probably shouldn’t be in business at all.

Of course discussion boards on every product page won’t be a good fit for every retailer. In some cases, they may unnecessarily complicate the process. But for products that involve a high price or a more involved purchasing decision, a discussion board could go a long way toward removing barriers to conversion.