Your prospects want to know what other customers think of their experience with you before buying, booking or signing up. And they'll go wherever they need to go to find out. Hence the growth of online review sites like Yelp.com. If you sell in the B2B space, you may be faced with providing references, another form of testimonial.

Making customer testimonials available on your own web properties is a great way to keep shoppers and prospects engaged on your site while you provide credible feedback from others. 

We were recently asked by owners of a web site promoting cabin rentals in Georgia how they could best integrate the testimonials they had collected, either in their web site or blog. The tips we provided can apply across a range of industries, so see the takeaway points of our  discussion below:

  1. It's much more credible to leave a testimonial in the person's originally submitted text. When a company polishes the text, the reader can see that and will put less faith in what it says. It's much more believable when left complete with (a few) typos, ramblings, and other natural expressions. (That is, unless it's really difficult to understand or contains profanity, for example. In that case, it can definitely benefit from some cleaning up!)

  2. Include the person's full real name and other relevant data, such as their company and job position, or location and age. The idea is to make the comment as meaningful and credible as possible to those who will be reading it, which extends to making it transparent who said it.

  3. To use testimonials in a meaningful way, you can post small snippets where they will support your company's message. For example, if you have a paragraph that talks about all the fun kids have while staying at your rental cabins, put a testimonial supporting that fact somewhere nearby. When six-year-old James says, "I love the beds. I love the games. I love the fire pit. I love the movies," it gives a lot more credibility since an actual kid reports that it IS indeed fun.

  4. You could keep a page that shows the full-length versions of all the testimonials or customer stories, while using bits here and there throughout your site to support certain points. After each testimonial, include a link that says "see what others are saying here" so people can access that full page of comments.

  5. To draw attention to the main point you want people to take away from a testimonial, bold that part of the sentence, especially on the long versions and on a page that's full of testimonials. Since people scan text online, even if they don't read the full testimonial they will see what you want them to. See how it helps on this online business incorporation service site.

  6. You could potentially use testimonials in your blog, too, but you have to be creative to create context. You could set up a separate category called "Customer stories", for example, then introduce each testimonial in a separate post with a brief intro that would surely be interesting to someone checking out your services.

    Here's what the post could look like:

    We just received a message from a couple who took advantage of nearly all the Fighting Town Creek area has to offer, from golf to canoeing to delectable apple pastries. Seems J.B. even found how cold the river is in December - the hard way! See what this couple thought of their stay with us below...

    "Just a note to share how enjoyable it was for us staying at River Lodge (which is part of the Rainbow cabins). What a fantastic area to get close to nature, God  and all the wildlife there. This beautiful cabin in the woodsy atmosphere on Fighting town creek was the perfect place to read, relax, or just enjoy family and friends. We saw several deer, racoons and wanted to see a bear but missed out.  The hot tub was very relaxing and everybody must try it in December when there is snow on the ground.  Loved all the Video games and became quite proficient at the golf game.  Speaking of golf, Butternut Golf course in Blairsville offers a challenge to those who love the game. For the more adventuresome type, try canoeing down fighting town creek but I must warn you that the water is very cold. I found out the hard way.

    If you enjoy apples, fried apple pies and apple fritters like I do then you must visit Mercier Apple house just down the road. Yummy. We are looking forward to our next stay at the Riverlodge, maybe when the fall color is at its peak."  

    Sincerely 
    J.B. Smith & Judy Smith

  7. Continue to encourage more testimonials at every customer interaction. If someone says something nice about you, ask right then and there if you could use their words as a testimonial. See if you have any reviews on Yelp.com or other online review sites, and if you do, also bring those into your site.

  8. Also encourage people to submit photos or videos! This gives a lot more credibility, since the visual depiction is from a real customer, not the company. You can show the photos next to the testimonial. If they don't have photos showing their experience with your product or company, ask for a regular photo to put next to their note. If you're posting it in your blog, too, you can promise to send them a link once it's live, so they can show their families. What a great way to spread the impact of a few nice words someone says about you. Don't forget to also ask them if they'd like to get future news from you, too, so you can add them to your mailing list.
Maximizing testimonials is one of the most enjoyable aspects of online reputation management. But be sure to always comply with the FTC guides on testimonials and endorsements. While this post doesn't address the details, the latest considerations include clearly disclosing any material connections (such as when you've provided compensation in return for endorsement) and also being transparent when a testimonial is depicting results that are not typical.  You can learn more on the FTC website.
April 19, 2010





Stone Reuning is president and founder of SEO Advantage, Inc., an online marketing firm and website optimization company that helps businesses turn their websites into powerful lead and revenue generation tools.

Beginning with a focus on search engine optimization in 1999, SEO Advantage now brings a full multi-disciplinary approach to each client website. Clients enjoy dominance on Google, Yahoo and Bing through a suite of unique pay-for-performance search engine optimization and online marketing services. Experts in SEO, social media optimization, online reputation management, and website conversions work hand-in-hand with small business owners and client marketing departments providing complete copywriting and creative web design support.

You'll find SEO Advantage referenced in books such as Writing Web-Based Advertising Copy to Get the Sale and the BusinessWeek bestseller The New Rules of Marketing & PR, as well as popular ebooks like The Small Business Blogging Blueprint.






Comments(6)

Hi,

Thanks for the very well written and informative article.

What I would like to add is that testimonial works best when it given in the middle of the conversation and within the context of what is being explained.

For example, if in the sales page you are making a point about how the widget is going to save cost then immediately following it, there should be a testimonial where a customer is talking about how much money he saved using the widget. That makes more sense to the prospect and helps reinforce the idea that you are trying to communicate.

Mukul Gupta

I have seen many companies placing testimonials and too surprise basically in SEO industry, they are not much true ones and never seem like submitted by the clients.

Testimonials are great way to having build good reputation and can increase actual sale....

Nice write up. I like the idea of having users submit photos (especially of themselves, to add a personal touch) but that's a level of involvement that most folks won't go for.

I'm curious about your ideas of bolding text, and tweaking formatting. How much leeway do you take when editing or pruning the testimonials? I'm nervous about misrepresenting people, so I always present them "as-is."

Mukul.....yes right they should not look like self manipulated

Sorry but I don't think you go deep enough on this.
Persuasion Psychology tells us a lot about ways to use testimonials effectively be they authoritative or personal. Current best practices around the role of ratings and unedited "real time" testimonials indicate that when used properly, these are more compelling than the ones you describe.
In my experience testing involving direct user tests I find that testimonials are rarely considered unless there is an objective range of views expressed. There is universal skepticism around testimonials. We have even found "video testimonials" to get a mixed range of response. Even great testimonials aren't worth much on a site with poor usability, incomplete content or unprofessional graphic presentation.

It also matters greatly who your target audience is. Certain personas (software developers for example) require a significantly different treatment then the general public.
It is very hard to write articles like these, (at least for me cause i write a column myself) but I do suggest that you not hesitate to go a little deeper.
I enjoy reading your column, hope you don't mind.

Great comments. I respect your news letters and insight.
BUT... :)
The info you mention in this article is what we ALL wish we had. in a perfect world.

Of course we want REAL testimonials, right from the actual source, with no editing, and with all their real names and info. (can you say - Holy Grail - ! )

However, in the real world.... The only people who post feedback on open blogs are folks with negative feedback. and/or marketing their own agendas.

All Possitive comments/feedback I have gotten, has been verbal, (phone call) or in an email. I do not feel comfortable asking customer if I can use their quotes and personal info as advertising tools. It makes my business look desperate and I feel, it is a betrayal of trust. The last thing I want to do it alienate good, satisfied repeat happy customers..

SO... While What you suggest is great! I don't see how to actually do it.
Please enlighten me if I am missing something.

Regards,
Amy

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Search Engine Guide > Stone Reuning > Reputation Management - Tips for Using Testimonials