Testimonials are one of the most familiar—and potentially one of the most powerful—trust building signals you can include on your website. They’re a form of “user social proof,” one of the common types of social proof that help establish your credibility and alleviate some of the anxiety consumers might feel about giving you their money, especially for the first time.
Like everything in web design and branding, there are best practices associated with using testimonials, as well as ways to undermine their effectiveness. Some of the most important of these best practices are intended to combat the inherent mistrust many people feel toward testimonials; they are of course easy to fake, and this has been done to a great extent on the internet.
It’s worth taking a little extra time to guide your customers/clients who are kind enough to provide you with their testimonials, and to make sure you’re applying them on your website for maximum effect.
Website Testimonial Best Practices
- Never use unattributed testimonials; these are actually more likely to discourage trust than t encourage it
- Attribute every testimonial to a real person, using first and last name, and identify their business or organization
- Include a picture of the person providing the testimonial; this has been shown to be even more reassuring than giving a full name
- If you can’t get a picture (or even if you can), link directly to the person’s LinkedIn profile or another page with their picture and bio
- Solicit testimonials from people in positions of authority and identify those positions when attributing the quotation (owners, founders, presidents, CEOs, department heads, etc.)
- Use testimonials from people your leads can relate to, whether because there are similarities between them or because your potential consumers aspire to be like these people in some way
- Avoid testimonials with vague praise like “Working with Bob was a great experience!” because they don’t always come across as authentic, they don’t speak to any specific consumer anxieties, and they sound more like they were written out of a sense of obligation or in haste, rather than because the person truly felt compelled by their experience to provide a testimonial
- In light of the above, politely request that those who give you a testimonial identify one or more specific values that you or your product or service provided; ask them to attribute benefits to the features of your product or service
- Skip testimonials with hyperbole or excessive praise that just comes off as unbelievable or overly biased (Did Bob’s mother write this?)
- On your website, position testimonials close to decision points in your sales funnel—particularly near calls to action and checkout if you have an e-commerce element
- Match testimonials that are relevant to the intent and desired action of the page
- Align testimonials from people who are relevant to the target audience of particular landing pages
- While brief testimonials of no more than a few sentences are usually recommended, long-form testimonials can be more persuasive; this is especially the case if you sell something complex, expensive, that involves a long-term commitment, or otherwise high-consideration
- Highlight an amazing testimonial; if you have one that’s from a high-value person (e.g., locally or more widely famous, high-ranking at a major organization, recognized industry expert) and/or that hits all the right notes (including those covered here), place it prominently on your website and be proud of it
Testimonials that Include a Legitimate Criticism
We’d like to wrap this up with a thought about testimonials that include a minor comment that isn’t entirely positive. These can add a tremendous amount of credibility and reassurance. Now, obviously you’re not going to post testimonials that tell people not to buy from you or that you chased them out of your office with a machete.
But maybe a customer who talks specifically about the benefits they experienced using your product also makes a quick mention of how the product is great for group X, but not ideal for group Y. If group Y isn’t an essential part of your target market, this comment might provide more value from its authenticity to group X than it will cost you with group Y.
Another example might be a testimonial that says the wait was a little longer than expected, but the results made the experience worth it. If your brand doesn’t hinge on the fastest service, this makes the testimonial more believable and reinforces a greater value at the expense of a lesser one.
So, don’t be afraid to include a testimonial or two that says something less than ideal, assuming it’s not an existential threat to your brand.