Testimonials: increase your visitor’s trust

This is a republish: we’ve made some minor changes to it. We decided to republish it, because this post and its content are still applicable and important now.

Testimonials trust salesAt Yoast we’ve seen a lot of websites of every calibre. Because I personally like conversion rate optimization so much, I always like the webshops we get to review. A lot of these webshops have various things they’re doing right or wrong, but there’s one thing I’ve found that almost every website can improve on: testimonials. A lot of websites do actually have testimonials, but just having them simply isn’t enough.

So I’ll try to explain what I think is necessary and what steps you could take to find out how testimonials can work best for you. I’ll obviously start with explaining why I think testimonials work in the first place.

Note: In this post I’ll use the word testimonials for both testimonials and (product) reviews. I chose to do this, because I feel the two are actually the same thing. There’s only one real difference: reviews can actually be negative.

Why testimonials work

Testimonials are mostly said to work on the basis of social proof. Social proof is a psychological process in which people copy the behavior of others, in an attempt to reflect correct behavior. So a well-known person or at least someone you can identify with has used this product or service and was blown away by it. That must mean the product is just the right thing for you as well. This is probably true, and social proof probably does contribute for a large part in the effectiveness of testimonials.

However, I personally feel this isn’t the only reason why testimonials work. Or at least it shouldn’t be. A lot of the testimonials we encounter on webshops are fairly vague, but even those vague ones shed some light on the workings of a product or service. And this is exactly what testimonials should do as well, as far as I’m concerned. Not only should a testimonial talk about the fact that your product is awesome, it should talk about why it’s awesome, how it works and why it worked for the person writing the testimonial. And then you’re only halfway there. You should also have testimonials about the buying process on your site, the delivery and maybe even someone using your 30 day money back guarantee. Let your visitors know that every aspect of your webshop has been used successfully and satisfactory by other people.

We’re actually arriving at a gray area here, where testimonials start overlapping (product) reviews. And in my opinion, that’s exactly how it should be. You see, as soon as they’re overlapping you’re actually getting the best of both worlds. Not only will the social proof process kick in, but your experience products can actually change into search products. Simply put: the benefits of your products will become a lot more clear, making them easier for potential customers to purchase.

When testimonials work

Testimonials are powerful in creating trust, and not just for online shops. The same actually goes for sales. Research has found that positive reviews can significantly increase sales. In fact, testimonials have been found to be a more important cue for judging the trustworthiness of an online store than the actual overall reputation of that store. But obviously you can’t just slap on some glorifying texts on your site. Your testimonials will have to earn the trust they’ll evoke in your site’s visitors.

In the case of product reviews even negative reviews can actually be useful, if you can show visitors you’ve adequately responded to the customer who gave the negative review. It’s only normal to receive negative reviews. So how you react to those negative reviews is important, especially for future customers. This is also precisely why you shouldn’t remove negative reviews or submit fake ones. Your reviews need to look real and trustworthy. And they’ll only truly look that way if they actually are real.


Recently, storytelling is all the rage and for good reason. Research has shown that stories can have positive influence on a customer’s perception of a brand as well as the willingness to purchase. Stories can actually affect behavior, granted that the story resonates with your visitor.

And that’s exactly where it becomes tough. It’s really quite easy to state that “stories sell”, but how would you go about obtaining stories that your audience would feel captivated by? Sure, if you offer services or products that are problem solving to begin with, this is easy. Just have a few of your customers write up the issues they had and how your services or products helped them solve these problems.

It’s a totally different story (literally) if you’re selling clothes, for instance. You simply can’t go having customers state “I was naked my entire life until I found this piece of clothing!”. In these cases you’ll have to get a little creative and maybe ask customers to write about the (hopefully superior) quality of your products and how they last longer, for instance. And if it’s a clothing brand that’s sold in other webshops as well, let your customers write about why they’re using your webshop in particular. Is it your superior customer service? Your site’s superior usability? The speediness of delivery? Have your customers write about this.

The use of photos with testimonials

Photos are almost considered a “sure thing” within internet marketing and CRO circles. In fact, research from just 3 years ago stated the use of pictures increased the perceived trustworthiness of a statement. And they claim it doesn’t matter whether the picture is relevant or the information next to the picture accurate. While I think these are cool findings, I don’t think it is always this simple and depends highly on your audience.

To make matters worse, there are studies that found photographs only increase the perceived trustworthiness of poorly performing vendors, and decreased that of vendors with good reputation. And then you have the differences in reactions to images between cultures, which means you might actually have to make use of different tactics in different continents.

As you can see, science isn’t really definitive about the use of photos. And the downside of all these studies is: they’re not specifically about testimonials. At Yoast we do always recommend using photos with testimonials, because it seems to add to the credibility of those testimonials. But the best way to go would be to test if the results are actually positive for your site.

Influential people

If you’ve read more about testimonials, you’ll probably have read about the impact of “influential people”. There are some people that are so well-known in their field of work that their opinion really carries weight. Their opinion carries weight due to the Halo effect. Wikipedia has this to say about the Halo effect in marketing:

The halo effect is also present in the field of brand marketing. One common halo effect is when the perceived positive features of a particular item extend to a broader brand.

So with testimonials from influential people, the product will be perceived as better or more trustworthy. As you’ve read, this can even transfer to your entire brand.

Obviously there’s one major criterium for this: the person would have to be viewed as an influential person in the field you’re offering products or services. If we were to have a great testimonial for our WordPress SEO Premium plugin by Beyoncé, it probably wouldn’t carry much weight at all.

Placement of testimonials

During our website reviews we’ve noticed that quite a few of the websites that do have testimonials, just don’t place them prominently. Testimonials are great, but if they’re only on the testimonial page and nowhere else, odds are not a lot of people will find them. So you need to put them on pages where people will find them. So on your landing pages and near call-to-actions would probably be good spots.

Over to you

This all makes good sense, right? So stop just having testimonials, and start using them!

Is there anything I missed? Or do you have something else to contribute? Let me know!

52 Responses

  1. James Roberts
    By James Roberts on 14 August, 2014

    Thanks Thijs, very interesting read.

    • Thijs de Valk
      By Thijs de Valk on 14 August, 2014

      Thank you! Glad you liked it!

  2. Leon
    By Leon on 14 August, 2014

    So how do we get clients to go to those lengths when writing testimonials for us!?

    • Thijs de Valk
      By Thijs de Valk on 14 August, 2014

      First of all: I changed your reply a bit, because swearing isn’t needed ;-)

      Well, this might be a silly suggestion, but you could ask them. If people really like your product(s) you’ll find that some of those people are willing to put in some extra effort for you. That’s the only way you’ll get the best and most natural testimonials, I think!

  3. Martin Bay
    By Martin Bay on 14 August, 2014

    Are just redoing our website and have written to customers for testimonials…. very timely post indeed.

  4. Ryan
    By Ryan on 14 August, 2014

    Do you have any WP plugins that you recommend for testimonials?

    • Thijs de Valk
      By Thijs de Valk on 15 August, 2014

      Not really. We just use the quote function that’s in WordPress core and add the photos ourselves. Not sure why you’d need a plugin for testimonials to be honest :)

      • David
        By David on 15 August, 2014

        Sometimes I’ve used the Stray Random Quotes (sadly now out of date, but similar could be used) plugin so different testimonials are displayed in sidebars or footers each time a new page is loaded. This keeps it “seemingly” fresh. Works better if you have more 5-7 testimonials to choose from.

      • Scott Hendison
        By Scott Hendison on 15 August, 2014

        Really, you’re “Not sure why you’d need a plugin for testimonials to be honest…”

        Well for starters, ease of collection is one reason, and for having multiple display options via shortcode for widgets or pages is another. Lastly, a testimonial plugin could (should) integrate structured data / schema into their displayed testimonials, letting Google and others know what they are, so they might display legitimate star ratings in the SERPs.

        We’ve used lots of plugins, but about a year ago settled on this one – http://wordpress.org/plugins/testimonials-widget/ for delivering of all three of these conveniences…

        • Nelson Kamdon
          By Nelson Kamdon on 16 August, 2014

          Hey Scott…
          You’re absolutely right “for starter” … just like me. And thanks for the link.
          I think on my blog, I could only put it on the footer widget area. I don’t know but I’ll try it.

          Anyway, nice post Thijs.


        • Lynn Rasmussen
          By Lynn Rasmussen on 22 August, 2015

          This looks like a really great plugin. Thanks for sharing. I plan to use it on a few of the hotel and resort websites that I design. Great tip! Yes, Yoast, I think a plugin does have a good purpose here!

  5. Unce
    By Unce on 14 August, 2014

    I have seen many fake testimonials on real estate agent websites. what do you think about this practice?

    • Thijs de Valk
      By Thijs de Valk on 15 August, 2014

      Well, uh, that stinks, obviously ;)
      In more ways than one ;)

  6. Christopher Simmons
    By Christopher Simmons on 14 August, 2014

    Good tips. We’ve always used testimonials on our website since we sell services, not products, and always have them prominently featured with lead back to the de-facto testimonials page. A really annoying trend I’ve seen with some sites (and one of our competitors) is building a whole new page around a single client testimonial for “content (spam) marketing” on their site. 100 testimonials = 100 pages. YUCK! That’s got to bit them in the arse at some point, I would think. We break ours down by date range to keep each testimonial archive page a “reasonable” length for the visitor (e.g., “UX”). So we start with “recent testimonials” then go to a 2008-12 page, 2005-07 page, and 2000-04 page, to keep it cleaner. Any thoughts on the barrage of “one client testimonial per page” practice — we’re not going that way, but I’ve seen it couple of times now, and though — ugh! :-)

    • Thijs de Valk
      By Thijs de Valk on 15 August, 2014

      Well I can actually see some value in that in some cases. One testimonial per page might be overdoing it, but having a page dedicated for longer testimonials setup like stories (as I mentioned in the post) I can relate to. But that’s only because those longer testimonials quite often simply don’t fit on the product or service page :)

    • Martin Bay
      By Martin Bay on 15 August, 2014

      I imagine testimonials are good if you sell product too?

      • Thijs de Valk
        By Thijs de Valk on 15 August, 2014

        Yes, did my post not make that clear? ;)

        • Jake Liddell
          By Jake Liddell on 15 August, 2014

          I think it’s essential to have each testimonial on a separate page. Not only is it fantastic for SEO, but it’s also really great for customers. Rather than a customer having to wade through lots of testimonials that are not to do with the service they want, they can instead quickly filter, just to look at the ones that are for what they are interested in.

          All testimonials should be written up as stories anyway, as Thijs suggests. Without that, you’re missing a great opportunity to paint a picture in the customer’s mind of what it will be like to work with you.

          I’ve written a quick post on how I structure them – you can find it on my site. The rule of thumb is Issue-Solution-Benefit-Proof.

  7. Ramsay
    By Ramsay on 15 August, 2014

    Awesome write up!
    The main thing I’ve noticed with my own sites is that testimonials should be relevant to the call to action on the page. For example, a quote about the ease of process right above the buy section.
    Anyway, love it.

    • Thijs de Valk
      By Thijs de Valk on 15 August, 2014

      You’re absolutely right! Thanks for the addition!

  8. Calla Gold
    By Calla Gold on 15 August, 2014

    As a jeweler who sells her service and doesn’t use e-commerce. I found this illuminating. I have a testimonial page, but don’t sprinkle them around where casual visitors would see them.
    I just looked at my page and realized that about half of the clients are local and might let me use a picture of them. Do you think it’s worth the effort and cost (I pay to have my site worked on as I’m not technical that way), getting permissions and images, and then having my page reconfigured so half the testimonials have pictures?
    Or would it look stupid to have some testimonials with pictures and some not?
    Thanks for putting my attention on this issue.

  9. Eric Olson
    By Eric Olson on 15 August, 2014

    We run testimonials as a sidebar on every page. Our website is a showcase for a single real estate property that’s on the market. It’s a rather magical, scenic, beautiful place, and people really love coming to visit. This translates into excellent testimonials and we have some great ones. Displaying a selection of testimonials on each page gives us a way to use these little gems throughout the site.
    I like the idea of using testimonials to support the page content. Does anyone know how to make that work technically?

  10. Jami Broom
    By Jami Broom on 15 August, 2014

    Sure testimonials are great – but then what???

  11. Houston Dwi
    By Houston Dwi on 16 August, 2014

    Well done Thijs, i agree all testimonial mostly works especialy from influencial people. many IM products selling on local forum in india are sold out.

  12. parkerwills
    By parkerwills on 16 August, 2014

    That was really a bang over testimonials!!

    I do agree with that it gvies away trust signals; all these days we have been getting testimonials from clients but we never have included the pics of the clients but your insight has thrown off light toi us!!

    Thanks Thijs.

  13. Anastasia Gaasenbeek
    By Anastasia Gaasenbeek on 17 August, 2014

    NIce article, thanks!

  14. Robert Broley
    By Robert Broley on 19 August, 2014

    Very interesting read. I think if you also have testimonials from Trust Pilot or similar trusting websites then it makes the testimonial even more valuable.

  15. Bernhard
    By Bernhard on 20 August, 2014

    Speaking about trust. Did you see that your meta tag description is not working anymore ? What ever I wrote within the description is not showing up in the google SERPS anymore.

    Talking about your free WP SEO plugin of course. So either it’s just me, your plugin or google changed something ?

    Thx for any little help – appreciate it !

  16. Ed Swarez
    By Ed Swarez on 20 August, 2014

    Great post Thijs.
    I’ve got a stack of Testimonials to use but only featured a few on two pages. Now I think this well-timed nudge has made me realise I need to place one on every product page to put some confidence into the people who are engaged with the content.

    As mine are expensive items I need all the faith and trust I can build.

    Thanks for sharing.

  17. S James
    By S James on 22 August, 2014

    Would it be considered duplicate content if you had the same testimonials in a sidebar on each page for example?

  18. Antoine
    By Antoine on 25 August, 2014

    I think a Beyonce review could always be useful. She probably knows a few things about quality service delivery.

  19. Bow
    By Bow on 27 August, 2014

    Well done, very well article. The visitors trust like domai authority. It’s important to rank our website

  20. The Net Shop
    By The Net Shop on 28 August, 2014

    Love the inclusion of all the psychology in your articles, always amazing and easy to apply!! Thanks Thijs.

  21. Vicky Choksi
    By Vicky Choksi on 20 August, 2015

    I think “Video Testimonials” create more trust than any other. Nice post, thanks for sharing. :)

  22. Fredrik Almroth
    By Fredrik Almroth on 20 August, 2015

    Why is the Yoast SEO so expensive? I really like the plugin and if I like somthing I want to pay for it. Maybe I dont need the premium, but I want to pay for it anyway because I want to support the creators. I have paid for every program that I use on my PC so I dont use a single pirate version of any program. 69 dollar fo a single site is way to much. Double it and You can buy a OS like Windows 10 for the same amount of money. I think maybe if the price was 20-30 dollar lots of people would pay. You have no costs for production, only for programming so if you lower the price you will propably get the same profit. Just a thought

  23. Ciprian
    By Ciprian on 20 August, 2015

    I’ve just added a testimonials box to one of my products. I’m looking forward to see an increase (even a slight one) next month in analytics. Is there a way to measure their impact? There is no link, so heatmaps won’t work.

  24. Robert
    By Robert on 20 August, 2015

    Great information, will begin adding reviews on to my website pages too!! , never thought of it.
    Thanks for it.

  25. John
    By John on 20 August, 2015

    Thanks, I’m new at this. I got a lot from your post. Could you ( or reader) lead me to an example site(s) with testimonials? Also possible researched data. ie. comparative effective placement stat data?

    • Thijs de Valk
      By Thijs de Valk on 25 August, 2015

      Testimonials are used right here on this site and the research you’re asking for is linked right in the post.

  26. Scott Carvin
    By Scott Carvin on 21 August, 2015

    I like this post and I forwarded it to a client of ours that received a bad review. . He asked me to delete his Google + account because of a negative review. I agree with this post about the proper way to handle negative reviews. By adequately responding to the customer who gave the negative review, it can be helpful and perhaps useful. It’s no fun getting a poor review, but it’s how you handle it that will make the difference.

    Thanks for this post!

    • Thijs de Valk
      By Thijs de Valk on 25 August, 2015

      Glad you liked it Scott!

  27. Srimali Senn
    By Srimali Senn on 22 August, 2015

    Thank you, I will include testimonial in my website.

  28. SMM Company in Hyderabad
    By SMM Company in Hyderabad on 22 August, 2015

    Regularly I am following your blog. Useful information You are sharing.

  29. Neo Ni
    By Neo Ni on 22 August, 2015

    I agree with this article. As I think testimonials build win-win situation for any business.

  30. Inny Punkt Widzenia
    By Inny Punkt Widzenia on 23 August, 2015

    Czytam regularnie!

  31. Rodolfo
    By Rodolfo on 24 August, 2015

    Thank you for the wonderful work you do. Thank you thank you :)

  32. Mie
    By Mie on 24 August, 2015

    Thanks for this post – absolutely useful reading :-)

  33. coeuslaw
    By coeuslaw on 24 August, 2015

    Hi sir. I come from vietnam. My website http://coeuslaw.com/dich-vu-hop-phap-hoa-lanh-su-tai-lanh-su-quan. I dont know create testimonials in where. Please give me some advice

    • Thijs de Valk
      By Thijs de Valk on 25 August, 2015

      Hi! You could try our Website Reviews :)

  34. Guttulus
    By Guttulus on 25 August, 2015

    I agree with your blog title but applicable for all website or any specific website or local website.please explain this think.

  35. John (CloudCig)
    By John (CloudCig) on 28 August, 2015

    Don’t you find that most testimonials are fake? and isn’t that illegal? How do you actually get someone to right a genuine testimonial, even if your product is awesome most people won’t have the time! How do you actually get someone to write one without offering them anything in return? Say a discount code.

    • Thijs de Valk
      By Thijs de Valk on 28 August, 2015

      No, most testimonials aren’t fake at all. We just ask our customers and they do write them for us, without anything in return. And I wouldn’t offer people discounts or something like that because that just taints the legitimacy, to be honest.