At Yoast we’ve seen a lot of websites of every caliber. Because we like conversion rate optimization so much, we designed the conversion review in which we review webshops. A lot of these webshops have various things they’re doing right or wrong, but there’s one thing we 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 we try to explain what we think is necessary and what steps you could take to find out how testimonials can work best for you. We’ll obviously start with explaining why we think testimonials work in the first place.
Note: In this post I’ll use the word testimonials for both testimonials and (product) reviews. We chose to do so, 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.