At Yoast, we’ve seen a lot of websites of every caliber. Every website has its own issues, but all websites benefit from optimizing the conversion rate. It really doesn’t matter if your goal is more sales, more Facebook likes or more newsletter subscribers. One thing that helps almost every website is the right use of reviews. A lot of websites do have reviews, but just having them simply isn’t enough.
Before we dive in, if you want to learn more about user experience (UX) and other essential SEO skills, you should check out our All-around SEO training! It doesn’t just tell you about SEO: it makes sure you know how to put these skills into actual practice!
Here, we’ll explain how to make the most of your reviews, and what steps you should take to find out how they work best for you. We’ll start with explaining why they work in the first place!
Why reviews work
Reviews can help your ecommerce site in more than one way. Let’s take a look at why they’re so powerful:
The trust effect
Reviews are a powerful source of information for users, simply because they’re more trustworthy. Think about it — if you’re buying a product, who are you more likely to believe: a salesman, or a friend of yours who has already bought that product? The salesman has reason to present biased information about the product. He wants to convince you to buy, because that’s how he makes money. Your friend, on the other hand, doesn’t have much reason to be biased, because they won’t get any extra benefit from persuading you to make a purchase.
Online shops and digital marketing are likely to be perceived by users in the same way as a salesman. Your website exists for a reason — to help sell your products — and all of the content and advertising you produce are intended to be persuasive, rather than purely informative. Now, user reviews aren’t exactly the same thing as getting advice from a friend, but they are very similar. Users leaving reviews online shouldn’t have any extra motive to tell you “buy this product, it’s great!”, and you probably have some things in common with them if you’re looking at buying the same products.
Of course, you shouldn’t be misleading your customers. But even if you’re telling the whole truth, your users have no way of knowing that before they make a purchase. This is especially true with experience products – products of which it’s hard to predict if they work before you actually use it. Reviews can reassure users that the claims you make about your products are actually true.
So trust isn’t the only reason why reviews work. Or, at least it shouldn’t be. While a lot of the reviews we encounter in ecommerce shops are fairly vague, even those vague ones shed some light on the workings of a product or service. This is exactly what reviews should do: give some insight into the experiences of others so that people can make up their own opinion. A good collection of reviews can confirm the fact that your product is awesome, but they can deliver a lot more information too:
- why it’s awesome,
- how it works and
- why it worked for the person writing the review.
That’s all very product-focused, but reviews can also share information about:
- the buying process on your site,
- the delivery and
- maybe even someone using your 30-day money back guarantee.
Your visitors will feel more encouraged to buy if they know that every aspect of your online shop has been successfully used by other people, and that they were very satisfied with it!
Only real reviews increase trust
Reviews are powerful in creating trust, and not just for online shops. Research confirmed that positive reviews can significantly increase sales. In fact, reviews were found to be a more important cue for judging the trustworthiness of an online store than the overall reputation of that store. That was the case some years ago, and that hasn’t changed. But obviously, you can’t just slap some glorifying texts on your site. Your testimonials have to earn the trust they evoke.
It might sound counter-intuitive, but even negative reviews can be useful. However, you do need to show visitors you’ve adequately responded to the customer who gave the negative review. It’s normal to receive a negative review once in a while. 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 genuine and trustworthy. And they’ll only look real when they are real.
Testimonials: a special kind of customer review
Testimonials and reviews have a lot in common: they both use real user experiences to give potential customers a better understanding of what they can expect. But there are some differences too. Reviews can usually be left easily by any user who wants to share their opinion, while testimonials have often been carefully selected, and might even be edited. For the same reason, testimonials typically involve more storytelling, and present only the best experiences customers have had with your products or services.
Another important factor is that reviews can be anonymous, or include very little information about the person writing it. Meanwhile, a testimonial is likely to include more details about the person writing — ideally, a well-known person with a good reputation. It’s a good idea to add an image (a real image, not a stock photo) of the customer who’s provided their testimonial. This will make your testimonials feel more personal and relatable. Even better: help your customer to create a video testimonial instead!
Speaking of people with a good reputation, you’re probably already aware the power of “influential people”. There are some people that are so well-known in their areas of interest that their opinion really carries weight. This is 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.“
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 criterion for this: the person would have to be considered an influential person in the field you’re offering products or services. If we were to receive a great testimonial for our Yoast SEO Premium plugin from Miley Cyrus, it probably wouldn’t carry much weight with the people we’d like to influence (agencies, website owners). Nevertheless, a lot of people would probably install the plugin, but perhaps not for the right reasons. You get my drift.
In recent years, the use of influencer recommendations on social media has become really big business. At first, these recommendations and reviews were shared as if they were totally spontaneous and authentic. In many cases, they weren’t. Most influencers sharing reviews and recommendations on social media were being paid to do so, or were incentivized in some other way. This led to strict rules about how influencer marketing was practised: nowadays, it’s a requirement for influencers to make it clear when they’re being paid to promote a product.
Where to put your reviews and testimonials
Over the years, we’ve noticed that quite a few of the websites that do have reviews and testimonials, but they don’t place them prominently. Put simply, if nobody sees them, they’re not going to benefit anyone. So if your testimonials are hidden away, only appearing on the testimonial page and nowhere else, odds are not a lot of people will see them. So you need to put them on pages where people will find them. On your product pages and near call-to-actions would probably be good spots.
It’s good to have your reviews or testimonials placed somewhere visible on your site. But that’s not the only place they can have a positive impact. Having user reviews on other platforms — platforms you don’t control — can really help to show that these reviews are unbiased and impartial.
For instance, we get a lot of reviews on our plugin page at WordPress.org. Meanwhile, there are sites like TrustRadius where users can leave reviews about any company. You’ve probably seen reviews on Google Maps too, and these are particularly useful for local businesses. Finally, social media is increasingly important, and it doesn’t always matter whether it’s an influencer talking about your company, or just an ordinary customer. It’s a good idea to keep an eye on what people are saying about your products, and respond appropriately whether it’s positive or negative.
Time to earn those stellar reviews – and use them!
If you read this article up to here, you probably agree that all this makes perfect sense, right? To get the best reviews and really reap the rewards, you’ll need to deliver quality experiences and delight your customers. If you allow users to add reviews on your site, you can use structured data to (potentially) get yourself a review snippet in the search results. Showing off your overall star rating in the search results is a great way to stand out from your competitors!
One last thing: reviews aren’t just useful for prospective customers. They’re an excellent source of inspiration to improve the way you do things, too! So let your customers share their experiences. If you do it right, it’s bound to pay off.
Is there anything we missed? Or do you have something else to contribute? Let us know in the comments. Thanks!
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