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Website testimonials are no good anymore. Reviews are the way to go.

August 15 2012

All those lovely testimonials, that are splashed across websites are designed to give the buyer more confidence in the company that they are going to be working with. They are either in a specific testimonials area or are in some cases animating on the home page.

They generally read like:

‘Awesome web work ‘ Sharon B
or even better

‘ You guys rock!!’ Michael G

Here in lies the issue with these types of testimonials. They look staged and they look unbelievable.

I cannot tell you the amount of times people have come into the office here looking for a web site design and have had to call our clients for verbal testimonials rather than believing what they read on the website.
I have never in my life put anything fake on our website when it comes to testimonials but the issue is that they are just so common place that they have become unbelievable. In fact, if you any testimonials that look even the slightest bit dubious, then they are going to work against you.

Look at some weight loss sites for example, where testimonials are used to underpin the value of the produce. For example: ‘ Jenny lost 8 kgs in 1 week’ and swear by the product.
It is the overuse of these kind of testimonials that have systematically lowered the value of testimonials and what people believe.

So how will all this affect the web industry moving forward.

Websites that offer the user the ability to write reviews are more believable to sales testimonials and are now the future.
If you go onto websites like trip advisor you will be able to see a whole lot of reviews for hotels. It’s an honest, open review system that encourages people to post reviews and rate hotels based on their experience. In fact on a recent trip overseas I did see a Trip Advisor certificate in full public view in reception sating that this particular hotel was awarded a great review status on Trip Advisor. The impact that this has is huge. People no longer want to read testimonials placed on websites by hotels themselves as they are perceived as staged, biased, cherry picked and most importantly unbelievable. Internet users will now only believe what people post as reviews online on review sites like trip advisor.

I did note that the hotel I was staying at was very customer service focused, perhaps they were scared any stuff ups would be noted and posted on trip advisor.

Moving forward, this means that people will now place a huge emphasis on review sites over what is written on their own site. Whether you like it or not, this is the future and this is how people are going to determine where they will stay on their next holiday, which insurance company they are going to use, which real estate agent they will go with to sell their home, which doctor they will go to or even which airline they will fly.

People love to write about their experiences, whether good or bad and this market will only get bigger in the future.
This is why ecommerce websites or for that matter most websites should introduce a review and rating system. This will lend so much more credibility to the website. Sure, you are going to get some negative reviews but these are easy to counter act if you feel that these are have just been placed for malicious reasons. If you know you have a great product or service and are confident in its execution or delivery, then you should be getting many favourable reviews and ratings, which are far stronger than boring old testimonials. Internet users and the public in general are have become de sensitised to what is written online so having these kinds of reviews as testimonials will have a greater impact on your website and in turn on your business. Handpicked testimonials are a thing of the past and it is wise for business owners or marketing managers to wake up to this fact. The sooner you embrace this new marketing medium, the sooner you will be able to use it to your advantage.

If you want to use handpicked testimonials then here are a few tips:

Keep them current – if they are more than 1 year old, think about an update – also make sure that there are a lot of testimonials. Two or three randomised testimonials are not going to cut it anymore. In fact they might just do you some damage.
Perhaps introduce a rating system for these testimonials to show that they are not contrived or made up. This will lend a bit more credibility to them.


So where to from here?

The internet is changing so fast that these review style sites have kind of snuck up on us. In a way it’s a good thing as it keeps businesses on their toes, fearing that they may receive a bad review posted by a disgruntled customer online. For all professionals this may spell the end of bad customer service as more and more of these types of review sites pop up. To counter act this fear, the best form of defence is in fact attack. Be on the front foot, embrace what is surely the future and allow customers to be able to write and rank your product or service on your website. If they don’t do it there on your website then it will certainly go on another review type site.

If all this sounds far too hard then ensure that the testimonials that you have on your site are real and credible sounding.
Make sure that full names are written and the company they cam from is fully documented. If the review is from a social media site like Facebook, make sure that this is included in the title. Adding Facebook/Twitter/Google+ icons adds impact and therefore credibility to the testimonial as users are less likely to post fake reviews on their own social media page.