How to get local reviews and ratings

If you’re a well-known local business owner, one of your online goals should be getting more local reviews from your (satisfied) customers. These reviews or ratings help Google in determining the value of your company for their users. If you have a nice amount of four-star and five-star ratings, Google considers you a more valuable result on their search result pages, which contributes to better rankings for your site.

Today, we’ll dig a bit deeper into these local reviews and convince you to ask your customers for reviews.

Google and local reviews

First, let’s see what Google has to say about local reviews. On their review datatype page, they clearly state that Google may display information from aggregate ratings markup in the Google Knowledge Cards with your business’ details.

They state that they’re using the following review snippet guidelines:

  • Ratings and reviews must come directly from the users.
  • There is a difference between these user ratings and critic reviews (human editors that curate or compile ratings information for local businesses). That’s a different ball game.
  • Don’t copy reviews from Yelp or whatever other review site, but collect them from your users directly and display these on your site.

There is a clear focus on genuine reviews. Add name, position, photo and any other relevant, public information on the reviewer. That always helps in showing that your reviews are indeed genuine

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Ask your customers for a review in person

It’s really that simple: ask your customers for a review. Yelp may advise against this, Google promotes it (Source: SEL). I agree with Google on this. A friend of mine is in the coaching business and he asks his customers after finishing the coaching process to leave a review on his Google My Business page. This, plus obviously an optimized site, has helped him achieving a local #1 ranking.

It might feel a bit odd, to ask your customers for a positive review. However, I bet most of your customers will be more than happy to do this for you. It’s a small token of appreciation for your great service, product or your friendly staff. If you believe in your business, and you’re taking extra steps to help your customer, your customer will for sure leave that review for you. Especially in local businesses, where you know your customer and perhaps have been serving him or her for decades, just ask.

Ask your customers for local reviews online

Feel free to ask your customer for a review on your website, for example, right after a purchase. If a customer wanted your product so bad he or she made the purchase, they may be willing to leave a review about their shopping experience as well. Even a simple “How would you rate your experience with our company” could give you that local rating you want.

Twitter

And why not leverage Twitter here? I find Twitter to work pretty decently for local purposes. There’s a separate ‘community’ of tweeps talking to each other on Twitter in our hometown. I’m sure most of them visit local stores. Not just that, but they’ll probably also have an opinion on these stores. And they might just be willing to share that opinion.

Facebook

One of our local shops won a national award and a lot of locals congratulated the owners with this ‘very much deserved’ win on Facebook. How’s that for an opportunity to ask for Facebook reviews? Let me elaborate a bit on the Facebook reviews. These are local reviews as well! The Apple store on Fifth Avenue in NY has over 16,000 reviews already. Most good, some bad:

Local reviews on Facebook

Facebook is an awesome opportunity for any local business to get reviews. Don’t underestimate how many people search for your business on Facebook.

As mentioned in the section about Google and local reviews: “Don’t copy reviews from Yelp or whatever other review sites”. The same goes for these Facebook reviews. It’s very nice to get them, but leave them on Facebook (or use them in your offline print campaign) and get separate local reviews for your website.

Even negative reviews matter. Don’t feel bad when you get one, feel motivated!

Asking for reviews, for instance, right from your (support) email inbox, like in the signature of your email, might feel a bit strange at first. However, it will trigger your brand ambassadors to leave a review, after seeing that signature email after email. And yes, you will get some negative reviews as well from people that are not completely satisfied with your product or service. And you want these.

Negative reviews give you a chance to go beyond yourself in showing how customer-driven you are. They allow you to fix the issue this customer has. After fixing it, ask them to share the solution / their experience with your company, so others can see what you have done to turn that disappointed customer into a satisfied customer.

It’s your job to make your customer happy, and good reviews will follow. Speed up that process by asking your customers for their feedback!

Read more: ‘Local ranking factors that help your local business’ SEO’ »

Local ranking factors that help your local business’ SEO

If you have a local business, selling products or services, you have to think about the local ranking of your website. Local optimization will help you surface for related search queries in your area. As Google shows local results first in a lot of cases, you need to make sure Google understands where you are located. In this article, we’ll go over all the things you can do to improve Google’s understanding of your location, which obviously improves your chances to rank locally.

Google itself talks about local ranking factors in terms of:

  • Relevance: are you the relevant result for the user? Does your website match what the user is looking for?
  • Distance: how far away are you located? If you are relevant and near, you’ll get a good ranking.
  • Prominence: this is about how well your business is known. More on that at the end of this article.

Let’s start with your address details

If you have a local business and serve mostly local customers, at least add your address in the right way. The right way to do this is using schema.org, either by adding LocalBusiness schema.org tags around your address details or via JSON-LD. Especially when using JSON-LD, you are serving your address details to a search engine in the most convenient way.

Our Local SEO plugin makes adding that LocalBusiness schema to your pages a breeze.

This is very much about what Google calls distance. If you are the closest result for the user, your business will surface sooner.

Google My Business

For your local ranking in Google, you can’t do without a proper Google My Business listing. You need to enlist, add all your locations, verify these and share some photos. Google My Business allows for customer reviews as well, and you should really aim to get some of those for your listing. Positive reviews (simply ask satisfied customers to leave a review) help the way Google and it’s visitors regard your business. This is pretty much like on your local market. If people talk positively about your groceries, more people will be inclined to come to your grocery stand.

Getting reviews is one. You can keep the conversation going by responding to these reviews and, as Google puts it, be a friend, not a salesperson.

Your site’s NAP need to be exactly the same as your Google My Business listing’s NAP

Even if your business has multiple locations, make sure to match the main NAP (name, address, phone number) on your website with the Google My Business NAP. That is the only way to make sure Google makes the right connection between the two. Add the main address on every page (you are a local business so your address is important enough to mention on every page). For all the other locations, set up a page and list all the addresses of your branches.

Facebook listing and reviews

What goes for Google My Business, goes for Facebook as well. Add your company as a page for a local business to Facebook here. People search a lot on Facebook as well, so you’d better make sure your listing on Facebook is in order.

Facebook also allows for reviews, like here for the Apple Store on Fifth Av. Note that this really is a local review, as the Fifth Avenue store scores a 4.6 average rating and the Amsterdam store just scores a 2.9 at the moment…

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City and state in title

The obvious one: for a local ranking, adding city and (in the US) state to your <title> helps. Read this article (2014), as Arjan sheds some more light on other aspects of local SEO as well. And please keep in mind that the effect of adding your city to your titles might be a lot less for your local ranking than adding your business details to Google My Business, but it won’t hurt for sure.

Local directories help your local ranking

Next to your Google My Business listing, Google uses the local Yelps and other local directories to determine just how important and local you are. Where we usually recommend against putting your link on a page with a gazillion unrelated links, the common ground for a local listings page is, indeed, the location. And these links actually do help your local rankings.

So get your web team to work, find the most important local directory pages and get your details up there. I’m specifically writing details and not just link. Citations work in confirming the address to both Google and visitors. If a local, relevant website lists addresses, get yours up there as well. And while you are at it, get some positive reviews on sites like Yelp as well, obviously!

Links from related, local businesses

Following how directories help your local ranking, it also pays off to exchange a link with related local businesses. If you work together in the same supply chain or sell related products, feel free to exchange links. Don’t just exchange links with any business you know, as these, in most cases, will be low-quality links for your website (because they’re usually unrelated).

Social mentions from local tweeps

Again, there’s a local marketplace online as well. People talk about business, new developments, products on Twitter, Instagram, Facebook and more. All these social mentions find their way to Google’s sensors as well. The search engine will pick up on positive or negative vibes and use these to help them rank your local business. If a lot of people talk about your business and/or link to your website, you must be relevant. Monitor these mentions and engage.

Some say links, from other websites, directories and social media, are the key factor for local rankings. As always, we believe it’s the sum of all efforts that makes you stand out from the crowd. Not just optimizing one aspect. Take your time and make sure your Google My Business profile is right, schema.org details are on your site and you have the right links to your site, and the right people talking about you on for instance Twitter. And please don’t forget to do proper keyword research and simply make sure the right content is on your website:

Optimize your content for better local rankings

Google won’t rank your site for a keyword if that keyword isn’t on your website. It’s as simple as that. If your business is in city X, you probably have a reason why you are located there. Write about that reason. And note that these may vary:

  • You are born there or just love the locals and local habits
  • There is a river which is needed for transport
  • Your local network makes sure you can deliver just-in-time or provide extra services
  • The city has a regional function and your business thrives by that
  • There are 6 other businesses like yours, you’re obviously the best, and you all serve a certain percentage of people, so your business fits perfectly in that area.

These are just random reasons to help you write about your business in relation to your location. They differ (a lot) per company. Make sure your location/city/area is clearly mentioned on your website and not just in your footer at your address details!

Read more: ‘Tips for your local content strategy’ »

One more thing: Google also uses prominence as a local ranking factor

Prominence means that when Google can serve a result first from a well-known brand or business, they actually will. And despite all your efforts to improve your local ranking, this might get in the way of that number one position. It just means you have to step up your game, keep on doing the great work you do and trust that eventually, Google will notice this as well. And as a result, Google might allow you to rank on that number one position for that local keyword!

Keep reading: ‘Grow your business with ratings and reviews’ »

Turn your online customer into a brand ambassador

Right after an online purchase by a customer, an important marketing opportunity arises. At that moment, someone chose to buy a product on your website. Seize that moment! In this article, we’ll go over a number of things you can do to turn these online customers into brand ambassadors.

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Promote us!

It’s so easy to leverage that new or returning customer right after his or her purchase. For instance, you could simply ask the customer, who obviously had an awesome experience shopping on your eCommerce site to promote your shop for you. Here’s how!

Social sharing

If you ask your customer to promote your shop online, make this as easy as possible. Social sharing can be done in two clicks: You’ve already created a great Thank You page, and all you have to do is create some social sharing buttons for your favorite social platforms. Ask your customer to ‘Spread the word’ or ‘Recommend us’. Clicking the tweet or share button will open a box with a predefined text about your shop, a link to your shop. Personalize it by adding the product name (“I just bought Product X on yourshop.com – it’s awesome!”). If the text is predefined, it’s literally two clicks that your future brand ambassador will be willing to make.

Ask for testimonials

Next to adding testimonials on your website, you should also ask your customer to leave a product review on larger review sites. Think along the lines of TripAdvisor (hotels and restaurants), GoodReads (books), Yelp (any local business). I have been camping in Denmark, and there were TripAdvisor signs everywhere telling me about the (obviously) good rating they had, and asking me to leave my own review. After a purchase, or in the confirmation email you send, I think it’s totally OK to ask a customer to leave his two cents. Not only will this help your brand in case of a positive review, it will also help you monitor things you can still improve upon.

Reviews on Google and Facebook

Next to specialized sites like the ones mentioned in the previous section, why not ask your customer to leave a review on your Facebook page or Google Business page as well? Google and Facebook are probably the starting points for any potential customer search. Regardless of whether a customer clicks to GoodReads anyway, your reviews are shown with your Google Business information like this:

google-review_1d6de66e-1

Value your customers

Even online, you must strive to be that nice neighborhood shop, where you know your customers by name. Perhaps not all of them in the case of thousands of customers, but at least f.i. the largest 10% of them. That means investing back in these customers. Sending them a birthday present, adding extra incentives or discounts, things like that. Show them you appreciate them as a customer.

Keep in touch

But that’s not all. Providing great after-sales services will lead your customers back to you. That could just be a flexible return policy. Or, if you own a guitar shop and you sell a cheap Spanish guitar, chances are that the buyer is a beginner. Surprise him with a short tutorial video for simple chords a week after purchase. Send an email six months after purchase with a discount for new guitar strings. It’s all so obvious, right? In this case, you just have to keep in mind that the obvious probably works.

When creating brand ambassadors

Make sure that your customers don’t forget you. Next to all the things mentioned earlier, it’s absolutely necessary that you need to do your best to deliver the best customer experience possible. Deliver on time, or communicate on time. Treat your customer as you’d like to be treated yourself. Make the customer feel welcome in your online shop’s family!

Read more: ‘Creating loyal customers’ »

7 ways to increase sales by creating trust

The key to converting a visitor into a client is the creation of trust. Your product can be the greatest thing on earth or the dullest office supply ever, both can be sold online when your visitor knows you are the best supplier for that product or service.

We often advise on how to gain trust in our website reviews, and I’ve compiled a list of some of the advice we’ve given over time. Of course, trust can be earned in more ways than this, but we’ll give you these seven tips to create trust to start with.

1. Use clear and normal language

Not using a clear and normal language is an often overseen issue that causes a lot of grief with your visitors. Please speak their language. Don’t drown them in a sea of technical specs you don’t even understand yourself. Use a clear and direct style of writing. Keep your audience in mind. Do not focus on telling them what you want to tell them, focus on providing as many arguments as possible why their quality of life improves after buying that specific product. This will create trust as it comforts your visitor.

2. Testimonials create trust

Do not brag about your products yourself. If your products or services are really that good, I’m sure you’ll find someone else that can do the bragging for you. Make sure your visitor understand that the testimonial is written by an actual customer, by listing at least name and company and if the customer agrees, even a picture of him. Video seems to be the next big thing in testimonials, by the way. In my opinion, that video testimonial should be accompanied by a written excerpt. It will allow the visitor to read the testimonial in case they can’t turn on the sound:

Video testimonials at Silverpop.com

Video testimonials at Silverpop.com

A lot of websites have testimonials these days. That doesn’t mean they’re all leveraging these testimonials the right way. Testimonials are great to create trust. 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. Your landing pages and near call-to-actions, even below your shopping cart would probably be good spots. Please test for yourself and see what works best for your audience!

3. Security seals

Google has made a clear case for secure websites in the past years. Everyone can create a security seal, so don’t let security seals fool you. But when the seals are from well-known companies, they really do add value to a webshop:

Security seal examples

By investing in the guidelines of the right verification companies, the webshop shows that it has been keeping the customer in mind when setting up the website.
Usually, the security seal comes with a link to a certificate. That certificate should be on the website of the company that verified the website’s security. Now I guess not many people will click that link, but if you add these seals, please do it right and add that link.

Sites that list these security seals also come with that nice green bar in the address bar of your browser. Most of the times I just check that address bar and don’t bother scrolling down to check the footer for security seals (as that is one of the most common locations for them). That green bar says it all for me. Did you know you can actually click that green bar for more information on the site’s security? It’s pretty similar per browser, but here’s what f.i. Firefox could tell you:

SLL certificate information at yoast.com

4. Pictures

If you recognize the woman in this picture, please call the following toll-free number…:

Sofie: probably one of the most used stockphoto models

Fun fact: this article from 2014 highlights The 5 Most Popular Stock Photo Personalities. I’d avoid these :)

You can do better than that stock photo. Anne Sofie (the model in the image) is probably a very nice woman, but listing actual pictures of yourself and/or your employees creates trust and pushes conversion due to recognition and identification.
If you are using something like live chat on your website, this experience will definitely be enhanced by using an actual employer’s photo at that chat.

5. List your physical address

People want to know there is a place to go to in case of problems (if any). Having an actual store next to your eCommerce shop works even better, especially if a lot of your customers are relatively local.

In the Netherlands, digitalstreet.nl made this concept into a huge success. Even though they’re located in the southwest of the Netherlands (near to where we are), people come from all over the land to their store to pick up purchases. There are more stories like that. Even if you don’t want people visiting your store or storage for that matter, I’d list your address. On checkout pages, this will increase trust a lot.

6. What happens after checkout?

There’s this hesitation in almost all buying decisions: right before you click the Pay Now button. What will happen next? Will I be charged for taxes, import, anything else? Can I select a wrapping paper? Explain what happens after clicking that button. That way the customer is included in your ordering process and there are absolutely no surprises. This can be done with just a few short lines of text: “This order is 100% guaranteed. There will be no additional charges upon delivery.” Add a message like that right below your checkout button, and it will comfort a lot of your customers. Conscious or unconsciously, it’ll be easier to complete the order for your customer.

7. Show you care about more than making money

The most important thing is that your website has to reflect your belief in the product or service you provide. Just a list of products is not enough. Also, tell your customer about your company, your main values or mission statement. I really love initiatives like 1% for the Planet.

At Yoast, we emphasize our enthusiasm for Open Source and WordPress by actively engaging in the community and for instance sponsoring WordCamps and WP Meetups. Next to showing that you are involved, things like this create a huge sympathy and trust factor.

On to you

If you sell products or services on your website, you must have thought about this subject. Some things to consider: What did you do on your website to increase trust? And what are you going to do after reading this article? Good luck!

Read more: ‘Testimonials: increase your visitor’s trust’ »

How to optimize your restaurant website

If you have a restaurant and a restaurant website to go with it, you might want to read this article. We have covered a lot of topics on this website already, but we’ve decided to focus a bit more on specific types of websites in a number of posts. In this post, we discuss what you need to keep in mind when planning or building your restaurant website and is for both restaurant owners and web development agencies.

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!

First things first: what needs to be on your restaurant website?

When planning a website, it will pay off to ask around and figure out what your friends and family would expect on a website like yours. For a restaurant, I think we can agree on the following things that need to be on your website:

  1. Your address (and more). This is obviously the most important element: people need to know where you are located. There is more than one way to share your address with your (potential) guests.
  2. Photos of the interior. If I’m going to spend my money in your establishment, I want to know I’ll have a cozy evening and a nice table to sit at.
  3. Your menu. Not your website menu, but a list of all the food and drinks you’ll possibly serve me at a certain price.
  4. Client testimonials. All the good stuff people tell me about your place.
  5. A way to make a reservation. Obviously.

Now let’s look into these aspects of a restaurant website in more detail.

Your address (and more details)

If you add your address to your website, you want to do it the right way. First of all, you want it to be in a spot where everybody can find it without searching for it. That means adding it in a clear spot on your homepage, perhaps repeat it in your footer, and definitely put it on your contact page. On your contact page, you might want to consider adding a route map as well.

Schema.org/Restaurant

Don’t just add the address, but mark it up the right way. That means you’ll have to add Schema.org markup to your address. The most obvious Schema.org variation would be… Restaurant. This is actually a subschema of the FoodEstablishment schema, which allows you to add detailed stuff like acceptsReservations, menu and servesCuisine to your address.

All these details are added with the purpose of telling the search engine as much as possible about your restaurant, in a predefined way. It will make sure Google easily fetches the right information. That might already get you mentions like this:

Restaurant website: Restaurant listing in Google, Fat Duck example

That is actually a combined effort, I think. It’s a combination of listing the right information the right way on your website, and a good listing in Google My Business.

Google My Business

Never heard of Google My Business?

Google My Business complements your existing website by giving your business a public identity and presence on Google. The information you provide about your business can appear on Google Search, Maps and Google+.

Go read and list your website. Ask your visitor to leave a review on your Google My Business, as this seems to help your rankings at the Google map as shown above as well.

Google My Business might give you another edge: a proper listing in the Google search result pages’ sidebar (where they keep the Knowledge Graph):

Restaurant website: Restaurant listing in knowledge graph example

Nice, huh. Be sure to tell Google as many details as possible and see what they come up with.

Facebook Places

Like Google My Business, Facebook Places isn’t on your website itself. Still, it will pay off to list your restaurant here. Facebook is improving its search engine by the day, and if there is one place where all your friends have and share their opinion, it’s on Facebook.

Make sure you list your restaurant as a Place by adding all the basic information. If you list your restaurant in the Local Business category (be sure to do so), you’ll be able to list:

  • A short description
  • Your website, email, phone and address
  • A map to your restaurant

Besides that, listing your restaurant in the local business category, you’ll be able to allow check-ins and ratings & reviews and that is obviously just what you want! These check-ins and reviews are actually very important, as search results in Facebook are ranked by recommendations and check-ins from your friends. Besides that, “results that are similar to the people, places and things that a person is already connected to may be ranked higher.” All the more reason to list your restaurant on Facebook as well, and ask all of your friends to like, review and check-in to your restaurant.

TripAdvisor

I’m going to name TripAdvisor here as another place to list your restaurant, but it is obviously one of many other websites you can use to list your restaurant details, like:

Especially since your restaurant is a local business, adding your website to services like that will also help your SEO, as all of these have a local focus.

After adding your website to TripAdvisor, be sure to monitor your reviews on that website. Bad reviews are always a bummer, but not acting on bad reviews might be even worse. Engage with a disappointed guest and see if you can change his opinion to something more positive. Perhaps he just had a bad day, or your chef did. Most bad reviews are mere incidents.

If you want to improve your TripAdvisor profile, be sure to read these steps to optimize your restaurant listing on TripAdvisor.

Photos of the interior

From a UX and conversion point of view, showing your interior makes a lot of sense. By showing the visitor in what great environment he or she will be dining if they come to your place, people can decide in advance if your restaurant matches the occasion. If we want to grab a quick bite, a pub-like establishment with wooden chairs and beer will do. If I have the whole evening planned for exquisite food, I might want to see chandeliers, candles, and glasses of wine.

It’s all about managing expectations on a restaurant website. If your website’s photos match the mood you want to set in your restaurant, first-time visitors will click to your reservations form and reserve themselves a table at your place. Don’t go cheap on this. You have paid a lot of money to get the interior the way you wanted it, now pay a great photographer to take pictures for your website (and menu/posters/flyers and Pinterest, Instagram and Facebook or whatever you can use these for).

If you are looking for insights on how to add these to your website properly, please read my post on image SEO.

Show your menu on your restaurant website

You spent all these hours coming up with your monthly changing menu, and now you’ve just put the PDF containing your menu on your website as a link. That’s ruining my user experience. I honestly don’t like to click a link on a website, only to find that it opens a PDF. There’s no need for that anymore as well. You can easily put your restaurant menu on a separate page on your website and link it from your website menu. You might still want to add a link to a PDF with the same content at the bottom of that page, by the way. For saving in Evernote, for instance.

As mentioned above in the Address section of this article, you could also add a link to your menu page in schema.org, just to top things off.

Testimonials

Next to the testimonials in Google My Business, be sure to add some testimonials on your website as well. That could just be one-liners spread across your website, but a decent testimonial will make that reservation easier. If other people like it, you might like it too.

We have done an article last year called Testimonials: increase your visitor’s trust you should read. Although that article is mainly focused on e-commerce shops, your restaurant site will benefit from it as well. The main things to keep in mind when using testimonials: make sure they are genuine testimonials. Add the name of the reviewer, preferably a photo as well. And don’t be afraid to list these on a prominent spot on your website. It’s others doing marketing for you. Google lists them, as you can see in the above, so why would you hide these on a single page instead of listing them right below your reservations button?

One last thing: reservations

I already mentioned the option to add via schema.org if making a reservation is possible on your restaurant website. Would this have any influence on your rankings? Probably not. But if I need to make a reservation before eating at your restaurant, I want to know. And I want to be able to do this online.

Making a reservation online should be easy as pie. Enter your details, get a clear ‘sent!’ message and an email confirming your reservation. What you don’t want (true story) is an email afterwards that the restaurant is closed on the desired day. In my book, I  shouldn’t be able to make a reservation for that day in the first place. In conclusion: make sure people are able to make a reservation via your restaurant website, but only when possible and always make sure there is a clear communication afterwards.

That concludes this article on how to optimize your restaurant site. If you have (an example of) a restaurant website that nails this, I would like to invite you to leave the URL of that website in the comments!

Read more: 5 things you are doing wrong »

The post How to optimize your restaurant website appeared first on Yoast.

Testimonials: increase your visitor’s trust

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 testimonials. A lot of websites do have testimonials, but just having them simply isn’t enough. 

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Here, we’ll explain how to fully exploit your testimonials and what steps you should take to find out how they work best for you. We’ll start with explaining why testimonials work in the first place!

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

Why testimonials work

Testimonials are mostly said to work on the basis of social proof. Social proof is a psychological process, which causes people to copy the behavior of others, in an attempt to reflect correct behavior. A well-known person, or at least someone people can identify with, may use a product or service and be blown away by it. When others hear about this, they will interpret that as correct behavior and follow suit. This is the reason influencer marketing is such an effective way to sell your product nowadays. When a celebrity on Instagram uses a product and writes positively about that, people will buy it. Because if an admired celebrity endorses a product, that must mean it is just the right thing for you as well! Social proof, regardless if it’s from celebrities or close friends, contributes significantly to the effectiveness of testimonials.

Testimonials: increase your visitor's trust

However, social proof is not the only reason why testimonials work. Or, at least it shouldn’t be. While a lot of the testimonials we encounter on eCommerce shops are fairly vague, even those vague ones shed some light on the workings of a product or service. After all, five stars is five stars, right? This is exactly what testimonials should do as well, as far as I’m concerned: give some insight into the experiences of some people, so others can make up their own opinion. Not only should a testimonial confirm the fact that your product is awesome, it should also discuss:

  • why it’s awesome,
  • how it works and
  • why it worked for the person writing the testimonial.

And then you’re still 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 online shop has been successfully used by other people and that they were very satisfied with it!

Testimonials overlap with product reviews

We’ve arrived at a gray area here, where testimonials start overlapping reviews. And in my opinion, that’s exactly how it should be. As soon as they’re overlapping, you’ll get the best of both worlds. Not only will the social proof process kick in, but experience products – products of which it’s hard to predict if they work – can also change into search products – of which it’s easy to predict if they work. In other words: the benefits of your products will become a lot clearer, making it easier for potential customers to purchase them.

When testimonials work

Testimonials are powerful in creating trust, and not just for online shops. Research confirmed that positive reviews can significantly increase sales. In fact, testimonials were found to be a more important cue for judging the trustworthiness of an online store than the actual 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.

In case of product reviews, even negative reviews can be useful. But only if you can 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.

Storytelling

Over the past couple of years, storytelling has become all the rage and for good reason. Stories have a positive influence on a customer’s perception of a brand, as well as the willingness to purchase. Stories can affect behavior, given that the story resonates with your visitor.

And that’s exactly where it becomes tough. It’s easy to state that “stories sell”. But how would you go about obtaining stories that your audience would feel captivated by? If you offer services or products that are problem-solving, to begin with, this is easy. Just ask a few of your customers to describe 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 obviously can’t have customers state “I was naked my entire life until I found this piece of clothing!”. In these cases, you’ll have to get creative and maybe ask customers to write about the – hopefully superior – quality of your products and how they last longer, for instance. And if you offer a clothing brand that’s sold in other online stores as well, let your customers write about why they’re using your shop in particular. Is it your superior customer service? Your site’s excellent 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 a few years ago showed that the use of pictures increased the perceived trustworthiness of a statement. According to the results, it doesn’t even matter whether the picture is relevant, or the information next to the picture accurate. While I think these are cool findings, I don’t believe it is always this simple and depends highly on your audience.

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

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 always recommend using photos with testimonials, because it appears to add to the credibility of those testimonials. But the best way to go would be to test if adding photos lead to better results of your site.

Influential people

If you’ve already read about testimonials, you probably have read about the impact of “influential people”. I already mentioned influencer marketing. Let’s talk about that some more. 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.

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 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 by Miley Cyrus, it probably wouldn’t carry much weight with the people we’d like to influence (agencies, website owners). Nevertheless, I’m sure a lot of people would install the plugin, but perhaps not for the right reasons. You get my drift.

Placement of testimonials

Over the years, 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. On your landing pages and near call-to-actions would probably be good spots.

Read more: things to consider for your online shop »

You and your testimonials

If you read this article up to here, you probably agree that all this makes perfect sense, right? So stop just having testimonials, and start using them!

Is there anything we missed? Or do you have something else to contribute? Let us know in the comments. Thanks!

Read more: ‘Grow your business with ratings and reviews’ »