It’s nice when there’s something easy that you can do that gives you an immediate advantage. Chances are that you and your competitors don’t have testimonials on your websites. Or, if you do have, they haven’t been optimized for competitive advantage. (If you’re in the undesirable situation where you don’t have testimonials on your website and your competition does then you’re at a distinct disadvantage and need to remedy it without delay).
People like to buy from people and businesses that they feel good about, that they can trust. This is especially true on your website where you don’t have the opportunity to personally interact with them. There are several “trust signals” that we like to weave into our web designs that have a significant and positive impact on conversion rates.
One of the most important trust signals is the correct use of testimonials on your website.
So, why is it then that so few businesses we work with have testimonials? I looked back at the last 10 websites we’ve done and 80% of those businesses did not have any testimonials for us to work with!
Confession time. Up until a few years ago, we too had very few testimonials to work with. And it wasn’t for lack of happy Clients. And it wasn’t because I was oblivious to the importance of them. For us, I think it came down to one-part feeling awkward asking and two-parts being caught up in the business of running a business.
Both, poor excuses.
Of all the marketing activities you could do, if you don’t have at least 3 solid testimonials on your website, then getting them there is one of the highest leverage things you can do.
Good news: You only need a few well-appointed testimonials and I’ll show you how easy it is to get them.
But first, a brief side-trip to visit one of my more controversial philosophies and give some important context: If you want a website that converts then you must take a “Marketing first, Design second” approach to engineering websites. Yes, of course the visual is important but only in so much that it is designed to resonate with your target market. However, when judging a website by how well it converts visitors into Leads and Customers, the fact remains:
the greatest design can never overcome bad messaging
BUT a great message can overcome an OK design.
These days, it’s very easy to create stunning websites that look professional and that sound great. In fact, it’s so easy for a business to make themselves look bigger than they are and sound more professional than they are, people have learned to be skeptical of the superficial design. Looking professional just gets you on the short list. Giving people a feeling of trust is what gets your phone to ring.
Creating a website that weaves credible trust signals into your message is one of the most important ways to stand out from all of the other pretty websites. Testimonials are one of the most powerful trust signals you can incorporate.
Let’s do a simple thought experiment:
Imagine you’re looking for someone to build a back-yard deck. You’ve done a Google search and you’ve found two sites that “look” good. Now, you’re taking a closer look at each. Both have great pictures. Both are “saying all the right words”. However, one has testimonials from happy Clients, including a picture of them and their deck. All things being equal, which website earns your call?
Of course, the website with the testimonials wins.
Beyond the obvious benefit of giving you credibility, there’s another powerful benefit of having testimonials on your website. Having testimonials is a great way to do some Search Engine Optimization. Look at the testimonial above. Notice it has the city, “Barrie”, included? Testimonials are a great way to put in the geographic areas you want to rank for in the Search Engines.
Best Practices For Writing Testimonials For Your Website
Having testimonials is great BUT not all testimonials are created equal. To have truly impactful testimonials, there are a few things to keep in mind:
- Have a picture. A testimonial with a picture is many times more impactful than one without. Ideally, you want a smiling face picture. If that’s not available, consider either a picture of their finished project (e.g. backyard deck) or if it’s a business their logo.
- Edit out the “blah blah gobbledygook” and emphasize your USP. Generally, I like testimonials to be between 30 and 60 words.
- Keep it real. The best testimonials are written in a natural, conversational tone. If your Customer uses common slang or lay-person words, leave them in. Real people will be reading it!
- Have a benefit headline. About 60% of people only skim a website and the headline is a great way to convey the essence of your headline to those who won’t read the whole thing.
- Include the full name if you can; if you can’t use their full name try for initial and last name or at least first name.
- Include the city.
Where Should You Use Testimonials In Your Website?
It used to be common for people to have a testimonials page. While I don’t think it’s a bad thing to have, I usually recommend against making it a main menu item. You can either link to such a page through a link in your footer or as a link in body copy that mentions all the testimonials you have.
The best way I like to use testimonials is to integrate them into your most important (popular) pages on your website. Use them to add credibility to your “sales message”. If you have a decent bank of testimonials use the best, more relevant testimonials on each page.
In terms of styling, you want your testimonials to stand out from your regular body copy. From a usability perspective, when people instantly see the oversized quote marks, italics, the name/city line, they instantly recognize it as a testimonial. Sometimes, you’ll see stars as part of testimonials. Be careful with stars; unless, it’s from a legit ranking site (like Yelp) where people put in stars, it can look phony and phony is the last thing you want for your testimonials.
How To Get Testimonials: The Easy Way
If you’re like 80% of our Clients then you probably don’t have a bank of testimonials to work with and you certainly don’t have any on your website. As I mentioned, it took us a while before we started to compile testimonials because of feeling awkward and just being busy.
No more excuses. Having testimonials on your website is vital to conversion and it doesn’t have to be awkward or time consuming.
All you need to do is Ask.
It really is that easy. I’ll show you exactly how we finally got ourselves to start collecting testimonials. Inevitably, you’ll have a conversation with a Customer where they start to tell you how much they’re enjoying your product or how much they appreciate your service. When that happens, all you have to do is ask:
“That’s wonderful to hear. Would you mind if I used that as a testimonial?”
I’ve never heard someone say no to that question. In fact, if you’re asking them right when they’re telling you how much they love your product or service, chances are they’ll be delighted to provide you a testimonial.
Once they say “yes”, there’s a critical next step that will determine whether or not you actually get a quality testimonial you can use. It’s a second question:
“May I write that up and send it to you for your approval?”
Why is this such an important second step?
- Makes it really easy for your Customer. If you write it and send it to them in an email, chances are they’ll simply hit reply with their approval. If they do want to make edits, you’ve given them an excellent starting point.
- You can write the testimonial to emphasize your USP, something that will help differentiate you from your competition. Keep it short and to the point. If your testimonial is too long, it won’t be read and the good stuff will be hidden by a bunch of fluff.
- Great way to get their picture: Check if they’ve got a social media presence where they’ve published a photo of themselves. If they have, ask them if you can use it. I suggest you copy/paste it into your email so they see exactly the picture you’re suggesting.
What can you do if you don’t want to wait to catch Customers in the act of saying nice things about you? Again, there’s a very simple, easy way to quickly get several testimonials.
- Make a short list of people to ask. Review your best Customers; the ones you’re on particularly good terms with.
- Write them an email explaining that you’re doing some updates to your website and you’d love to include a testimonial from them. In your email, offer: “If it makes it easier, I’d be happy to suggest a few words that you can look over and either edit or approve”.
In short order, you’ll get responses and I’m willing to bet you’ll get a near 100% “YES” rate. Voila, you’ve got testimonials!
How Do Your Testimonials Measure Up?
Hopefully, you not only see the urgent need for them but now also understand the anatomy of an effective testimonial. If you have testimonials already, now’s the time to see if you can take them up a notch or two. If you don’t have testimonials, then you’ve got your action plan, complete with a sample to use as a template. Adding testimonials to your website is a high-leverage marketing activity you can quickly and easily do. If you need help, give us a shout.
If you’ve got questions or comments, please leave a comment below…
To Your Prosperity,
P.S. – Have some kind words about Piggybank you’d like to share? (Yep, I’m shamelessly asking!) We’d love to feature your testimonial on our website…my email is firstname.lastname@example.org.