Why your online testimonials are failing to convert

Five reasons why your online testimonials might not be doing you any favors.

customer feedback ts
Thinkstock

In a digital era where people are constantly bombarded with brand messaging, reviews and testimonials on a company website provide social proof that feels like a breath of fresh air from aggressive sales tactics. In fact, studies show that this type of social proofing can lead to conversions as high as 68.7 percent.

Sounds like a slam-dunk right?

So you’ve worked hard to get customers to review your product or service. You’ve even offered incentives like coupons and discounts for a testimonial. But they don’t seem to be working.

One of the side effects that comes with the constant flow of online information is that consumers have generally become more skeptical of brand messaging, even user-generated material. Here are five reasons why your online testimonials might not be doing you any favors.

They’re too vague

“My life got so much easier after using XX Product.”

“This is the best product on the market!”

While reviews like those sound great, they don’t really answer any pressing questions or concerns the consumer might have. While you might assume that reviews like these speak to a wider range of people, they can actually be a turn-off.

Chances are, in your research you’ve identified a good deal of issues that the everyday consumer has and how your product or service solves their problems. Testimonials you have on your website should reflect this in detail.

A good way to extract this information is to use a feedback template or form when you reach out to customers. Ask some questions about how exactly your product or service helped benefit their normal routine.

They sound too robotic

A testimonial filled with the specific benefits and advantages of choosing your business is great. However, if it is filled with jargon and buzzwords, it can come off as fake.

Online reviews are all about adding a human element. No one wants to read a review that sounds like a pamphlet or a training manual. Although some of these reviews can be genuine, it might appear as if you paid for them in the skeptical eyes of the consumer.

This is very important if you provide highly personalized services. “Our business depends completely on the faith our customers place in us. They need to trust us completely before they work with us,” says David Van Sant, owner of Atlanta-based law firm Van Sant Law LLC.

Customer testimonials occupy a prominent place right in the middle of the home page of Van Sant Law's website, but being an attorney, Van Sant is naturally picky when choosing reviews to be posted there. And you should be just as picky about the testimonials on your site. Read each one as if you were a customer researching your business. If a testimonial raises an eyebrow, don’t be afraid to put it aside.

They are too long

Having customers go out of their way to write long, detailed reviews about how much they love your business shows you have something special to offer. The problem is, not many people want to read through a big wall of text these days.

Although testimonials should be detailed and filled with useful information, they should also be short and concise. For example, take a look at Molly Maid’s review page:

screenshot of molly maid customer reviews page
Dipti Parmar

Screenshot of the reviews page at MollyMaid.com by the author.

The testimonials clearly explain the benefits of Molly Maid’s service, and each one is not much more than three to five sentences, with little fluff or unnecessary information.

A related problem is the issue of incorrectly placed reviews. Long reviews can be great for case studies and blog posts, but they don’t belong on your testimonial page. If you are using online forms for customer reviews, try imposing a word limit.

Posting testimonials on your website is important, and they should occupy a good deal of space, but they should not the main focus of your platform. Positive reviews should never get in the way of your "call to action" buttons or any other important bits of information.

They are written by the wrong people, or anonymous people

This goes back to the human element that makes testimonials so powerful. By not including the name of the person or company giving the review, it can appear as if you wrote the testimonial yourself.

A customer may have given your business the best-crafted review on the entire internet, but if no one knows who wrote it, it may not be seen as credible.

Full IDs of the writers of testimonials posted on your website are important because people researching your company need to know whether they value the opinions of the people or companies that wrote the testimonials.

And it's important for you to know whose opinions your customers value. For instance, Neil Patel did some digging and found that the majority of the ones in need of his SEO agency's services were midsize businesses — but they didn't necessarily want to hear from other midsize businesses. In his blog post on the subject, he talks about how he discovered that these people wanted to see success stories from Fortune 500 companies. When they started showing testimonials of larger companies, rather than small and midsize businesses, the conversion rate was twice as high.

While landing a Fortune 500 company is extremely difficult, the moral of this story is that you should post testimonials from sources that your specific target audience sees as reliable. Doing things like linking social media accounts or company websites to the content is a good way to showcase authenticity. Don’t hesitate to look up some influencers to talk about your brand.

Parting words

Strongly written testimonials have the power to skyrocket your conversions. Just remember that while there are common threads that apply to all testimonials, one size does not fit all. The name of the game is bringing a human element into the content while telling potential customers what they want to hear from the sources they want to hear it from.

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