Testimonials – worth having on your website?
Is it worth having testimonials on your website because everyone knows they will be biased? Yes it is, says Internet psychologist Graham Jones, but the question is, how many should you have?
The other day I was in a meeting with a client when I was asked “what is the optimum number of testimonials we should have on our website?” The person asking appeared to want me to come up with a “magic number” supported by evidence that if you had that number of testimonials on a website you would do more business.
Of course, being a good consultant I have the good consultant’s answer: “Well, it all depends….” But indeed it does. It depends, for a start, on how many testimonials you have and what they say. It depends on who those testimonials come from. And it depends on design factors on your website such as the size of your type and the width of the column. There is no “magic number” to the amount of testimonials you could show on your website.
But then I cheekily asked my client if they needed any web-based testimonials at all. I suggested that since every visitor would know that the client had pre-selected only the very best testimonials, surely they were a waste of effort gathering them to put on the website because visitors would know they are biased. “You are bound to publish testimonials that say you are brilliant,” I said, “people know you will hide away the feedback you have got saying your business is a pile of poo.” I quickly pointed out that wasn’t my view, of course…!
It all led to a discussion on the value of testimonials. When people look at testimonials on websites or in a company brochure they are seeking guidance on whether they should trust your business. The psychology of trust involves several factors, all of which eventually come round to the degree we feel comfortable that we will be cared for.
As a result, one of the things people look for in testimonials is “people like me”. They scan testimonials to see if someone like themselves has said anything about your firm. If they identify with one of the testimonial writers, they feel more comfortable that you will help them too.
Another aspect of the desire to be comfortable and feel cared for is the extent of testimonials. People “weigh them by the pound”. If you have a handful of testimonials, your website visitors feel there is an increased risk you will not look after their needs. Subconsciously they perceive your business as not helping many people. In addition, within a handful of testimonials they are much less likely to find someone they match.
What this means is that testimonials are not worth the space you give them if you don’t have many. Indeed, a few testimonials can be negative because the visitor thinks you haven’t done much good work – otherwise you would have included more. Plus they can’t see someone like themselves.
But when there are dozens or hundreds of testimonials the extent of them becomes a feature in the subconscious “weigh it by the pound” approach. Plus, people can scan down a long list and find someone like them. Even though in the back of their mind they know your testimonial selection is biased, the fact they can find someone like themselves and you have so many testimonials means they are impressed.
So are testimonials worth the space? Yes, but only if you give them lots of space.
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