As marketers (and consumers), we know that testimonials are one of the most effective ways to turn prospective clients into actual buyers. Yet, as valuable as this marketing tool is, most websites do it ineffectively and some actually harm their own rankings with on-site testimonials.
Mistake #1: The (Perceived) Liars
These are the testimonials that you look at and have no credibility whatsoever. They specifically mention what the business does (as if the client is keyword-stuffing for you); they don't include a picture, and they even eliminate the last name.
If you saw this on my website, would you put any stock into it?
"Michael George is the greatest real estate SEO expert in the world. If you need help with real estate SEO, then call Mike! He's devastatingly handsome and cool under pressure!"
~ Bob M.
Come on. It doesn't take a genius. If Bob M. were a Realtor, why would he not want me to use his last name? If you aren't a criminal law attorney, selling Viagra, or maybe a psychiatrist - then your client base shouldn't be ashamed to use their last name.
When I see testimonials like this, I am actually less likely to use that business, because I suspect the reviews are made up. I don't like lies in marketing.
Mistake #2: Too Many On-Site Testimonials
How could there be too many testimonials, you ask? Well, really, there can never be too many testimonials, but how you present them on your site can and will affect your SEO.
On-site testimonials have harmed many of my client's sites- before they hire me of course.
The reason for this is very simple and it should make perfect sense. Google needs to understand what your page is about. When you Google something- anything- you are always hoping for the best information on the topic, and Google usually delivers. When people are searching for your services, you need to help Google know you have the best content on the topic.
However, I have seen this mistake with Realtors too many times: On their front page, they may have 600 words (two or three paragraphs), about "Real Estate in Phoenix" - but then they have 900 words in testimonials in the sidebar...or at the bottom of the page.
And while we carefully write our page and blog content for SEO Focus Keywords, our clients aren't doing the same thing. If you are optimizing for "Phoenix Homes for Sale", then it does you no good to have a review diluting your front page content.
"Mike is so nice. He drove us around and around and he was so patient. It took us a long time to make a decision, but he was patient as a saint. He even helped us find a great rate on our mortgage!" Bob M.
How does that testimonial help Google to understand that I want to be #1 for "Phoenix Homes for Sale"?
It doesn't. It mentions driving around. It mentions that I'm patient. (I'm not.) It mentions a mortgage, but I want to sell homes. It mentions Bob.
In other words, if your testimonials are honest, they won't be SEO-optimized. Even worse, they are diluting your content instead of supporting it. (Usually.)
I suggest putting testimonials in an image. This way, Google can't read the testimonials and confuse your page focus. If you do it this way, you can put a dozen testimonials on your page without harming your focused content. You can't put them in a nice image slider very easily.
Mistake #3 - Not Spreading it Around
Anyplace you can get a client to write a review, is good for you. I know many people are obsessed with Google reviews, and that makes sense. It definitely helps with local SEO. No doubt. You want those Google reviews!
But let's face it, if your client doesn't have a Google account, it's like pulling teeth to get them to sign up. Then, they never write the review and you don't want to bother them... So it never gets done.
Let me be perfectly clear: Google finds "citations" for your local business anywhere it can, and those reviews will affect your rankings in Google.
I have only had one client that I could not help. I have only one total and complete failure.
I did everything for this guy. Everything about his site was perfect. But I'm not going to mince words- he was an ass. He had reviews on Yelp and the BBB and Merchant Circle-- and they all said he was rude and mean. I sent my assistant over to his business (he was here in Phoenix) to take some pictures. He didn't know who she was, and he came out and started yelling at her. (She was standing on a public sidewalk.)
This guy actually ruined his SEO with real-life behavior! He had bad reviews everywhere and Google just did not want to make him a top choice. It makes sense too.
The point is: if someone likes you- first ask if they have a Google account. If they do- great! If not, ask about Yelp. (And if you haven't set up a Yelp page for your real estate business- DO IT NOW!)
If they don't have Yelp, ask them if you can use their photo for a testimonial on your homepage.
Now if you want to see something really cool, check out the testimonials on my page on real estate SEO and look at the reviews. Pretty convincing, right? If you're an ActiveRainer, you may know some of those people.
Make it a great 2015!
* Liar image courtesy of Cybaea @ https://www.flickr.com/photos/cybaea/
* Marmade image courtesy of Wikipedia @ http://commons.wikimedia.org/wiki/File:Marmalade_spread_on_bread.jpg