Testimonials: 3 Common Mistakes

Mortgage and Lending with Arizona Wholesale Mortgage Inc.

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

liarThese 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

Posted by

seo guru

Comments (35)

Shannon Milligan, Richmond VA Real Estate Agent/Associate Broker
RVA Home Team - Richmond, VA
RVA Home Team - Winning with Integrity.

Oh..I bet I have some problems with my testimonials as I have a lot of them, not on my home page and I keep the last names off for privacy of the client. I REALLY like the idea of putting it as an image!

Jan 23, 2015 02:56 AM
Shannon Milligan, Richmond VA Real Estate Agent/Associate Broker
RVA Home Team - Richmond, VA
RVA Home Team - Winning with Integrity.

Oh, I had problems with Yelp. They said it looked like I asked for people to write a review (I did) so they dinged me for it and didn't count them. 

Jan 23, 2015 02:57 AM
Doyle Davison
Hawaiian Beaches Hawaii - 714-968-6767 - Huntington Beach, CA
30 years as your Concierge services listing broker

i like the idea of video testimony if you can get your clients in front of a camera. people get shy and lock up in front of a camera.

Jan 23, 2015 03:56 AM
Ginny Gorman
RI Real Estate Services ~ 401-529-7849~ RI Waterfront Real Estate - North Kingstown, RI
Homes for Sale in Southern RI and beyond

Michael, great recap of what to not do & do for testimonials...I've been doing video testimonials for years.  I get traction from thm too!  thank you as always.

Jan 23, 2015 04:31 AM
Kevin Mackessy
Blue Olive Properties, LLC - Highlands Ranch, CO
Dedicated. Qualified. Local.

These are great tips.  I've been trying to get my clients to write more Google reviews, because Yelp doesn't honor a review from a new account.  We have plenty of good Yelp reviews, all stuff in the "not recommended" abyss. 

Jan 23, 2015 05:51 AM
Laura Allen, Lake Tahoe - Truckee Real Estate for Sale TahoeLauraRealEstate.com
Coldwell Banker Realty, Tahoe City, CA (530) 414-1260 - Tahoe City, CA
Tahoe Real Estate Agent Helping Buyers and Sellers

AZ SEO Expert: Phoenix SEO Consultant - Great tips and advice for anyone trying to get their real estate site to rank better!

Jan 23, 2015 07:15 AM
Kathleen Daniels, Probate & Trust Specialist
KD Realty - 408.972.1822 - San Jose, CA
Probate Real Estate Services

Michael, I agree with all of this except setting up a Yelp account.  I don't like and won't do it.  Any "ass" can write a crap review even if they have never done business with us.  I won't open that door.  I will use all other sites that I have, at least in part, control over.  Glad to see this is Featured ... and glad to see you posting in the Rain again. 

Jan 23, 2015 08:56 AM
Joan Whitebook
BHG The Masiello Group - Nashua, NH
Consumer Focused Real Estate Services

Would love to know what an image slider is and how to use it.  Thanks for this informative post.

Jan 23, 2015 11:47 AM
Grant Schneider
Performance Development Strategies - Armonk, NY
Your Coach Helping You Create Successful Outcomes

I can certainly tell when someone is trying to over puff.  Asking for good solid reviews and having them strategically distributed is best.

Jan 23, 2015 11:52 AM
Praful Thakkar
LAER Realty Partners - Andover, MA
Andover, MA: Andover Luxury Homes For Sale

AZ SEO Expert: Phoenix SEO Consultant - Michael, I think Yelp does not provide the full name in the reviews. (Not sure if it is changed now.)

Too many reviews are not too good either - agree. However, where do we draw the line in number of reviews and size of reviews (200 words?)


Jan 23, 2015 02:08 PM
Richie Alan Naggar
people first...then business Ran Right Realty - Riverside, CA
agent & author

A letter of reference used to mean something...Now, anyone can have at it

Jan 23, 2015 11:48 PM
Richard Robibero, e-Pro, ABR, SRS
Panorama R.E. Limited - Toronto, ON
Selling Your Home as if it were My Own!

Great tips. I don't seek out testimonials (I know I probably should) but your advice is sound. Like others the only thing I wouldn't do is put last names on there. And as Tammie White mentioned, video is probably the best because, obviously, the reviews are real (fake testimonials on video or in print are so obvious.

Jan 24, 2015 12:01 AM
Lyn Sims
Schaumburg, IL
Real Estate Broker Retired

I've recently tried to get a large amount of clients to write me testimonials on Z because they can be added to other sites. Guess what - my clients are refusing to add them because they hate Z.

I like the all around comment to have them all over the place. It seems that if you have your clients go to one site it would be stuffing the box so to speak. I'm going to request G from now on considering how this last Z thing ended.

Alot of people on Yelp seems to have fangs & are really nasty. I really don't want to be associated with that tone. I like it & add reviews I have to agree with Kathleen.

Jan 24, 2015 06:44 AM
Evelyn Johnston
Friends & Neighbors Real Estate - Elkhart, IN
The People You Know, Like and Trust!

These sound like good solid suggestions, thank you, but what about someone who has an activerain account and doesn't even put their own name so people know who they are talking to?

Jan 24, 2015 11:54 AM
AZ Mortgage Broker: Michael George
Arizona Wholesale Mortgage Inc. - Phoenix, AZ
AZ Mortgage Rates

Evelyn Johnston - wait? You don't know who I am?!? How is that possible? Just kidding. You are absolutely right. I only get to login to the rain every couple of months, and I swear I used to be called Michael George, but maybe I made a mistake when I was editing my profile. In the future, you will know my name.

Jan 25, 2015 01:32 AM
AZ Mortgage Broker: Michael George
Arizona Wholesale Mortgage Inc. - Phoenix, AZ
AZ Mortgage Rates

Kathleen Daniels and Lyn Sims and and Shannon Milligan, Richmond VA Real Estate Agent - this is why the comments section is important, right? If Realtors have had bad experience with Yelp, I can understand that. If it doesn't work for you, then definitely don't use it. However, exactly for the reason that Shannon mentioned- which is Yelps overly-aggressive review filter- that Google trusts it. You will notice, not so much for Realtors, but if you search for certain professions in Google- the top rated Yelp profile (for that profession) is on page one of Google. So Google likes Yelp and trusts Yelp reviews. If you can make it work for you, I highly recommend it.

Jan 25, 2015 01:38 AM
AZ Mortgage Broker: Michael George
Arizona Wholesale Mortgage Inc. - Phoenix, AZ
AZ Mortgage Rates

Tammy Emineth - I don't know... Like I wrote above, Yelp has a really aggressive review policy. Are you 100% sure the mortgage broker had genuine clients write genuine reviews (without coaching) from their home IP addresses? I can tell you one way that I've never seen a Yelp review get "filtered"... If you want the review to stick every time, the client will check-in to the business using the Yelp app on the smartphone. If Yelp has a unique device ID (clients phone) and a GPS location to prove they were there, that seems to override the filter every time. I once had an attorney who (before he hired me), set up a "review kiosk" in his office. He would have the clients sit down at a computer and write a review for him. Of course, all reviews came from the same IP and Yelp punished him forever. But again, for your guy, ask him to have clients check in at the office when they visit and he will waive the application fee or whatever...

Jan 25, 2015 02:14 AM
AZ Mortgage Broker: Michael George
Arizona Wholesale Mortgage Inc. - Phoenix, AZ
AZ Mortgage Rates

Praful Thakkar - if you put reviews in images on your front page (as I recommend), then I wouldn't have more than 3 or so. We don't want to slow down your site. But if you have a testimonials page, (and you should), you would use actual text, because we wouldn't be worrying about the "content dilution" that I mention in the article. And, when following a formula like that, I wouldn't limit the number of reviews or words at all!

Jan 25, 2015 02:16 AM
Rich Cederberg
eXp Realty - Albuquerque, NM
eXp Realty Agent Albuquerque

Brilliant idea Michael, using an image to display the reviews. Right now I have maybe two sentences on my homepage with a link to more reviews. I'd love for clients to see more about me when they land on home.

Feb 03, 2015 01:02 AM
Fred Hernden, CMI
Superior Home Inspections - Greater Albuquerque Area - Albuquerque, NM
Albuquerque area Master Inspector

Nice posting Michael, Thank you for the tips!

Feb 11, 2015 02:34 AM