3 Problems with Testimonials

It’s hard for me to trust the testimonial on your web page…if I read it at all.

I see three problems with testimonials on your website:

1) Few visitors read all that text

2) Testimonials may seem too self promotional for the social web

3) People trust people, not what they read on traditional websites

People don’t read much website copy anymore.  But when they do, it’s usually not the paragraph you posted about how “John Smith from Chicago” loved your service so much that he will highly recommend it to everyone.

Nowadays, if “John Smith” loved you so much, we’d see his comment on Facebook, recommendation on Linkedin, or review on Yelp.

If you agree with me that Web 2.0 is like an online convention, your testimonials are like loudly bragging about yourself to everyone who will listen at the welcome reception.  We all know how many friends that makes. This isn’t much different.

You must rely on others to tell your story.

The web doesn’t work the way it used to (not that people ever truly trusted the testimonials on your site), and people are now looking to see how your customers interact with you on Facebook, Twitter, and your blog.

Wondering what this looks like?  Here’s how one of my favorite brands is doing it.

Have a great night,



Like this article?  Subscribe to “Thoughts from an 8pm Warrior” via email

Published by Aaron Biebert

I'm a director, film/video exec producer, leader & 8pm Warrior. I am passionately chasing my goals at all times. I'm listening. Let's talk!

9 comments on “3 Problems with Testimonials”

  1. Hi Aaron,

    I’m sure there are many cases, especially in business-2-consumer marketing, where what you say is true. I’m not sure it’s as true in business-2-business marketing, though.

    As a B2B marketer, my experience is that customers highly value other customer testimonials. I recently delivered sales training in 8 countries around the world for a product called Windows Azure Platform. The number one feedback from approx 800 attendees was that they wanted more case studies and customer testimonials.

    It’s also my experience that those testimonials are very substantive and hard-earned. Business customers only give a testimonial when every last tiny detail has been delivered and every last tiny problem has been solved. After all that, the vendor has to get the testimonial approved by the customer’s public relations and legal teams. Make no mistake: a business customer testimonial is no small feat and means a lot! …much more than a random post on Yelp.

    BTW, here’s an article I recently published on the Top Four Sales and Marketing Trends in 2011. I’d love to hear how it compares to what you’re seeing.


  2. Brett, you’ve made an important distinction that I failed to make.

    B2B is definitely a different game and I think many companies have a bit more trust of an online testimonial since there’s so much on the line if someone is using a fake testimonial.

    Thanks for sharing your thoughts and B2B perspective. I appreciate it.


  3. Brett is right in some cases but as I reread your opening statement to make sure I read it correctly, you were talking about random testimonials apppearing on a company website. I agree with you, people don’t read a lot of text on a website. They are there to check out a product or do business.

    In the example Brett mentioned, I would see nothing wrong with a line stating that case study or testimonial information is available on a separate page if they choose to click through to it.

  4. Cheri, always great to hear your thoughts.

    Yes, I was primarily talking about the average B2C website like this one: http://www.gsflowrates.com/index.php?page=testimonials.

    There is too much information on a page and people don’t read that sort of stuff anyway [fact]. It’s not trustworthy except in the business to business world.

    My opinion is that testimonials are still vital, but should go on Linkedin company pages or something that is setup to be more transparent about who is saying what. It adds legitimacy and cuts down on clutter.

    Just my opinion.

  5. I hope you don’t have a problem with concise comments, because all I want to say is

    Yes to 1), 2) and 3).

    Let the people who are really interested in your brand, product or service find out what others are saying about them. That’s real and palpable.

    1. I definitely don’t have a problem with concise comments, especially when they are as supportive like yours. :-)

      I understand when people disagree with me on this, but I do believe that the world has changed and people must recognize that and make some adjustments at the very least. The 1990’s were a long time ago…

  6. I agree with this and most the time testimonials come of as fake even when they are real. If a customer is interested in what people are saying they will hit a search to find unedited actual user posted material.

  7. Hey Aaron

    Hear what ya saying – but I think the problem is NOT testimonials per se. But the kind of testimonials that people are getting (and using) and how they’re presenting that information.

    Firstly if you’re going to get a testimonial from someone, don’t ask them to provide a testimonial. Ask them SPECIFIC questions designed to elicit information that sounds authentic.

    I learned about this from my Mentor Sean D’Souza – if you search for his name and testimonials on Copyblogger, you’ll find an article that lists the 6 questions that you need to ask people.

    That’s the first thing.

    The second thing is that you should always get permission and include a photo of the person giving the testimonial – and list their website too. That way these people become ‘human’ to your website visitors.

    The best way to get testimonials is probably to phone your people up and record that conversation. And if they agree, post a snippet of that audio under the testimonial as well. That utterly reinforces the authenticity of the testimonial.

    Sean wrote an eBook about testimonials – if you’re really interested in how to use them in a compelling and convincing fashion, that’s probably the best place to start (after the Copyblogger article).


Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published.

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.