This is the 1st installment of our Deep Dive Into Local series in 2016. For the week ending Monday, January 11, Mary Bowling and Mike Blumenthal shared their thoughts about the previous week in local. David Mihm is on sabbatical through April. The complete video is posted in the Local U forums (paywall). In the second half of that video, they take a deeper strategic and tactical dive into one interesting area that caught their attention during the week.
In this discussion, we look at the role of testimonials and reviews as social proof and their value in SEO.
Mike: So that’s my news for the week. With that I think we’ll transition to our Deep Dive, and this week we’re going to be talking about reviews, testimonials, and social proof. Sort of riffing off Greg’s article at Search Engine Land. Do you wanna kick it off, Mary?
Mary: Well, in Greg’s article he talks about how everybody knows that you have control of the testimonials that are on your website and that you’re not going to show negative comments about yourself. You’re just gonna show glowing comments about you on your own website. And, of course, that’s true. That’s only human nature but I think that there’s a place for testimonials on your website as well as links pointing to reviews off your site to kind of corroborate those same sentiments. And I know, Mike, you have a case where the actual testimonial page is really doing a good job for your client, don’t you?
Mike: Right. Obviously, let’s look at Barbara Oliver, which I’ll beat that dead horse one more time. Greg sort of said that nobody visits the testimonial page, and that’s true if you don’t do good SEO on your testimonial page. And that’s both internal linking as well as potentially external linking to the page.
In Barbara’s case, the testimonial page on a brand search ranks right behind her home page and because we’re using rich snippets with GetFiveStars, of which I am a principal,(caveat of self interest here). Because it has the nice rich snippet and the stars showing, we’re seeing that 5% of all her new page entry points are through that testimonial page and almost 10% of all local page visits are to that page.
So she gets traffic to that page from both Google [sending] new visitors as well as internally from people from other pages on her site. So to Greg’s point that, “Nobody’s using the page,” I would say, “Yes, that’s true if you don’t optimize that page with a range of opportunities, schema, inbound links, outside links coming in and don’t position testimonials as appropriate social proof.” This is the point you made earlier. Do you want to speak to it about the need for social proof to be believable?
Mary: Yeah, a lot of times we see testimonials on a site, and all they have is some initials. It’s a little snippet of a quote taken from somewhere. We’re not sure where. We don’t know who the person is. So anything that we can do to make testimonials more realistic. To get people to trust them more by putting a photo, by putting a full name, a location. I mean, ideally a photo, a full name, and a location is going to lend a lot of trust to a testimonial.
I also see a lot of the value of these testimonials being not just on that page that if you finally build up enough authority you might get some stars in the SERPS, but to take them and sprinkle them all over the website, to put them in appropriate places. Comments about that particular service or product should be on that page to help offer some social proof as well.
Mike: Which also provides you with a customer-driven or reader-driven reason to be linking back to your testimonials from those various testimonials you’ve laid around the site.
Mike: Again, so it’s a technical as well as an aesthetic reason to do that. And at GetFiveStars, what we’ve seen with some of our largest customers, we’ve been pushing the idea of s a certified review as opposed to testimonials, i.e. where they have to show on their site all feedback, not just the positive feedback. And one of our largest clients has bought into this very, very assertively. They will be showing all feedback; good, bad, or indifferent. And they will have a slight delay before they show the negative. So they give the particular location manager opportunity to fix the problem.
In this situation, certain testimonials are now becoming owner-driven or business-driven reviews with customers that you know are real customers. So there’s not an issue of fake reviews. And as long as you abide by the law, the FTC, and reasonable practice with a policy, and show all reviews, they become a legitimate source of trustworthy, onsite feedback that sort of elevate beyond testimonials into owner-driven reviews.
There’s sort of a continuum of what is a testimony and what’s a review. But I think that in that case then they then take on additional value that can be used, like you said, for various other reinforcing SEO practices. For example, the way NearByNow takes feedback by geography so that you can have a page for one suburb, or another suburb, or a third suburb. And at GetFiveStars we’re planning on taking that testimonial by people, places, or things so you could have like a hairdresser or the salon. The salon would have their own reviews, but the hairdresser might have hers. Each of the hairdressers might have theirs, or doctors, or lawyers.
So there’s ways to use them in the context of SEO as well. So I agree with you that if you’re gonna do them that there’s a whole area of social proof that I think you need to understand and engage with. I would recommend [following] Angie Schottmuller if you’re looking for somebody in that area to read that really seems to be strong in how to use those for conversions.
Mike: She’s done a lot of A/B testing and stuff [on testimonials as social proof].
Mary: And I think this whole idea of reviews being certified, in one way or another, that consumers are becoming aware of that. For example, when I am looking at some travel related thing, I go to TripAdvisor because I know they’re a little bit pickier than a lot of other places are about which reviews they publish. The same is true of Hotels.com. You can’t leave a review on Hotels.com unless you’ve booked through them, they know that you’ve actually stayed there.
Same sort of thing happens with some product-driven reviews is you have to have actually purchased that product before you’re invited to leave a review about it. So those are only going to be become more and more important in the consumer’s eyes while these kind of fluffy, who knows where this review came from and if it’s real or not, are really gonna go away because nobody’s gonna pay attention to them.
Mike: Yeah, so I don’t think that the need for social proof will ever dissipate, and I think that when done properly on a website can offer benefits. Certainly if it’s done improperly, then I think Greg’s right, you might as well not have the page.
Mike: So with that, you wanna call it a wrap?
Mary: Let’s call it a wrap.
Mike: I think we’re gonna be doing Monday next week as well. Isn’t that correct?
Mary: Yeah. Mm-hmm.
Mike: Oh and then a final reminder. We have two events coming up. You want to talk about them?
Mary: We have an event in Williamsburg coming up on March 4th and 5th, and also an event in Seattle that’s part of MozCon Local coming up on February 18th and 19th. And I believe that the super early bird pricing for those is expiring today.
Mike: That’s correct. So today is the 11th. So in the case of Local Williamsburg when this goes public, it’ll be the early bird pricing, which is $699. Savings of $200 still until next month. So with that we’ll say goodbye and have a good week.
Mary: Thanks. Bye Mike.