What's the difference anyway?
There are lots of similarities between reviews and testimonials – but also a few fundamental differences that can be the cause of some confusion.
Both testimonials and reviews are extremely powerful, but as consumers become more savvy, and reviews become more prevalent (for your business and/or your competitors), positive reviews prove to be far more effective as a form of marketing. Here are the key differences between reviews and testimonials…
- Testimonials are fully within the control of the business. They might (or might not) be written by customers, but management gets to choose which ones to display.
- Reviews are in domains outside the control of the business. The business might encourage their customers to review them, but they can't control the type of review that's written*.
- Testimonials are always glowingly positive.
- Reviews can be positive, negative or neutral. Contrary to most people's expectations, less than 7% of reviews on WOMO.com.au are negative, however, these add credibility and depth to the feedback. Because of this, the odd negative review (or even the odd negative comment within a positive review) actually enhances a businesses' reputation.
- Testimonials are generally housed on the business' website and other marketing collateral. (More content on your website is good for SEO, but not as good as housing it on a separate, high-ranking website.)
- Reviews are housed on an independent website. As well as allowing the other differences described here, this also means that there is rich content describing your business (and hopefully linking to your website), allowing people that use different search terms to find your business and adding link-juice to your website.
- Due to the first-person writing style used in testimonials, consumers want to believe and trust in testimonials. 40 years ago, when we knew the names of everyone quoted, it might have been reasonable to presume that everything written was true (although not that nothing important was neglected). However, these days, our rational mind tells us that while testimonials sound convincing, they're essentially advertising written in a different style.
- Studies have shown that 78% of people trust consumer reviews above ALL other types of advertising and marketing (Nielsen). Next to direct word-of-mouth from someone they know, consumer reviews are the most powerful form of marketing.
It's tempting to think that these differences are inconsequential, but consumers instinctively know all this already! Although testimonials still have impact, consumers have become increasingly cynical towards testimonials and will look for independent sources of information about your business or your type of service.
*Note: Word Of Mouth Online Pty Ltd has a rigorous Fair Play Policy to protect unfair criticism of businesses and ensure reviews are fair to all parties. There are some sites that promote "reviews" but then allow businesses to exercise full control over what gets published. These are in fact, "testimonials". You know it and if they don't already, consumers will soon know it too!