The 3 Golden Rules of Testimonials

Do the testimonials on your website pass this test?

We recently sent out an email to our users that contained a made-up testimonial.

It was purposefully generic and meant to be used as sample text when trying out a new Pro feature.

“[NAME] is a talented go-getter, always adding value. Throughout our lasting work relationship, [NAME] has brought professionalism, creativity, and optimism. Looking forward to continuing on a path of success with this stellar individual. A true team player! ⭐⭐⭐⭐⭐”

To our surprise, this email created quite a stir — some excitement, some anger, but mostly confusion.

The reason:

As we wrote it, we meant for it to be an over-the-top, buzzword-filled testimonial that no one would actually want to use.

The reality proved to be quite the opposite. Many people saw it as an actual testimonial — and a pretty good one at that.

Seeing that this was an opportunity to reinforce what we believe makes a good testimonial, we decided to share a few golden rules to live by.

Rule #1. Make sure it’s specific.

Team-player. Proactive. Hard worker.

These are incredibly generic terms that could apply to almost anyone. And a buzzword-stuffed testimonial is just begging to be challenged.

These generic terms don’t do your actual qualities and contributions justice, so don’t use them.

Instead, use testimonials that give specific examples of the value you’ve contributed or the impact you’ve created.

Ask your endorser to include quantitative and qualitative benchmarks that add specific context to your work.

Example:

Jody is a proactive team player.
vs.
Jody was quick to notice inefficiencies in her team’s communication with other departments and created a process that saved her team several hours of extra documentation a day. (read: Jody is a proactive team player)

See the difference?

As a reader, which would you hold to higher credibility?

The more specific the details, the more powerful the testimonial.

Pro tip: When asking for testimonials, don’t be shy to ask your endorser to include specific examples!

Rule #2. Make sure it’s real.

Your testimonial should never include false information.

If someone gives you a testimonial that includes exaggerations or any claims that can’t be proven with solid evidence, leave it off your page.

Any kind of false claim will ruin your credibility.

Instead, make sure it includes real facts that are relevant to the work you did.

You may be rolling your eyes, thinking this is common sense, but you’d be surprised at how many people claim that the company would collapse without their endorsee — and have no proof of contributions to back it up.

Also, ask your endorser to write it in a human voice. If it sounds too marketing-y or sales-y, it may raise some eyebrows in suspicion.

Rule #3. Make it legitimate.

The attribution, or who the testimonial is from, is also quite important.

Not saying you need a quote from the CEO.

Just saying that the details included in your attribution can add legitimacy to your testimonial.

When posting your testimonial, you’ll want to include at least a first name, person’s title and company name as the endorser if possible.

If a title isn’t relevant to the kind of testimonial you’re getting, a defining keyword works as well. (i.e. haircut client in 2018)

Example:

Jody was quick to notice inefficiencies in her team’s communication with other departments and created a process that saved her team several hours of extra documentation a day.
- G.B.
vs.
Jody was quick to notice inefficiencies in her team’s communication with other departments and created a process that saved her team several hours of extra documentation a day.
- George, CTO at Teal Dolphin Media

The more context you can give about your endorser, the more it’ll establish the testimonial as coming from a credible source.

When you’re requesting testimonials and considering which to add to your page, keeping these golden rules in your back pocket will ensure that your testimonials are compelling and persuasive…and most importantly — real.

If you have an about.me page, Testimonials is a Pro feature and it’s free to try!

Curious about how to request a great testimonial?

Here’s a handy guide to help you out: How to get the best testimonials


Contributed by Melissa Brown | Melissa is one of many cheerful humans at about.me! When she’s not doing product marketing & customer success for about.me, she’s helping people with their careers! Check her out on about.me: about.me/melissabrown