Positive reviews and testimonials influence as many as 90% of buyers. If a product is reviewed favorably or you see a convincing testimonial, you’re more likely to believe it’s a good product and buy it. But are product testimonials reliable?
We’ve all seen suspicious commercials with testimonials from “real people, not actors.” We’ve seen long lists of five-star reviews for products we know are bad. So how do you weed out the fakes and find the trustworthy and reliable testimonials? And, as a business, how can you get these authentic testimonials and ensure they aren’t mistaken for the frauds?
7 Signs of Trustworthy and Reliable Testimonials
1. A Reliable Source
Some disreputable businesses pay freelancers to post about products or services they’ve never tried. Other businesses create fake profiles on review sites themselves and attempt to write fraudulent reviews. These practices violate review sites’ terms of service, and they break the law. However, there are several ways to validate a real customer’s identity;
- They have a non-generic name and picture, or videos.
- Their testimonials are attached to other sources, like a business website or a Facebook page.
- They have reviewed other products or businesses fairly.
- Their location, job, or other details fit with the business they’ve reviewed.
- They have a presence on the site, such as friends or other connections.
2. Pictures or Videos
A video testimonial shows the customer’s identity, making it much more difficult to fabricate reviews. Similarly, many review sites now allow customers to post pictures or videos with their reviews. While a reviewer might still be paid for a review, a picture or video of them using the product proves they at least tried it. This, along with other signs, can help to determine if a testimonial is reliable.
3. Verified Purchase
Realizing that deceptive reviews hurt Amazon’s sales and reputation, the company set out to find and stop fraudulent reviews. In 2015, Amazon sued over 1,000 alleged fraudsters and amended their terms of service to take a stricter stance on fake reviews. Now, reviewers must have a valid credit card and $50 worth of purchases before writing a review, making it harder to create fake accounts. Amazon’s “Verified Purchase” note also helps to validate authentic reviews; “verified purchase” means the reviewer bought the item on the site.
4. No Alerts
Yelp also sued fake reviewers, changed their terms of service, updated fake review filters, and instated new policies to crack down on fraud. One of these was an update to their “Consumer Alerts” feature in 2015. These “Consumer Alerts” now put red flags on businesses suspected of making up or buying reviews.
5. Well Worded
Since fake reviewers generally write a large volume of reviews for low pay, the reviews are short and sound generic. A fake review or testimonial will use a lot of dramatic language like “great,” “awesome,” “best,” or “loved it.” An authentic reviewer will likely take a more even stance, mentioning some things they liked and some things they didn’t. The review will be longer than four sentences, and mention results, features, or applications the reviewer enjoyed or disliked.
6. Good Spelling and Grammar
A review doesn’t have to be a college-ready essay to be authentic, but the spelling and grammar should be mostly correct. If it’s full of errors, it indicates the reviewer was in a hurry (perhaps because they were hired to write a lot of reviews) or the review was outsourced from outside the country. Correct spelling, punctuation, and grammar are simple and obvious signs of a trustworthy and reliable testimonial.
7. Specific Details
Someone who really used a product or visited a business will remember specific details about their experience. The customer doesn’t have to remember everything, but at least one of the following should stick out;
- Size: Size and proportions tend to be memorable. If a testimonial says a room was too small, a dress too big, or a plate very large, they’re more likely to be real reviewers.
- Features: Testimonials that mention specific features are more likely to be authentic. A note about an experience might be; “the contractor was always on time,” “the hotel room was a bit too warm,” or “the dress was so soft.”
- Story: A testimonial or review with a beginning-to-end story is unlikely to be fake. The reviewer might mention how they found the product, a feature they especially liked, and why they will continue to use it or come back again.
- Incidents: A reviewer that writes about something that went wrong, but then was resolved, such as delays compensated by a coupon or an incorrect delivery compensated by free shipping, is most likely real. This is one of the best hidden positive effects of negative reviews.
To make sure reviews and testimonials are trustworthy and reliable, many sites have tightened their rules. When asking for reviews on specific sites, make sure you’re not only following FTC rules, but also the site’s terms and conditions. This also rings true when collecting your own video testimonials for your website. Making sure your testimonials are authentic and helpful is an important part of building trust. With honest business practices, you’ll be protected from legal repercussions and prevent damage to your reputation.