Stop using testimonials. Now.

Never use fake testimonialsI know. All of you marketers out there want to include testimonials on your micro sites, landing pages, online media and Facebook pages. Don’t. I’m begging you not to.

“But, Dave! Consumers are more likely to trust another person’s review of a product than what the brand says about itself!” Aha! You said review, not testimonial. That’s the distinction. It’s the word testimonial. It’s poison and you should endeavor to stop using it. The general belief among consumers regarding testimonials is one of skepticism:

Reviews and comments are genuine; testimonials are not..

Most people believe testimonials were written by the company, and that names in the testimonials are probably those of employees, their spouses, etc. At the same time yes, consumers certainly trust each other’s words over that of brands.

Worse still, do a search for the phrase, “testimonials are fake” or “I write fake testimonials” and you’ll see that many marketers and companies wondering if they should write fake testimonials. They are often answered by others who not only admit to using fake testimonials, they recommend using them as traffic drivers! Make no mistake; it is illegal to use fake testimonials. [See the Lanham Act, Title 15]

This makes the fix simple. Never use the term testimonial in your marketing. Use “reviews” or “comments” instead. This is especially important in the headers above the content. Headings appear in search and search engines use them to help organize data and give you smarter results. Consumers search on the term “reviews” constantly. Testimonials rarely shows up high in search. That alone is a reason to use reviews as the heading. And please, only use real reviews from your customers.

What terms have you found to be effective?

Additional Reading
30 Ways You Can Spot Fake Online Reviews [The Consumerist]
How to Spot a Fake Testimonial []
When Fake Testimonials Cost a Company $300,000 [The SEO News Blog]
Fake Testimonials & the Ethics of Freelance Writing [Grow Your Writing Business]
The Legal Ramifications of Posting Fake or Paid Reviews Online [PracticeDock Blog]