There are many ways to improve the search engine optimization of your website. One of the best ways is to use social proof to convince users about the validity of your products and services. Many of the factors that influence your brand recognition, ad effectiveness, authority, and trustworthiness are affected by how you use social proof.
Without requiring you to get a psychology degree, social proof is a psychological phenomenon whereby people act in a certain manner according to what they see and hear from other people. The influence this phenomenon has on people’s actions makes it a powerful tool that can be used in the marketing of your business. Making proper use of social proof means understanding how it works and how it influences your site’s SEO.
We’ve put together this guide on social proof and how you can improve its use and hopefully improve your trustworthiness, authority, and conversion in the process. Social proof is not something that normally comes up when people talk about SEO, but can be used regardless of the different approaches to SEO that you take.
First, we’ll explain how the concept of social proof applies to marketing and some of the types of social proof that can be used on your website.
As we stated at the beginning, social proof is a psychological thing that compels people to act because of what other people are saying and doing. This means that from a marketing perspective, people will want to visit your site, buy your products, or complete whatever task it is you want them to do if they see that other people are doing the same. This shouldn’t be confused with pure popularity. Being popular alone doesn’t compel people to do things, though there is a measure of influence that popular people have over others.
Social proof is more powerful than keywords and other tools that were once commonplace. Social proof comes in many forms and marketers now prioritize it over other methods as a means of improving traffic and authority at the same time. This works because Google calculates domain authority in part by how important a business seems to users. If users are talking about a particular business online or referencing it in social media, then Google assumes the site has more value and this raises the site’s domain authority.
Much like brick and mortar businesses operate on word of mouth advertising, this is the online equivalent, though it reaches many more people and comes in many more forms.
Next we will talk about the types of Social Proof, where they come from, and how they can impact your site.
So that you have a better understanding of how to properly use social proof, we’ll break down some of the different types of social proof and where they often come from.
We all know about these. They’re on every business listing site, stat page, and most every business has a direct link to where customers can post them right on the website. The fact is, online customer reviews are so powerful that they can make or break a business depending on how many positive or negative reviews a business gets and how far they spread.
Having plenty of positive reviews is one of the ways you can grow your website’s online authority without keywords. Positive reviews are so important that almost every site on the web has some form of review function. The problem is that aside from providing excellent products and services, businesses have no direct control over the reviews they get. This means that negative reviews can also come in and can be equally as damaging in the eyes of the public. Social proof is all about what users think about a business and if the prevailing opinion even appears to be negative, that’s all that’s needed to dissuade users from visiting your site, using your services, or buying your products.
While you can’t control the reviews that users leave, you can highlight positive reviews on both your website and your snippets. Showing off that you have a high rating on Google My Business through asking for reviews gives you some control over your public profile at the very least.
Testimonials are another form of online review that allows businesses to showcase reviews from actual customers or users. They usually come in the form of positive statements about the business that the business puts front and center on their webpage to show off to other customers while they are scrolling. Here’s an example
“XYZ Dentists were professional and helpful and made the entire experience pain free!!” – John Doe
When users see this type of statement they feel like they can relate and it incentivizes them to seek out the services of the business in the same way. Rather than trusting an unknown business, they look to other people who are like them and then act based on the information they receive. This is social proof in practice.
This type of proof is particularly effective in fields where users may be speculative about products or information and feel like they want experts to weigh in so they feel safe. You see this often when talking about businesses that sell medical products or products that promote safety benefits and other claims.
These can come in the form of statements on your websites from accredited experts, certifications from experts in your field, and other awards, certificates, and commendations that prove you know what you’re doing. These can even come in the form of social media posts and statements from experts that endorse your business or products.
While celebrity endorsements carry a certain level of weight on the web, expert opinions are valuable for winning over skeptical users and establishing authority in a space. Whereas other types of social proof can drive traffic and even increase sales, only certain types (like expert opinions) can actively improve your domain authority in a way that doesn’t directly involve manipulating SEO. In other words, expert opinions are more about user trust than search engine optimization.
There are essentially two ways that you can use important stats about your business to promote yourself and engage customers in a social manner. Printing valuable data right on your website lets users who visit see the important things about your business, such as reviews, awards, new products, testimonials, and more.
This information isn’t just for showing off; it gives customers more information about your business and more importantly, the right information can be persuasive and even help convert them.
Rich snippets are another way to use valuable information. You can display this information when your search results appear and users will learn more about your business and be more likely to click. If they can see at a glance that you have loads of positive reviews, tons of awards, or that you’re rated highly for your customer service or other such information, it gives potential customers a reason to check out your business over potential competitors.
There are likely positive things about your business that you can display to potential users either in snippets or on-site that will entice them to click or even help persuade them to convert.
This can be trickier to use than other types of social proof, but the basic idea is that if users see that large numbers of people buy your products, trust your info, or visit your site, they are more likely to give you a shot. This can be referenced on your site by listing sales numbers, traffic statistics, or other information that shows that you have the support of large groups of people.
Statements like “over 3,000 patients agree xyz dentists are the best in town” give the idea that many people trust a business and can sway user opinion. It’s not quite the same as mob mentality, but people trust when many people are saying the same thing. Similar to reviews, though, negative crowd consensus can have the opposite effect as well.
If you know your metrics, you can use the information to build crowd consensus data about your business and give users a reason to click on your site.
Not to be confused with expert opinions, these are labels you can place on your business to stand out to customers. An example would be a cosmetics company that has all its products certified as cruelty-free. Displaying this certification attracts customers.
The important thing about certifications is that they are legitimate and issued by unbiased and respected 3rd party entities. Customers see these and know that your business has earned the respect and trust of these 3rd parties, and that must mean that they are worth doing business with.
Finally, we’re going to talk about ways to improve your social proof.
Now that you know about some of the types of social proof, where they come from, and their benefits, we’ll teach you how to go about improving your own social proof so that you too can take advantage of the benefits yourself.
If you don’t already have lots of reviews for your business on your website or business listing sites, then asking for feedback is one of the simplest ways to get them. Many sites employ this tactic, either after the point of sale, during the conversion process, or through email. You can even offer incentives such as a coupon if users leave a review or complete a survey that includes feedback.
You can politely ask and many users will oblige if you’re upfront and honest, and you can even request to use customer statements as testimonials on your web pages.
Service providers often request reviews after service and use them to promote their business. Once you have a substantial number of positive reviews, you can display them in your snippets as further social proof.
If you have the opportunity to speak with experts in the field and have them test your products or services and give their opinions, you can use those opinions to endorse your business.
Real expert opinions go a long way to building user trust. Depending on the industry you’re in, having expert testimonials can make more of a difference to user conversion and driving traffic than all the SEO tactics you can muster.
Like we talked about during the explanation, you’re not bragging to your potential customers about how successful you are, you’re giving them a reason to choose you over your competitors. If you have more traffic, more successful transactions, more happy customers, or more sales, you can use that as a way to tell people why to do business with you.
You can use catchphrases, social posts, and ads to show off these stats or post them directly to your site and snippet. Presentation is key, in this case, giving stats along with a statement as to why you produce those numbers, such as having higher quality products, better service, or more experience, will go a long way in proving to users that you’re the business to go with.
Now, we don’t all have the power to get movie and t.v. stars to endorse our brands, but the power to attract even local or minor celebrities can help to improve your business and your trustworthiness.
Think about the reach of your brand and who you can get to endorse your product. This includes endorsements on social media and ads. Even local media celebrities like news anchors and business owners in the community can carry enough weight to drive business to your site.
Local activists, political leaders, and community supporters are also a good choice. People like those that they can recognize and who have a good reputation. The more you build your brand, the more your reach extends, until you too can attract big celebrity endorsements. Until then, work with what you have, and don’t neglect endorsements just because you can’t book Dwayne Johnson.
This is useful on social media. People trust the things their friends trust. Having a social media presence, if users see “12 friends like Dave’s Tacos,” they just might be willing to give the business a try too.
Another way to use this philosophy is through crowd proof. If you can show off that large numbers of people are doing the same thing, then people are more likely to convert simply because so many others have given it a shot. Leverage the volume of your business and the people who are already fans of you to attract more customers. This type of social proof can have a large impact on your traffic if you can build trust by showing why others already trust you.
We see this in almost every type of business. Whether you’re an HVAC technician or a farmer, having certifications to back up your business automatically makes you more trustworthy, but only if you tell people about them. A person could claim to be a doctor, but without those all-important degrees on the wall, many people aren’t likely to take him at his word.
It may take some work and even cost some money, but many times the extra effort to acquire certifications can pay huge dividends when it comes to customer acquisition and conversion, besides the immediate impact on trustworthiness. At the end of the day, people want to be sure that the business they are dealing with knows what they are doing, no matter what industry it’s in.
There you have it, our guide to social proof, what it is and how to improve the social proof on your site to win over more customers. Social proof can sometimes be a tricky thing to manage, but more and more SEO agencies will tell you that social proof is quickly becoming one of the most important things a business can do to improve its performance.