Any transaction is based on trust, whether you're deciding to buy some software or reading the reviews for an upcoming movie. If you can't find any information about the product or service you're interested in, or if the source is dubious, there's a good chance you won't spend your money.

The need for trust is heightened for websites. Readers and customers are leery of websites that don't look trustworthy, and for good reason. There's a lot of dodgy websites out there that raise alarms, but also many professional, welcoming sites that grow their presence by building trust. 

Utilizing testimonials is a powerful way to build trust and show off your website to new customers or visitors. People are naturally skeptical, yet they trust what they read. They trust online customer reviews just as much as they trust professional editorial content. They're even more likely to trust recommendations from someone they know.

Here's how and why testimonials win over hearts and minds.

1. Photos Add a Personal Touch

Science shows that people trust faces more than anonymity. It's easy for a company to, gods forbid, make up their testimonials and other claims. To stand out from the rest, you should use photos whenever possible to highlight that there's a real person behind that testimonial.

Seeing a photo of someone makes people empathize, even if the subject is a complete stranger. That empathy is a good emotion for building trust that can create conversions.

The photos don't necessarily have to be of a person, depending on your website. Saddleback Leather, an online retailer, shows off customer photos taken in exotic places. It makes the products look compelling, and the photos are interspersed with words of praise from customers.

Testimonials photos add a personal touch

Shopify has a more traditional — yet just as effective — take on customer testimonials with photos at the bottom of their front page.

Customer testimonials with photos.

2. Videos Add Even More Personality

Photos are a great touch, yet it sometimes pays to go a step further with video testimonials. But let's be honest for a minute: producing a quality video can be both labor intensive.

However, a great customer testimonial video can help tell your story better than any other bit of content marketing. It also might not be as difficult as you think, as a low-budget video shot on a webcam can rack up the views as long as the content of the video is compelling.

What makes video testimonials such a good idea? It all comes down to the attention that potential customers will give a video compared to writing. The retention rate for video is 65 percent, but just a meager 10 percent for anything text-based. That means people forget 90 percent of what they read. Furthermore, videos are expected to account for 74 percent of all web traffic by 2017.

The Slack messaging service produced a video that shows the potential power of a professionally produced customer testimonial. Their two-and-a-half-minute video has attracted almost 1 million views and is one of the company's most popular videos.

Video testimonials

For less budget-intensive solutions, you can reach out to customers to give honest (yet amateur-looking) testimonials via webcam. Don't scoff at this method, as some companies have been very successful taking this route.

3. There's Strength in Numbers

A personal touch is an effective way to highlight a testimonial, but showcasing an abundance of customers also works. That's how reviews on Amazon are often presented, and that method definitely proves how compelling a high number of reviews can be.

CJ Pony Parts, a seller of car parts, does this on their website with pages and pages of testimonials. It might be a good idea to include the option for customers to leave their own testimonials, as it can be an easy and quick way to highlight what customers have to say. Of course, be sure to screen the testimonials for trolls before posting them online.

A good number of testimonials

4. You Can Build Authority with Your Best Contacts

People trust testimonials from people they know. While we don't have the luxury of sharing the reviews of a potential customer's friends or family members on-demand, the next best thing might be highlighting a testimonial from a brand or well-known person.

If people see a brand or person they know speaking highly of your website, you can bet they'll be more likely to trust your site.

ClearSlide, a sales platform, does this extremely well. Their testimonial page is full of people from well-known companies like The Wall Street Journal and Comcast Interactive Media. When you see big-time names like that, it's easier to trust what the website is offering.

Well-known companies testimonials

5. More Details Make for a More Informed Buyer

Most ideal testimonials are short and sweet, as customers and visitors have short attention spans. However, there's a time and place to go into enormous detail with the perfect customer. If you know someone who can go into detail while still sounding genuine, you can go a long way in building trust with others.

Even if you have one amazing-yet-lengthy testimonial, it's a good idea to round out your testimonials with some shorter ones, as well. Some customers might not bother with one long testimonial, so a number of shorter, eye-grabbing testimonials help.

Hubspot offers the best of both worlds by including an excerpt from a customer’s testimonial, and then linking to their full review. That’s a great way to catch a customer’s eye while offering more details to someone more discerning than most.

Testimonials with more details

6. Relevancy Means Targeting the Right People

If your website is for a multifaceted service or a variety of products, you want to make it easy for each type of customer to find out what they need to know. Buyerzone accomplishes this by breaking down the testimonials into separate buyer and seller sections.

Target the right people.  Break down the testimonials.

Breaking down the testimonials by category saves time and ensures that the readers don't miss what's most relevant to them.

7. Testimonials Strengthen Relationships

Testimonials are designed to win over new customers and readers, yet they come with the side benefit of strengthening existing relationships with key customers.

When you ask a loyal customer for a testimonial, you're demonstrating both trust and gratitude to them. There's something intangibly nice about being asked to do a testimonial when you have a long and positive relationship with a business.

Give Testimonials a Try

Trust is one of those few things that money can't buy. That's why trust is so valuable to any website. A strong testimonial page is worth the time and effort. You'll find that out once your page is up and running.