There are billions of websites on the Internet, all competing for attention. How do you make your website stand out from the crowd?
Recommendations are an ideal tool which can help any website to become more prominent in the eyes of its visitors. People instinctively place trust in someone if they
receive a good recommendation from someone else that they already trust. But how do you trust a recommendation or testimonial that is simply left on a website?! It
could have been written just for the purpose to deceive or mislead visitors! In fact due to a lack of accountability, many unscrupulous website owners misuse the freedom
of the web by posting testimonials for their services and products which are not quite genuine. Because of this, many people are cynical about testimonials, making it
difficult for genuine ones to stand out from the fakes. Thus, an excellent tool that could help decent and legitimate businesses has become hijacked. The more interesting
phenomenon is that the better the testimonials posted on a website, the more anxious and untruthful it may seem to the visitor.
The solution for the above problem must be well structured and free to avoid bias and manipulations, and an all-win scheme. This website presents such a solution.
- Win for the website visitor as they can confirm the quality of the website, product and/or service which they are considering.
- Win for the website owner as the visitor can confirm the authenticity of the testimonials on their website.
- Win for the testimonial-giver as they receive a back-link to their website, thus increasing their traffic and search engine ranking.
In the solution all parties involved in the testimonial process only have to tend to their own responsibilities within it, and can be safe in the knowledge that the
process is fair. The website owner retains the control over their website and the testimonials published on it (in difference to other schemes). The website visitor
can be 100% sure that the testimonials are genuine as he/she is able to authenticate them. The testimonial-giver receives a credit for his effort to make the testimonial,
which is expressed in a higher rank of their website in search engines, and visitors coming from the testified website. The solution is described in details in the
Authentication Protocol for Website Testimonials
section. Other testimonials schemes which in general we do not
recommend are noted below.
There are several online services attempting to address the testimonials problem by collecting buyers’ opinions on the behalf of the website. One such solution is
, among others. Such services are possible solutions which may be very good for some
type of online businesses, but they also have inherent problems associated with them, one of which is the cost. Some of these services are quite expensive, starting from £99 GBP
per month for less than 3000 reviews and the price often rises progressively. On the positive side, this type of solution provides feedback, and what is particularly good from
the website visitor’s point of view is that both positive and negative reviews are accepted and published. Another positive feature is the larger number of reviews that they
should facilitate (provided that is a large number of purchases).
However, as mentioned, this type of solutions has a number of drawbacks. The fundamental problem with them is that their model is centralized and artificial. Therefore it is necessarily
inconsistent and also expensive (as we saw), inflexible, not necessarily truthful, representative or impartial. For example, both, website owners and visitors have to trust the central
"authority". In this situation, the middleman "authority" has a lot of power, which is never a good thing. From the website owner's point of view, control over their own website
at this level is lost for as long as they are using the service. To see the fundamental inconsistency of these types of solutions, we will look at a fictional case. Suppose that there
is a large company holding the market of some gadget; a small new company emerges on the same market with a superior product and subscribes to one of these services. The large company
is not interested in competition or wasting much money to change their production, so they decide to buy this type of gadgets made by the small company from shops around the world where
they is sold, thus making the sales to look as though from genuine customers. Thus say the large company purchases 50,000 items from the small company, but they leave a negative review
with each order, then they stop buying – no-one would now buy from the new company since they would see 50,000 negative reviews on their testimonial page. This is in fact the same principle
in which monopolies use to squeeze competitors out of the market. Although this is only a hypothetical scenario, it demonstrates the inherent flaws in a centralized and unnatural system
provided by these types of services. It also worth mentioning that there are also a number of other problems and expenses associated with these systems, including extra technical and art
work of the website subscribing to these services.
There are other solutions, such as websites designed for leaving reviews, and websites such as http://download.cnet.com
members can leave reviews. However, as with the above example, neither of these solutions have proper structural models. Therefore, depending on the circumstances, reviews can range from informative
to damaging and outright untruthful. It suffices to say that typically the business model of these websites is based on gaining revenue from advertisements. The looseness of the comments and reviews
added to these services makes them unreliable and untrustworthy sources of information. Further, psychologically, without an incentive most people would make the effort to make a review only when they
are very dissatisfied and wish to complain, or are "blown away" but rarely when they simply receive something that does what it says on the tin. In conclusion, it is possible that a company could
employ a person to simply create accounts on these websites and place positive reviews for them and negative ones for the competition. This could be multiplied if they pay a few dollars to a group
of students looking to gain some easy money, and not to mention what a robot equipped with a decent spinner could do in just one hour. Some of these services simply accept payments to write and
publish reviews according to the requirements of the client. Currently a freelance writer charges on average about $10 for a 500 words review.
Website seals of course should not give any credibility to a website, but for completeness we will briefly discuss them. Many people mistakenly believe that a website seal is a symbol for the
trustworthiness of a website. Of course this is not true at all. Provided that a website SSL seal is valid, it only means that the website can utilize secure-layer protocols and transfer information
encrypted to capable agents, for example the customer credit card details are secure while transferring them. It does not mean that the company will actually fulfill their promise for the goods
or service for which the visitor is paying. An SSL seal can be bought for as little as 4.99 USD.