Testimonials For SEO – Don Charisma’s Guide To SEO

As someone who’s built many websites, I’ve often been called upon to include testimonials. Why ? Well there’s a certain class of customer who will look for testimonials. Testimonials are a way to develop trust with customers, and trust is part of promoting. A testimonial is psychologically a form of “social proof”, like, if other people reckon he’s good then he must be. So testimonials are important to businesses for these reasons.

In promotion and of advertising, a testimonial or show consists of a person’s written or spoken statement extolling the virtue of a product. The term “testimonial” most commonly applies to the sales-pitches attributed to ordinary citizens, whereas the word “endorsement” usually applies to pitches by celebrities. – source: wikipedia


I was recently asked if I would prepare a testimonial for one of the guys who trained me as a diving instructor, he’s a PADI course director. He’d recently switched jobs from one dive centre to another. We left it that he’d get his boss, the company owner to contact me, which hasn’t happened. So I haven’t as yet sent the testimonial over. I thought in the mean time I’d share it with you guys, plus what I’ve learn’t regarding writing testimonials for SEO.

The Pope - Endorsing Mariani Coca Wine
The Pope – Endorsing Mariani Coca Wine

Note: Mariani Wine contained coca, yes the stuff that’s in cocaine. It was endorsed (and consumed) by the at the time pope 🙂 Check it out in Wikipedia for more info !

A testimonial is a kind of reference and an endorsement. They are often written altruistically for people who’ve helped us in our lives and in our business perhaps. A plumber who fixed the leak that no one else could or the IT guy who built the website for us for a fraction of the budget quoted elsewhere and in half the time. For example.


As a writer (or promoter) testimonials are something that we probably should be getting paid to do. Why ? Well – 1) we’re helping the business we give the testimonial to, to build trust with their customers. 2) Keywords in the testimonials are often picked up by search engines and this helps the business receiving the testimonial – a) increase there position on search engine rankings and b) as a product of higher ranking get more traffic and therefore customers. 3) If we’ve provided contact details with the testimonial, then we may well be contacted in order to verify that we are real and genuine, which takes up time and resources.


SO, I’ve pretty much explained the SEO angle. Testimonials are a way of getting more content onto a website without making it look overcrowded – testimonials ARE relevant to most businesses. They build trust with customers, well the ones who believe testimonials! They also often contain *valuable* keywords which helps with ranking the website, therefore in getting traffic and therefore getting customers. So it’s an SEO opportunity not to be overlooked.

Some businesses actually just write their own made up testimonials. I don’t personally recommend this, because basically you’re lying to people. But it does go on, often. Maybe if you’re starting a new venture and hadn’t had any relevant customers yet or don’t have anyone to ask, then you could start with this approach. But then quickly replace the phoney ones with real ones as soon as you have them. Your call, I don’t recommend, but up to you.

My suggestion would be to offer your customers or whoever is writing your testimonial some kind of incentive. Say you’re a plumbing firm – offer them to refund the labour once you’ve received the testimonial. When you get the testimonial send them a cheque as a “refund”. Why ? Well you’re asking someone to do something “altruistic” for you, so it’d be polite for you to reciprocate. Good manners really. But some people don’t seem to have any – check this out I wrote about an SEO firm trying to get free backlinks for Etihad Airways


Testimonial for “John Jones” (PADI Course Director) BY Don Charisma

I’m keeping names out of it for now, so I’m writing about John and details will be generic. For a testimonial you should try and include as much information as possible about the testimonial giver. So for me as diving instructor giving a testimonial it might be :

Name : Don Charisma
Address : WC2, London
PADI Cert # : 1234567

Obviously you can add to that maybe a photo, email address, skype etc. But please bear in mind that many people want to keep their privacy. So as a person asking for a testimonial, DO ASK what details can be included and don’t assume – that’s the quickest way to lose a testimonial, and maybe even a friend if you publish without permission. You need to judge this based on your relationship with the person. Ask, and don’t make a problem if the answer is no.

John Jones also gave me a little coaching on what he’d like in the testimonial. I don’t imagine this originated from him, probably more likely from the web developer, the SEO firm or the boss. This is what he asked for :

  1. Maybe a short overview of why you wanted to be a professional.
  2. The period you spent at my previous place of employment and at what stage we met.
  3. A little bit more about the actual IDC and your belief of what you gained along with some comments on myself as with regard to knowledge, approachability and general demeanour.
  4. A brief mention of how you felt in preparation for your I.E. and the outcome. Also, if you can remember my participation in that.
  5. Finally post I.E., how you believe you were prepared to go into the world of Instructing and where it lead you. Also any personal comments you would like to add.

Sheesh, I thought you said testimonial, not 2000 word essay ! … Anyway, a little explanation –

  • IDC is “Instructor’s Development Course”, it’s a PASS/FAIL two week course one undertakes prior to taking the IE “Instructor’s Exam” which is a two day intensive written and practical exam, again PASS/FAIL.
  • The “Professional” referred to is a diving professional, ie a diving instructor (or divemaster or course director).
  • PADI is “Professional Association of Diving Instructors”.


So, look, that’s the background information, here’s what I wrote.

Testimonial for “John Jones” (PADI Course Director) at NewDiving dive centre

John was one of my course directors when I was doing my IDC/IE at OldDiving dive centre. I attended OldDiving dive centre, learning my way from Open Water Diver up to instructor, in a total period (on and off) of around six months. John first came to my attention more via the grapevine than an actual meeting – his reputation preceded him. A lot of the other students looked up to him as an example of how they’d like to be. When I first met him I was a little in awe, but he quickly reassured me that he is down to earth and whilst a course director, also a nice person.

I’d always, since my first “dip” into scuba diving wanted to pursue it further, I loved the “freedom” underwater and the ability to see so much more than what’s possible with a snorkel only. It took quite a long time to get myself organised (and the courage) to pursue my diving professionally. I’m the type of person that likes to be reasonably comfortable and settled in my life. So I decided to do all the pre-requisite PADI courses (Advanced Open Water, Rescue Diver, Divemaster etc) at John’s previous employers diver centre OldDiving – all in one place.

John’s strengths for me are his ability to maintain authority whilst still being a friend and his ability to keep things simple and always have a second way to explain something if I didn’t get it the first time. He’s also very passionate and determined about HIS students passing their IDC and IE. In other words, you’d have to work very hard at failing in order to fail. Work hard, earn his respect and he’ll bust a gut making sure you pass.

Taking non-diving-instructors and turning them into instructors is a challenging job, takes dedication and a lot of skill. For the student it’s a bit like learning to drive a car, first you need to learn to pass your driving test, then you learn to drive. Same with PADI, we have our own way of doing things, and you must learn the-PADI-way in order to pass. John’s knows this very well and partly down to his persistently pushing me back onto the PADI path that I was so well prepared for my Instructors Exam.

The Instructor’s Exam is tough, PADI don’t want idiots passing, which makes sense. The PADI examiner for the IE wasn’t/isn’t my favourite person, but in reflection fair. It was a gruelling 2 days, completely exhausted by the end of it – it does push you to and beyond your limits. John isn’t able to help directly during the Instructor’s Exam, because that would be cheating. But he was definitely there for every step, present and willing/cheering us on. He’s also humble enough to carry our bags and gear when we’d run out of steam.

Since passing my Instructor’s Exam, I like many other PADI instructor graduates decided not to make it a full time career. For me, I love diving, but not to the point that I want to work 6 days a week, 12-14 hours a day at it. I’m happy to go out and dive when I want to, on my own terms, as a diver or dive leader. So I’m not instructing at present. In all honesty it was a challenge for me, to push myself, have some fun and learn more about teaching. Since completing my Instructor’s qualification, I am more confident and more able to lead others. This benefits in many areas of my life, work, family and friends. I also met my current girlfriend whilst diving, and she is awesome, very lucky to have met her. So definitely some fringe benefits to learning to dive professionally.

John and I have stayed in touch on Facebook and he’s asked me to write this for him. He’s recently switched to his new position at NewDiving dive centre – I wish him every success, and many happy diving instructors having passed under his mentorship.

Name : Don Charisma
Address : WC2, London, UK
PADI # : 1234567


Food for thought

It’s been suggested to me that inclusion of a downside might make the testimonial appear more authentic. It’s VERY debatable whether there is ANY value in this, because it’s so easy to spoil a nice piece of writing with a single criticism. Also if you pick something too minor, then a clever person will second guess this “trick”. If you pick something too major, then definitely the whole testimonial is a waste of time. So it’s possible that you might want to include a single downside, with a “silver lining”/”what I learn’t from this”. For instance :

The only drawback with John worthy of note is that he does like to be right, even when he’s wrong. What I learnt from this is that as an instructor now myself you have to have authority over your students, you must be able to put your foot down, even when you’re wrong. Otherwise you don’t get any respect from your students, and therefore won’t be able to teach them effectively. Students expect strong leaders, and strong leaders lead with conviction.

Probably as the testimonial writer I’d leave that out, but you get the general idea. Also as the testimonial receiver you may want to discuss the dis-inclusion of such paragraphs with the testimonial writer. Your call. Think about *any* potential customer reading it on your website, and not just the ones who look deeper than the surface. Could make a trashy scuba-diving connection here, but I’m not going to ! (deeper, surface)


For bottom feeders (summary readers)

Testimonials are a great way to help promote your website and contribute positively to it’s SEO. Testimonials are best if they are authentic, and the writer is given a little coaching on what’s needed to be included. Why ? Because it gives them a structure to work from and an idea of the keywords that would be useful to include. Testimonials should definitely be written in a positive upbeat format. Consider downsides in the testimonial, but think very carefully about their inclusion, as it’s a dangerous game – I’m not entirely convinced of the benefits vs the risk myself.

Happy POLE POSITION on Google 🙂


Don Charisma

NOTE: The above is (c) Don Charisma 6-Mar-2014 and MAY NOT be reproduced without my express permission. Reblogs and shares using official WordPress buttons excepted.

Resources & Sources

Mariani Coca Wine – Copyright Expired – See Wikipedia
Diving Bikini Woman – Wikipedia CC
Other images – morgueFile

Notes for commenters:

Comments are invited. BUT you are reminded that this is a public blog and you are also reminded to think before you press the “post comment” button. 

Good manners are a mark of a charismatic person – so please keep comments civil, non-argumentative, constructive and related, or they will be moderated. If you feel you can’t comply, press the “unfollow” button and/or refrain from commenting.

I read ALL comments but can’t always reply. I will comment if I think there’s something that I can add to what you’ve said. I do delete without notice comments that don’t follow rules above. For persistent offenders I will ignore you permanently and/or report you.

Most decent people already know how to behave respectfully. Thank you for your co-operation on the above.

Warm regards, Don Charisma

39 thoughts on “Testimonials For SEO – Don Charisma’s Guide To SEO

  1. I really enjoyed this post and learning more about testimonials. Much can be applied here to all forms of written recommendations. Thanks, DC, and have a terrific weekend!

  2. I would give testimonials if asked…I thought it only fair to do so…but sometimes found it difficult to find out what the new job required of the candidate so could not tune it as I would have wished.

    By the by, whichever Pope is that?
    It looks like Leo XIII….

    1. It’s strange for me that was always called a “reference”, but seems that some people are calling a work reference a testimonial. For me as I understood it a testimonial is given in business. And of course as an employer happy to give references provided people have treated me with respect, as I indicated to Irene … but I have often found that people don’t know common courtesy, seem to expect a reference however they behaved, and I’ve refused on a couple of occasions.

      Yes well spotted, it’s Pope Leo XIII …



  3. I was always more comfortable when my clients wrote testimonials for me off their own backs on LinkedIn as they could only be written by that person and there was no question about whether they were real. I think the value of testimonials depends on your business; my business was built on confidence and trust and testimonials, especially verbal testimonials, made a big difference.

  4. You are right, we need to think very much before just writing testimonials. It is so easy to include things, as were not needed.
    When I was in charge both to hire and say goodbye to workers, it was also nice to deliver testimonials for them as a help to find their next job. And this is not as easy, as it sounds.
    When you say goodbye, you often have a reason to do that and sometimes it is personal. Then it can be a challenge to give testimonials.

    Thanks for sharing.

    1. For sure, I had people working for me in my business in the past. One lady just literally just walked out, no notice, just got up and walked out, didn’t hear from her again … until … she wanted a reference from me.

      You are welcome Irene, trying to encourage people in their SEO/promoting skills …

  5. Good post. Since you obviously know about these things I’d like to ask a question. I found two of my posts on another website, not a WP site that credited me as author. When I clicked my name it just took me to the other of my posts on their site. I didn’t know they could do that without being notified. It was listed under syndicated. Their site was copyrighted and they are a profit organization. Should I be worried?

    1. Thanks Teela … I know a little, but don’t know everything …

      My posts I’ve found syndicated, reblogged, reposted etc elsewhere, generally I don’t see any harm intended … for instance bloglovin pick up my stuff off RSS and they are basically just a site for people to read all their blogs in one place, a good thing …

      If the work has been creditted to you, and they are not trying to pass it off as their own and they are linking to you then that sounds like a compliment and helping you promote yourself …

      Which site was it ? (perhaps I’m on there too !)



      1. I’m with you Teela, they haven’t asked for permission, they don’t seem to say who you are properly (seems like you’re someone in their organisation), they haven’t paid you for using your stuff, they don’t link to you … I’m feeling slightly annoyed on your behalf !

        Their motivation seems to be SEO. Presumably they either can’t be bothered or don’t have the skill to write their own material so they’ve “scraped” (yes it’s a technical term) your content off your blog and put it on their own. Rationale, Google will see that they have loads of articles on relevant subject matter and rank them higher so they get more page views and presumably customers.

        You’ve read I think my post about commerical freeloaders on behalf of Etihad airways trying to get free SEO. This is along the same lines. It may not actually have even been the firm themselves, it may have been an outsourced SEO firm that did it.

        BOTTOM LINE – how do you feel about it, do you want your stuff on their website, do you support their cause. If so contact them ask for a proper author page, bio, links to you sites, FB, Twitter, WP, Google + and maybe request payment for using your work. Might be an opportunity for future work. I don’t know.

        If you don’t support their cause, don’t like them and entirely pissed off that they are using your work, virtually plagiarising it and you want it removed without notice and for them never to do it again. Then you need to contact the webmaster and ask for removal. If this isn’t effective, then I think you’ll need to look into DCMA notices and also perhaps contact WordPress, I do know that sometimes they take up cases like this, but long shot (cases I heard of WP getting involved where different, involving DCMA being used fraudulently).

        It’s maybe something I could blog about as I think it would be in people’s interest to know, but obviously I’d need your permission before doing so, as it’s not my stuff that’s been posted in their site.



    1. You are very welcome, I like to throw a few ideas in together and chef them up into something nice to eat 🙂

      Where do you like to dive ?

      Warm regards


      1. I dived in Phuket n Maldives as my niece is a diving master.Under her training I learnt but never got a chance to go through padi,but my son is on his third level.Some day I’ll get my chance,place doesn’t matter to me.Were did u dive?

      2. Ah nice places to dive, probably maldives better 🙂 … Most of my diving done in Thailand, but I’m not doing much at the moment …

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