Social Proof: What Is It, and Why Is It Important for SEO?

When was the last time you went shopping alone? Or you believed the store owner’s advice before making a purchase?
Well, we all have our shopping partners. And the opinions we believe either comes from our friends or previous customers.
The business sector has evolved over the past decade, and so has the consumer class.
Consumers today believe in smart buying decisions. Their decisions come supported by reviews and validations from other buyers or the people they trust.
A study says, 50% of consumers research on their smartphones while making a shopping decision at a store.
Another study says, 82% of Americans seek recommendations from their friends or family before buying a product/service.
Now, these numbers are still small when considering offline shopping!
For instance, when you buy clothes from a brick & mortar store, you can try a dress or feel its material. However, that is not the case when shopping online.
And that is when you switch to previous buyers for genuine reviews.
If most buyers support a product/service with positive reviews, you will inevitably make a purchase.
According to a survey, 97% of consumers say online reviews influence their buying decisions.
Another study says, 88% of buyers trust user reviews similar to personal recommendations.
We need a sense of validation or Social Proof for our buying decisions.

What is Social Proof?

Humans, as we know, are described as social animals. We feel a need to be socially acceptable for our decisions and choices.
And therefore, the opinions of the people around us, consciously or subconsciously, influence our buying decisions.
Now when buyers shop online, they need a sense of assurance for their choices. Here is where social proof comes into the picture.

Some of the common questions buyers have are:

  • Which is the right product/service for me?
  • Will this meet my need?
  • Is this the best deal?

And social proof can be the answer to these questions. Any reviews, ratings, or buyer experiences related to the products/services you are searching, is social proof.
Social proof is a shortcut your brain chooses while making a decision. It can help you make an informed decision without the hassle of learning from your own experience.
Whether you are choosing a restaurant or booking a trip plan, you depend on social proof.

Social proof can come in different forms, some of which include:

  • Customer reviews & ratings
  • Influencer endorsements
  • Testimonials from social media trendsetters
  • Social media popularity

*Note: We will discuss the types of social proof, in detail, in an upcoming section.
When a majority of buyers trust a product/service, our brains automatically trust it. And marketers use social proof to influence our buying decisions and market better.
For instance, McDonald’s shouts, “Over 99 Billion Served,” on its golden arches banner.
McDonald’s uses social proof remarkably on its billboard. (AP Photo/Gene J. Puskar, File)

Importance of Social Proof

Other’s opinions and actions influence the consumers a lot nowadays. And therefore, building social proof for your business is extremely important.
For instance, a new business might be offering the best product online. But until someone confirms and affirms the quality, you would not buy it.
The more positive reviews the business gains, the more likely it is to grow.
A study reports, the average consumer checks ten reviews before buying a product/service online.
Today, with the growth of social communities like Facebook, Instagram, and YouTube, we access social proof more effectively.
On the other end, social influencers have revolutionized the reach of social proof.
Content from influencers gains eight times more engagement rate than the content shared directly by brands.
This stat explains the importance of social proof and how it can impact the growth of a business.
A good testimonial about your product from a famous brand is highly valuable. It can bring you more business than a clever copywriting ad copy.
Because if a brand recommends you, the customers who trust that brand will also trust its recommendations.
Even when it comes to creating a perfect marketing pitch for your business, social proof plays an inevitable role.
Social proof aligns itself as a USP for your business. It can be your customer count, ratings, certifications, or trust badges.
Human psychology revolves around social acceptance. We need a sense of approval before we make a choice.
A statement like, “we are a trusted business,” would not make much impact until you back it up with social proof.
Consumers will believe your customer’s opinion about your business more than yours.
According to a study, 70% of consumers will trust a recommendation from a stranger.
Today, most businesses plan an eminent part of their marketing investment around building social proof.
Social proof is the way you validate and simplify your customers’ buying decisions. It is a crucial strategy to win in the competitive business world.
The more social proof you create, the higher are your conversions and sales.
Social proof does help you with your marketing and sales.
But do you know that it helps with your SEO as well?
Let’s move to the other section to know how social proof impacts SEO.

Role of Social Proof on SEO

Social proof has a stellar impact on your conversion rates. And a part of this impact is also evident in your SEO and rankings.
A) Frequent Fresh Content
Content serves the basis of SEO, and search engines appreciate fresh content.
Now when customers add testimonials and reviews on your website, these are also considered fresh content. And search engines appreciate it, especially when they add more frequently.
Now many reviews on your site are likely to include your product-specific keywords. These make your website more valuable for search queries related to your product. It would be a push forward for your SEO efforts.
Furthermore, when you receive reviews for your business on other listing or social platforms, they always link back to your website. And this also adds to your social proof and SEO efforts.
Therefore, a company should encourage more testimonials and reviews from its customers. One can also ask niche experts to review their products.
B) Website Authority
Now there have been long debates about the direct impact of social proof on a site’s SEO. But when it comes to authority, social proof can play an important role.
Experts believe reviews and social mentions can significantly impact a website’s authority.
For instance, if you launch a must-have product and your customers like it, they would be excited to review it.
Most people will post their experience with the product on your website or social media. It will get you good brand mentions on different social media platforms.
And every time someone mentions your product, you are likely to get a link back to your site. It will boost your backlinks count, adding to your domain authority.
Moreover, if your product gets mentioned by bloggers on high DA websites, you can draw high-quality backlinks from there. It would be a boost for your domain authority and social proof.
You can go for prominent media coverage and paid influencer endorsements. It will grow your brand awareness, product sales, credibility, and social proof.
And this all will eventually build your brand authority in your business niche.
Search engines will also notice your growing brand popularity. They are likely to appreciate it.
C) Improved Rankings
So as your domain authority grows and your website receives new content in the form of reviews or testimonials, your position in the SERPs grows.
Now, when users add reviews for your product, they are likely to use long-tail keywords related to your product. These would also be the keywords that people generally use in their search queries.
Therefore, gradually your website content becomes more relatable with common search queries. And eventually, your website is triggered more often for these search queries. Thus, increasing your traffic and sales.
With this, as your product review count grows, the search of [product + review] becomes popular. And this search trend would be a benefit for your business.
So, social proof directly or indirectly impacts your SEO and rankings.
A well-known example of this is the Fidget Spinner Success Story:
Fidget spinner was a simple spinner that became a viral, must-have toy of 2017 within days. It was owing to the toy’s high social proof that made it so desirable.
The toy rose from no search volume to over millions of searches within a month. Some estimates say manufacturers shipped over 200 million fidget spinners to the retailers.
This story proves that social proof can effectively influence search trends and SEO.
So, the next question is how to use Social Proof? Marketers use different types of social proof. These are according to the nature of a business and its target audience. The next section discusses:

  • The various types of social proof
  • How to use social proof for growing sales and rankings.

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What are the Types of Social Proof?

As with the growing influence of social proof, every marketer wishes to leverage it at its best. So, here are the main types of social proof and the tactics to use them:

1. Testimonials

Testimonials are one of the most common types of social proof. Adding relevant testimonials on your landing pages can help you grow your conversions.
These testimonials should be specific and should not sound generic. And they must come from the customers that mimic your target audience.
Businesses use video as well as text-based testimonials. Research says people usually trust the testimonials with photos of real people.
With this, a simple testimonial on the sales page can boost the conversions by 34%.
However, testimonials are less effective than other types of social proof.
Most consumers know only stellar testimonials make up a landing page. And the bad ones are always buried deep, never to be found.
92% of consumers believe non-paid recommendations over paid advertising. So specific testimonials can help them make purchase decisions.
Some B2B websites also feature an exclusive testimonials page to show project-specific testimonials.
Many marketers believe a testimonial is more valuable than a smart sales copy.
One industry that uses testimonials most effectively is the health & fitness industry.
We almost daily come across feeds or ads like – “How ‘brand_name’ helped me lose weight in just 30 days.” And these ads/posts strike our conscience every time.
A clear testimonial (like the one in the image above) can work better than a sales pitch. The testimonial above clearly states the quality of a product. And it also describes the customer’s experience with it. Such testimonials can help other buyers make an informed buying decision.
A testimonial from a previous customer inevitably compels us to take out our wallets. And therefore, marketers should never miss out on using testimonials as social proof.

How to Use Testimonials for Boosting Sales and SEO?

  • Get in touch with your previous customers and ask them about their experience.
  • Request your customers to share a good testimonial about your product/service. Ask if they can recommend your business online.
  • Keep your testimonials as specific as possible. A testimonial like “they are a trusted business” wouldn’t do much good for your brand.
  • Try to quote your customer’s genuine experience to make it more legitimate.
  • If you have served a famous blogger, you can ask him/her to write about you in his marketing materials. It can help you get good business reach and grow sales. Moreover, getting a backlink from a good blog site improves your SEO and rankings.
  • Use good testimonials as ads and promote them on social media. Share these with your email subscribers and to boost customer loyalty.
  • Place testimonials on your landing pages, product pages, and marketing materials. Do not shy away from showing good testimonials related to your services or products.

2. User-generated Reviews

User reviews are different from testimonials.
Testimonials are cherry-picked customer reviews that praise a brand. While user reviews are unfiltered, they can be good or bad.
User reviews describe the real experience of a user with the company.
Owing to their unfiltered nature, consumers consider user reviews more authentic.
User-generated reviews are more effective than many other types of social proof.
Positive customer reviews can give your business a much-needed boost in less time.
82% of buyers consider user reviews critical while making buying decisions. Moreover, 44.7% of women feel customer reviews heavily influence their buying decisions.

Now each business has its way of displaying these reviews.

  • Ecommerce businesses display user reviews on their product pages. These are their ideal landing or sales pages.
  • Local businesses display reviews on Google, Facebook, and Yelp.
  • Software companies display customer reviews on Google and business listing sites.

One needs to decide how these reviews can reach their target audience in the best possible way.
One of the best ways is to use social media platforms like Facebook, Twitter, and YouTube.
As for 50% of consumers, the immediate next step after viewing a positive review for a business is to visit their website.
When you see the above image, your brain automatically compares the listed restaurants. The first listing has the highest reviews and decent ratings. It makes them look like the most promising option. If the first restaurant uses a screenshot of its Yelp reviews & ratings on its website or social profile, it would be an effective social proof.

How to Use User-Generated Reviews for Growing Sales and Rankings?

  • Be open to feedback and ask your customers to review & rate your business.
  • List your business on popular listing sites. Customers like to rate local businesses on sites like Yelp and FourSquare.
  • Try to list your business on more than one platform. Consumers check 2-3 different sites for reviews before making a purchase. Therefore, putting all your eggs in a single basket would not work. With this, getting brand mentions on different platforms elevates your SEO and rankings.
  • Display authentic and unfiltered reviews from users on your website. Now, in this case, you need to collect a majority of positive reviews. Negative reviews work against your business.
  • Build an effective online review management strategy. You don’t just need to attract more reviewers but use it as an engagement opportunity. You can use your wit to turn negative reviews into positive reviews by responding to them. 89% of consumers love to read business responses to user reviews.
  • Use screenshots of these positive reviews in your marketing material. Use these in your marketing emails and social media posts.

A business owner must try to attract abounding positive reviews. And should invest in finding the right reach for these reviews.

3. Case Studies

So, imagine your product or service has helped a client solve a crucial problem. Or your product has helped him meet his business goals.
How are you going to convey and present this successful story? Through a case study, of-course!
A user-generated review or testimonial would not be able to justify your efforts. Nor can it tell the detailed client experience.
Therefore you need social proof like a case study. Akin to a blog, a case study gives you the right canvas to represent a detailed client story.
Most B2B companies consider case studies as one of the most impactful social proof. With this, B2C businesses readily use case studies for expensive services and products.
A case study (like the one displayed in the image above) can be stellar social proof. This case study example uses images, the client’s story, opinion video, and results. These elements clearly show how the business met its client’s requirements. This social proof can offer great conversions on the website and business proposals.

How to Use Case Studies as Credible Social Proof?

  • Use case studies to feature interesting client stories. Show how your product/service helped them solve their challenges.
  • Build a product or service-specific case study. And display it on your website, landing pages, and marketing material.
  • Use images, videos, and infographics to make your case study more presentable. Display significant results in your case studies. It could compel your customers to make a purchase.
  • Promote your case study over the internet. Businesses draw high engagement by promoting video case studies on social media. Platforms like YouTube, LinkedIn, and Facebook gain good engagement on video case studies.
  • Search for popular brands or bloggers you have served. And ask their permission to feature them in your case studies. You can also ask them to share these case studies with their followers.
  • Add case studies to your marketing emails. B2B service-based businesses consider case studies critical for their business proposals. These are trusted lead magnets for service-based businesses.

4. Paid Influencer Endorsements

One of the most impactful forms of social proof is influencer marketing.
Today, a single Instagram post by Kylie Jenner or an endorsed review from the Kardashian clan can bring a budding business into the spotlight within hours.
Influencer marketing is at its peak! Today, consumers have great trust and love for their favorite influencers.

These influencers abridge the gap between businesses and consumers, who also happen to be their followers.

Influencer marketing is more effective as compared to user reviews. It is because an influencer is someone whom the buyers know, like, and trust.
PureLeef, a cosmetics brand, leaves no stone unturned for good social proof. The brand partnered with Kylie Jenner to promote one of their products. Influencer endorsements like these help brands get a great reach and boosted sales. PureLeaf here chooses the best influencer in its niche to get a good customer audience. Campaigns like this can help you grow sales by many folds.
Pureleef then reposted Kylie Jenner’s post on their Instagram profile and website, Thus establishing good social proof.

How to Use Influencer Endorsements for Growing Sales?

  • Connect with influencers or celebrities in your niche. And convince an influencer to endorse your products/services to their followers. It can help you convert your followers into your customers.
  • Find the right influencer for your business. You should know which influencer has an exceptional influence over your target customers. For instance, if you have a fast-food business, a fitness expert would not be the right influencer for you. Instead, the right choice would be a food blogger.
  • Some restaurants/hospitality businesses also gain traction by turning their customers into influencers. For instance, when a customer shares a pic of your menu or dish on his Instagram profile, your business reaches his followers. Thus, turning him into a mini-influencer for your business.

Influencer marketing can sky-rocket your product’s popularity. It also increases its search volume on search engines, which eventually benefits your SEO.

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5. Trust Badges and Certifications

All the awards and accolades you have earned for your services are your trust badges. You can display them with confidence on your website.
These trust badges are proof that you are good at what you are offering. They act as your USPs, setting you apart from your competition.
Users consider trust badges more legitimate as they come from third parties. These are sites or people who have reviewed your offerings and give you a stamp of approval.
The more prestigious this third party is, the more valuable is their trust badge.
Along with trust badges, businesses display the certifications they have completed.
These credentials demonstrate your capabilities to the viewers. And your customers get an assurance that they are purchasing from a trusted brand.
Adorebits, a technology service provider, uses its recognition as social proof. The company chooses to display it directly on its website header. Social proof like this boosts business credibility, setting it apart from its competitors.
The certifications and trust signals can vary for different types of businesses.

  • Product-based businesses might display a seal from the manufacturers.
  • While service-based businesses highlight government verified certifications and tech-verified credentials.

Businesses also display their compliance with standard guidelines and security protocols. It further induces a sense of respect and credibility in the consumers’ minds.
How to Use Rewards & Certifications as Social Proof?

  • Display your recognitions and rewards on your website. Most businesses display trust badges and certifications on their home page. These become key trust signals for their customers or site visitors.

SEMrush, a trusted search tool, uses trust badges as a prominent social proof. The company displays some eminent trust badges on its website’s banner. These develop a sense of credibility and trust for the brand.

  • Apply for recognized certifications and try to gather trust badges from prestigious reviewers.
  • Display the trust badges on your company’s official social media profiles.
  • If you have served recognized brands, you can ask for their permission to display their logo on your website. These logos act as valuable trust signals for your customers.
  • used this strategy by placing their client logos on their official website. It increased its monthly conversions by 400%.

Trust badges and certifications are nothing less than USPs for your businesses. These boost your brand value and bring visible growth in your sales.

6. Number of Reviews or Users

Experts consider crowdsourcing as a stellar social proof. When many customers post reviews about a product/service, we strongly believe their opinion.
For instance, if a product has over a thousand reviews, it is likely to catch your attention. Now, if a majority of reviews are positive, you will possibly buy it.
Crowdsourcing can be far more effective than a single curated testimonial.
Now, crowdsourcing works in two ways:
A) Number of Reviews
Imagine you have to choose between two competing products.
Now, one product has five times more reviews than the other.
What would be your choice?
Of course, the product with more reviews (given both products have similar ratings).
It can be almost impossible to dismiss this type of social proof. It is because a majority of people have a similar opinion about a product.
On average, shoppers expect a minimum of 112 reviews per product when buying online.
B) Number of Users or BIG Numbers
Businesses lead by highlighting brag-worthy numbers as their USPs. These social proof can vary based on the type of business-

  • An app brags the number of downloads
  • A tool shows the number of users
  • A blogger boasts the number of daily readers
  • A courier company shows off the number of successful deliveries
  • An IT company displays the number of projects delivered

Using these numbers as USPs can help businesses proliferate their sales significantly.
Canva, a popular design platform, displays its user count on its marketing materials. “10 million users” automatically builds trust and a sense of belonging for the viewers. It can be enough to tempt prospects to join the league.

How to Use Review or User Count for Effective Marketing?

  • Use BIG numbers (number of users or customers) on your website and landing pages.
  • Use them to attract your prospective customers. Many businesses choose to use these BIG numbers with each of their brand promotion ads. Some even place it on their banners and social media profiles.
  • Turn these numbers into a USP. Software companies list their project count on their landing pages as a USP.
  • Ecommerce businesses display their customer count on their application. It shows their brand’s popularity and credibility. With this, they show the number of shoppers currently viewing a product. It creates a sense of desirability for the product.

7. Brag-worthy Ratings

Ratings are considered as one of our first encounters with social proof.
Whether downloading an app or buying a product, our eyes look for highly-rated options. We can see ratings right there on any listings page, even before we click on a listing.
It is even before reading the product details or reviews. And therefore, ‘ratings’ are a crucial deal-maker or deal-breaker.

Akin to user reviews, ratings come unfiltered directly from actual customers/users.

How to Use User Ratings as Lead Magnets?

  • Depending on the nature of a business, marketers display user ratings at different places online. Local businesses use the screenshots of their Google, Yelp, and FourSquare ratings to display them in their marketing collaterals. These act as effective lead magnets.

For example, Sugru, the mouldable glue company, boasts its 5-star ratings from Trustpilot. The company displays this screenshot on its website as a prominent social proof. Social proof like this is most likely to influence a majority of viewers. And grow the company’s sales.

  • Apps display their ratings on the App Store or Play Store. While businesses show-off high product ratings on paid ads.
  • Ask each of your customers to rate your products/ services. It should be a part of your feedback gathering process.

Star-ratings between 4-5 stars can help your business stand out against your competition. With this, the number of reviews should also surpass the minimal count.

8. Social Media Followers and Engagement

The accelerated popularity of social communities has made social proof more impactful. Today, a business with higher social popularity is assumed to be a better option.
When a business has millions of followers, we believe it to be more reliable and competent. A big following makes it easy for businesses to attract higher sales.
Similarly, it is hard to attract the initial engagement on a post. But, when a post has crossed a significant number of shares, it is shared more readily by the viewers. It is also called the snowball effect.
A company with great engagement on its posts seems more reliable. And therefore, businesses employ influencer marketing strategies to gain more from social proof.
The above image shows the popularity of Mercedes Benz on Instagram. Popularity like this is automatically credible social proof for customers.
High social media engagement can help you promote your new product offerings with ease. When you launch a new product, your product-related posts will receive more shares.
More users would mention this product in their posts, linking it back to your site. It will not only grow your product’s popularity but also grow your site’s traffic and SEO.
Influencer marketing through social media is the fastest-growing customer-acquisition channel.

How to Use Social Popularity for Growing Sales and SEO?

  • Display social share buttons on your website
  • Try to build a good social media following and engagement.
  • Connect with social media influencers to promote your social profiles and gain followers.
  • Convert your social media followers into your consumers.
  • Build engagement on your social media posts with the help of influencers. Viral posts can help you boost brand awareness and eventually grow sales.

Key Takeaway

So, now you know social proof is crucial for business success. And as you embrace it, remember:

  • Trust signals convert into sales
  • Social proof simplifies purchase decisions and boosts conversions
  • Testimonials can perform better than promotional efforts
  • Reviews & ratings grow sales and support SEO
  • Case studies can boost conversions significantly
  • Social proof also elevates the SEO and Site’s Authority
  • Smart influencer endorsements can increase sales up to many folds
  • Your rewards & recognitions are precious social proof; use them as USPs
  • Customers react according to your social popularity and engagement

The examples used will help you experiment with different types of social proof. Find what works best for your business. And also remember:

  • Don’t populate your website with too many social proof elements
  • Too many elements might look spammy and untrustworthy

With this, if you wish to grow your sales or build a winning market strategy for your business, we can help. Connect with us.

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Joseph Schneider

He has spent more than 12 Years in strategising and executing SEO campaigns. He is interested to writing Digital-marketing, PPC and Social Media Marketing related topics.