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Friday, May. 14, 2010 at 2:25 pm

Conversion Optimization: How Being Wrong Can Lead to Good Insights

By Natalie Hart
May 14th, 2010

Google Image Result for http___schools.evergreenps.org_199420611231125463_lib_199420611231125463_dumbteacher.gifI had an interesting testing experience with one of my clients recently.  After looking closely at the data, I formed my hypothesis, and made a recommendation for a variation to test…and it underperformed the original version!  I was WRONG!

Now, I don’t expect to be right with every test (in fact, that’s WHY testing is so important), but my hypotheses are based on real data with a strong analysis behind them…and I have never been THIS wrong.  Was I losing my edge?!  Nope.  I just didn’t consider that the change would be outside the online “comfort zone” of the visitors.

The site was geared toward an older demographic, and while much of the site might be considered out of date, even messy, by someone who is proficient using the internet, the change I had proposed was too drastic to be tolerated by this specific site’s targeted group of visitors.  In short, I wasn’t speaking their language.

When I first started practicing conversion optimization at FutureNow, I heard an experienced analyst say to a client, “I know optimization, but you know your clients, so always feel free to speak up!”  Now I truly understand what he was saying.

Technology, online expectations, and even optimization are constantly evolving.  We’re always looking for inventive ways to persuade visitors to convert, new tools to use, and fresh techniques to share with our clients.  So, it’s easy to get wrapped up in the new and advanced.

But, this test taught me that the newest, most effective tool doesn’t necessarily translate into big wins for all sites and all audiences.  Understanding your visitors, and the language they use, is the first step in optimization. For example, a technology company who is marketing itself to other businesses may find success using web copy for persuasion that would severely hurt the conversion on a retail site for at-home diabetes testing supplies.

There are many ways to understand who your visitors are, and some of them don’t even involve a computer.  When’s the last time you spoke with the folks in your customer service department?  If you can’t remember the last time, head on down for a chat. Better yet, listen in on a few calls.

There is a reason why customer service and sales agents are the first places we start when we do discovery for persona creation.  Visitors will often call when they want to make a purchase/get a quote/take an action, and are unsure how to proceed.  Figure out where visitors are having the most difficulty on your site, and then note the language they use to describe their struggle or their goal. Does that same language appear anywhere on your trouble pages?

Here’s a straightforward exercise you can do to design a fruitful test. We call it the “Three Questions Exercise.” Pick a page you’d like to improve, then follow these steps:

Question 1: Who is on this page? Use the data collected from talking to sales and customer service agents, listening to calls, reading transcripts, etc..  What are your target customers thinking and feeling when they view this page?

Question 2: What action do you want the visitor to take? What is a realistic conversion (or smaller step; a “micro-conversion”) you’d like the visitor to take?  Don’t expect a new visitor to “buy now” straight from your homepage…pick an achievable goal.

Question 3: What does this visitor need from the site to feel comfortable and confident taking the action I want them to take? This is the hardest of the three questions.  But, put yourself in the visitor’s shoes, and it will be easier.

Once you’ve answered the three questions, form a hypothesis about what kind of language might better persuade the visitor to take the desired action. Again, use the data you gathered to make educated guesses about what might make the difference between taking the action, and taking an un-desired action like clicking a back button or leaving the site.

Speak their language. How can you re-phrase something (e.g. a headline, a link, a call to action button) using their language instead of yours?  Test this new language idea to see if it persuades more visitors to take the action you want them to take.  And most importantly, even if the test results are not what you’d expect, remember that taking the time to ask, “Why did that happen?” can make the test valuable.

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Comments (103)

  1. Good post, usually most marketers don’t spend enough time thinking about how to effectively pre-qualify their visitors an important step in the process of conversation, understanding the visitor is a very important factor.

  2. This just goes to show that even the best practices may not always apply. I think a lot of us get caught up in new things, and forget who are audience is. Great Post!

  3. This is a very great lesson indeed! Thanks for sharing. Others would not be brave enough to share their mistakes but it seems like the great lessons are learned through mistakes.

  4. Thanks, it is interesting testing experience .
    Yes, testing is very important.

  5. Using the user-centered (copy)writing is one of the areas where usability and conversion optimization meet.

  6. Good postit is interesting testing experience

  7. [...] Conversion Optimization: How Being Wrong Can Lead to Good Insights Published: May 16, 2010 Source: Conversion Rate Optimization & Marketing Blog | FutureNow, Inc I had an interesting testing experience with one of my clients recently. After looking closely at the data, I formed my hypothesis, and made a recommendation for a variation to test…and it underperformed th… [...]

  8. It’s the 1st basic step in marketing that all of us always forget: start out by identifying who your market/audience is.

    I like the “i know conversion and you know your market” line. that’s a nice attitude to adapt in every consulting gig.

  9. Very good post and specially helpful to professional testers. As complexity and size of website increase, testing becomes necessary.

    Nice Post.

  10. so true, at the end of the day the best optimization comes from truely understanding your customer base.

  11. Although it seems so simple, knowing your target audience is quite hard, en soooo important!

    Great post to emphasize this!

  12. Haha, I love those Randy Glasbergen cartoons.

  13. You know the cartoon is what I like it sort of says something about our world, but hey the article was good too.. thanks for the great info.

  14. What good would it be to always be right? :) Good post.

  15. Thanks, it is interesting testing experience .
    Yes, testing is very important.

  16. One of the best method I’ve discovered in past I’d would talk to Order-Taking Call Centers operators in your niche and ask them about reviews on your chosen niche products they usually answers your questions with really good feed back.

  17. How Being Wrong Can Lead to Good Insights

  18. Thanks, interesting experiences.
    Yes, testing is very important.

  19. Most things that are right are usually the result of doing things wrong at first and learning from those experiences.

  20. Thanks, good article..

  21. There is so much stuff you can do when it comes to conversions. I have tried many things and the thing that works for me is getting things wrong first in order to get responses from people which in turn makes my site much better. It is easy to do something good the first time, but how do you know what you did right if you never knew what could of been wrong?

  22. I think it is always great to learn from mistakes. I am constantly tweaking things to increase my conversions even though I am doing things the wrong way.

  23. The first step in improving conversion rates is to define the site’s objective – to sell products, disseminate information, generate click-throughs or provide customer service, for instance. With the site’s objective defined, it becomes easier to develop metrics useful to increasing the number of people who perform the most desired action.

    Mack

  24. how much testing you do normally?
    I change my headline 5-10 times.

  25. I seriouslt get HUNDREDS of emails a day (I’m in the home business industry) With people asking me about conversions and website optimization. They just don’t relize that the internet is a tough business! There’s to many people out there making it look like the internet creates millionaires like clockwork. Great post btw! :)

  26. Wonderful piece of article.
    I am a newbie- just launched a new site: grelohi.com some three months ago and have carried out two test on it. Slight change in visitors traffic was noticed.

  27. I can recall a similar thing happening to me once. And it ended with similar results. The demographics of who the client was going after dictated a certain look and feel.

  28. Usability – the man thing for any visitor to feel comfort.
    And… “Don’t make me think” – is any customer dream :-) ))

  29. Although it seems so simple, knowing your target audience is quite hard, en soooo important!

  30. I had an interesting testing experience with one of my clients recently. I’m in constant learning mode , After looking closely at the data, I formed my hypothesis,

  31. Very informative post, you can not be right at all time, most of time the you are correct and sometime you are wrong, such s life. And I think transforming a site must be a step by step process…

  32. Excellent site. Really good info. Well have to return several times to digest the content better as it’s very informative and helpful and I need to get a better understanding.

  33. Understanding your audience is so important! Customers are real people and want to be treated as such!

  34. [...] View full post on Conversion Rate Optimization & Marketing Blog | FutureNow, Inc [...]

  35. That is right on the money because you do not know your Clients Clients because you are not in their industry. I always ask my SEO Clients about their target market and how to communicate within their market.

  36. Thanks for your share, but nobody can be right all the time, we need to think and find another way….

  37. i am new in online marketing..thanks for the insights,it changed my point of view..i realized that i am not considering my visitor but myself..thank you..

  38. Even with thorough research and analysis I get cold feet when launching a web site redesign or a new section to an old web site. You have ideas based on how your research suggests how the audience will react and generally its on the money but there is always a thought in the back of the mind “What if my new web design isn’t liked”. Luckily so far it’s all very positive. Your three questions exercise has similarities to our R&D process.

  39. Test, retest and then test again. Not a new concept but still very relevant and IMPORTANT when it comes to online marketing. Thanks for the post!

  40. I can just agree. Since i am working with ruby on rails i just love testing! :D So its now one of the most important things within all my daily tasks. Never leave anything untested.

  41. Great Post! I just smiled by the word “online comfort zone”…so true! ;-)

  42. good info here. I read somewhere that you should ask the user what they did immediately before they visited your site, and then what they do immediately after they visit your site.

  43. Thanks Natalie, great insight into the subject of visitors’ psychology.
    Actually, one site just not have to be always ultra-modern, sleek — but its the product that I am selling and also the psychological behavior of targeted clientele that one should try to understand and do accordingly to be successful — that’s the lesson your post has taught me.
    Thanks for sharing such info.
    Cheers
    John

  44. good article.
    i am new in the SEO marketing, thanks for the insights

  45. Made me think how often I’ve been wrong especially about people. I’m quick to make assumptions about situations by first glance and often have to eat my words. HATE being wrong (I should be used to it by now tho)

  46. We have experienced similar problems with one of our projects. We are always trying very hard to rephrase all texts to actually match the language and expressions of our audience. Biggest issue are always CEOs or tech people who want their specific terms to be used (which nobody else knows nor uses of course). Usually those people can be convinced by experience (showcases) and results (CEOs like numbers…). The few tech people that still insist sometimes get a glossary with their terms and specs somewhere in the footer which makes them happy as well.

  47. The world of online conversion optimisation is a moving target. And many new best practices are often found by accident. It’s all one big accident!

  48. It has always been my mistake to focus on what i think. Having read this posts widen my knowledge on how can i make sales when visitors visits my website. Thank You

  49. I’ve split tested 2 of my sites for serif fonts and sans serif fonts.

    One site does better with one, the other does better with the other.

    That’s why we test.

  50. great post your experiances can help me in the future, test test test an test again thanks

  51. Thanks for the article, I’ll have to try some of these techniques

  52. It’s funny how mistakes can give great insight. With my own marketing efforts, I’ve often experienced the same thing.

    I personally cross test everything to find out what really works.

  53. You really have to ask yourself, if a wrong decision can eventually lead you to be stronger and wiser, than why worry so much about making mistakes.

  54. Its so hard to predict what the big guys will change over night so sometimes what may hurt you today when it comes to SEO and marketing, may help you tomorrow.

  55. It seems to be a proven conclusion that our professional opinions are wrong most of the time when it comes to these details. With that in mind, I do lots of variety, guessing, and testing, and do my best to never formulate an official opinion.

  56. My marketing guy just sent me a link to this article. We often discuss this topic. Fortunately I have a lot of face-to-face exposure to my customers, so we have a good sense of their technical skills, their word usage, and their attitudes towards online transactions. And, we constantly get feedback.

  57. Wow, great post – Thanks for the insights! I’ll definitely take these into account.

    It’s funny how the ‘wrong’ decisions can lead to the right outcome!

  58. Its so hard to predict what the big guys will change over night so sometimes what may hurt you today when it comes to SEO and marketing, may help you tomorrow.

  59. “How can you re-phrase something (e.g. a headline, a link, a call to action button) using their language instead of yours?”
    When I was in college, my teacher always passed database exercises in which students were required to translate a problem in the database in plain English, for whom the average user would be able to understand what was happening.

  60. I definitely love the post. When I was starting doing my optimization thing, I have the same questions as yours. It’s really hard to read people especially sometimes they have different expectations.

  61. Its so hard to predict what the big guys will change over night so sometimes what may hurt you today when it comes to SEO and marketing, may help you tomorrow.

  62. I really liked your point of view in conversion optimization. Thanks for making me understand about it

  63. It has certainly beeen my experience in any area of work that I have been in that I seemed to have learned most when I made a mistake of some kind.
    When all is going well we often forget to analyse what we are doing or question our methods. But once the wheel comes off we look at everthing from a different perspective and make fewer assumptions. This is where progress so often happens and real breakthoughs are made.

  64. great article, great job

  65. Oh! very good post and very useful information.

    thanks for share the good articles

  66. face-to-face exposure to my customers, so we have a good sense of their technical skills, their word usage, and their attitudes towards online transactions. And, we constantly get feedback.

  67. a similar thing happening to me once. And it ended with similar results. The demographics of who the client was going after dictated a certain look and feel.

  68. Using the user-centered (copy)writing is one of the areas where usability and conversion optimization meet.

  69. Really good info. Well have to return several times to digest the content better as it’s very informative and helpful and I need to get a better understanding.

  70. Great Post! I just smiled by the word “online comfort zone”…so true! :)

  71. Customer oriented talk always results fruits. But the way how one can tune to it is the big matter. This post has given good insight towards it. This topic centered on patience and attitude of individual.

  72. Testing is the golden rule when you want to improve an system or process. There is always more to be learned from those trials. Thanks for sharing your experience and providing more insights.

  73. You gotta figure out where they are leaving from in terms of exit pages and why they are leaving those pages.

  74. this article makes me wonder, some people can`t take a negative comment, not knowing that failing can lead to greatness. Everyone should read this and learn from it.

  75. The first step in improving site conversion rates purpose – products, disseminate information, generate click-throughs to sell or provide customer service for example is defined. Site, with defined purpose, that those who most wanted to increase the number of actions that is easy to develop useful metrics.

  76. You’re right… very thought provoking! It always amazes me when I hear a powerful story like this.

  77. Conversion Optimization depend on experienced of specific webmaster, not for all

  78. Yuyao Chaoyue Metalwork co.,ltd is a trading company,They Specialize in sale enamel product series and Nonstick Cookware and enamel ware product series.

  79. Very great insight. I think I am loving to visit this blog more often.

    Thank you for sharing the post. I am looking for more in the future

    - Felix Albutra

  80. Speaking in your customer’s language is probably the most important step in having a successful transaction with them. As long as communication can stay fluid and the work remains quality, a good relationship can be built and kept for a long time.

  81. Fantastic article! I initially discovered your blog a few days ago, and I website the exact same day. I have a number of cool thoughts for some future posts you could write. I’ll shoot you an email later. Keep up the great work.
    ——–
    friendyomi222

  82. This post gave me some ideas, good ones.
    Thanks for your post.

  83. this was a really quality post.I wasn’t aware of the many ripples and depth to this story until I surfed here through Google! Great job.

  84. It’s easy to get so wrapped up in your own efforts and lose contact to your customer. Thanks for reminding me of how it’s supposed to be done.

  85. Excellent post. The three questions explained in this post are really very important to understand the visitors and to convert them. Thanks a bunch for this great resource.

  86. Although it seems so simple, knowing your target audience is quite hard, en soooo important!

    Great post to emphasize this!Ha

  87. Great Narration Hart,

    I just believe that every plan that propose doesn’t mean to be successed. It is always the way to know more things and perform better in upcoming tasks. and yes, when it comes to optimization, you definitely need to know customer base and their opinions on the product or services. we can’t expect positive response always from the customer. but if you read your customer’s mind you can perform better than the present plan.

  88. Being wrong can lead to a great deal many things, including more wrong things if you don’t correct yourself. Mishaps not learned from, don’t have to write themselves.

  89. “Learning from mistakes” is always a good way for improvement. The article provides some great insights that even bad experience can be good :-)

  90. I think the 4th question must be; “bookmark or forget” the site.

  91. Speaking in your customer’s language is probably the most important step in having a successful transaction with them. As long as communication can stay fluid and the work remains quality, a good relationship can be built and kept for a long time.

  92. Try to speak your customers language. This solution is simple but effective. It goes to show a little research goes a long way. I will keep these important questions in mind for the future.

  93. [...] Source:Conversion Optimization: How Being Wrong Can Lead to Good Insights Share and Enjoy: [...]

  94. hahaha….love to see this…..
    good job…..

  95. Mistakes are the portals of discovery. That’s why there is the so called trial and error. Having an experiment with a particular variable may sometimes lead to a variation of results. It’s better to do an experiment with a group of data for you to be able to compare and analyzed more. Thanks for sharing this article with us.

  96. If you aren’t testing, then all that you are doing is throwing stuff against a wall to see what sticks…..

    Even by doing the bare minimum amount of tests, you will increase your conversions by many multiples

  97. Conversions are always the most important thing to customers and clients.

    Unfortunately–clients and customers often have the most convoluted and incorrect views on what it takes to make conversions.

    Especially people who are trying to sell software. -___-

  98. Problems in commuincation really only occur when you make bad choice in clients.

    I mean, I know you can’t always choose; but a certain level of selectiveness tends to save me boatloads of stress and trouble.

    Sometimes you just gotta say enough is enough. I’m sure anyone in the industry has a horror story of a client who was never satisfied, even when it was their own ideas that were being materialized for them.

  99. [...] View the original article here Tags: conversion, false, insights, optimization [...]

  100. An excellent post that opens the eyes and ears of everyone. Not enough people pay attention to certain aspects of social media marking.

  101. Conversion Optimization is a very important issue it can not be overestimated.

  102. This just goes to show that even the best practices may not always apply. I think a lot of us get caught up in new things, and forget who are audience is.

  103. One of the best methods I’ve discovered in past is talking to Order-Taking Call Centers operators in your niche and asking them about reviews on your chosen niche products. They usually answer your questions with really good feed back.

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Natalie is a Persuasion Analyst with FutureNow.

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