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Why conversion optimization “best practices” are bullshit

Many people who run a blog or website attempt to pick the best layout, colors, wording, etc., all in an effort to optimize the amount of emails, sales, or any other conversion.

Many marketers and business owners are intimidated by conversion optimization, so instead they look for ways of optimizing their content, without testing. Others want to structure their conversion optimization efforts based on common conversion optimization best practices.

Conversions Optimization Bs Social

People want to know, what is the best color for conversions? What is the best checkout process? What can you add, or take away that will increase conversions?

Are there really any best practices in conversion rate optimization?

These are all great questions, and worth considering for your business since increasing your conversions by just a couple percentage points can supercharge your business’s profits overnight.

However, will a red button convert better than a green button – in all cases (or vice versa)? Is a large buy button better than a small button? Is there a typeface that results in the most conversions?

Some may claim that there are standards in conversion optimization. I don’t’ agree. I think conversion optimization “best practices” are bullshit. Read on before you make a snap judgment about this.

Two ways to approach conversion optimization

There are a couple of ways you can approach conversion optimization. The first thing you can do is you can learn from what others have experienced from their conversion optimization efforts, and implement those findings into your website.

The second thing you can do is test optimization change on your own website, with your own audience. Then you can use real world, hard data to make a conclusion.

Two ways to approach conversion optimization:

  • Follow best practices
  • Testing for yourself

I believe it is wrong just to follow best practices and test from there. It is also wrong to follow “industry standard” best practices blindly. Sometimes best practices will fail when you didn’t expect it to. Other times they may be valid.

So it is up to you to test your own audience. You need to have an open mind, as a “best practice” of optimizing your content could potentially be completely off base.

Examples conversion rate optimization “best practices.”

There are probably hundreds of best practices that people will recommend to optimize your conversions through your website or blog. For example, here are some common suggestions:

  • Add security badge on a checkout page
  • Have your CTA above the fold
  • Have your CTA as a button
  • Use strong language that Sells

Every audience is different

One thing you must consider with conversion optimization is that nearly every audience is different. All audiences are different and they all have a different psychology, different behaviors, different world views, different tastes, different reactions, etc.

So what does that mean? You must test, test, test.

Test your audience rather than relying on the perspectives and behaviors of an entirely different audience from a different demographics.

Take it from Abe

It’s important to focus on testing and optimizing as a continual process and journey, rather than a destination.

You need to test many aspects and continually do so until your conversions are optimized. Then once they are optimized, test again, measure and continuously pivot your strategy or optimizations.

Best practices may work for some sites, but in others, they may not. It is about questioning and testing everything.

Just like the quote from Abraham Lincoln:

You can fool all the people some of the time, and some of the people all the time, but you cannot fool all the people all the time.

Conversion optimization rate best practices may work on all websites some of the time, and some websites all the time, but it will not work for all the websites all the time.

What does this mean?

A “best practice” could work on most websites this year, in 2016. But maybe it won’t work for most of the websites, for 2017 and beyond because of a change in the cultural mindset.

It may also work for some websites all the time, meaning it only works on a portion of all industries, over time. However, a conversion optimization technique will not work in all time periods for all websites.

I hope that makes sense, but there is wisdom in that quote, and truth in this comparison to conversion optimization.

How a trust badge can hurt your conversions

As an example, it may be a best practice to show a trust badge on a checkout page. Something that says “this is secured,” or that there is SSL so that the customer’s information is safe.

This sounds reasonable, right?

If you show that it is a secure checkout, then people will trust it more, and any hesitation about shopping online may be put at ease because they see the seal of trust.

Well, according to some real world data, it has been shown that common things like a trust badge can hurt conversions.

Why would trust badges or SSL seals hurt your conversions?

I’m not saying SSL seals and trust badges will hurt your conversions. I’m saying you should test them. Some people have tested trust badges / SSL seals and found that it hurt their conversions.

Maybe back in the day, (not that long ago, but a lifetime ago in the internet world) shoppers were hesitant to shop online due to security, stolen credit cards, etc. So maybe those seals of trust or SSL seals helped put customers’ minds at ease.

Changing culture

However, what if the world is different now, and our assumptions about customers are wrong? Maybe it’s that they are comfortable shopping online. And maybe they feel safe shopping, so they don’t really think about security anymore.

However, when seeing an SSL trust badge, it could bring the anxiety of security to the top of mind, making them less likely to buy from you.

Or maybe you just have the wrong trust badge up that people aren’t used to seeing.

Or maybe it’s that they now have a negative association of badges because they view it as a “overselling,” common to marketers and spammers. That “too good to be true” marketing that many marketers push. So maybe its that some associate the trust badges with spam possibly.

Maybe it’s the case that people think, “ok I trust any e-commerce store. But when I see a security badge, you seem spammy to me. It seems like you are trying to oversell your trustworthiness.” After all, if someone says trust me out of nowhere, should you trust them?

It could be triggering a spam association.

Conversion optimization is a continual process

This is just an example, purely conjecture on my part. But it illustrates an important concept – perspectives can change, through an evolving culture.

Not only are industries and audiences different, but things change over time. People change. Culture changes.

So we must evolve our website optimization to not only be the most efficient selling machine possible, but it must also keep up with the times, and our particular audiences nuances.

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