Dante Naylor
Business Development & Marketing Manager
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  • Conversion Rate Optimisation

28th May 2015

10 min

The terms “Conversion Rate Optimisation“, “testing” and “marketing optimisation” often create confusion, so it’s no surprise there exists many misconceptions around what optimisation actually involves. In this post, I’ve dispelled some of the most common misconceptions around Optimisation to help you get to grips with it, in all its forms.

“Conversion Rate Optimisation is just about improving conversion rates”

Conversion Rate Optimisation is a victim of its own name. Many people think it’s just about improving conversion rates (which is why we often refer to what we do, simply as “Optimisation”). While improving conversion rates is import

user researchant, without taking a holistic view to improving business profit it can be dangerous to focus on conversion rates alone. For example, focusing on improving conversion rates alone can lead to big uplifts in sales but if you’ve tripled your return rates you could be reducing business profit. Our Optimisation methodology is used to drive business growth, testing larger scale business hypotheses before investment to reduce risk, such as data driven website redesigns, marketing messaging or new products or services all with the aim of driving growth not just conversion rates.

“We just need a short-term optimisation project (3-6 months)”


shakes head


We get asked this question a lot and simply put – Conversion Optimisation should not be viewed as a project. Ideally, you should be running an optimisation programme continuously in your business because it is potentially the biggest growth lever available to you. Compare Conversion Optimisation to other marketing channels and activities such as PPC; do you consider those long-term projects? If you continue to drive traffic to your site, you should be optimising that traffic to ensure you generate the greatest ROI.

Not to mention your customers behaviour is constantly changing alongside changes in the market, changes to your target audience, your advertising mix and messaging, and technology. This means that what was once a winning test may need to be re-evaluated and re-tested.

“It doesn’t work, we ran few tests, but our conversion rate went down!”

The majority of tests should give an uplift, providing the hypotheses are based on strong insights, formed from data, user research and psychology principles. Sometimes, despite your best efforts, not every test provides the predicted result. What every test can do, however, is manage the damage that could have happened had you made the change without testing. They also provide valuable information that you can use going forward. Turn a negative result into a positive one by understanding why the test didn’t succeed and then include these findings into the next hypothesis. Not every test is a winner, but if it teaches you something, then it has value to your business.

“It’s about testing shades of blue and button colour changes”

Button colour tests are a tiny element of a potential testing schedule. The types of things that are available to test are elements such as copy, content, personalisation, imagery, photography, process changes, social proof, etc.

We implement both iterative and innovative tests. The ‘testing shades of blue’ is an example of very basic iterative testing. These are small scale tests that can be used to refine a page, gain quick wins and build confidence in a testing culture in your business, before moving on to the larger scale, innovative tests.

All the hypothesis we test have come from user insight, data and the business’s objectives in mind, meaning the redesigned elements reflect an entirely data driven process. While button colour tests are unlikely to feature in the majority of our testing schedules with clients (as we uncover and prioritise far more behaviour changing and lucrative test ideas), if we had insight that supported the idea that a colour change could impact behaviour and results, we would test it.

“Why would testing yield better results than listening to our UX team or following Ecommerce best practice?”

The decisions you make about your website should be based on data rather than opinion. To do this means collecting and analysing data, understanding customer motivations and testing concepts. Ecommerce best practice doesn’t evolve with your customers (changing markets etc.), instead they are common denominators that may or may not be applicable to your situation. Due to the nature of best practice, it’s reactive rather than proactive. Those businesses that are testing will be leading the way rather than trying to follow what worked for others.

Our Senior Optimisation Strategist Sophia has written a blog post explaining in more detail why ‘Ecommerce Best Practice is Dying’ and why a Conversion Optimisation programme is the future for your site.

“We’ve already done testing on our other website so don’t need to do it on this one”

Unfortunately, this isn’t the case. Each website is different; different users, different products, different interface, different propositions, meaning that the results from one site may not be valid on another. The hypotheses from one site to another will need to be reassessed also but you’re likely to have a head start on your second site with some partially validated hypothesis to research and test on other sites. You’ll also be able to use the experience and process from testing one of your sites and apply it to the next one.

“Testing will impact SEO on our site”

This is a common worry for those embarking on testing for the first time. As long as you follow industry advice on SEO when testing, your SEO should not be affected. A few examples of things to bear in mind are archiving test variants (so that they are not mistakenly used as links later by an unaware team member) and placing redirects from your variant pages to the canonical page when an experiment concludes.

Our Optimisation Strategist Nicole has gone into much more detail in her two-part series on how Conversion Optimisation won’t affect your SEO. Part one is on Best Testing Practice and SEO and part two is on Personalised Content and SEO.

“We have a new site build coming up – we’d rather wait to this is launched before doing CRO”

A Conversion Optimisation programme will give you the insight as to the key areas of your site requiring improvement BEFORE redesigning them. Without testing, a redesign is a subjective project, relying on instinct (or a HiPPO’s opinion) rather than data. You can try many different variations through testing to see what really works and what the customer really engages with whilst still in early stages of the redesign. You will also be saving budget by not building unnecessary elements and making your redesign a quicker more agile process. All this is before mentioning that a website redesign can take a year or more to come to fruition. That’s a year in which you’ve lost the revenue uplifts you could have been generating on your existing site, which could more than pay for your impending redesign. The fact that a redesign takes this long also adds more risk that if you’re not testing, your consumers opinion and expectation have changed from what you’d originally planned to deliver.

Check out our user-led website redesign process for more information on this.

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“All you need to do testing is the tool”

In theory, yes, you can use one of the plethora of tools on the market to start testing. However, the testing tool is the means by which you test but it does not improve the quality of your test hypotheses or generate results in itself. Testing is only one part of the optimisation process, yet we see a lot of businesses solely focusing on delivering X amount of tests. This is a dangerous vanity metric, whereas you should be focusing on the quality of your tests to deliver the greatest number of successful tests generating your business profit. Rather than thinking that optimisation is just about testing, following a process to get the best hypothesis to test is crucial. Below is the top level process we follow to deliver the best results for the businesses we work with.

PRWD Six Step Optimisation Method


PRWD Six Step Optimisation Method

“We’re planning on doing this in-house so don’t require external help”

It’s fantastic that you understand the importance of optimisation for your business – you’re clearly already one step ahead of the curve. You might also be surprised that a lot of clients we work with also have an optimisation team in-house. However they work with us as they recognise that there are limitations to the work they can do in-house. It could be the lack of a particular expertise (e.g little or no capabilities to carry out user research, copy expertise or psychology understanding) or it can simply be they want to validate the work being done in-house from an expert, impartial view.

“There is no room in our development schedule for this”

The majority of tests can be done via testing tools, meaning no in-house development is needed. For more innovative tests, where a developer is required, we provide this expertise to take the pressure off your internal resource.

Ultimately however, Optimisation will become your developers favourite thing; up to 15% of IT projects are abandoned and at least 50% of a programmer’s time during projects is spent doing rework that is avoidable, causing headaches and frustration for you development team. Through optimisation and testing, little work is needed up front to test and only elements which are actually going to work will be put into your development schedule so it will cut down on changes which don’t need to be made. If your backlog is excessive, winning variants can also be maintained in the testing tool, so you can reap the rewards straight away until your developers have time to deploy the changes to the live site.

It comes down to working with your development team and getting them on board from the start. Conversion Optimisation can offer your business a greater return on investment than any other marketing channel and so should be prioritised as such. The changes you want to make are guaranteed to deliver for you business. Not only could an optimisation programme help with bounce rates and sales, it helps businesses to better understand their customer. There’s no point in bottlenecking traffic through acquisition channels if you can’t convert them effectively.

“I’m totally on board but my Boss/CEO/CMO doesn’t get it”

You can’t expect everyone to understand the benefits of optimisation straight away but that doesn’t mean you shouldn’t be working to address this. To do this, you need to speak your boss’s language to engage them. Explain how it can fit into the marketing budget (one example, reduce acquisition spend and siphon those funds into Optimisation to make better use of the traffic you already have, rather than just increasing it). Highlight the loss of opportunity and the potential loss of market share by not committing to a conversion optimisation programme. There are many ways to approach management, find what works for you and run with it.

Matt Lacey recently collaborated with Optimizely on a webinar on this very topic and he has written  ‘5 Tips on How to Sell the Gift of Conversion Optimisation to your Boss’.

Any more?

Are there any common misconceptions of Conversion Optimisation we’ve missed? Have you tackled any of these in your business? Share your thoughts in our comments section below.

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