At SearchStar we believe that you should strive to instil a culture of conversion optimisation within your team. This is the single best way to squeeze the most out of your website in the long-term. But we also recognise that it’s not always easy. We’re only human, after all.

At one point or another, we all get tripped up by the same misconceptions and human biases that can eat up our time and lead us to focus on the wrong things. So, how can we better defend against that from happening? Well, the best defence is knowledge.

To that point, we have compiled a list of the most common conversion mistakes that we see - The Crimes Against Conversion. You can read about them below or, if you don’t have time for that, you can listen to them in episode two of our digital marketing podcast, WithinDigital. Listen & subscribe >>>

The 5 Crimes Against Conversion

The Crimes Against Conversion are often so deeply rooted that they can be hard to spot. But if you can avoid them, you will save yourself a huge amount of time, budget and a lot of unnecessary pain.

1) Assuming you’re just like the user

Assuming that ‘you are just like your user’ is a common mistake. The reason for that is because it’s almost impossible to avoid; it’s built into the way we think.

The false-consensus effect refers to people’s tendency to assume that others share their beliefs and will behave similarly in each context. It’s been proven time and time again that people tend to overestimate how many people share their choices, values, and judgements.

Why is this relevant to conversion optimisation? Well, this bias can have a big impact on your conversion rate when we start to make similar assumptions about the online user experience.

Even if you happen to fall into the same demographic as your target audience, you still have the problem of different backgrounds, different experiences with user interfaces, different mindsets, different mental models, and different goals.

There are two ways that we can defend against this.

First and foremost is to test with real users. Test, test, test. Not just with your primary audience either. You should also test outside your core user base to find usability issues. For a recent example, the surge in 65+ users struggling to complete their weekly shop online has shown that the majority of supermarket haven’t properly tested what shopping online is like for older people.

The second-best way is to create personas. Personas are essentially stand-ins that help us to approximate what the experience of a typical user could be. At best, they can be incredible useful for steering design decisions and, at the very least, they serve as a reminder that we are not the user. They help us to account for our natural bias. But there’s no true replacement for watching a real person use your website to remind you of how different we all are.

2) Going with your gut instead of looking at the data

Or, in other words, relying too much on experience alone to make decisions about a website.

The reason this can be tempting is because going with our intuition is a short-cut, it’s much quicker and easier than conducting careful analysis. And often it doesn’t feel that risky. If we have even a year or two’s worth of experience, we might feel that we have enough expertise to trust our instincts. But it’s been proven over and over that we place too much value in our instincts. This one has a fancy name too - the overconfidence bias.

The best way to counter this bias is by investing in your data insights and algorithms. At this point in time, there’s really no excuse to not be collecting data, both quantitative and qualitative, to give you a reliable feedback loop for any website changes that you make.

Where data isn’t available, you should also use algorithms or a set of rules that remove guesswork. That’s why we have the landing page scorecard. After being exposed to thousands of websites, and getting regular feedback from running so many tests, we’ve distilled those patterns into rules to avoid having to use our instincts where possible.

3) The primacy of ‘creative disruption’ over user experience

The objective of most ad campaigns is to be as disruptive as possible. If a market is saturated with companies that all offer the same thing, then the only way for a brand to be heard amongst the noise is to be different. To have a challenging idea or concept. It makes sense; if you want to change behaviour then you need to attract attention.

However, this rule tends to fall down when the brand experience overlaps with the user experience. Have you ever clicked on an ad which has taken you to bewildering landing page, with flamboyant language and bizarre call-to-actions? This kind of atypical design will leave users stranded, wondering what to do next.

What’s the solution? The answer is to balance the distinct roles of ad creative and conversion optimisation. Once the user has landed on a page, the job of the disruptive ad campaign has arguably been achieved. We now want to make it as easy as possible for the user to complete their journey. The best way to do that is by building a smooth user experience using a typical and predictable design.

4) Assuming the user journey is linear and the same for everyone

What was the last big purchase decision that you made? How did you come to a decision about which product you were going to spend your hard-earned money on? The likelihood is that you spent a fair amount of time researching online, using many different websites on different devices.

The issue here is context. Gone are the days where we could expect a user to follow a linear journey from a search result to a homepage, then category page and product page, telling a clear brand story along the way. The customer journey has become fragmented beyond belief. Often, a user will land much deeper on your website than you expect, without any hint of who the brand is.

The solution to the problem is to take a step back and map the customer journey. Look at where your users most frequently come from before landing on your website, then look at the most common landing pages, and see if the user experience stands up to scrutiny. Does the page match the user’s search intent? Is there any information about your value proposition? Is there any reassurance about your credibility?

5) The ‘set it and forget it’ approach to building websites

The old-school way of building websites was to throw a lot of money at a new website once every 5-7 years. Taking this approach, your website may work well for a year or two. But then bits would start to fall off as the knowledge gets lost. Refreshing would soon become too big and risky a job to undertake. Finally, the competition would start to overtake you.

If this is a familiar story, you’re not alone. But there is another way. The key to a successful website project is to have the end-goal of continuous conversion optimisation built in from the beginning. It’s about having a mindset of a new website not being a finished product, but rather a solid platform to build up from.

The ‘set it and forget it’ approach has lasted so long because there’s a false belief that it’s cost-saving. In fact, it costs you even more over time, since you’re not getting the incremental benefits of conversion optimisation. Think of your website like a garden. If you let it become overgrown, you won’t have a clue what’s going on inside it and, once every three years, you’ll spend an entire week cutting it back. But if you continually prune it so that it’s well managed it will bear fruit.

Final Thoughts

If you’re constantly asking yourself why all your efforts aren’t producing the results you expect, the chances are that you’re making one of these five mistakes.

But don’t get too hung up about it - the fact is that we’re all guilty at one point or another. It’s only human. The hard part is to recognise them as problems to be fixed. Once you’ve done that, you’re on the straight and narrow.