Myth Buster

Psychology, behavioural economics, market research, website conversion and more by Neal Cole @northresearch
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Calls to actions (CTAs) are an important element of website optimisation. However, sometimes CTA testing appears to be the default strategy for optimising web pages. This may be based upon the assumption that a web page is largely optimized, but whatever the reason it is guaranteed to lead to a sub-optimal website.

Firstly no webpage is ever fully optimal, however much you test it. The target is continually moving as visitor behaviour changes over time, competitors launch new offers or improve their websites. Technological developments may disrupt the market and new products or services result in a constantly changing landscape. 

But most importantly website optimisation needs to begin with your visitors and your value proposition. Before evaluating your CTAs you need to understand what your visitors are looking for and how your value proposition can help meet their explicit (category specific) and implicit (psychological) goals. Explicit goals, such as quality or style of merchandise, tend to be the more rational and conscious motivators that visitors articulate when evaluating which sites they will consider. However, implicit or psychological goals, such as excitement or security, are important because these allow brands to differentiate themselves and generate an emotional response from customers. If a site wants optimise relevancy then it has to connect with visitors at both of these levels. 

Next you need to align your website goals with your business goals and prioritize your goals to determine your key conversion optimisation objective. Your conversion optimisation goals should be as closely related to revenue generators as possible. Examples include:

  • Purchase conversion rate
  • Average order value
  • Account opening conversion rate
  • Deposit conversion rate
  • Average deposit value
  • Return on advertising spend

To implement a conversion strategy you should also ensure: 

  • Your web analytics measure all primary (e.g. account opening) and secondary conversion goals (e.g. newsletter subscription) on pages and flows where you have a reasonable number of visitors. Don’t assume everything is automatically tracked.
  • You have appropriate A/B and multivariate testing tools to run experiments on your most visited websites. Do these allow you to segment and personalise experiences to benefit fully from online testing? Conversion optimisation is a journey that usually requires travelling through a number of distinct stages. 


  • Establish a detailed testing roadmap that includes key landing pages, your home page, product pages, shopping cart, registration pages, and other important pages and flows. It is essential to consider both new and returning visitors. Review expert literature (see reading list below) on how to build and enhance your optimisation strategy.
  • Engage areas in your organisation that can assist in the process of improving the customer experience, including IT, UX, usability, marketing, and copywriters. 
  • Build a technology roadmap to evaluate and implement new tools (e.g. live chat or App testing) and functionality to further enhance your optimisation capabilities. 

When you have established a truly comprehensive conversion optimisation strategy your CTAs tests will become a small, but important element of your testing program. Finally, be bold and have fun with your experiments. 

Thank you for reading my post.

  • The author: Neal Cole has over 20 years’ experience of working in market research and website optimization for some of the UK’s largest financial services providers and online retailers. Neal is based near Chester, but is currently working in London as a conversion specialist for a large online gaming group. He is a regular contributor to the GreenBook Blog market research website. Neal is also a full member of the Market Research Society and an Associate of the Chartered Institute of Marketing. You can follow Neal on Twitter @northresearch and view his LinkedIn profile

Further reading: You Should Test That! by Chris Goward (@chrisgoward); Landing Page Optimization by Rich Page (@richpage), Tim Ash (@tim_ash), and Maura Ginty; Website Optimization - An Hour A Day by Rich Page (@richpage); Your Customer Creation Equation by Brian Massey (@bmassey); Brainfluence by Roger Dooley (@rogerdooley); Decoded by Phil Barden (@philbarden)