The Psychology of Website Conversions – @crestodina

Andy-Crestodina-PinterestContent marketing can be a slippery slope to navigate. You want to draw your potential customers into your webpage, but knowing how to keep them there is the key.

A good website isn’t just pretty colors, fancy graphics and related links.  Improve your conversion rate using neuromarketing techniques such as “social proof”. Convince your potential customers that doing business with you is the smart choice.  By using methods such as “priming” or “anchoring”, you can leverage your customer’s predisposed opinions and convert them into fans.

Andy Crestodina is cofounder and strategic director or Orbit Media and author of Content Chemistry: An Illustrated Handbook For Content. Andy’s tactics for successful content marketing have helped over a thousand businesses and made him a sought after speaker at a number of national conferences.

Rich:  Here we are for another interview for The Marketing Agents Podcast, and today I have Andy Crestodina. He is the cofounder and strategic director of Orbit Media in Chicago. Over the past 15 years, Andy has provided web strategy and advice to over a thousand businesses. As a top rated speaker at national conferences and as a writer for some of the top marketing blogs, he has dedicated himself to the teaching of marketing.

He’s written hundreds of articles on content marketing topics for dozens of blogs and media websites.  Further topics include content strategy, search engine optimization, social media and analytics. He’s also the author of Content Chemistry: An Illustrated Handbook For Content Marketing, which right now sits upon the table in my office here in Portland, Maine.  Andy, how ya doing?

Andy:  I’m good.

Rich:  Awesome. So let’s just get down to brass tacks. We talked beforehand about some different topics that we could talk about on today’s show. You and I have known each other now for many, many months and apparently even longer we knew of each other. We met at last year’s Social Media Marketing World, and you threw me some topics and the one that I liked the best was this idea of “neuromarketing”, because it sounds super smart. Now, can you describe neuromarketing in the most sexy way possible?

Andy:  Neuromarketing is the art and science of leveraging the cognitive biases that our audiences have built into their brains to affect marketing results. So it’s basically leveraging the little things, the predispositions that we all have to either increase traffic or maximize conversion rate. That’s pretty much it.

Rich:  Awesome. So what we’re talking about really then is using psychological tactics or approaches to improve the conversion rates of our own websites, correct?

Andy:  You’re exactly right.

Rich:  So that sounds great. I think everybody would appreciate to have a higher conversion rate. But how do we actually know that that’s something we’re struggling with?  Where do we turn to find out whether we have a high or a low conversion rate?

Andy:  You know, people don’t like to get benchmarks or paint with big, broad brushes, but I think it’s kind of safe to say if your site has a conversion rate of below 1%, you might want to take a closer look at what’s working and what’s not. If it’s above 3%, you’re probably doing great and should be very happy. So generally speaking, I mean web design and calls to action, color theory and few distractions,the layouts, pages, clarity, these things help the conversion rate. And designers and landing page creators have a big impact on this. So if you use these little neuromarketing techniques we’re going to talk about, you should be able to affect those numbers and if your analytics are set up properly you can measure the before and after.

Rich:  Alright, so on our website – assuming we’re using Google Analytics – and I know that we can dig really deep into this one section but I want to stick on the neuromarketing, but we can set up Google Analytic goals – I’ve heard you speak of those in the past – and then so our conversion rate is basically a percentage of the number of people who came to our website.

So for example if we are a web design company, we can measure the number of people who fill out our contact form or pick up the phone or sign up for our email newsletter, and that would be our conversions, and then we just need to figure out the percentage of those people and that’s our conversion rate. Is that correct to say?

Andy:  That is exactly right and that is the best lead generation example for e-commerce sites. But there’s other types of conversions. The percentage of people that sign up for our website or the percentage of people that register for your event or job applicants – theses are all different kinds of conversions – but bottomline conversions are normally lead gen for a service company or e-commerce for a product company.

Rich:  Alright so we basically want to improve our conversion rates and we’re going to tap into some of these psychological approaches or psychological theories, so that we can improve our conversion rates. In other words so we can get more of our traffic to actually take a desired step on our site, so one of the things I’ve heard you talk about is “social proof”. Can you explain social proof to us?

Andy:  Sure. Put simply, social proof is making any action other than hiring you seem really weird. That’s the whole point. So you want to make it seem normal. The bias that we’re leveraging here is the conformity bias, or they call it “herd behavior”. So the theory goes, “all things being equal, people tend to do what other people do.” So if you give evidence that the people are doing what you want your visitors to do, then they’re more likely to do it.  So social proof is – using McDonald’s for an example, they have on every sign “billions and billions served” – must be legit, billions of orders have been placed here. So that’s the idea.

To leverage it on a website  – I love this one, Rich, because everyone gets this wrong – a lot of people have social proof on their websites, but they tuck it all away into a separate page, they calls this page “testimonials” and the social proof is all in that place. So there have a bunch of claims on their service page and then a testimonials page where they have all the proof. That idea doesn’t work that well, you can see it in your own analytics if you just go and look at the traffic to that page, most people do not go to testimonial pages.

So blow up that page, take everything out of there, put it all over the site. Social proof means having the support right next to the claim. So never make a testimonials page, instead make every page a testimonials page and sprinkle them throughout the site, and put proof literally pixels away from the claim.

Rich:  And that actually makes a whole lot of sense, because if we’re talking about social proof and because we’re so busy we’re looking to other people to find out what our behavior should be, that social proof needs to be out there and in front of everybody.  We can’t go looking for social proof, it kind of defeats the whole purpose.

Andy:  Yeah, just imagine if you were an attorney and you said, “Yeah, my client is innocent, and if you go out the door and down the hall and take a left there is a witness box and there’s someone there that is going to tell you about how my client is innocent .” Now, the jury is not going down the hall, you’re getting judged right then on that page. So we have to make every page stronger. You could also think of it this way, never make a claim without supporting it right there next to the claims.

Put them in the text, in quotes, you can use a sidebar or a right rail, put them in the footer, really you want to add evidence – and there’s other types of social proof behind testimonials – but you want to out that evidence there right next to the claim. You want it to be visually very near the claim so it can best support it.

Rich:  And then if we are putting together these testimonials, have you got any sort of evidence – anecdotal or statistical – that says it’s better to have text quote, it’s better to have a certain length of quote, is it better to have a video quote? Have you seen anything that tends to work better than others?

Andy:  I don’t have data for this, but I believe that video testimonials are sort of the atomic bomb of marketing. If you can get that and invest in that, that will work well. Here’s a study – I saw this – formally 37Signals, now just called, Basecamp – they published a study once that said that they had a 102% increase in conversions after adding a picture of the person who was giving the testimonial. We see this done all over the place.

The Google Analytics landing page is a picture of a woman who is happy to be using analytics, so I think that there is evidence that the more real the testimonial seems, the more credible it is because it’s got a name, a job title, but it’s really just a picture next to it, that one study did show a lift from that. But yeah, I think that it wouldn’t be hard to find a lot of this stuff, I don’t think that anyone would disagree that we need to support this stuff.

Rich:  Absolutely. And so testimonials are one you brought up for social proof and again the idea here is we want to make it look like choosing our company is the normal, typical solution and choice, that’s what other people are doing. Now one of the things I noticed as I was looking at your website is that you have the subscriber count on your email newsletter. Is that basically the same idea?

Andy:  Exactly the same idea. Rich, that’s it exactly. There’s a study that suggest that the other perspective – and this would be worth testing – best practices for an email signup box is to show somehow that this is legit, that this is a safe choice, this is not a weird thing. If you’ve been around a little while and you’ve got a few hundred subscribers, I think it’s worth it to put that there. The worst email signup box just says “signup/submit”. It makes no sense at all, right?

Rich:  Right.

Andy:  You’ll find websites all over that have in the footer this lonely email signup box without even a call to action. But yeah, the ideal one – we published a post on this one – the three P’s would be: 1) Proof,-as in social proof like an email from a happy subscriber, 2) Promise – tell people what they’re going to get and how often. You should definitely tell people what the content of that newsletter will be. 3) Prominence – make that signup box very visually prominent. But those 3 P’s will have a huge impact on you signup conversion rate for sure.

Rich:  Awesome. Now one of the other things that I noticed was you talk about the benefits of having a most popular category, especially when there are choices to be made. Now you put that down as more social proof, explain to me why that’s social proof, having a most popular category?

Andy:  The New York Times has a list of bestselling books, those are the most popular books. It’s simply telling the reader that other people have made this choice. So in a field of options, to say that this one was the most popular/bestseller/the choice made most often, is just another example of how in a field of options you’re just saying that this is a safe bet, an easy choice and something that other people have selected before. It’s all over Amazon, it’s all over e-commerce sites, and in e-commerce sites with large catalogs, it’s even a way to sort the products by most popular.

Rich:  Absolutely. Now it’s interesting because really we’re saying that social proof really comes down to reducing that fear of loss, or reducing the anxiety of making a choice. The choice of us versus one of our competitors, because other people have come before us and they have seen that we do good work. So that’s basically a lot of the concept behind social proof, would you agree with that?

Andy:  Well said. Reduce the anxiety. It’s like if you’re the first person to go to a restaurant they’re going to sit you inside the front window because they want other people to walk by and see that there’s people in that restaurant. Even nightclubs that are half empty still make people wait in line behind that velvet rope so that passersby can see it looks popular.

Look at LinkedIn, half your profile is endorsements and recommendations. It’s super powerful. Twitter is based on this, the number of followers is so prominent it’s really ubiquitous, it’s to maximize conversion rates. If nothing else, put a testimonial on every page and now you’re following at least that much of best practices for neuromarketing.

Rich:  Now when it comes to the “most popular” category, I think there’s one other thing at play here, and that’s the whole idea of helping people make better choices, like “choice architecture”.  So when I go to 37Signals – or BaseCamp, as it’s called now – there’s always those three options of which plan I want, but then the one in the middle is the most popular. So by default I’m going to go with that, I’m not hesitating between which one should I choose, unless I self select out of it.

So I think we’re also helping people make a choice. So again whenever we present choices to people, there’s always a chance that even if they wanted to choose us they might choose the wrong version of us. So again that kind of scares people. So the more we can do to make this as seamless as possible, as frictionless as possible, I think we’re going to see our conversion rates increase.

Andy:  Yeah, and something else are options on those pricing pages. And what those are doing is priming you to be in a specific price range by putting three numbers side by side.

Rich:  That’s actually where I was going next, so why don’t you tell us a little bit about what’s going on psychologically with the pricing points there.

Andy:  So priming or anchoring leverages a different cognitive bias where we’re all sort of put in a certain mindset by seeing that number. The first number that you see puts you in that mindset, and were are sort of stuck to that and primed for that range, we’re anchored for that first number.

If you see a pricing page and there are three options and they are $300, $200 and $500, the $200 doesn’t seem like that much. But if you see the three options and it’s like $5, $10 and $25, the $35 looks like a lot. So that’s it, $200 looks cheap, $25 looks expensive. It makes no sense. Really, a dollar is a dollar.

We are put in that range by seeing the big number and the small number, it’s a sales tactic. In offline conversation people do this. But pricing pages particularly, priming is very important. You can sell more of an item just by putting a much more expensive item next to it, therefore making it look less expensive. They’re using 2 tactics you just mentioned: 1) most popular, that’s social proof, 2) expensive price on the far right, that’s priming.

Rich:  That’s absolutely true, and I think that the other thing is just in terms of if you have one or two different options for pricing, you might want to just create an insanely expensive product, within reason. If you’ve got a product that’s $100 a month and another one that’s $200 a month, maybe you need that $500 or $1,000 a month product – not necessarily to ever sell it, although that’s sweet if you do – but just to anchor it.

It also sounds like I always see the prices go from low to high, I’d be curious to know if you flipped that around and started with the most expensive product – because that’s where your anchoring somebody – and then the rest of the prices seem less expensive by comparison.

Andy:  There’s so much research done on pricing pages and landing page conversion optimizers have tested all this stuff, I’ve almost never seen the low price on the right. But offline, in a more linear conversation like an audio format or an in person conversation, I’ve seen people do it like this, “These aren’t the $50,000 widgets I’m talking about here, our widgets are more in the $10,000 range.” Wow, I just made myself look less expensive.

It also happens sometimes in negotiations, like buying real estate or a car, they set the increment for pricing and negotiation. This house is $100,000, I might come down to $99,000, but we’d have to talk about it. And I just set the increment for negotiation at $1,000. Now if I come out and say, “This house is $100,000, I’d be willing to look at something in the $90,000’s.” Now I just set the increment for negotiation to much higher. So increment and priming is used all over the place, it’s not just in pricing pages and conversion optimization, but if you pay attention you’ll start to see it everywhere.

Rich:  It’s also good to know all these tricks so people don’t try and pull them on you. Just throwing that out there.

Andy:  i’m glad you said that. There’s a creepiness factor in every conversation where, if nothing else, this is useful to all of us as consumers.

Rich:  Absolutely. And I’m sure you’ve read Influence: The Psychology of Persuasion. I always say that that book can be used for good or evil. And hopefully the people that are listening to this podcast – in fact, I know all of my listeners – are on the side of good. So they’ll just hope this podcast doesn’t fall into the wrong hands.

Andy:  Use your powers for good.

Rich:  Exactly. Another tactic that we see all the time on websites is, “Time is running out”, “You’ve got only a few minutes more.”, “There’s only a few items more”, “This is our last one.” Talk to me a little bit about why that is such an effective tactic when it comes to conversions.

Andy:  Well, the tactic in play there is “scarcity”. The cognitive bias of leverage is called “loss aversion”. So for some strange reason humans are very bad cost benefit calculators, and the pain of losing a dollar is worse than the joy of gaining a dollar, even though a dollar is a dollar. When you feel like you own something you want to hold onto it, and if you feel you might miss an opportunity you start to feel anxiety.

Scarcity is the art of creating scarcity, in some cases artificial scarcity. And to do that is to create urgency and leverage that loss aversion and make people worry about missing out, #fomo – fear of missing out. So the goal here is to remind people of whatever they might miss, risk or lose.  And to do so through content marketing, you just might write a blog post about the things that might go wrong if you do this service badly. Amazon holiday season they’re going to have a countdown clock, Groupon has “Only this many available”.  All of these are examples of early bird discounts. It’s super common, it appears everywhere in content marketing, it’s a very simple thing to leverage. But generally speaking, if there’s a risk of not using you or some chance that they’ll miss out, and you want to make sure that that’s explicit on the website. That’s how loss aversion works.

Rich:  Right, and obviously because we are talking about psychology could be a real scarcity or could be, there’s only one house and you’re either going to buy it or I’m going to sell it to someone else, or it could be fake scarcity. And so using those tactics can definitely get someone to increase their desire to work with you and by putting a timeline on it, you’re going to make that decision very quickly, too.

So one more thing I wanted to touch base on because web design is something that people may say is either good design or not, but one thing that’s always subjective is color. I know that you have some strong opinions on color and how we can use color to increase our conversion rates. Tell me about that, please.

Andy:  Well, there are eye tracking studies and this falls into the category of neuromarketing because they’re researching how the biology of the human eye works and the occipital lobe in the brain. So what these studies show is really what the eyeball is doing is scanning for pattern interrupters. So if something becomes prominent if it’s contrasting with the stuff around it. One of the ways we know things are prominent is through these eye tracking studies, and there’s tons of examples online.

Bottom line, if you’ve got a blue brand and a light colored background and a modern, clean design with lots of open space, a light design, but if you put a spot of red on it the eye is going to be pulled to it like a magnet. So contrasting colors, complimentary colors, warm colors and a cool site, or cool colors and a warm site. Warm being red, orange and yellow.  Cool being green, blue and purple. So when you use a complementary or contrasting color that’s going to pull the eye, the problem is people do this in ways that are not very deliberate and they’ll sometimes put big social media icons on the header of the website, now you’ve made something that is disproportionately prominent and it can pull the eye there.  You’re really just sending people away from your website, which doesn’t help your conversions.

If a visitor clicks and you’ve got a blue site with a big, red YouTube button, people click on that and they go to YouTube and there’s millions of cat videos there, they’re not coming back.

Rich:  Absolutely.  Exactly. I think social media for business should be used to draw people to the website, not sending them away.

Andy:  Thank you. The click-through rate from YouTube to company websites is .7%. These are private, for profit companies that are experts at keeping their own traffic. So be very cautious about using full color, social media icons, using them high up on a page. I like them when they’re grayed out until you roll over them, I like them when they’re in the footer, but you really don’t want people to leave your website and go to these social networks.

Eye tracking studies show just how powerful that contrasting color is. So you can leverage neuromarketing by simply plugging a hole in your bucket and keep people on your site.

Rich:  Good stuff. So at a very minimum you shared some great ideas with us today.  We can improve our conversion rates, and thus generate more business, more leads and more sales by using social proof, anchoring, scarcity and good color usage. And really focusing on – we call it an action color – if I’ve got a blue website, I use orange for my action color, I don’t use it for anything besides links and things I want people to take action with on our site.  Not just headers or anything else that might distract them.

Andy:  Exactly right, well said. Use your powers for good, make these deliberate decisions and add these things in an intentional way.

Rich:  Alright awesome, these are all good tactics and I really hope the listeners put a lot of these into use. Now I know that you’ve got a lot more at your website and other places to share with people. Where should we be checking you out online?

Andy:, you will find an article from me ther every 2 weeks. I also write here and there for different sites, and I meet influencers like you, Rich, at conferences. So you can find me in San Diego at Social Media Marketing World, Marketing Props, B2B Forum, I’m out there as much as I can be.

Rich:  Oh that’s right, actually I saw you quoted in Ann Handley’s new book, Everybody Writes.

Andy:  Honored by that. Great book, right?

Rich:  I’m actually interviewing Ann tomorrow, so there you go.

Andy:  Tell her I said, “hello”.

Rich:  I will. And Andy we’ll put all of those links in the show notes. I want to thank you very much for your time today.

Andy:  My pleasure. Thank you, Rich.


Rich Brooks