The Psychology Behind Conversion Optimization

The Psychology Behind Conversion Rate Optimization

You have a website. You want people to visit that website. Once they do, you want them to do something as a result of having visited it. You want to convert them from visitor to taker of action.

Some people will convert without much prompting from you. But most will need a bit of a nudge. That’s why you want to optimize your site to get the largest number of conversions possible.

Tweaking your optimizations so that visitors convert to action takers at a higher rate is called conversion rate optimization (CRO).

Like so many, you may have made the mistake of thinking that the only important thing on which to send your budget was search engine optimization (SEO).

But there is a lot more to being successful on the web than bringing people to your site. Success is also measured by what happens once they get there.  

While it is true that SEO helps drive traffic to your site, CRO is what turns those visitors into customers. Failing to grasp the importance of CRO can be  fatal to your business.

People tend to get really excited when they see the visitor ticker rolling. It is only later that they realize that having visitors means nothing if those visitors turn into active participants.

That is why it’s better to have fewer visitors who are active on your site, than many visitors who look around and leave without any interaction whatsoever.

Worry about getting more visitors only after you figure out how to get them to take action. To do that, you have to understand the psychology behind why they take action and why they don’t.

Learn CRO tips and you fish for a day. Master the psychology behind CRO optimization, and, well… You get the idea:


Trust is 80% of the game. The other 20% almost doesn’t matter.

Credibility is just another word for trustworthiness. Whether it is your Facebook page, or some other landing page, your first job is to establish and reinforce your credibility.

To be sure, there are secondary and tertiary jobs for you to do. But once you have established trust, other potential issues are much easier to work out.

Why do so many people place multiple credit cards on file with Apple and Amazon? It is not because the process is easier, but because these are companies that have been proven to be trustworthy over time.

But, while shoppers don’t think twice about parking credit card information on an Apple or Amazon server, getting people to pay even once on a site they don’t know is seemingly impossible. In 2013, the rate of shopping cart abandonment was at 74%, up from previous years.

This number does not have to haunt you. If they trust you, all else being equal, they will buy from you. Enhance your credibility profile by doing the following:

  • Accept trusted forms of payment
  • Include critical reviews from trusted sources
  • Don’t make claims that sound too good to be true

This last one is really important. Even if you are offering something that is too good to be true, don’t present it that way. This is a situation where you need to under-promise and over-deliver.

If you are running a credibility deficit, fix that first. It gets easier from there.

Need and Desire

Figure out what a person desires and they will help you sell it to them.

A person walks into a grocery store because they need healthy food. But, that may not be what first motivated them to go to the store. What they secretly desire is something sweet (perhaps something chocolate).

If you know their true desire, you can easily sell them a whole case of sugar-free chocolate delights. They will fill their cart, hunt you down, and demand that you take their money.

Desire is a powerful thing. When you can match that desire with something that also fills a need, your conversion rate will skyrocket.

One way to do this by selling the sizzle, not the steak. Sell benefits, not products. There may be little that makes your widget stand out over all the others. Truth is, if all you have to sell is a better widget, you are going to have a hard time converting.

You don’t want to offer the lowest travel fare to a destination. You want to offer them greater success on their business trip because they didn’t have to waste time scouring the web for deals. You don’t want to sell a better hotel. You want to sell a better night’s sleep.

Of course you have to fill the need. But need doesn’t get you the next click. Everyone can fulfill the need. You have to fulfill the desire.


On balance, people will do what they believe they are supposed to do. Your job is to make what that is clear.

If people are not clicking through to the next part of the process, it might be because they’re unsure of where to go next.

Clutter is a major culprit. What is the first thing a person sees when they view your landing page? You really should be able to answer that question. If you can’t, it may be because you have too many things on your landing page for them to see.

Think about moving some of the content off of your landing page and onto a product page.

What do you have surrounding your call to action (CTA) button? Think about surrounding your CTA button with white space. That way, it stands out.

By making the next action obvious, you simultaneously make it easier.


One of the best pieces of advice I ever got in my career is never leave a sale half asked.

It is simply amazing and unpredictable what people will do for the simple humanity of someone asking them to do it.

What you can’t get with persuasion and cunning, you can often get with a simple request. This goes for everything from asking a person out on a date, to getting a person to click on a link.

If you are having trouble getting people to click on your CTA, try changing it from a sales pitch to a simple, human request.

Establish trust. Tap into desire. Make it obvious. And ask. Change a few words and this could have been a dating manual, or a sales manual, or an evangelism manual. The simple fact is that this advice works equally well for a lot of things that involve getting people to do what you want them to do.

At the end of the day, the psychology of conversion optimization is the same psychology that makes the world go round.