Tom Howlett

Simple, Effective Persuasion and CRO Practices for Your Website

9th May 2013 Analytics, Analytics, Conversion Rate Optimisation 8 minutes to read

Online PersuasionPsychology, persuasion and CRO (conversion rate optimisation) are areas of online marketing and designing for the web that have always interested me. How do you get visitors to your site? Once they are on the site, how do you persuade them to perform an action? Whether that is to get them to sign up to an email list, purchase something, register for a free trial or numerous other actions.

There are many tried and tested methods that are proven to help increase the number of conversions on your website and there are an equal number of excellent resources to help site owners, webmasters and marketers get the most out of their websites. Rather than adding to the pool of existing good quality resources, I have put together a number of strategies that I have picked up on whilst reading up on this topic, strategies that you can implement on your website today as well as a list of useful resources if you are interested in learning more.

Firstly, why is it important?

In today’s market, it is essential for most growing businesses to have an online presence – typically in the form of a website. Having a website is the first step and you may already be successful by just having that initial presence. However, to really get the most out of your website, you will want to have a look at some methods to help increase conversions and to keep testing different methods and see what works for your website.

Essentially you should end up with a higher converting website and it will also teach you what is likely to work better when creating new pages for the site.

Principles you can action today

Here is a list of tested methods to help increase conversions on your website (depending on the type of website you are running):

Increase your trust

Unless you are already a known and trusted authority within your industry, it is likely that you need to persuade visitors that you are trustworthy. There are certain steps you can take to help build that trust, some of which are listed below:

  • Show visitors that you have a physical address and office location – this will highlight the fact that you are a genuine business.
  • Genuine customer reviews and testimonials – these help build trust when visitors see others similar to them who have previously converted.
  • Awards, certifications and industry accreditations – these ensure that you are seen as a successful and professional organisation or individual.
  • Social proof – ways of highlighting to visitors how popular a particular item is on your site. This can be implemented by having reviews (as mentioned above), star ratings, info about past purchases or adding a ‘popular items’ section.
  • Add safe payment and trusted seller icons and features to the website to highlight to visitors that any purchases made and personal information submitted are safe and secure.

For a more definitive list, take a look at this checklist on improving your trust.

Improve your Calls to Action (CTA’s)

Calls to Action are the elements of your website that encourage an action that is normally associated with what you want visitors to ultimately do. This might be to get them to sign up to an email list, purchase something or similar. Here are some best practises:

  • Have a clear and well laid out page that informs and educates visitors about your product or services, then include a clear eye catching call to action.
  • Colours used in the calls to actions are significant; websites tend to opt for a colour that has a high contrast alongside the website background. Common colour choices for calls to action include Green, Blue and Red.
  • Keep the message clear, short and sweet.
  • Highlight the value to potential customers – e.g. how will they benefit by signing up to your email list.
  • Size – Play around with the size of the call to action, generally larger is better however you will not want to go over the top.
  • Positioning – Carefully consider the placement of the call to action. Higher up on the page (above the fold) is preferred; this can be optimised upon testing.
  • Offer something free in return for the custom.
  • Do not flood each page with different calls to action – there should be one main call to action per page.

For more examples on how to improve your calls to action, visit the Unbounce blog.

Optimise checkout process

Once a visitor has decided to make a purchase on your website, they will typically follow a checkout process. If this process is not carefully considered or if the checkout process has limitations, the site is likely to experience a high drop-out rate – from people who originally wanted to convert.

Things to look out for to improve your checkout process:

  • Minimise the number of steps to the checkout completion.
  • Allow users to see how many steps there are to take and how close they are to completion.
  • Avoid making it essential for people to sign up for an account before purchase. This should be an option near to the end of the checkout.
  • Consider the payment options, the more ways there are for people to pay, the more likely they are to convert.
  • Ensure that trust icons are visible to those who are unfamiliar with your business and want to ensure a safe transaction.
  • Enable a quick checkout transaction for returning customers.


Anchoring describes the human tendency to maintain a biased view based on information previously served to them. This is often exploited in pricing strategies, where a consumer is likely to compare any newly discovered prices with a price they first discovered or their expected price.

This is why businesses will often highlight original prices on deal items, so that individuals will have a comparable price (an anchor) to help them assess whether they think it is a good deal or not.

You can utilise this strategy on your website in much the same way. If you are selling a range of services that have different package levels (e.g. website hosting), you can convince the customer that they are getting a better deal with a mid-range package if they get much more in terms of value. On occasions a smaller package has been introduced, not intended as a package necessarily, but to make the more expensive packages seem like better value and in turn convince more users to sign up for these mid-range packages.

Anchoring is an effective strategy to influence users to purchase.


Reciprocation is a technique that essentially boils down to ‘give, and you will receive’. If you give something to someone, something of value, they will feel compelled to return the favour. If you give the visitors of your website something for free, it will likely initiate that trust factor which will benefit you in the long term as people will tend to remember that favour and return it at a later date.

Choice Limitation

Many studies have proven that too much choice will put people off making a final decision. By limiting the choice available, you are more likely to convert your audience.

This idea can be applied to all sorts of websites, whether you are selling different ranges of products or offering services at different package levels, you will want to consider the number of options available and whether they may be preventing conversions from taking place – this is a good element to split test.


Scarcity is a good way of convincing people to act quickly, if they believe they may miss out on a purchase. Ecommerce merchants utilise this tactic often to persuade people to buy, they do this by letting you know how many items are left in stock or by simply stating that ‘there are only a few left’. This is enough to convince those who are afraid to miss out to make a purchase.

It is also one of the reasons why sites like Groupon have amassed a large following as they are filled with good deals, deals which have a time limitation and therefore lure people to make a purchase.


Pricing was previously mentioned under ‘Anchoring’ which can be a good way of convincing people to purchase, or purchase variations of the products on offer. Another consideration should be placed on the prices themselves and how they may be considered when compared to other similar products or services on the market.

For example, high prices could portray a level of quality for some products or services – reducing these prices will not necessarily result in more sales, it could lead people to believe that the quality may have suffered as a result of this.

Utilising Authority

Authority is an effective leverage to help influence a purchase. For example, if you were considering purchasing a range of diet products from someone who claims to be a nutritional specialist to the stars, then their position of authority will greatly influence the purchase over other sellers that are unheard of.

Authority can therefore be an effective strategy to help gain more business online.

Make sure you track and monitor visitor stats

If you are looking to optimise your website based on some of the principles mentioned in this post, you need to ensure that you have an appropriate analytics package installed on your website to monitor site visits and conversions. This will help you track visitor stats and monitor changes when any of the above elements are implemented.

This will help ensure that changes are having a positive effect on site conversions.


Whilst reading up on the above principles, I stumbled upon a number of good quality resources that are regularly updated with information related to online persuasion and CRO. If you are interested in reading more, I suggest bookmarking the following:

  • Michael Straker on Cardinal Path – Highly experienced in user experience, online persuasion and the customer journey.
  • PRWD – Specialists in online user experience and update their blog regularly.
  • Unbounce blog – Regular good quality posts on CRO, landing page optimisation and A/B testing.
  • Help Scout blog – Useful information on optimising your website for the customer.
  • Convince and Convert – A useful range of posts related to improving your brand, engaging customers and utilising social media effectively.

Image Credit

Mental Imprinting from Big Stock

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