5 main mistakes or why your rational decisions do not work?

Original author: Andrew Anderson
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In many respects, the success of conversion optimization depends only on the decisions that we make. If you do everything right, you will constantly discover that ideas that seemed brilliant to you, actually do not work at all.

Do you think that optimization and testing is all you need to know about marketing and your users? It's time for a little introspection on the topic: why do you think you know these things, and what leads you to such unjustified expectations.

Welcome to the world of cognitive psychology and delusions!

The number of ways people confirm false information and mistaken beliefs is unbelievable. As soon as you look, you will immediately find hundreds of known prejudices and falsifications, in this situation you can only wonder - how else does someone manage to do something right?

When these misconceptions affect us, all you have to do is find a way to mitigate their impact by learning to recognize them and manage them to improve your program. The first key to success is to determine what they are, which ones you deal with most often, then you will need to help yourself establish a system that will help to use their existence for your own purposes. Therefore, we have prepared for you 5 main misconceptions that you will definitely encounter while working on optimization. So, what are they, and how can we reduce their impact?

Remember these traps every minute of your life, when you work or relax, they are relevant not only for optimization, but also for any other areas.

Misconception # 1: Consistency Error

We love to make the wrong comparisons and then claim that they are suitable for solving our fundamental questions.

What it is. Consistency error is the name for a situation where we create a fake connection between phenomena, choosing only one path and not thinking about alternatives, we console ourselves with the hope that we have already solved the problem by simply naming certain points from a limited set of options.

I understand that this sounds very complicated, but think for yourself what it really means - you make a nonexistent choice, for example, comparing only one banner with another, or one header with the second, deciding which one is better. In fact, there are hundreds of other options that you can use, but you are blinded, narrowing your entire vision to only two - those that are before your eyes. You create a false choice when you replace the whole variety of reality with that limited list that obsessively spins in your head.


The most terrible consequence of this error is that you get an answer that does not cost that much. Just because you decide that one title is better than another does not mean that it is really good. But on the other hand, it shows that you attach too much importance to a limited choice, taking as a basis a hypothesis with insufficient information. The work of the researcher or tester is to think about possible alternatives. But where there - you have already fallen into the trap, making a false choice and thinking that you won.

Example: you feel that it’s vital for you to improve your landing page. And what are you doing? Decide to try out a new call to action! In reality, you need to find out what is most important, and apply many other options.

What do we have to do.One of the fundamental principles of a successful testing program is to always try to use the maximum amount of resources and be critical of what people think is right. This means being able to avoid the error of consistency, being sure that you are using a sufficiently large circle of possible answers and to be suspicious of your current thoughts. Therefore, always check whether you are using the only one way in optimization that, in your opinion, will be correct. Do you work with all possible options or just resort to a popular solution to current problems?

Misconception No. 2: Daning-Krueger effect

The less you know, the more convinced you know everything.

What it is. Each of us in the environment has a person who is sure that he knows the answers to all possible questions, he has already experienced everything, and found out everything. In fact, those around him are aware that he does not even have a clue what he is talking about. Here is the Daning-Krueger effect in action, when people who are incompetent in their field do not know that they are incompetent, moreover, it is very likely that they feel like great gurus precisely because they do not know that there is something that they do not know. Now it’s clear where people come from so often telling how amazing their experience was, what great significance it had for the project, but in fact it was a completely and completely negative impact.


All these jokes about external experts are actually a big deal, because they show a direct connection between sociopathic tendencies and the position of power in any business. The support of people who know a lot about the subject, being less competent, leads to cases where the conviction of their own rightness prevails over constructive literacy. Now you understand the root of all these statements in the style of "I believe, I think, I feel."

Example: Obviously, a call to action is the most important, why do we still need to check the page layout? The more you are confident in something, the more important it is to challenge your conviction.

What you have to do.This is exactly the moment when it is important to test our rational decision-making system. Every step you take should be aimed at maximizing your business, and not at the fun of your vanity. It does not matter that someone thinks what will happen or what they are trying to achieve, the main thing is whether the changes will affect the essence of your business or not.

By introducing a strict measurement principle, making sure every time that you avoid someone’s limited ideas, you can insure yourself that nobody’s horizons of understanding do not affect the possible income from optimization.

Misconception # 3: Narrator Syndrome

We have answers to questions even when there is clearly not enough information.

What it is. People love good stories, and there is no one more popular than the one that answers the question why. In fact, 90% of all time spent in vain is spent on understanding why something happened this way, or making up complicated stories, or convincing yourself that you have a deep understanding of your target audience.

Why did this headline win? Obviously because he was motivating. Why then do not people come to your site? Because it was not relevant ...

Every time someone explains why it happened that way, every time you attach too much importance to the results of your tests, you meet the narrator face to face. People feel exhausted when they receive a result that runs counter to their expectations, or does not fit into their usual pattern, so they immediately begin to look for a reason - why this happened. Moreover, in some organizations, performers do not care about the results at all, they are always looking for the answer to one single question - why did this happen. Be on the alert every time someone begins to explain the reasons for what happened.


The problem is that actually answering the question “Why?” Is practically impossible. Even if you clearly see the reason for this or that event - this is just a rationalized version of what happened, which your brain helpfully throws at you, the real reasons that led to this outcome will most likely not be found. You cannot say that one event is in any way connected with another if you got one single result during testing and that’s all - it doesn’t matter if your measurements went up or down, or show different results relative to each other, the upper limit data will be just one of the possible outcomes of observation.

Example.You know that your call to action worked, obviously, because it was most relevant to the context that users usually look for. In fact, you only know that it worked, your past experience in the future can only reduce the effectiveness of your future actions.

What you have to do.Never, I emphasize, never explain why anything happens in this way. You can be absolutely sure that you are right (remember the Daning-Krueger effect) that the event has precisely this reason, but you should avoid this road. Not only because you base your conclusions on often false information, but also because in this way you open the door for others, allowing them to also fall into the narrator’s syndrome. Stop these conversations as soon as they begin to distract you from specific actions.

In many cases, this approach will cause the cognitive dissonance of your group only for the reason that this is human nature. That is why it is so important to establish rules and teach people how to act when receiving any data. And it is necessary to do this even before they begin real work. Success and failure are determined by your actions, not the results obtained.

Misconception # 4: Graveyard of Knowledge

The winners do not tell us anything, but still they are the ones we constantly turn to for information.

What it is. Go to the business literature section in any bookstore and you will see a huge number of books written by people from successful companies. We like to read about entrepreneurs and leaders who have reached the top and obtained real results.

What you will never see on bookstore shelves is the books of people who have not become successful. But the funny thing is that people who do not communicate on this topic, or those who have not achieved success, can be a much more valuable source of information than those who have conquered their peaks. They can talk about what reduced their effectiveness, about random successes, as well as about those nuances that, most likely, did not contribute to their success.


Also known as the “mistake of the survivors,” the cemetery of knowledge is that common misconception when we try to get all the information only from those who have achieved their intended purpose. We look at those who have similar features, forgetting about those who do not. We pay attention to those who buy our products, completely ignoring those who do not, despite the fact that in reality they represent almost every person on this planet. We are so focused on the result that we are losing huge blocks of valuable information.

Example.Are you sure you want to customize your call to action so that it doesn't matter if a user comes from google or not. In fact, your message can work for any person, but for this you will have to change your experience based on completely different facts - browser, time of day, etc.

What do we have to do.Never consider what you read about your users to be completely accurate, without excluding other possibilities. Whether you are filling a site with content or creating a page, always look for alternatives and let your data dictate the direction. This is especially true for personalization and segmentation. You should always use all possible approaches to each user, and be sure to check the really possible segments, even if you really want to customize the message for the target group based on any behavior or source. Make sure that you are working on increasing the effect, not your own opinion.

Misconception No. 5: Halo Effect

The more we like one characteristic, the more we like all the others, no matter whether it is a person or an object.

What it is. We all love the good looking pages that act on us. We know that the better the page looks, the better it represents us, forgetting that the most profitable of all is just a white screen with a search box in the middle. We often trust experts who speak better than others and those who are connected with us, forcing ourselves to adhere to certain information in this way. These are all examples of the halo effect when you get positive or negative feelings from a multitude of characteristics based on one single property of an object or person.


We really trust beautiful people and pages more, despite the fact that they have little to do with real performance. We focus on the one who is more eloquent than the one who is shy. In the elections, we vote for the highest candidate, although this characteristic is absolutely not related to his ability to lead.

Example. Any page analysis. You don’t like how the page looks and that’s all, especially you don’t like the call to action. In fact, your impression of the page or any part of it has nothing to do with how fully the task is carried out.

What should be done.Allow people to vote for what they think and choose the best option from all offered. Do this just a couple of times, and immediately it becomes obvious that no one, whether he is an experienced marketer or a new trainee, is able to offer anything sensible by just looking at the page.

Some people are a little better than others who are good at selecting options, but it is only unlikely that anyone will approach the best option by at least 10 percent. Confronting the widespread halo effect will strengthen your attempts to learn more about those things that people call “terrible”, as well as about things that are opposite to their vision of sites, this will allow you to discover new knowledge about what should be the best user choice.


As you can see, listing all the errors that limit our view of the world and intervene in our work is quite easy. This review did not include the errors of a real experiment, such as an observer’s error, when an observer unconsciously transfers his attitude to the results of an experiment, or a selection bias; they are not included here because they do not have such great significance as those that are next to us every minute throughout the day. People in general are really a very keen and capable group, but they greatly limit their consciousness to their usual worldview. A conscious approach and discipline will not allow you to fall into the traps of the above mentioned errors, on the contrary, knowing about them and using together with your natural talents, you will achieve better results.

Most people do not understand that their decisions are wrong. They think they are rational by observing the irrational behavior of others or reflecting on past decisions. In fact, none of what we think or do is successful due to the many shortcuts that are allowed to enter our brain and remain there throughout the day. We should be careful with them and create systems that mitigate damage, otherwise we will never achieve our goals.

And the last one. Do you think that you know everything and you will certainly never be fooled by these stupid misconceptions? Just remember one simple thing. The smarter and quicker you are, the greater the chance to fall into one of these pitfalls of thinking. So what is there with your competence, maybe it's time to start trying to stop these misconceptions before they completely destroy your company?

PS. We recommend another article on the topic - The Secret on how to do everything on time.

Translation by Vyacheslav Davidenko, founder of MBA Consult

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