It is a common misconception that you can test your way to conversion optimization. An abundance of testing software, some of which is free, makes the temptation only greater. But there are at least three reasons why testing alone — without first conducting research — is not a good idea.

First, how did you decide which elements to test? For example, you may try several variations of calls to action on your web page, by changing their positions or colors. But how did you choose the positions, or the colors?

Second, the mechanics of testing means you need to test for a certain period of time, depending on your traffic and expected improvement. Otherwise you will end up wasting time and, more importantly, revenue.

Why revenue? Because each unsuccessful variation or failed A/B test will cost you half the money you’d otherwise make without testing at all. Testing is based on a proportion of visitors being routed to variations. Thus each failed test means visitors to that test underperformed, which results in a loss of revenue.

And the third reason to conduct research is to establish expectations for improvement. Properly conducted research can enable you to estimate how many more conversions you can expect from a change. By having realistic expectations, you can determine how long the test will last and how many visitors you need to test to have meaningful and statistically significant results.

What Is Conversion Optimization Research?

Conversion optimization research is the set of activities necessary to formulate hypotheses for tests that are grounded in data. Without this, you will base your conclusions largely on assumptions or chance.

For an effective testing program, you need to first know a lot about your visitors: who they are, how they perceive your website, where they came from, what they do there, and what they want and why. You need answers to these questions before you embark on a testing program.

Using the answers to those questions, you can pose valid testing queries, such as “Will visitors convert better if a call to action button had contrasting color?” or “If we enable visitors to buy using their social network accounts, will they convert more?.” Questions like these are called hypotheses and they enable you to formulate experiments with confidence that the variations actually solve the problems you detect.

To optimize conversions, conduct research to form hypotheses. Then determine the actual tests.
To optimize conversions, conduct research to form hypotheses. Then determine the actual tests.

4 Types of Conversion Research

There are typically four steps to conversation optimization research: technical, heuristic, quantitative, and qualitative.

Technical research. Technical research is the necessary first step in conversion optimization, to ensure that the website is functional and enables all the visitors to view the content. Although it is the most basic, it certainly is not perfunctory and should be done thoroughly. After all, if visitors cannot access the site or read it, there’s…