Legendary Conversion Rate Optimization: Case Studies For the Clever Marketer

Once upon a time your conversions suck.

Really bad.

A brave shiny knight thunders to the rescue, bestowing upon you…

…the legendary tome of conversion rate optimization.

Without waiting for thanks, the gallant knight wheels his noble steed around and gallops away, leaving you choking in a cloud of dust.

Three asthma attacks and nine muddy snot-rockets later, you begin to read the tomes.

You apply the magical lessons learned from the split tests and case studies to your website.

You giggle like a giddy schoolgirl as your conversions grow.

And then, you live happily ever after.

Clever, clever girl.

Then you die.

Oh wait — that wasn’t you?


Well I guess I can give you my tome of conversion rate optimization.

There’s approximately 7 years of reading to get through, so let’s get to it.

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The Conversion Rate Case Study Table of Contents

[mks_icon icon=”fa-check-square-o” color=”#000000″ type=”fa”] The Sims 3: A 128% Conversion Rate Increase and What the Sims Learned About Redesign

[mks_icon icon=”fa-check-square-o” color=”#000000″ type=”fa”] L’Axelle’s 93% Conversion Rate Jump: Injecting Action Into the Copy

[mks_icon icon=”fa-check-square-o” color=”#000000″ type=”fa”] 33% Conversion Boost: CloudSponge’s Remodeled Home Page

[mks_icon icon=”fa-check-square-o” color=”#000000″ type=”fa”] The Highrise A/B Split Testing “People Person” Phenomenon

[mks_icon icon=”fa-check-square-o” color=”#000000″ type=”fa”] Do Customer Testimonials Still Work? LeadPages’ 200% Increase Surprised me

[mks_icon icon=”fa-check-square-o” color=”#000000″ type=”fa”] Amazonian Color Theory


[mks_icon icon=”fa-lightbulb-o” color=”#dd9933″ type=”fa”] The 128% Conversion Rate Increase: What the Sims Learned About Redesign




sims 3 conversion rate optimzation

Can you guess what contributed to the 128% increase?

The takeaway:

  • Get tunnel vision. The first page is weak because the reader is pulled in a million directions, from the user options on the left, to irrelevant news, stuff from the store, and… more stuff from the store. An effectively optimized page should revolve around a single point of interest, in this case, the register button.
  • Button copy color. In the new and improved page, they change the color from blue to green (green is the safest choice, but test, test, test!), increase the size of the button, and they also add the element of excitement and urgency to the button.
  • Value proposition. Adding “FREE” to the copy (5 times) nails the value proposition down, and the bullet points give the reader reasons, which are more important than you might think.
  • KISS. You’re not stupid. But keep it simple. This is the perfect example of appealing design and simplicity.

[mks_icon icon=”fa-lightbulb-o” color=”#dd9933″ type=”fa”] L’Axelle’s 93% Conversion Rate Jump: Injecting Action Into the Copy





A few simple changes boosted their conversion rate by 38.3%, outperforming the original by 93%.


  • Use exclamations. “Feel fresh without sweat marks” changes to “Put an end to sweat marks!”
  • Cut the copy. Copywriting can be tough. It’s not fun writing pages and pages of copy, only to cut it down to next to nothing. But it works. Notice the editing in the optimized page: “Perfect fit to your body thanks to the unique fold line” becomes “Perfect fit based on unique fold lines”.
  • Value proposition. Adding “FREE” to the copy (5 times) nails the value proposition down, and the bullet points give the reader reasons, which are more important than you might think.

[mks_icon icon=”fa-lightbulb-o” color=”#dd9933″ type=”fa”] 33% Conversion Boost: CloudSponge’s Remodeled Home Page

CloudSponge founder Jay Gibb actually decided to crowdsource the redesign of his webpage.

He handed the project over to a community of over 80,000 designers, and received 189 unique designs.

The result?


cloud sponge


A 33% conversion rate boost.


  • Don’t be boring. When I look at the original home page, I can almost hear the grunting bleeps of a dial-up modem. Yikes. Our generation has been spoiled with sexy design. Don’t fall behind.
  • Multiple calls to action. Sometimes you only need one, especially if you’re designing a simple squeeze page. But it rarely hurts to give your visitor multiple opportunities to take action. Opportunity may only knock once, but you’re selling something. Salesmen knock a lot. It’s the nature of the beast.
  • Rhyme and Reasons. All forms of writing benefit from a smooth, poetic rhythm. Copywriting rhythm is usually quite a bit different than, say, a sonnet or a haiku. But should still be there. One of the ways CloudSponge creates rhythm in their copy is by keeping the bullet points a similar length. They also give their visitor reasons to sign up.

[mks_icon icon=”fa-lightbulb-o” color=”#dd9933″ type=”fa”] The Highrise A/B Split Testing “People Person” Phenomenon

Before and after #1:

before and after


Not too surprisingly, the long form page beat the pants off of the scattered clutter of the original.

Before and after #2:



Again, no surprise there, except for the killer margin! 102.5% — not bad at all.

Before and after #3:



This seems a bit odd — I guess you can’t always have the best of both worlds.

The Takeaway?

There’s really only one:

  • People like personality, prettiness, perk, non-pretension, and ultimately, people.

In following split tests they used various models for the page and found that Jocelyn, the model in the original revamps wasn’t the secret sauce of the conversion bump — it was simply people in general.

The people switcharoo split test results:

split tests

[mks_icon icon=”fa-lightbulb-o” color=”#dd9933″ type=”fa”] 591% Improvement With a Simple Call to Action Modification





And the results:


Did you find the difference between the two?

It’s a subtle bugger:


Adding the contextual call to action boosted the effectiveness of this page by 591%. That’s far from a small thing.


  • Test (Always). I hope you get so sick of hearing the word that you run off and start doing it. Test, test, test-test-test. I’ve been copywriting for years and I never would have expected the second to outperform the original. I honestly would’ve expected the extra call to action to devolve the copy because of the clutter. And that’s why I always test.
  • Multiple calls to action. Again, it never hurts to throw in an extra call to action, as long as you can pull it down if the conversions drop.

[mks_icon icon=”fa-lightbulb-o” color=”#dd9933″ type=”fa”] Do Customer Testimonials Still Work? LeadPages’ 200% Increase Surprised me

WikiJob found that 3 simple testimonials outperformed none with this A/B split test (34% improvement in conversions):

wiki case study

This split test case study shows a 64.53% increase in conversions due to earlier placement of testimonials, and the spreading of the testimonials helped as well:

test 1 and 2

And here’s LeadPages’ 200% improvement.


case study 1



case study 2

In this case, eliminating the testimonials resulted in a 200% conversion increase. That blew my mind.

The Takeaways:

  • Test-test-test.
  • Simple changes matter. Never underestimate the power of a the seemingly marginal changes like button text, bullet point icons, a single word in a headline, button color (we’ll cover that next), or testimonial placement. It’s hard not to go overboard, because you can literally spend years doing nothing but split tests, and only find out that you’re customers are still changing; evolving.  But if you think you can change something for the better — even if it’s a hunch — do it. And test it.
  • Be a skeptic. I’ve been taught by the best in the business — and they’ve always heavily encouraged social proof. But sometimes it doesn’t work. You have to know your customers, and the only way to do that is to <insert first bullet point here>.

Think you can get away with not testing? Read this case study and you’ll find yourself rethinking that gameplan.

[mks_icon icon=”fa-lightbulb-o” color=”#dd9933″ type=”fa”] Red Light Green Light: Button Optimization

Before and After:

coversion optimization split test

At this point, you probably won’t be surprised.

I was, because apparently I don’t catch on very quickly.

The red button outperformed the green one by 21%.

It actually made me mad that the “green light psychology” I’ve always been taught didn’t work.

So I went on a quest to dig up the truth about color psychology. I’d either debunk a myth, or happily solidify my understanding of colors and their effect on the human mind.

The journey ended in a wheel of cultural colors.

Color psychology depends on the culture.

culture color psychology

As you can see from the wheel, just about every culture sees the color black as a symbol of death or evil.

But if you if your customers are primarily of Asian descent, you may want to reconsider leaving the color out — Asian cultures see black as a color of intelligence, and the Japanese associate it with a good sense of style.

So what about red vs green?

It may seem like common sense to use red as stop and green as go. But there’s other psychological triggers to evaluate. Turns out that most cultures associate red with passion, excitement and desire. The Western culture scores in those categories across the board.

It’s no wonder Target, KFC, Coca-Cola, Virgin Records and McDonalds use it as their primary color.

But if you look at green, you’ll see that the positive associations equally rival those of the color red.

Except in one culture.

South Americans see green as the color of death. Which button do you think would perform better there?

Ultimately, the red vs green button debate continues all over the internet, with marketers splitting evenly in opinion.

But I found my answer (Hint: it starts with “T” and rhymes with best).

[mks_icon icon=”fa-lightbulb-o” color=”#dd9933″ type=”fa”] Amazonian Color Theory

I’ll leave you with this intriguing theory: Orange beats both.

I call it Amazonian Color Theory.

Amazon’s founder and CEO, Jeff Bezos is known as one of the most innovative marketers alive. His philosophy revolves around testing, experimenting and constantly evolving:

“If you double the number of experiments you do per year you’re going to double your inventiveness… what’s dangerous is not to evolve. My view is there’s no bad time to innovate”

I’ve watched this guy market his business from nothing to the massive powerhouse it is today, and I can tell you that testing has been one of the main keys of his success.

If you think he didn’t test and experiment with Amazon’s button color, until he slowly, painfully and methodically weeded out every lesser color, think again.

amazon button copy and color

The best part for copywriters who decide to test the theory is this.

Even if it wasn’t an amazing button color to begin with, it is now, thanks to Amazon’s brilliant customer appeal.

Amazon has been winning the hearts of online customers for over 20 years.

If you buy lots of stuff on Amazon, you have a psychological trigger superglued to your brain.

That trigger is: “Orange button = getting stuff I want.”

I’m not saying it’ll outperform all colors in all situations. But it will in most.

Ultimately we can only come to one final conclusion.

I’ll even say that this is a marketing rule of sorts, that applies to every situation (that I can think of).

You should always know your customer first.

For the most part, you can’t just take what works in one market, apply it to another, and expect everything to work out perfectly.

Yes, there’s marketing strategies that generally apply across the board, but there’s exceptions to the rules.

Do your customers have unique quirks that’ll result in exceptions to generally accepted marketing rules?

There’s only one way to find out.


*Case Studies and other such brilliance from KISSmetrics, LeadPages, Amazon, Information is Beautiful, Google, and my humble brain.

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