CXL Minidegree: Conversion Optimization Part [5/12]

Aaron Baker
5 min readNov 30, 2020

Topics we focused on this week

Introduction to Google Analytics

Landing Page Optimization

What “Analytics” is?

Basically, there is money pouring into marketing (Something happens) then you hope to get more money out of it.

Analytics answers ‘How’ this happens.

Think about the numbers as behaviours (What’s behind the numbers)


  • Tracking blog posts
  • See how people are flowing through the site.
  • Attribute that to them making money

Google does 3 things

  1. Collects data — Google Tag Manager does a great job here
  2. Stores data — Google Analytics does this incredibly well
  3. Reports on the data — Google Data Studio does a great job here

What are realtime reports?

Realtime reports display a live view of your site. You wouldn’t want to use realtime reports to make decisions. The real power is using realtime reports to make sure that everything is working correctly on your site.

You can even use filters to look at how specific segments of your users are behaving.

As soon as you are done with the filters the information disappears.

Landing Page Optimization

Fast vs slow thinking and cognitive biases

In order to develop great landing pages, you don’t need to be an expert in digital psychology, but you should understand the fundamentals.

To do this we take a look at the work done by Daniel Kahneman Amos Tversky. They purposed that humans essentially have 2 different modes of thinking. They referred to them as ‘Fast’ and ‘slow’ thinking.

System 1 or ‘Fast’

  • Automatic
  • Emotional
  • Subconscious
  • In the moment

System 2 or ‘Slow’

  • Effortful
  • Logical
  • Conscious
  • Planning Ahead

Understanding that people make their initial judgements within those first few seconds is crucial to effective landing page design.

When you understand this, then you’d know why the Law of least Effort holds.

People will always want to go with the easiest route possible, so you need to design in a way that is as frictionless as possible.

Neuroscience — Intro to brain chemicals

Dopamine Vs. Cortisol


Contrary to popular belief, Dopamine is not the 1:1 happiness chemical. It is a large component in habituation, which is the diminishing returns resultant of repeated Dopamine hits. The chemical plays a central role in motivation. Dopamine is actually the mechanism that is released when we are presented with a reward. Reward mechanisms were important to our ancestors that needed the motivation to keep looking for new and bigger rewards.

The mechanism produces the joy of finding things that meet your needs. It’s that “Whoo Hoo! I got !?” feeling. However, it also dips and leads to disappointment and sometimes anger.

Dopamine helps us predict rewards.

  • The x-axis is the dopamine firing rate, Y-axis is the Prediction error type
  • Unexpected Reward: You get a dopamine hit at the reward
  • No error, Expected Reward: You get the hit when you take action, or there is a cue
  • Negative: No reward — You get the hit when you take the requisite action but then receive a negative reward when your expectations are not met

Disappointment: A negative prediction error. When our expectations of reality don’t live up to our experience of reality.

For us as marketers, we should be over-delivering as much as possible.

At every stage of the customer journey, you make a promise to your users. Both Intentionally and unintentionally. So if at any point of that buying journey the customer is disappointed that is a negative hit on your brand.


Produces the “oh no — I left the stove on!” feeling. It is a built-in alarm system that alerts you to oncoming pain if you don’t act quickly. The goal of Cortisol is to help us ‘want’ to avoid pain. Marketers can find that a Cortisol surge equals fear and a cortisol drip = stress and anxiety. We can use this knowledge to understand when it’s best to induce fear or anxiety when designing our product messaging.

Just like dopamine, cortisol spike just before the pain once we’ve had experience with that pain.

for our ancestors, survival was a daily challenge

however, for us today (western society) you can feel threatened in environments when they are truly life-threatening. But these triggers still exist, so we can still feel this way. This mechanism was great for our ancestors to learn how to avoid pain since survival for them was a daily challenge.

however, for us today — at least in western society — you can feel threatened in environments when they are truly life-threatening. But these triggers still exist, so we can still feel this way.

Some Cortisol triggers to watch out for.

Violating expectations: A perceived bait and switch

Ambiguity: lack of clarity is confusing

Disempowerment: Making your user feel like they aren’t in control.

Multi-Tasking: Trying to solve several tasks at once

Too much pressure: Forced to make a decision

Stop words: Example — spam

Follow these three rules when working with potential causes of cortisol.

  1. Don’t disappoint your users by failing to deliver on a promised reward.
  2. Avoid triggering cortisol. Be aware of potential backfires.
  3. Be clear, transparent and honest.

Wireframing and Information Hierarchy

What is a wireframe?

A visual guide that represents the skeletal framework of a page or website.

When you are developing a wireframe, at this point, you are just trying to conceptualize the page. There are actually many ways to do this. But you want to keep the process as simple as possible.

A big issue is that web dev teams often misalign the web copy and design. In many cases, the site is designed first, but it’s actually the words that are doing the selling. So you need to design around the message.

Final Thoughts

After completing CXL’s Digital Psychology and Persuasion Minidegree, I feel uniquely confident about my ability to grasp and find practical ways to use the tools and techniques described in the CRO Minidegree.

I give this first week a 4/5. There was some time spent on introducing CRO that I imagine being helpful for the uninitiated, but for me, I’m looking to get a more in-depth understanding of running successful testing programs.

Until next week!