decorative yellow lines on background

What you believe to be true and what is actually true may be two entirely different things. I can’t tell you how many times I have said the following when discussing conversion optimization and internet marketing in general:

“If you get caught up in your own beliefs and think you’re always right, it’s likely you will overlook the true thoughts of your audience.”

And when that happens, you can kiss your conversion rate goodbye.

So it’s time to discuss something many conversion optimizers have overlooked in the past: projection bias.

Here is the most basic definition:

“Projection bias is a feature in human thinking where one thinks that others have the same priority, attitude or belief that one harbours oneself, even if this is unlikely to be the case.”

If you don’t believe this to be true, this article won’t offer much value. But if you are willing to take a step back and consider the fact that a projection bias could be holding you back, you’ll better understand your users and improve your conversion rate.

What is Projection Bias?

Here’s what you need to know: many people are stuck in their concrete beliefs. This doesn’t just hold true when creating landing pages or solving problems at work.

Think of an instance where you were involved in a heated argument. Regardless of what caused the fight, it is likely there was one thing that escalated it: both parties believed they were 100 percent right, with neither person willing to give in.

This is a form of projection bias. You are so caught up in your own mind that you don’t understand what the other party is thinking.

What makes you believe that everybody shares the same beliefs? Like most, you probably don’t have an answer. And that is the big problem, especially when it comes conversion optimization.

io9 explains this in greater depth:

“This cognitive shortcoming often leads to a related effect known as the false consensus bias where we tend to believe that people not only think like us, but that they also agree with us. It’s a bias where we overestimate how typical and normal we are, and assume that a consensus exists on matters when there may be none.”

What’s the Problem? Show me More

It feels good to think you are right all the time. It feels good to believe that everybody else is on the same page as you. But that doesn’t mean it’s correct.

Here’s an Example

You are trying to explain to a coworker why your marketing strategy for 2015 makes the most sense. There are tons of options, with many ways to spend your time and money. Content marketing, social media marketing, billboards, and more.

You weigh all the factors in your mind and spit out a sure fire strategy for success. The problem is this: you didn’t ask anybody else for their input. That’s where you’ve run into trouble.

When you’re consumed by your own best practices, you will assume that your decisions are generally best. That is until the a coworker says, “I don’t think so, there are other ideas we need to look into.”

This isn’t directly related to conversion optimization yet, but it should give you a clear understanding of how projection bias affects us.

Landing Page Projection Bias: Let’s Take a Look

Now that we have all the “Freud-talk” out of the way, it’s time to get to the good stuff. Here is the million dollar question:

“How are you going to fight against projection bias to increase your conversion rate?”

A Real Life Example

Let’s think about something that impacts millions of people. Let’s think about something that concern many people.

Their appearance.

Drilling down one more step, let’s focus on weight loss products. There are hundreds of these on the market. Some people swear by them, while others believe they are nothing more than a waste of time and money.

Now, let’s assume you are creating the landing page for a weight loss product. It doesn’t matter if you are selling your own product or acting as an affiliate for another, your goal is simple: to persuade consumers that the product can change their life for the better.

Easy enough, right? Well, only if you “kick your projection bias to the curb” and change your approach.

I don’t know the first thing about diet products, but I do know that it’s a big business. According to ABC News, “the annual revenue of the U.S. weight-loss industry, including diet books, diet drugs and weight-loss surgeries” sits at $20 billion.

Abidexin is one of those weight loss products that has a major following. I don’t know if it works, but let’s look at the product’s landing page, including how it is optimized for conversions.

It starts off with a focus on a money back guarantee to earn trust as well as value for its price. It then leads into the benefits and positions copy to seem objective.

It’s not the longest landing page. It doesn’t beat you over the head with too much information. What it does, however, is try to prove why a diet pill is a better option than the alternatives.

To recap, here is what the landing page communicated:

  • Value for the money
  • Money back guarantee (to gain trust)
  • Benefits of the product, including those that are unrelated to weight loss

What you Should Avoid

There is a fine line between creating compelling sales copy, which you see on the Abidexin landing page, and having a projection bias.

Here are some examples of “projection bias” language that Abidexin successfully avoided:

  • Better than any other supplement on the market.
  • No reason to try another product, as Abidexin is the best of the best.

What would you have thought if you had read one of the statements above? These people are full of it.

Abidexin toes the line perfectly. They talk about the benefits of the product, all without the assumption that everybody shares the same beliefs.

If the makers of Abidexin had assumed that everybody shares their thoughts, its landing page would have come across as “cocky and overly confident.” Avoid subjective language that destroys trust.

Social Proof is your Biggest Ally

Okay, here is what we know at this point: a one track mind is not a good thing in the world of conversion optimization.

This brings me to a recent conversation with a conference-goer.

I was asked for advice on the best way to back up a claim, without being considered a “know it all.” This person didn’t want to fall prey to the projection bias curse, but at the same time he wanted to stick to his guns. A conundrum, yes?

Here was my advice, broken down into three bullet points:

  • Before you do anything, compare your stance to what others may be thinking.
  • Answer this question: will your hard line, one track stance put others off?
  • Back up your claims with social proof.

When you have validation from a third party, it’s much easier to avoid falling into projection bias.

This isn’t to say that Ambassador has a problem with projection bias. This screenshot shows that social proof can improve perception to users. It doesn’t matter whether it’s product or service: if others are shown to like it, your audience is closer to being persuaded.

Conclusion: Avoid Projection Bias & Assumptions By A/B Testing

It’s hard for some people, conversion optimizers included, to realize that they have a projection bias. Heck, Freud himself surely had it – it’s human. But that’s where the importance of A/B testing comes into the picture.

Instead of relying on assumptions of yourself or even your immediate team, A/B test ways to truly find out what your audience needs in order to convert. This truly avoids projection bias and relies on unbiased data to drive the crucial choices you make on your site.

Do you have any other tips for keeping projection bias on the outside looking in?