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Always Be Link Building

Every few days a note flies across the discussion groups pointing to some trick that improves web site performance. Today is was this interesting article on button colors and conversion rates. Dan Harrison published “How to Quickly Triple Your Conversion Rate“, describing some testing he did on his gadget affiliate site. The bottom line? Orange buttons outperform blue. And red outperforms orange. And “shop now” outperforms “more info” and “buy now”. Or something like that.

Of course I got some emails today asking me if “we” should change our buttons to red, and our button text to “shop now”. Please re-consider Dan’s post, and consider context.

Red and orange were higher contrast than the blue, for Dan’s site. The contrast attracts the eye. The eye then reads the message (button text), which makes a suggestion to the reader. If the reader has just browsed an item and found it intriguing, a “shop now” message may be very effective. If the reader has not been so primed to buy, “more info” might perform better.

Dan’s site has a top section with brief blurbs on popular products. Products the landing user has not already expressed interest in, specifically. I expect in that circumstance, a “shop now” will outperform a “buy now”. Only the most impulsive visitor would “buy” something they never knew before seeing a brief blurb. The “buy now” asks for a commitment. Shop Now does not.

Of course Dan’s visitors are to some degree primed for gadgets and enviro gadgets. Only Dan can test Dan’s traffic. And only you (and Google if you let them watch your business activity via Google Analytics or AdSense) can test your traffic.

Dan’s inner sections, where products are found via drill down, would probably do better with “buy now”. I’m not positive, and like Dan, I would want to test. But I would not consider it magic if it worked… I would consider it good design.

Also keep in mind that the overall visual design influences the visitor. Not just contrast, but lines present on the page, distractions, attractors, and scanned text. It all works together, as the user puts it to work on a task (find what I need).

Is it a good article? It’s a great article. It’s link bait, drawing links (like the back link in this blog post) which Dan will convert into money as he links over to his gadget blog or cashes in on his profile as a web publisher/affiliate. A blog which, should be noted, I never knew existed before Dan wrote about his testing. And yes, we are his target audience (we buy gadgets).

Should we change our buttons to red? No, but we should revisit the importance of contrast and visual design, because apparently we have forgotten some of our priorities (demonstrated by how easily we were impressed by Dan’s article). We may need to do some more testing to see if we can further boost conversions for the happy potential customers that are primed to shop or buy, but which we are failing to entice completely.

And finally, we should always be link building. Always, as a matter of course.


  1. It’s good linkbait, so good I just linked to it from a post I wrote the other day.

    Wednesday, September 30, 2009 at 12:10 pm | Permalink
  2. John, everything you say is true, but I want to add one point. I believe red and to a lesser degree orange have been shown to trigger an impulsive response in people. So all other things being equal (contrast, etc) the red button might still likely show the highest CTR.

    Of course as you alluded to, if your design uses a predominantly red/orange color scheme then that red or orange button isn’t going to attract the same kind of attention. The results Dan saw were likely a combination of the impulsive color and the contrast.

    Wednesday, September 30, 2009 at 12:45 pm | Permalink
  3. Dan Harrison wrote:

    Thanks for the link John, and for a very well written article. I’ve updated my original article to refer to your points, as they really should be read together with my article for completeness.


    Wednesday, September 30, 2009 at 1:44 pm | Permalink