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Surprise, surprise! Having no secure icon on a page increased conversions by 400%

Last week, we ran a contest (with $3000 worth prize) where we asked you to predict which variation in an A/B test produced 400% increase in conversions. We received over 50 entries and (ironically) the split of answers was roughly 50/50. This shows just how hard it is to predict A/B test winner in advance. Only real data tells the truth! For this case, now you have the answer: the variation that DID NOT have security badge actually increased conversions by 400%. This is in stark contrast to one of our earlier A/B testing case studies where a variation which had security badge increased conversions by 32% (over the control which did not have such badge). This shows that every site is unique and best practices shouldn’t be adopted without doing any testing to prove that they would work for your site too. Out of all the correct entries, we’ve selected one entry randomly to win this contest:

The $3000 worth prize (twelve month Visual Website Optimizer $249/mo subscription) goes to: Subhash Surampudi [link to his comment]. Congratulations to the winner!

Case Study ICoupon Blog is a coupon website that has been around for about 5 months and provides coupons and rebates for different services and products. They decided to use Visual Website Optimizer to increase click-throughs on these coupons. What they tested was whether having a large ‘Secure’ icon in the sidebar would help with our conversion rate. They thought the icon would help because it would push down other (distracting) text in the sidebar. [Note to ICoupon: a great follow up test would be to further test this hypothesis by having a variation where sidebar text is completely removed] Here are the variations they tested:

– Version A: with Security badge in sidebar –

– Version B: without Secure badge in sidebar –

Reasons why this particular variation was tested In the words of Bradley Spencer (from ICoupon):

Actually I thought the ‘Secure’ icon would win hands down. It was my idea and I wanted to prove to my partners that it was a good idea. I was really surprised to learn that it didn’t help at all.

They also had some user testing done and everyone seemed to notice the ‘Secure’ button a lot. It was one of the most prominent parts of the page. So they think removing it helped focus the user on they we really wanted them to push. A/B test results They found that without the secure icon had over 400% improvement on conversions as compared to having the image. [Note: results are statistically significant] Strangely, removing the icon dropped site engagement by about 17%. However, with their business model a ‘bounce’ is actually a good thing, so site engagement isn’t as large of a factor. In nutshell, in this particular case, it looks like the secure icon distracted the visitor from the main focus of the page. Lessons As Bradley sums up the lessons for others:

Make each page designed to get the user to do one thing, and try to focus all of their attention on that one thing.

He also adds a word about the tool they used for the test:

Visual Website Optimizer was invaluable. We would have kept wasting user’s attention with that icon without VWO.

Founder and Chairman of Wingify.

Comments (17)

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  1. When providing my online payment details, the last thing I want to see is that your site security is a selling point. That should be a given.

    In attempting to create trust perhaps you created disbelief and distrust?

  2. Perhaps the results are due to the “secure” badge not being attributed to a 3rd party. To me, it’s just an image.

    I wonder if the badge would have different results if it were third party secured. Credibility via outside party…

    Interesting, nonetheless.


  3. I agree with @apzuckerman. Do the same test with a verisign logo, for instance, and publish the results… 😉

    A big custom image like that just make the customer suspicious. If there are so many trusted seals around, why make a huge statement with a worthless badge? Looks fake.



  4. As the comments above indicate, this article makes claims that are not real. Re-run the test with a trusted logo.

    I can imagine that a “fake” trust logo is a massive disincentive. Brands work because they engage subconscious triggers. Verisign has developed a brand, it has significant repetition and reinforcement, and therefore its emblem stimulates a trust response.

    The very unfamiliarity of your “secure” symbol, coupled with the explicit “trust me” message, makes it an anti-brand. It does not communicate the trustworthiness of the organization for which it is the brand, it triggers distrust.

    A simple way to think about it – when someone (especially a stranger) says “trust me”, what does that signal to you? You can see how there is a different response from a trustworthy source saying “trust them”.

  5. Great case study, thanks Paras.

    I myself saw a decreased in sign-ups on my landing page when I tested thrust seals there.

    I’m thinking we should keep those for checkout pages.



  6. Maybe it was the size of the button that was the cause of this effect? Other than drawing attention away from the call to action button, perhaps it sent a wrong signal. If a website exclaims he’s safe, it might appear to some users as an indication that it’s really not.
    How about testing conversions with a small secure logo in the footer?

  7. Interesting stuff. For those who say it proves nothing because the badge wasn’t “official” you’re missing the point. What it showed was that design 2 delivered more than design 1 which would have remained unknown unless the test had been run. Not everyone is an expert on web design (and even the experts get it wrong from time to time) so choosing the right badge isn’t as obvious as we might think.

  8. The reason it pulled better is this…having a big green button that says secure doesn’t make make it secure.

    Nobody believed the badge was real…looks cartoonish and frankly looks like your trying to fools someone

    Would wearing a dime store badge on my shirt make me sheriff…no more than that badge ACTUALLY makes your site secure

    The badge is disingenuous and caused serious doubt…400% increase shows that

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