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Insults: The Latest Conversion Rate Optimization Strategy?

don rickles photoSo, is this a thing now? Over the past few months I’ve noticed what is ostensibly a conversion rate optimization trend that was a little jarring at first and now is beginning to get under my skin a little bit. I’m seeing it on more and more sites. Many of those sites are run by very successful marketers, which is admittedly causing me a bit of an existential crisis.

The tactic involves interstitial popups, which are nothing new. They’re annoying but they’re certainly not new. It’s also clear that even though they’re not the most pleasant user experience, they work. So what’s the new tactic? Some of these sites are shaming me for declining to take them up on their offer and I think it’s a little insulting.

Here are some examples:

insluting conversion rate optimization attempt from Clarity

This popup window from Clarity forces me to click on a link that says, “No thanks, I’d rather learn the hard way” in order to dismiss the window. It’s the equivalent of calling me obstinate for not downloading their ebook.


insulting conversion rate optimization from social triggers

This one is a passive-aggressive insult from Social Triggers. I have to testify that I prefer to remain a knuckle-dragging Neanderthal instead of a modern, data-driven marketer.


insulting conversion rate optimization from cnbc

Now the networks are getting into the shame game! “Yes, please allow me to remain helplessly ignorant of important news.”


insulting conversion rate optimization from kissmetrics

And finally, Kissmetrics wants me to click on a button that shames me into saying that I want to bury my head in the sand and pretend everything is great.

The Common Thread

The reason that all of these causes me to get upset is that they employ a rhetorical strategy called the false dilemma (or fallacy of false choice). In these cases, a person presents a limited number of choices when there are clearly other reasonable choices. Employing an informal fallacy is insulting and forcing me into a false dilemma kind makes me feel a little like a caged animal. It’s not that I’d rather learn the hard way, Clarify. Maybe I just don’t trust that your book is the easy way. Or maybe I’m not interested. And not only am I interested in knowing how my marketing is performing, Kissmetrics, I have a crystal clear picture thanks to the detailed analytics I’m using and watching religiously.

Of course, what most people are probably thinking is, “I’m not inviting you into my inbox.” Why isn’t that a choice?

The $64,000 Question

Take It or Leave It

The $64,000 Question is an American game show broadcast from 1955–1958, which became embroiled in the scandals involving TV quiz shows of the day.

I know that most, if not all, of these websites are highly data driven and nothing happens by accident. They A/B test rigorously and watch their conversion rates like a hawk. Therefore, I’m also going to assume that this “shame game” is working well form them in terms of conversion rates. The question, I suppose, is whether or not the ill will they could potentially generate is worth it. Personally, I’m not into insulting my visitors but maybe I need to evolve as an inbound marketer.

What say you???


Photo by Gary Dunaier

Photo via Wikimedia Commons

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