What Nicolas Cage and People Drowning Have to do with Conversion Rate Optimization

In a world where we have more data than we know what to do with, analyzing this data becomes more critical than ever in the conversion rate optimization world. Unfortunately, for us marketers, analyzing all this data can give most of us a headache because it requires us to not only to know how to navigate all the different analytics tools, but also a PhD in statistics (which is probably why it’s quickly becoming one of the most sought-after talents).

If you do decide to take matters in your own hands, here’s why you should remember Nicolas Cage when you’re analyzing your analytics. Take a look at this graph below from Spurious Correlations:

Undoubtedly, Nicolas Cage needs to quit making movies, because people are drowning themselves in pools after watching. Right? Well, maybe not. Here’s the reason why, and what it has to do with conversion rate optimization:

Correlation does not imply causation.

I can’t say how often I have listened to my fellow marketers argue a certain correlation that made no sense whatsoever.


It doesn’t we just need to make sure that we know how interpret it. Take a look at the image below for example:

If you didn’t know better, you may argue that there is a correlation between yoga workouts and inbound marketers even though they may be completely independent of each other. And that would make about as much sense as people drowning themselves after watching Nicolas Cage movies.

How then do we determine causation? The health industry has been worrying about that one for a quite a bit, and luckily for us marketers, there is actually a pretty easy way of doing so. What you’ll want to do is run a controlled study. In the marketing world, that means running an A/B split test to see if there is a correlation between the two variables. Tweak one of the variables, then see if it causes the other one to behave similarly.

So next time you review your analytics, just think of Nicolas Cage… or hire a rocket scientist.

Originally published at www.bensbizblog.com on June 5, 2016.