Why You Must Consult Qualitative Data in your Optimization Research

Shlomo Trachtenberg  |  August 24, 2016

Shlomo Trachtenberg  |  August 24, 2016


As optimizers we use data to help drive our decisions (I hope). However, sometimes it can get confusing to know what data to look at and in what sequence. That is why it is so important to have a clearly defined process to mine your website data for actionable insights.

Experienced optimizers focus on process, amateurs focus on tactics. In this post I am going to walk you through the specific process I use for using data to identify high impact testing opportunities.

The two types of data: qualitative & quantitative

Before we begin it is important to understand the different types of data that are available.

Quantitative data - This is data that is measured in numbers and metrics. Examples:

  • Heatmaps
  • Bounce rate
  • Exit percentage
  • Conversions
  • Revenue

Qualitative data - This data is about qualities; information that can't easily be measured. Examples:

  • Usability testing
  • Feedback polls
  • Session replays
  • Heuristic analysis

Want to get huge results? Find huge problems

In my experience with conversion rate optimization I have found that it is all about problems and solutions. The bigger the problem you find the bigger the results when the right solution is implemented. The trick is to have a clearly defined process for identifying big problems.

So here is the process I use:

Identify with Quantitative Data

Identify key pages that have below average quantitative data. See here for some nifty Google Analytics reports that help find underperforming pages. This exposes the specific areas of your website that have problems, yet still does not tell you what the problem is.


Google analytics tells you that the “review shopping cart page” had a higher than normal exit percentage. This tells you that there is an issue with the “review shopping cart page” but you still don’t know what the problem is.

Pinpoint with Qualitative Data

Utilize qualitative data to identify and validate problems with on-page elements.

So, going back to our example, by utilizing session replays, feedback polls and remote user testing you can pinpoint exactly why the “review shopping cart” page has a high exit percentage.

This example shows how quantitative data identified which page had the problem and qualitative data honed in on the exact reason for the problem.

Follow this method for phase one of your optimization process and you will see a higher success rate in your testing. Happy testing!


Do you agree with Shlomo's approach to optimization research? Let us know in the comments below – or join the conversation on Twitter with the hashtag #DecibelSoapbox.

Alternatively, if you'd like to explore conversion optimization further, then be sure to check out Decibel Insight's comprehensive free guide. It's packed full of industry insight, techniques, and expert advice. Hit the image below to download it now!

Turn your website into a conversion machine

Shlomo Trachtenberg

Written on August 24, 2016 by:

Shlomo Trachtenberg

Shlomo is the head of conversion optimization and analytics at Laureate Education.


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