If you’ve done enough conversion testing, you’ve doubtless encountered this embarrassing scenario: You design a revised version of a landing page based on established best practices… and your revised version ends up a big loser.

Or the test ends up in a stalemate, which is almost worse. (You don’t even get the consolation of “at least we learned something”.)

Naturally, it’s important to have a good understanding of best practices. But remember, they don’t always hold true. Sometimes, in fact, they can lead you horribly astray.

For example, on landing pages, one of the most frequently-cited best practices is that the main call to action should appear above the fold. This is a “best practice” because it’s generally true. But it’s not always true.

Depending on what you’re asking for, visitors may need more background first. Screaming “Act Now!” above the fold might be asking for too much too soon. And that’s a real turn-off.

“Best practices” are general guidelines, not universal laws. Occasionally, the “Buy Now” button (or other call to action) shouldn’t go above the fold.

Best practices are great for spotting potential ways to improve a page’s performance. But to reveal which treatment actually works best, there is simply no substitute for testing.

Testing your ideas is more important than following best practices.