If I had to pick only one metric, or one variable, that matters to the bottom line of an online marketing campaign, it would be your conversion rate. Traffic is good, and important, but it won’t mean anything if it doesn’t convert to meaningful revenue for your business.
Conversions, of course, come in a variety of forms — there are product purchases, content downloads, meaningful interactions with elements of your site, and form completions, to name a few — but all of them either generate revenue immediately, or move visitors into the next stage of your buying cycle.
Therefore, improving your conversion rate will increase your revenue, regardless of what else you have going on.
So just improve your conversion rate. No problem, right?
Unfortunately, if you’ve ever tried it, you know it’s not that simple. There are countless variables that factor into whether or not a visitor converts, some of which occasionally defy conventional logic.
Fortunately, there are dozens of strategies you can use to increase your conversion rate. Here are 50:
1. Understand the four elements of any action. The four elements of any action are opportunity, ability, incentive, and willpower. These elements apply to actions in everyday life (such as smoking a cigarette, buying a soda, turning left at an intersection, and anything else you can think of) as well as actions taken online (such as filling out a form, clicking a “like” button, sharing an article with a friend, and any other action). I covered each of the elements and how they influence decisions in detail in the first article I ever wrote for Forbes, over three years ago, and the words still ring as true and relevant today as they did then. The bottom line is, before you can hope to increase the rate at which people take an action on your website, you must understand what causes an action to occur. I won’t go into it in detail here, as we’re just in the first of fifty bite-sized bullet points, but I recommend you start by familiarizing yourself with the four elements of an action, then continuing with this guide.
2. Use more calls-to-action. Generally in marketing, quality matters far more than quantity — for example, it’s better to have one landmark piece of content than a hundred pieces of fluff. But in conversion marketing, both quality and quantity matter. If you don’t have calls-to-action throughout your site, users will never have the opportunity to convert. Opportunity is one of the four elements of any action. Of these four elements, opportunity is the easiest to influence, but is the most commonly neglected. Include these opportunities everywhere you can (without being obnoxious), including signup opportunities in the sidebar, popup offers, download opportunities, and calls-to-action in the body of your blog posts. Simply increasing the quantity and visibility here can go a long way toward increasing conversion rates.
3. Segment your landing pages. Many brands choose to offer conversions through landing pages; these are dedicated, standalone pages that showcase your offer to your visitors. They exist separate from your site, so you have the opportunity to cater your design and copy specifically to earn more conversions. Landing pages in general can help boost your conversion rates, but they grow even more powerful when you create multiple variations of landing pages, segmented for each section of your target audience. For example, you could create a landing page for each of your main products or services, or a different landing page for each of your target demographics.
4. Pre-sell your prospects with compelling content. If you’re optimizing a landing page, you’ll want to keep your conversion opportunity below or after your sales copy, where users will be more motivated (by the copy) to take action. One study found a 304% boost in conversion rates when moving the call-to-action below the sales copy.
5. Optimize for mobile. Most template sites and modern designs are responsive by default, automatically flexing to fit any type of device trying to access them, but if you’re unsure, you can always take Google’s mobile-friendly test to find out. The majority of web traffic now happens on mobile devices, which means your users will need to fill in information, click interactive buttons, and read your text on a tiny screen. Make sure it’s both functional and comfortable for the vast mobile portion of your audience.
6. Make it easy to convert. Along these same lines, you can also make it easier for your users to convert. If you’ve ever been stuck trying to fill out a lengthy web form, or dealing with a buggy site, you know the potential to abandon ship is real. Run ample user experience testing to ensure the complete functionality of your site and web forms. Is it obvious what needs to be done? Can your forms be filled out quickly? Does your site load quickly and offer a brief confirmation when the conversion process is complete? Users only need one small excuse to bail on converting, so don’t give it to them.
7. Eliminate distractions. Sometimes, companies will offer a call-to-action in a sea of other readable, interactive material. For example, you might have an email signup form next to a banner ad that one of your sponsors pays for, or have your call-to-action at the end of a blog post, where there are also links to related content articles. When you divide a user’s attention this way, you’re splitting their chances of completing the conversion into a fraction of what it was previously. Obviously, you’ll need to include some additional information, but the fewer distractions you have, the better.
8. Reduce the options you offer. Speaking of distractions, consider carefully how you present your options in a conversion opportunity. Most service-based companies offer multiple different “plans,” while product-based companies may offer different varieties or packages of products. Either way, you’ll want to reduce the number of options you offer your users. The paradox of choice is that it seems like more choices is always a good thing — it means you can judge your options on more criteria — but in reality, it’s easier to make a decision when there are only a handful of options. Keep your users’ options to two to three at the most.
9. Limit the information you request. Remember what I said about making the conversion process as easy as possible for users? Combine that with the “fewer options” principle in the last point I made, and you come to this one: reduce the number of fields you require users to fill out. Too many fields can be intimidating or annoying, making users want to abandon the process entirely. There’s no hard rule here for quantity, but keep it to only what you actually need.
10. Use both required and optional fields. Not all users will feel comfortable parting with personal information; for example, some might be willing to give their name and email address, but not a phone number. On the other hand, you need at least some personal information to keep the process moving. How do you resolve this dissonance? The key is to use both optional and required fields in your form. Make your essential fields (like a user’s name and at least one mode of contact) required, while keeping everything else optional. This will help you cater to all audiences, and offer some assurance you’ll collect the information you need.
11. Use a strong headline. Your headline will be the first thing your visitors see, and it’s going to form their first impressions. Writing a good headline is an art, and warrants a full guide of its own, but there are some basic best practices you’ll need to adhere to from the start. Make sure you’re writing as concise as possible; visitors usually stop reading after only a few words, so make those words count. You’ll want to explain what you’re offering in a way that’s both appealing and compelling — it’s just as important to draw users in as it is to inform them. Don’t neglect either side of this equation.
12. Make your content match users’ expectations. You’re probably drawing users in from social media marketing, advertising, or some other channel that’s under your control. That means you have the power to set your users’ expectations before they ever get to your site. You can sensationalize your offer and increase your number of click-throughs, but if you skew users’ expectations too far, they could wind up disappointed and your conversion rate will suffer as a result. Make sure you’re delivering what you promised in your ad copy, links, and other means of visitor attraction.
13. Be straightforward in your descriptions. Most people have a hard time trusting salespeople, and for understandable reasons; they’re incentivized to sell you something, and are therefore more apt to mislead or deceive you to do it. Accordingly, when copy reads as overly sales-y, or overtly persuasive, many users stop reading or instantly distrust the source. Instead of writing copy that you think will sell your products or services, write copy that accurately describes it in a straightforward way. If it’s something your users want, they’ll be more likely to buy it with that honest, direct approach.
14. Make your unique value proposition (UVP) clear. If you don’t know what your UVP is, now’s the time to figure it out — what’s the bottom-line value that you’re offering your users that they won’t be able to get elsewhere? You can use your UVP as a headline, or inject it in your body copy somewhere, but make sure your users can see it and absorb it as the main takeaway of your brand (and this conversion opportunity). The more concise you are here, the better.
15. Use more action-based language. Visitors might be genuinely interested in your products, and they might even think they’re a good value, but there’s still a fundamental barrier to overcome if you want them to convert; you have to get them to take formal action. Visitors at rest will stay at rest, so you need to cue your readers to follow through by using more action-based language. Use powerful adjectives, and strong action words to instill a sense of urgency and get your users thinking about doing things rather than just sitting idly by.
16. Get rid of jargon and buzzwords. There are two types of language that can kill the effectiveness of your CTA copy — jargon and buzzwords. They’re both tempting to use, because on the surface they sound impressive, but there’s a problem with each one. Jargon refers to complicated industry terms, or else language that customers will have a hard time understanding — without understanding, there can be no successful conversion. Buzzwords, on the other hand, make you seem gimmicky and dilute your message.
17. Experiment with your content length. When it comes to the amount of content you should offer your visitors, there’s conflicting evidence. Some find that being as brief as possible, with only a small selection of words here and there, is the best approach, while others only see positive conversion increases when they offer paragraphs of information. It will depend heavily on your brand, your customers, and your offer — so experiment with your content lengths until you find the “goldilocks” length that works best for you.
18. Keep your language simplistic and easy to follow. You may be a fantastic writer who reads for fun regularly and has an impressive vocabulary, but remember the average consumer’s reading level is relatively low. Writing with more simplistic, easy-to-follow language will help you appeal to a bigger portion of your audience; bigger words and more complex sentences may appeal to higher-educated individuals, but you’d be alienating everyone else. There’s some wiggle room here, particularly if you’re trying to target a highly educated audience, but as a general rule, the simpler your language is, the better.
19. Focus on the benefits. There’s a tendency for amateur copywriters to focus on what a product is, and what it can do. This isn’t necessarily a bad thing, and needs to be included in some parts of your website and landing pages. However, when you’re optimizing for conversions, it’s far better to focus on the benefits; don’t just say what a product does, explain how it will improve the consumer’s life. Don’t just title your eBook, give it a subtitle or explain what it’s going to do for your reader.
20. Get your customers excited. Customers will convert more readily when they’re in a higher emotional state, so do what you can to get them excited about what they’re buying. You can do this by using more playful language, showing off people enjoying or benefiting from your products, or giving them some indication that this is what they’ve always wanted. If you’re struggling to write exciting copy, here’s a tip: the more excited you are to write about your product, the more excited your customers will be to read about it.
21. Use buttons instead of links. This may seem like a small and insignificant change, but it’s an impactful one — and it’s easy to do. Depending on the nature of your CTAs, you may default to using traditional hyperlinks. These are clearly clickable and functional, but they don’t carry the same interactive power as a button. Try using more buttons throughout your online marketing campaign, giving users the psychological satisfaction of a better-designed click, and you’ll likely see more click-throughs and conversions alike.
22. Make your Submit button more prominent. Almost all forms of conversion will have some kind of “Submit” button or “Checkout” button; though different in context, these all serve the same function: to finalize a user’s conversion. If it isn’t prominent enough, or if it doesn’t feel exciting or encouraging enough, users have one last chance to abandon the opportunity. To fight against this, try making your Submit button more prominent, with distinct, contrasting coloration and clearly legible, appealingly designed text to accompany it. It may take a few variations and experiments to determine the best combinations here.
23. Show your prices as discounted. Buying decisions are a complicated psychological phenomenon. As you’ll see later in this guide with “free shipping” offers, sometimes users will deliberately choose to pay more for a product just because it “seems” like a better deal (for illogical reasons). Accordingly, when faced with the decision to buy a high-priced item that is shown to be at a discount or a slightly-lower priced item that is shown to be “full priced,” they’ll choose to buy the higher-priced, “discounted” item. Use this to your advantage by displaying your prices, no matter whether they’re standard prices or not, as discounted from the “original.”
24. Play with colors. Colors have a pronounced effect on how people see and interact with content online, and sometimes in strange ways. Though color theorists have attempted to discern specific colors that convert outright “better” than others, results have been mixed at best. Your best bet is to use strong colors that contrast with each other to improve visibility, but don’t stop there. Play with different color options to see which ones work best for your particular demographics — you might be surprised to see how much of an impact it can make.
25. Play with fonts. Fonts function much like colors, but specifically for your text. Like with colors, subtle changes here can make a big difference, so you’ll need to experiment to find the right combination. However, you’ll also need to bear in mind the impact your font choice can have on your brand image. Readability and visibility are your top priorities, aside from adhering to your brand standards.
26. Add visual cues to direct users’ attentions. Sometimes, adding a simple visual cue that guides users’ eyes to your conversion form (or even more specifically, the Submit button) can increase your conversion rate. These visual cues can be almost anything, so long as they capture immediate attention and direct users where they need to go. Examples of these include direct arrows, lines that “flow” in a given direction, or even the direction of someone’s gaze in your images.
27. Dominate space with images. Visual content appeals to users faster and more emotionally than text does. It’s responsible for more first impressions, and more “gut reaction” feelings. Those instinctual reactions are your best way to get more conversions, so make sure you’re dedicating plenty of your conversion space to images. Most brands stick to one or two massive images, filling space but remaining minimalistic, but it’s up to you.
28. Include more human pictures. People have a tendency to trust other people more than they trust faceless corporate brands. Accordingly, even including a single image of a human face can inspire trust between your visitors and your brand and increase your conversion rate.
29. Remove stock photography. If you’re looking for an image of a person to include on your landing page, don’t resort to stock photography. Instead, purchase a professional image or take one — maybe even one of your team members. In general, it’s best to avoid stock photography. Though there are a variety of images available here, many of them immediately come off as cold or sterile, and it’s hard to find a “perfect” one for your brand. To make matters worse, it’s somewhat likely that someone else has already used your chosen image — which means your visitors could see you as unoriginal, cheap, or unprofessional, decreasing your conversion rate.
30. Include a short video about your brand. Again, visual content is incredible for connecting with audiences. Those who don’t have the time to read all your content, or those who are better visual learners can see at a glance who you are and what you’re about. If you have a tangible product, you can show it in action to demonstrate the benefits your customers could receive. Otherwise, you can use it as an explainer video to introduce users to your brand and focus on your history, values, and commitment to customer satisfaction.
31. Show your products in action. Even if you don’t use a video, you can still show your products in action. Most people want to see a visual demonstration of a product before buying it online, so written bullet points aren’t going to get the job done along. Show off your product from multiple angles, both with dedicated professional imagery and more candid shots with users using the product the way it was meant to be used.
32. Show off your social following. Social proof is a powerful concept, and one that applies to this strategy and the one following it. The idea behind social proof is to demonstrate your worthiness through the words, actions, and support of your customers’ peers. You can talk about how great you are all you want, but most users won’t be satisfied until a neutral party speaks on your behalf. There are many ways to do this, but one of the best is to show off your social media following (assuming you have a respectable one). You can advertise statistics, like how many people have “liked” you on Facebook, or embed your social media posts into your landing page to show how often you’re shared and interacted with.
33. Add reviews and testimonials. Of course, you can also demonstrate social proof by showing off reviews and testimonials you’ve collected. When doing so, make sure you include some personal information about the people who submitted them to add more credibility to your feature. If you can draw in reviews in real-time, as new users submit more reviews, the authenticity will increase even further — though it may be in your best interest to hand-pick some of the best-sounding reviews and testimonials.
34. Add a guarantee and explain your return policy. Even though online purchases are commonplace now, many users are still hesitant to proceed with an exchange of funds until they’re certain they’re going to get their money’s worth. That’s why including a guarantee, or otherwise reassuring your customers that their purchase is protected is a good way to ensure you don’t lose any conversions to this hesitation.
35. Offer a free trial or sample. This is another way to reassure your users they’re going to get their money’s worth, in a much more hands-on, immediate way. If you sell products, consider sending out a free sample before your users commit to a bigger purchase (you can also use this as an opportunity to collect personal information like mailing addresses). Alternatively, you can offer a risk-free trial of your services for a set period of time, like 30 days.
37. Include a drop-down FAQ. I’ve spoken to the importance of conciseness and removing distraction from a landing page, but have also stressed the importance of providing users with plenty of information to make their final decision. How can you strike this balance? One easy way is to offer a list of FAQs that drop-down when clicked, answering any last-remaining questions the user may have. That way, you can keep your landing page and conversion form clear of clutter but still connect users with the information they need to make a decision.
38. Add a ticking clock. If your users delay their decision for any reason, they probably aren’t going to come back. You need to imply a sense of urgency if you want them to convert “now,” and one way to do that is to add a ticking clock of some sort — perhaps ticking down to when the price goes up, or when the product is taken off the market.
39. Imply scarcity. You can also imply urgency by indicating some degree of scarceness. You can do this by advertising that this is a “limited time offer,” or that you only have a limited quantity available. Basic economics tells us that the scarcer something is, the more valuable it is, so this can easily increase customer transactions.
40. Offer a chat function. Sometimes, users will be apprehensive about completing their purchase — or even sending along their contact information. They may have questions about what you’re offering, or may feel distrustful of your brand (especially if you’re a new company). The live chat feature can put those fears to rest immediately; sometimes just having the option to talk to someone can be a reassurance of trust, and if it isn’t, it can put them in touch with someone who can help. Think of this as a last-minute safety net to recover interested converters who need one more push to complete the process.
41. Include your phone number at the top or bottom of the page. This is a similar tactic to the live chat feature; sometimes just including another method of contact can be enough to reassure skeptical visitors that there’s someone available to guide them. It adds legitimacy to your company and can help you recover any potential converters who fell off the map. It’s also a good way to hedge your bets; not everyone prefers email as a method of contact, or online ordering as a way to purchase products. Having a phone representative on standby might be a small additional expense, but it could earn you an entire new segment of sales.
42. Use trust badges. Trust badges are small icons that represent your affiliations with other companies and organizations. They’re called this because they foster a sense of trust for your brand when users see them. The criteria for using these depends on the individual organizations themselves, so make sure you have clearance before you just copy/paste them into your site. Still, when you signal that you’re a BBB accredited business, or that you’re “secured” or “certified” by major organizations, it can seal the deal for a potential conversion. Again, this is especially effective if your brand is new or still building a reputation.
43. Show off any personal brands in your arsenal. No matter what shape your corporate brand is, people are going to trust your personal brands more. If you have a strong personal brand (or more than one) at the center of your business, try showing it off on your landing page or conversion form. You can use an image of the person if he/she is recognizable, or use a quote as a sales tactic. If you don’t have any internal personal brands, you could potentially leverage an external influencer; get a testimonial or a recommendation from a well-known figure in your industry, and your conversion rate could skyrocket.
44. Offer multiple payment options. If you’re selling products to consumers directly or if you’re otherwise collecting money in your conversion process, you should be aware that the types of payments you accept could influence your overall conversion rate. Some people strongly prefer to use one method of payment over any other, and not everyone has access to every method of payment. It’s fine if there are some means of payment you don’t want to accept (for whatever reason), but make sure you have at least a handful of major options, including credit cards and PayPal, to open the gates.
45. Add last-minute discounts. Some users will be interested in converting, or buying a product, only to back out at the last second. You can prevent these circumstances by offering a last-minute discount, which can reinforce the value of your offer and prevent a visitor leaving. There are a few ways you can offer this; for example, you could give users a surprise discount once they add a product to their cart to help ensure they follow through with the checkout. Or you could stop users from leaving with a brief popup that gives them an additional discount code to use during checkout.
46. Advertise better shipping offers. The psychology behind shipping is somewhat perplexing; in many cases, users will prefer to take an offer with free shipping over one where shipping is an additional cost, even when the total cost of the former package is greater than the latter. However, if you’re a business that’s selling physical goods that need shipped, you can use this to your advantage. Play with your cost structures to offer free shipping (or at least reduced shipping) instead of slashing your product prices, and see what it does for your conversion rates. You’ll get at least a few additional signups.
47. Let your customers share the experience. This is an interesting tactic for two reasons; the idea is to allow your users to share when they’ve made a purchase with you, have donated money to your cause, or have otherwise completed a transaction. The first benefit is somewhat obvious; when they share this with friends and family, you’ll instantly gain new opportunities for conversions from other sources. But the second is subtler — because this user felt socially rewarded from this action, they’ll be more likely to repeat the action in the future, possibly increasing your repeat purchase rate.
48. Offer recommended products. You’ve seen offers like this before on eCommerce platforms you’ve used in your own life; after purchasing a product, you’re met with a message along the lines of “customers who bought this also bought…” with a list of other items. If a customer is interested in buying one product, they’ll probably be interested in buying something else, so rather than increasing the sheer number of conversions, this tactic can help you increase the value of each conversion by raising the average total purchase price.
49. Consider changing your offer. At its foundation, every conversion is about an exchange of value. Direct purchases force customers to part with their hard-earned money in exchange for a product of comparable value. Form completions force users to give up their sensitive personal information, usually in exchange for a digital good (like an eBook) or a special offer (like a free quote or analysis). If you aren’t getting enough conversions, consider the fact that your values might be imbalanced. Raise the value of your offers by including more or better modes of exchange.
50. Never stop experimenting. This is the most important tip in the entire guide, so I saved it for last. All of these potential strategies are miniature experiments; you’ll apply the change, see if it works, and keep it if it does in each case. But if you want to optimize your conversion rate even further, and keep it growing indefinitely in the future, you can never stop experimenting. Try new colors. Try new layouts. Try new functionalities. Whatever it takes, keep experimenting, and you’ll see your conversion rate grow accordingly.
Your conversion rate won’t become perfect overnight, but if you remain committed to improving it (and keeping it well-fed with enough relevant traffic), eventually your ROI will improve.
There’s no one combination of elements that will work for every brand, but if you tinker around enough with best practices and experimentation ideas, you’ll discover your brand’s formula to maximizing conversion rates.