Conversion Killers: How to Plug Website Holes That Leak Money

This entry is a guest post by Neil Patel, co-founder of KISSmetrics – a custom analytics platform. You can follow him on Twitter @neilpatel.

If you are like most marketing bloggers, then you are after one thing…making money online.

That’s why you crank out content, work the social web and optimize your site. You want higher and higher amounts of traffic flowing to your site.

The only problem is…if you are making one of the following conversion mistakes…then you are losing serious revenue.

Fortunately, it’s pretty easy to correct any one of these mistakes and plug up any holes in your blog or website.  Your first step is to find the holes. Let’s take a look.

Reduce the clutter on your sidebar

In a Which Test One case study, Anne Holland demonstrated that sidebars without clutter outperformed sidebars with clutter by 26%.

I’ve seen this evidence bear out in tests on my own blog.

But you can’t strip everything off of your sidebar and expect to keep revenue coming into your site. You do need about three things:

  • Popular post links – Options to drive them deeper through your site. The longer they stay on your site, the more likely they will buy.

  • Opt-in form – An option to subscribe to your email newsletter or download a free report can boost conversions as high as 100%.

  • Promotion box – And don’t forget to drive them to the flagship product you are promoting.

Anything more than that and your conversions will plummet.

And keep in mind, if you run ads on your website, it’s important that you limit the real estate you give to ads…otherwise you will erode your credibility, mess with your SEO efforts and kill conversions.

Improve your page speed

Slow page speed is another conversion killer. If you have a hard time believing that, check out this page speed chart:

According to web performance optimization company Strange Loop, just a one-second delay in page speed can cost you 7% percent of sales!

What’s interesting are the sort of things that can reduce page speed.

Matthew Ogborne tested his site speed to see how much his Facebook Like button impacted the page load…and he was stunned.

He discovered that that button on the right side of his website was downloading 83.4Kb of data…which amounted to 1.340 seconds of load time.

As you can imagine, he pulled that button immediately.

Last year Joshua Bixby wrote Are Third-Party Apps Conversion Killers? He wrote the article in response to the +1 button when it was new…explaining that it was taking 2 seconds to download.

Two seconds!

Google has since optimized the button so it’s not such a drag on page speed, but it’s a great reminder of how much you need to worry about all the things you are loading on to your site, which includes ads. Slow loading ads are a major cause of high-bounce rates.

There are also applications and browsers that are not compatible. Take Chrome and Shockwave Flash:

Every time I go to Tim Ferriss’ blog using Chrome it stalls and eventually freezes. That is a sure conversion killer. The lesson is to test your site’s performance across browsers.

Your first step to improving your page load is to measure it. Run your site through Google Analytics Site Speed Analytics Report and then follow the recommendations that it spits out.

Create a cool 404 error page

You can do everything in your power to keep from serving up a 404 server error page…but it will eventually happen…

And when it does, it needs to make the user trust you.

A bad 404 error page will drive people away from your site. This is what you want to avoid:

A good error page will reward your user for actually having “broke” something. Think creatively like this:

Or this:

It’s almost like they’ve discovered something cool and now want to share it with others. And this will also encourage them to continue on their site in spite of having landed on an error page.

If they are getting too many 404 error pages, however, and no matter how cool the page is…people will get sick of it and leave.

Increase your site’s social proof

You can also kill conversions by failing to show potential customers that you are a credible expert. This is where social proof comes in.

For instance, Ramit Sethi lets you know that big media endorses him:

His credibility is not in question, is it?

The same is true for Hugh MacLeod, especially when you see he’s done work for TechCrunch, Purina and Microsoft:

Adding social proof to your site can be as easy as embedding the logos for all of the organizations that have endorsed you.

Here is Men with Pens footer:

Social proof is also seen when you display the number of shares your content has gotten across the social web and the number of subscribers you have

I’d say Michael Hyatt is doing pretty good, wouldn’t you?

And finally, providing testimonials is another way to improve conversions on your website. Here’s a sample from Tim Ferriss’ blog:

Not too shabby, eh?

Up your persuasion game

In the end, you might have a fast-loading site, a clutter-free side-bar, a great 404 error page and decent social proof…but if you don’t have persuasive sales copy…you will not convert.

Words are what will convince your potential customer to buy from you. You do that by getting them into a position where they can’t resist.

Here are the three most powerful ways to do that.


This principle works on the idea that there is a limited amount of something left. If used right, it’s one of the most potent copy techniques out there.

How should you use it?

  • Advertise that you have 14 seats left for your conference.
  • Or it could mean that you are running a two day sale…or an intro price. What’s scarce there is time…namely how little time the customer has to buy at a discount.

  • If you are a consultant, you could promote that you are only taking on 4 clients.
  • You are only creating 100 Bentley’s in this model this year.

The point is to weave a sense of limited supply in what you are selling that motivates people to pull the trigger now.


Often people want what you have to sell and have the money…but they simply don’t want to spend the money at that moment.

Use urgency to get them to act. Here are some examples:

  • Black Friday – You can get crazy good deals on products the day after Christmas if you are willing to wake up at 3 in the morning. Or earlier.
  • Somebody is going to die – You see this with non-profits fighting starvation and malnutrition. They’ll put a malnourished child on the landing page with the title, “Every X seconds a child dies from starvation.”


This copywriting persuasion technique is also known as the ”velvet rope,” which is used to keep “average” people from entering a certain club or restaurant.

What’s nice about using exclusivity is you don’t have to have a great product. Just build that sense of exclusion…and you can sell out.

Here are some examples:

  • The club that is only open to movie stars.
  • The golf course that is by invitation only.
  • The credit card that is only for people in a certain high-income bracket.

One last thing on persuasion: like good blog post writing, your sales copy must be clear and concise. It must also be easy to read.

For example, when you use white space between paragraphs and margins appropriately, you can increase reader comprehension by nearly 20%.

Spacing also allows the reader to fly through the copy. This guides the reader through the copy to the call to action.

Create a compelling call to action button

In the end, it should be really clear what you want your reader to do. Give them too many options and you will drive them away.

In the e-commerce world, this is known as “choice paralysis.” Tests have actually been shown that if a consumer is given 24 choices of a product…only 3% will buy.

But if you reduced that count to 6 items…30% of consumers bought!

So, make your call-to-action simple. And use these other best practices.

  • Your call-to-action button should be larger than other elements on the page:
  • Use white space to separate call to action:
  • Float important call-to-action above the page elements:
  • And don’t forget to put it at the top of the page:

By the way, don’t just settle on one call-to-action button. Test the heck out of different variations of it like Optimizely did to boost conversions.


Listen: if making money from your blog is important to you, then you can never stop trying to improve your conversion rate. See, the highest converting blogs got there because they relentlessly tested and tweaked their sites.

Fortunately, with just a little time and skill you can turn any leaky site into a high-powered revenue generating machine. You just have to be willing to find and plug the holes.

What other critical conversion-killing mistakes do you see blogs making?

If you liked this guest post, you should subscribe to my feed and follow me on Twitter @jasonacidre.

Jason Acidre

Jason Acidre is the Co-Founder and CEO of Xight Interactive - a digital marketing agency based in the Philippines. He's also the sole author of this SEO blog. You can follow him on Twitter @jasonacidre.

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35 replies
  1. seoteky
    seoteky says:

    I’ve seen the subscribe call-to everywhere, from PointBlankSEO subscribe to comments to SkyrocketSEO newsletter….Geeez still looking though for a plugin that should work on my wp, I’m not that good with customization stuffs 🙂

    Juicy pointers from one of the industry’s best – Neil Patel of KissMetrics


  2. Chris@Webdesign Resources
    Chris@Webdesign Resources says:

    Thanks for this great overview. It’s stunning that page speed has such a big impact. I never realized that the google +1 button can slow down page load by 2 seconds! A bit ironic when you know that a slow page load can affect your google ranking…

    • Kaiserthesage
      Kaiserthesage says:

      Yeah, but I think Google is finding ways to make that button of theirs to load faster. But I think page speed is just a small fraction of the hundreds of ranking factors that they use, but of course, it’s best to at least try to optimize that area for the users’ sake.

  3. Venus
    Venus says:

    An excellent post.You gave some fantastic dimensions to test my website on .I totally agree on all your points specially the one that slow loading speed kills the website performance.I recently redesigned my site, and due to addition of some images ,the loading speed is increased by 20%. On analysis I came to know this was the main reason of fall in our conversions.Lots of thanks.

  4. James
    James says:

    Nice post. Really like the 404 error page tip, something that had never crossed my mind.
    Ive been updating sites alot recently for speed, I think it plays a huge factor as you mentioned and I have seen some slight improvements with regards to bounce rate and also revenue generated.


  5. mrvoltas
    mrvoltas says:

    I recently came across your blog and have been reading posts. I thought I would leave a comment. I don’t know what to say except that I have enjoyed reading. Nice blog. I will keep visiting this blog very often

  6. Neil
    Neil says:

    Thanks for this post. I changed my sales copy at the start of this year (following similar advice from Pat Flynn) and it made a huge difference. There’s also a lot to be said for placing a call to action at the bottom of every blog post – this has seen my sales page receive about 50% more hits.

    For keeping people on the blog, think about cross-referencing your own stuff. I write a lot of “how to” posts, and they always link around the topic to other pages on my site. My bounce rate has dropped into the single digits since I started this.

  7. Henry
    Henry says:

    Collecting email addresses with free reports is an excellent way to caputure leads. Another thing that people need to be aware of is the social proof of your website. It has to be connected with social networking sites such as google plus, facebook and twitter.

  8. Eren
    Eren says:

    This post is right on. So many times we work on ranking and forget about conversion. It’s worth taking the time to tweak our websites for better conversions. Working smarter and not harder is the key. I’ve often though about the FB like button and how I might take it off if it means my pages load faster. I’m going to test it.
    All the best,

  9. Jason Lancaster@Denver SEO Consulting
    Jason Lancaster@Denver SEO Consulting says:

    Wow – lots of good advice here. I wanted to underline the point about 3rd-party elements slowing down load times. Earlier today, I found a site that loaded *61* external javascripts (61!) – nearly 500k of data. Most of these scripts were badges, affiliate links, and fancy features that really only serve to distract. They can add up.

    So, my comment here is that a) pull your javascript affiliate links and replace them with HTML and b) use google’s javascript libraries as much as possible, as they have rules that will improve load times as well as a fantastic CDN.

  10. iLeader
    iLeader says:

    thanks Neil for this really comprehensive list of conversion killers. I work for an SEO company in South Africa (iLead) and we are pretty good at SEO, but the reality is that it does not matter how many people go to the site, if they don’t buy at the site then it was all for nothing. I NEVER realized how much of an impact 3rd party applications have on the download speed, I’ll definitely be looking at all the sites we manage to see where we can cut the download speed.
    the tip on the side bar is also great, having an opt in section and a popular posts section is pretty important and amazingly enough i think that virtually none of the sites we manage actually has these sections. So once again I’ll be updating sites.
    Actually you have so many good suggestions that i feel a bit embarrassed; in our focus on SEO we seem to have missed out on too many ways of improving conversions. Thank you for reminding me of the other side.

  11. Tammy Everts
    Tammy Everts says:

    Thanks so much for the Strangeloop shout-out, Neil. Funny — I started reading this post because I guessed (rightly) that it would have some great tips. It was a very pleasant surprise to see our company show up. 🙂

    If people are interested in more stats around the relationship between page speed and business metrics, our president, Joshua Bixby, has corralled a ton of numbers in this blog post:

    We also have some great case studies on our site:

    Thanks again — both for the mention and the great post!

  12. Alam
    Alam says:

    Hey, it’s one interesting read!

    I love how Neil present social proof as ways to increase conversion rate. One question though, if i don’t have huge metric to brag, then how can i use it for my conversion tools?

    Still interesting article though, interesting site as well. Bookmarked it for future reference. 😀

  13. Kumar Gauraw
    Kumar Gauraw says:

    I love Neil’s posts having known that some incredible message will definitely be there somewhere. This post is no exception. Wow! What an insightful information. Thank you for sharing Neil. It helps.

  14. 8 Track
    8 Track says:

    Hello Neil Patel… I always confused about the placement of all these things, so please describe the position of all three things. You are providing a large number of key-points which are much helpful to make a quality blog.


Trackbacks & Pingbacks

  1. […] Reduce the clutter in your sidebar – While this is really meant to raise your conversion rate, this will also reduce the bounce rate. Too much clutter in the sidebar can drive people away…and when Google starts to notice the bounces, it might give your site a thumbs down. […]

  2. […] Patel’s guest post here about conversion killers, which has 12 linking root domains (including links from his latter posts on Search Engine Journal […]

  3. […] instance, both Neil Patel and Nick Eubanks did a guest post here on my blog. Both entries are receiving natural links, where […]

  4. […] no denying it: slow page load will kill your conversion. This illustration from StrangeLoop demonstrates […]

  5. […] Reduce the clutter in your sidebar – While this is really meant to raise your conversion rates once someone is on your page, this will also reduce the bounces when someone does land on your page. Too much clutter in the sidebar can drive people away…and when Google starts to notice the bounces they might give it a thumbs down. […]

  6. […] Conversion Killers: How to Plug Website Holes That Leak Money – If you are like most marketing bloggers, then you are after one thing…making money online. […]

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