12 Things That Might Be Killing Your Conversion Rates


We’re in the business of conversion rate optimization and as a rule we always try to avoid using standard responses to conversion problems. There is no such thing as “the best color” for a call to action or “the best position” for a checkout button.

In practically all situations the answer is:

What works best for your business may not be the same as works for other businesses

But with that said, we do think it is safe to say that certain things can harm conversion rates almost universally. So while there may be some exceptions, what follows are a few items that we have consistently found may harm your website’s ability to sell.

Using Captchas

You know what a Captcha is right? You probably have to fill one out most days and I’m sure you have been annoyed by them at some point. But they serve an important purpose; stopping spam. Unfortunately they can also stop real users.


Deciding whether to use a Captcha is an individual decision, but do consider this: is the time saved worth losing customer for? Using a tool like ASKIMET should reduce the amount of spam you receive if it really is a problem.

If you must use a Captcha, consider using a very easy one and test whether it results in a noticeable impact on your conversion rates. Once you know the cost you can make an informed decision as to whether it’s worth it.

Using Standard Call To Actions

Standard call to actions are boring, but the real problem is that your users see them all the time, all over the web and have learned over the years to filter them out. The human brain is amazing and very good at ignoring information that it doesn’t need.

This is why a standard “add to cart” can often be overlooked, or why send buttons don’t get clicked. Again, it depends a lot on your customers, but some websites have found success by tailoring calls to action.

For instance, let’s say you offer a computer consultation service. Rather than having a boring contact form, you might test using a “select your problem” area:


You could use the text “What computer problems are you having?” with a list of likely answers below.

Here is the seminal work on the art and science behind the call to action, it’s a good read.

Making Info Hard To Find

This is a quick and effective way to kill your sales, particularly if you have an ecommerce store where customers want their answers right now and don’t have the patience to send you an email. This is made even worse because when you have this problem, there is no obvious signal to warn you about it.

As a minimum ecommerce stores should include things like:

  • Shipping times, costs and information
  • Returns policy
  • Who you are, where you are
  • Any other Q&A

For other types of websites the appropriate information may be different, but whatever it is, make sure that it is displayed clearly so that your customers can always find out the information that they need to make a buying decision.

Offering Coupon Codes

Coupon codes can be a very effective way to bring in sales and new customers, but they are a double edged sword and they can cause more harm than good if you’re not careful. The problem is that customers who don’t have a code may feel like they are about to be overcharged.

The presence of a coupon code box implies the existence of a discount code and you may lose customers who go off in search of them.


Of course, if you want to use discount codes then you have to include the box on your checkout, but here’s an interesting way to lessen the negative impact. If you never, or rarely hand out coupon codes, get rid of that code box on your checkout before you lose any more sales!

Not Using Customer Reviews

We live in a time where everything gets reviewed (I read a review of a car parking area the other day!) so your customers may well be on the lookout for reviews before they buy from you.

If you sell products then they will probably expect individual product reviews. If you run a service based business then you might need to include testimonials instead. Not all customers will read reviews and testimonials, but some might.

Over Using Customer Reviews

Of course, reviews and testimonials do not always attract sales and it is possible to harm your conversions if you’re not careful. One common mistake is cherry picking and using overly positive reviews.

Customers will naturally be sceptical of positive reviews and if your reviews are all overly positive they may seem to be fake or at least cherry picked – which can hurt your credibility.

Test carefully and if you can’t find the right balance, it might be better to not use reviews at all, at least until you build up a more balanced portfolio of customer feedback.

Content Problems

The mantra “content is King” is banded around the internet ad nauseam , but your content certainly does matter. Sure, a lack of compelling content may or may not directly harm your conversion rates but the one thing that is sure to hurt is:

Poor quality content, spammy content and bad grammar

In other words, if your content reads as though it has been written by someone who doesn’t understand your business, your customer and (most importantly) your language then you will lose sales.

It also matters where the content is. A typo or spelling mistake in an otherwise excellent blog post (like this one!) isn’t going to cause too many issues – but a typo in the wrong place on your home page, about page, contact form or checkout (etc) could seriously harm your credibility.

Proof-reading your most important pages is essential and you really don’t have any excuses.

Design Problems

This is a simple point, but an important one none the less. If your website looks terrible then all the calls to action in the world won’t help. The internet has evolved to a point now where customers expect a well designed website experience.

Your website doesn’t necessarily need to be visually stunning or win any awards (it depends on your niche of course) but as a minimum your design needs to be clean and compliment your content. It should be easy and enjoyable to view.

This post isn’t about website design, but if you don’t have to budget to have a professional design, these few rules may help to create something acceptable:

  • Choose your color palette and stick to it
  • Less is more, use a simple design and don’t overthink it
  • Use plenty of white space, don’t overcrowd it

Here is a helpful tool from Adobe to help you select an appropriate color palette.

Website Speed

In case you didn’t know, people are impatient on the internet and if they can’t get what they want from your website, the next site is only a couple of clicks away.

For this reason, a slow loading site can be fatal to your conversion rates; particularly if you have many customers browsing via their phones or a 3G connection.


Slow sites tend to fare worse on Google too, so for everyone’s sake you should use the Google speed test tool and optimize your site.

Mixed Signals

What is a conversion to you? What do you want a user to do when they arrive on your site? Hopefully you know the answer to that question without having to think for more than a moment.

But what if you have several goals?

Trying to get your customer to do more than one thing is a good way to confused your overall message and lose conversions.


But of course it is also important to allow different types of customers to interact with your site in the way that they want to. It’s not always easy to find a compromise, but trying to prioritise your primary conversion goal is a good idea.

Anything That Is Broken

Just like proof-reading, checking your website regularly for errors is important too. Broken links, missing images or layouts that don’t work on certain browsers are all good ways to lose credibility.

A website that looks broken will make your users think that you are no longer in business and that the site has been abandoned.

It’s simple really, give your website a once over as often as is practical and check for broken links or any other faults that might appear over time.

An Abandoned Blog

The internet is littered with blogs that have a few entries followed by months of silence and to be frank, a badly managed blog can be worse for conversions than no blog at all. There is no clearer signal of inactivity than a blog which hasn’t been posted to for months.

If you really don’t have time to manage your blog, hire someone to do it for you, just a post a week will suffice – quality not quantity.

Otherwise, consider removing it all together, or re-styling it as a ‘resource’ section. Do whatever you have to, but don’t let your blog be another relic of abandonment on the internet.

Failing To Track

Ok, so you’ve just read 10 tips to help you improve your conversion rates. But let me ask you this:

  • What is your conversion rate at the moment?
  • How does that break down between different traffic sources?

If you don’t know the above information, how can you hope to improve it? Conversion optimization may have some art to it, but it is a science and it is driven by data.


To save time, consider setting up a dashboard that can give you all of this important information in one place and get to know how your site is really performing – checkout Cyfe to see what’s possible.

Failing To Test

Finally, the one thing that is hurting your conversion rates more than anything else? Is the fact that you are not relentlessly testing and optimization for conversions.

Conversion rate optimization is something that you should be doing constantly, because every little improvement that you make to your site will benefit your business this month and for many months into the future.

As your business grows and evolves, so will your customers and you need to continue to test your assumptions and strive to make your website better.

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