7 Conversion Rate Optimization Mistakes You Don’t Know You’re Making (And How To Avoid Them)

by Neil Patel

Last updated on May 28th, 2018

If you’re seeing lackluster online sales, it might be time to look at your conversion rate optimization tactics.

Chances are good that you could do a better job at sealing the deal.

It’s easy to fall into the “you don’t know what you don’t know” category when you’re trying determine why you aren’t converting curious visitors into paying customers.

That’s because there are countless factors – from the general fickleness of human nature to the layout of your site to the actual quality of the products that you’re selling – that can influence someone’s decision-making process.

CRO is a complex field, with hundreds of complex variables — friction, cognitive biases, UX, user intent, and a host of other surprising and frustrating wild cards.

Still, there are some general rules you shouldn’t break in your CRO efforts. Here are 7 of them.

1. Ignoring the Emotional Appeal

Picture this: you’ve got a great website. The layout is professional. The content on your site is grammatically flawless and well written. Your call-to-action (CTA) button is big, bright, and beautiful. Nobody could miss it.

And yet, you’re still not seeing the conversion rate that you expected. What’s going on?

Ask yourself this question: are you in any way appealing to the emotions of people in your target market? If not, then that’s probably what’s wrong.

The fact of the matter is that people use their emotions when making purchasing decisions. Specifically:

  • They use personal feelings and experiences as opposed to information about the brand and its features
  • They’re more likely to make a purchase based on their emotional response to an ad as opposed to its content
  • If they like an ad, they’re more likely to purchase the advertised product
  • If they have positive emotions towards a brand, they’re more likely to be loyal customers

You might think that only consumers use emotions to make decisions. Think again. Even purchasers in the B2B space make buying decisions based on emotions.

Why is this true? Because emotions are part of how humans make decisions.

pathos equals emotion


Logical thinking is only one component of decision-making. The rest? It’s a mass of emotions, feelings, and tangential thoughts. No one is capable of making a purely logical or rational decision.

logic brain


In fact, some research asserts that emotional marketing campaigns are far more effective than either a purely rational approach or even a combined approach.

brains emotional vs. rational


Any good marketing effort doesn’t just lay out the benefits of a product or service. It reaches people at an emotional level to increase the likelihood of conversion.

Here are a few great ways to add some positive emotional response to your landing page or website so that you can close more sales:

  • Use the PAS Model – The PAS Model (Problem/Agitate/Solve) is a great way to stir up emotions and get more conversions. First, you define the problem (“Having trouble converting visitors?”), then you create some agitation over the problem (“You’re losing a fortune in sales because your page isn’t optimized!”), then you present the solution (“Our customers are seeing conversion rate increases of 50%!”).
  • Tell a Story – One of the best ways to connect with potential customers on an emotional level is to tell a captivating story. A customer success story or case study works well here, as long as it’s filled with emotional content (“John was so happy we helped save him from bankruptcy!”).
  • Create a Brand Persona – What is your brand’s persona? If you don’t have one, develop one that people will appreciate and make sure that your website reflects it.

2. Disregarding Site Speed

The speed of your site matters for two reasons.

First, Google uses site speed as a ranking factor. That means if you want your site to be towards the top of the search engine results pages (SERPs), you need make sure that it appears to your visitors as fast as possible (less than two seconds is a good rule of thumb).

If you’re looking for conversions, though, you have yet another reason to strive for a lightning-fast site. You’ll lose customers if your page takes a long time to load.

Spark Pay researched the success stories of the e-commerce giants and listed attention to page load time as the #1 lesson learned.

It may not be the most glamorous facet of selling online, but it’s clearly one of the most important. Amazon carried out their own research in this area and discovered that, for every 100ms of page load time, there was a 1% decrease in sales.

Additionally, ConversionXL found that 57% of visitors will abandon a page if it takes longer than 3 seconds to load.

Site slowdowns mean loss of conversions and loss of revenue.

1 second delay on conversions


Put simply, customers are in a hurry, and aren’t likely to hang around too long if your website under-performs.

If your site is sluggish, contact your tech team immediately to improve site speed.

3. Failure to Adopt a “Mobile First” Strategy

Welcome to the 21st century. It’s the Post-Mobile Era.

Once upon a time, web developers would produce a website that looked great on a desktop or laptop. Afterwards, they would adapt that website to work on various mobile devices.

You can now safely think of those days as the Mesozoic Era of web development.

Today, it’s best to adopt a “mobile first” strategy. That is, your web development team should work to ensure that your site is optimized for mobile traffic first, then make sure it looks great on a desktop or laptop.

The mobile-first approach trumps even the old-school responsive methodology, which started with the desktop site and worked downward to the mobile site.

responsive web design vs. mobile first design


What are the advantages to a mobile first strategy?

benefits of mobile first


Want more motivation? Check your analytics. You’ll likely find that a significant amount of your traffic is coming from mobile devices.

the mobile take over


You’ll also likely see that the trend over time shows a noticeable increase in mobile traffic to your site.

percentage of website traffic coming from mobile


Also, keep in mind that Google searches on mobile devices now outpace searches on desktop devices. If you’re doing any content marketing with optimized keywords, don’t be surprised if much of the traffic to view that content comes from people on a mobile device.

Make sure your site is fully responsive so that it looks great on smartphones, phablets, and tablets as wells as desktops and laptops.

4. Lack of Singular Purpose

Three Dog Night assures us that one is the loneliest number.

It’s also the right number if you’re aiming for conversions on your landing page.

You should be trying to promote one offer. No more.

The CTA on the landing page below is a good example of this. They are trying to sell you one thing. There is only one CTA. One offer. One option.

linode screenshot


It may be the case that you have a portfolio of products or services to sell. If that’s the case, use a targeted marketing strategy for each offering instead of trying to sell everything on one page.

As Beth noted in her article on KISSmetrics, the more choices you give people, the longer it takes them to make a decision. Reducing options really does increase your conversions.

reducing number of contact fields

That additional time could eat into your bottom line as some customers get distracted or check out the offers of competitors.

Try this: structure your landing pages as though your customers have ADHD. That may sound harsh, but it’s the best way to ensure that they stay focused on only one product or service that you’re offering.

Once you finally close the sale, then you can start upselling and cross-selling with popups or emails. Until the sale is final, though, stick to a singular offer.

5. No KISS Principle in Place

Remember: you’re supposed to Keep It Short and Simple. (Or the more strident version, Keep It Simple, Stupid.)

It’s one of the first rules new sales reps, conversion optimizers, and designers are taught.

It’s also a principle embraced by some of the most brilliant minds in science.

make everything as simple as possible einstein quote

Why should a web page that’s designed to sell a product be any different?

You might be in love with some of the more modern technological advances that have recently emerged in web and mobile development. That doesn’t mean those widgets are going to help you sell a product.

Sometimes less is more.

Apple’s brilliant website and landing pages are a great example of simplicity. Nothing distracts from the focus on the product, it’s appeal, and the resultant CTA.



Make sure that your landing page is simple so that 1) it doesn’t distract people with too many additional add-ons and 2) those add-ons don’t create technical problems that cause your page to not load properly on certain platforms.

Note the simplicity, yet professional appearance, of Ben Settle’s landing page. There’s no header, no footer, no menu, and no sidebar. It’s a very simple single-page CTA.

6. Discounting Price to Increase Sales

One of the most widely accepted misconceptions about marketing is that reducing price is the best way to increase sales. In fact, there are much better ways to improve top-line sales.

For starters, when you cut prices to increase sales, you start a price war. A war is a bad thing. People get hurt in wars.

Second, you’re discounting the value of your brand when you try to close more sales by lowering prices. You’re effectively telling the world: “My brand isn’t worth as much as I said it was last week.”

Finally, you’re not going to build relationships and attract many long-term customers if you just drop prices to increase conversions. All you’ll succeed in doing is finding the people who are looking to save a buck.

Once they’ve done that, they’ll move on to the next site where they can save money. These aren’t the customers you want.

As Lincoln Murphy, SaaS marketer extraordinaire explains, “discounts are generally bad.”

discounts are generally bad


7. Not Applying Basic Principles of Marketing to Your Site

Digital marketing is marketing.

That was profound, wasn’t it?

Digital marketing is different, yes, but the core principle remains: It’s still marketing.

traditional marketing vs. content marketing


Unfortunately, many digital marketers put the emphasis on “digital” and not so much on “marketing.” They don’t apply basic principles of marketing to their websites.

That mistake is costing them sales. It’s surprising how many businesses are still unable to articulate or define their digital marketing strategy.

does your organization have digital marketing strategy


There are plenty of methods of incorporating digital marketing, but the fact is it’s all still marketing.

digital marketing budget allocation


Among the many methods of digital marketing, content marketing is the most used.

most commercially important digital marketing trends in 2015


Content marketing is also one of the most effective methods of helping users to convert. Unfortunately, it’s also where many marketers forget that they are supposed to be marketing.

Do yourself a favor. Read Robert Cialdini’s Influence: The Psychology of Persuasion and learn how people are typically influenced. Then, read about how websites are applying those principles successfully to increase conversions.

Make it a point to regularly read books about marketing from reputable sources. Develop a mind for marketing and apply basic principles of marketing to your site.

You’ll find that there are some principles in marketing that are absolutely timeless. Even in this digital age, certain old-school principles still work.

Apply those principles to your web design and watch your sales increase.


It’s time to get busy.

Now that you know what not to do, it’s time to follow some great principles of marketing and conversion rate optimization. That’s how you’ll gain market share and boost your brand.

What are some CRO mistakes you’ve made that you discovered before it was too late?

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Neil Patel

Neil Patel is the co-founder of Crazy Egg and Hello Bar. He helps companies like Amazon, NBC, GM, HP and Viacom grow their revenue.


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