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A Simple Guide to Understanding and Creating a Website Conversion Funnel

by Christina Gillick

How many articles have you read recently about the “conversion funnel”?

Likely a lot! You’re probably hearing, seeing, and having the term “conversion funnel” shoved in front of your eyeballs all day long. I personally come across conversion funnel information dozens of times during my research and reading—every single day.


conversion funnel
Because an optimized conversion funnel is critical to your online marketing success.

Don’t think you have a conversion funnel in place?

Well, if you’re selling a product or service online, you do have one. Maybe it’s not optimized, but it’s there…

Even if your goal is to get your visitor to take a simple action—such as signing up for a free newsletter—you have a conversion funnel.

A conversion funnel is really an idea or a way to visualize and comprehend the flow and conversion of potential customers into paying customers. If you can understand and analyze the process, then you can take actions to improve that flow.

So what exactly is a funnel? Let’s look at the most common definition.

conversion funnel definition

When diagramming a conversion funnel, the noun form of funnel is used.

Here’s a simple diagram from that represents the process in the physical shape of a funnel:
conversion funnel aida
This is a very simple visualization showing each step through the sales process:

  • First, your potential customer becomes aware of you or your product.
  • Second, you build interest in your product. (Notice the funnel gets smaller because not everyone who is aware of your product will have interest.)
  • Third, you need to plant the seed of desire for your product or service. (Once again, the funnel gets smaller because you can’t expect everyone who is interested to actually desire your product.)
  • And finally, ask for an action. As an example, the action might be to buy something or sign up for an email list. (This is the smallest part of the funnel because a small percentage of the original potential customers will take action.)

Of course, this isn’t the only visual representation of a conversion funnel. It could be more complicated, depending on what steps and processes you want to analyze. Here’s an example with a few extra steps:

conversion funnel target segment

As you can see, the makers of this funnel diagram have more goals in their funnel. Monitoring these goals will help them maximize the amount of prospects that arrive at the “purchase” level of the funnel.

But wait…

Your conversion funnel isn’t actually a funnel!

If you refer back to the definition of the online conversion funnel, your actual funnel is better defined by the verb form, “to guide or channel as if in a funnel.”

What happens when you take a real funnel and pour liquid into it?

All of the liquid—that’s 100%—will be forced through the small hole in the bottom of the funnel. It has to go somewhere.

Now put your potential customers through your imaginary funnel. What happens when you pour your customers into that funnel?

Only 1–5% of the customers who enter your funnel come out the bottom!

Where did those potential customers go? They didn’t magically disappear.

The truth is your funnel has holes at each level.

Think of it like a set of filters. Each level of the funnel will have it’s own filter and only the ones who qualify make it to the next level. The others leave your funnel through the side.

Here’s a depiction of that effect from (click to enlarge):

conversion funnel cause effect

Of course, you could just let these potential buyers go… but you likely worked hard or even paid for those leads, right?

The simplest plan to get them back is to put them into a different funnel—with a different offer they may be more interested in. For example, if they aren’t interested in buying a $97 product, you could try to down-sell them to a $27 product.

Now that we’ve covered the basics of the funnel—and analyzed how and why they work—let’s build a simple funnel you can use in your online marketing efforts.

Building a Simple Conversion Funnel

Before you start, remember that building an effective conversion funnel takes time. It doesn’t happen overnight.

And, if you’re learning how to market—and putting that advice into practice—you already have a funnel.

You just need to understand it, analyze it, and consistently improve it.

conversion funnel aida 2For our example funnel, we’ll use the image from the first diagram in this post with the levels: “Awareness,” “Interest,” “Desire,” and “Action” (AIDA).

Here’s the image again:

Our goal is to increase the percentage of prospects traveling through each step in the funnel.

Ideally, we want more people completing the last step or final desired action.

The 4 Levels of a Simple Conversion Funnel

1. Awareness

conversion funnel awarenessTo have a conversion funnel you have to pull (not pour) prospects into your funnel. You do this by making people aware.

Ask yourself, “Where are my customers coming from and how did they become aware of my product?”

Then, look at the percentage of people taking that first step and consider…

  • Did you advertise? If so, what is your click through rate? Or how many people saw your ad and clicked on it?
  • Do you get traffic from organic search results? If so, which pieces of content reach more people?
  • Do people find you through social media? If so, do they click through to your website to learn more?

Make sure you’re properly targeting your customers so you aren’t working on pulling the wrong type—or completely unqualified customers—into your funnel. You’ll spend too much time and money trying to convert them. Think of who your ideal client is and target them. You can always cast a wider net later.

2. Interest

conversion funnel interestAfter you pull prospects into your funnel, you need to build their interest in your product or service. Your content and website are possibly the best tools for doing this.

Write a headline for your website that grabs your visitors’ attention immediately. Then, craft content that keeps their attention. A good copywriter can be invaluable for this step. Content and websites that keep visitors interested and engaged are crucial for helping the prospect get to know, like, and trust you.

So how can you tell if your “interest” level of the funnel is working?

I recommend asking for an action that you can measure—most often a signup form with a bait piece. Crafting a good bait piece—and asking your visitors to exchange their email information for that free goodie—is a great way to see who has more interest in your product or service.

3. Desire

conversion funnel desireNow it’s time to work towards making your leads (the people who opted-in for your bait piece) even more interested in your product or service. Make them desire it!

An autoresponder series is perfect for this. It continues to build the relationship between you (the marketer) and your potential customers.

Not sure how to take advantage of an autoresponder series? Check out this article.

Remember people most often desire a solution to a problem. What problem are you going to solve with your product or service? Make them desire that solution and you won’t need to promote the product! Again a good copywriter can be worth his or her weight in gold when turning interest into desire.

This level of the funnel can be a little tricky to analyze. But a measurable metric is how many people take the action you ask for. You’ll know you’re developing more desire as you get a higher percentage of prospects to take action.

4. Action

conversion funnel actionThe last and most important step to your funnel is the action step. This is your ultimate goal, the big action you want your prospect to take. Yes, they may have taken action already—such as opting-in to your bait piece—but you want a bigger action…

You want them to buy!

As you likely notice, only a small percentage of prospects make it to this level. That’s why you should use the conversion funnel to analyze your sales process and make improvements at each level.

Think about it this way: A 10% increase in the leads you get could mean an extra sale at the end.

Once someone buys, don’t stop there. Your best customers are repeat customers.

Think about other product funnels you could move them into. If you don’t have any, it might be time to expand your product line, create a new service, or even promote affiliate products.

What About The People That Don’t Take Action?

All is not lost if your prospects don’t take action the first time they go through your sales funnel. If they jump out of your funnel, find another approach to appeal to them. See if you can tempt them back in with a better or different offer.

Also, learn as much as you can about the people who took action and those who didn’t.

  • What differences were there?
  • How could you motivate the people who didn’t take action?
  • What objections were there? Can you eliminate them?

These questions—and their answers—will help you tailor your conversion funnel to perform at it’s best.

So what about you?

Are you using the conversion funnel to analyze and improve your marketing efforts? Let us know by commenting below.

Don’t miss other Crazy Egg articles by Christina Gillick.



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Christina Gillick

Christina Gillick is a direct-response copywriter. She helps her clients create loyal customers and raving fans through relationship building copy and marketing. She is also an entrepreneur and founder of ComfyEarrings – The Most Comfortable Earrings on Earth.


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  1. Anonymous says:
    April 13, 2016 at 5:36 pm

    Thanks. Great article. I really needed this breakdown to help organize things in my head!

  2. James says:
    April 8, 2016 at 11:32 am

    This post is a gem of a post. I have been trawling the internet in search of a well written easy to understand explanation of the sales funnel. It does exist! I have found it here. Thank you very much Christina.

  3. Anonymous says:
    April 3, 2016 at 7:09 am

    I like your “The 4 Levels of a Simple Conversion Funnel” points and explanation

  4. David Urmann says:
    April 19, 2015 at 1:42 pm

    Conceptual this works as a concept of a funnel but it would be better with some concrete examples of how websites in specific industries have actually put funnels in place and logically grouped content.

    • Kathryn Aragon says:
      April 20, 2015 at 9:01 am

      Thanks for the tip, David.

  5. Arthur Propp says:
    March 15, 2015 at 4:54 am

    Hi Christina,
    That’s a great article about sales funnels. Now the real challenge is to get traffic on the website.

    • Kathryn Aragon says:
      March 15, 2015 at 10:20 am

      You said it, Arthur. It takes both–traffic and conversions–to become truly profitable.

  6. Daniel Sont says:
    January 20, 2015 at 2:32 am

    I see what you did there, mrs copywriter 😀

    • Kathryn Aragon says:
      January 20, 2015 at 9:38 am

      lol. Thanks for reading, Daniel. We can all agree, Christina does great work on her articles.

  7. Gokhan Tunc says:
    October 9, 2014 at 11:11 am

    Hi Christina. It’s a great aticle and I agree that the infographcs and podcats are tend to get shared a lot. At this point would you have any reccomandation for those who want to start creating infographics but never done before (like me 🙂 ?

    • Christina Gillick says:
      October 21, 2014 at 4:46 pm

      Hi Gokhan, I haven’t tried either of these tools, but you may want to check out and

      • Gokhan Tunc says:
        November 24, 2014 at 10:22 am

        Hi Christina, thank you so much for the sites, I really appreciated 🙂

  8. Arun Sivashankaran says:
    March 3, 2014 at 12:39 pm

    Great intro to the funnel Christina. As you mention being able identify and fix the holes in the funnel is essential to improving conersions. Thanks for the post!

    • Christina Gillick says:
      March 4, 2014 at 5:20 pm

      Thank you!

  9. Tom LaForce says:
    March 3, 2014 at 10:53 am

    Very clear and easy to follow advice for the last three steps. The hardest part, especially in a B2B environment, is building the awareness at the top of the funnel. As a one-man operation, pouring money into advertising seems pointless, and social media doesn’t seem effective for B2B. How do get the attention of busy corporate types?

    • Christina Gillick says:
      March 4, 2014 at 5:20 pm

      Hi Tom, Let me give this a little thought and get back to you. Two questions for you … 1) What are you currently doing to build awareness? 2) What is your business?

      • Tom LaForce says:
        March 4, 2014 at 8:49 pm

        Hi Christina. Thanks for your questions. Currently I create and post 2 pieces a week on my blog, and then promote them on LinkedIn, Twitter, and Google+. I’m rethinking my business a bit. I’d like it to be that I help young companies that are experiencing growing pains establish strong business processes and amazing teamwork. My services include: Organizational effectiveness consulting, training, and meeting facilitation.

        • Christina Gillick says:
          March 6, 2014 at 10:31 am

          Hi Tom,

          Are you getting good results from your content marketing?

          For building awareness have you considered doing a podcast or infographics? They tend to get shared a lot. Your subject could be organizational effectiveness … Off the top of my head, I’m thinking something like, “7 Ways Startups Can Stay Organized and Effective.”

          Does that help at all?

          Also, you might want to check out for more on podcasts.


          • Tom LaForce says:
            March 6, 2014 at 2:07 pm

            Christina, thanks for sharing your ideas. I hadn’t considered either of those ideas.

            All the best,

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