The 7 Biggest Conversion-Killing Website Mistakes – and How to Fix Them

  • October 27, 2011 by Guest Writer
  • 25 Comments

Note from Caleb: This is a guest post from Danielle Lynn, a quirky, friendly freelance copywriter and marketing consultant who believes that business is best run with a positive mindset and clear communication. Danielle Lynn writes over at theclearcopywriter.com about copywriting and freelancing. 

Getting targeted traffic to your website is just half of the journey towards making it profitable.  The other half?  Turning that traffic into customers that stick around and buy stuff from you!

Regardless of what market you’re in, you should develop a solid plan and sales funnel to help you monetize your blog.  Don’t worry – it doesn’t mean you have to depart from your blog’s persona and ideas to squeeze money from your visitors.  In fact, you should stay within the spirit and tone of your blog when selling!  Offer relevant products, t-shirts, books, seminars, or services that appeal to the wants and needs of your readers.

Now, there’s already been a lot of fantastic coverage on the funnel process, such as the chain of conversion article by Danny from Firepole Marketing.   But what we’re focusing on today are some of the more sinister snags that block that process.

After helping companies and individuals optimize their sites for over a year now, I’ve seen a wide number of conversion blunders that clog up the sales funnel process.  So for your reading pleasure, I’ve whittled them down to the 7 biggest profit-killing website mistakes you could make, and how to fix them.

Mistake 1 – You sell nothing on your site

You spend hours writing up epic shit.  You drive traffic to your site with carefully targeted keywords.  You gain a huge following and readership… and you do nothing to monetize it.

Maybe you’re too busy to come up with a good product, or you’re a little irked at the idea of selling to your loyal community.  No more excuses.

The Fix:  Understand that people came to your site to fill a need.  If your site is a blog, the need they’re satisfying is for information or entertainment.  Fill that need by providing services they’re looking for.  Even recreational sites like “Clients from hell” put together and offer fun books and items for their readers.  Just be a little creative and set aside at least 20 minutes each day to work on something relevant to sell – and sell it!

Mistake 2 – New visitors need ESP to figure out what they’re supposed to do on your site

You may have spent endless months creating and navigating around your site – but that new reader that just landed on your home page hasn’t.

If they’re greeted to a website design that looks like it was put together by M.C. Escher, and have no idea what they’re supposed to be doing, they’ll probably leave without looking around.  Which is a tragedy, because it hurts both parties – they miss out on your valuable content, you miss out on a valuable reader.

The Fix: Figure out what you want your readers to do, then construct a visual path for them on your site with a combination of clear design and good copy.   A great example is Squidoo.com. They have a nice, clean interface, and giant copy at the top that sums up what you do on Squidoo and guides you to the sign up button.  After clicking on the button, and signing up, they guide you through the whole process of using and interacting with the site.

Now, the guidance on your site doesn’t have to be so complex.  Even a simple “Are you new here” button above the fold that takes new readers to an introduction and landing page can work wonders!

Mistake 3 – You guide leads into an email subscription, then let the list gather dust in the corner

You’ve worked hard to get that traffic and build up a list.  So why let the list go to waste?  I’ve known many a starting-out marketer who gathered emails, then for one reason or another, never followed up with that list.    Some were shy or they don’t want to impose.  Others had no idea what to say.  Don’t have that mentality – people signed up to get emails from you.  And they always have the option to unsubscribe – so you’re not imposing.

While it’s true that poor emails campaigns can be irritating and border into the realm of spam – doing nothing at all is even worse.   At least when you try something you’re learning.  And if you don’t keep building up steady rapport with your subscribers, you soon become a stranger.  Then they forget that awesome info they opted in for and any sudden messages from you results in a quick unsubscribe.

The Fix:  Start by subscribing to email lists from popular sites (especially ones similar to yours.)  Study what they do.  Create a campaign that allows you to keep steady contact with your leads.  Find a good balance where you send out information-packed morsels scattered with links to your products, services.   Make sure your messages bring value, but don’t be afraid to suggest. Either pick up some books about email copywriting, or hire an email copywriter to help you flesh out profitable email campaigns.

Mistake 4 – You offer deals that alienate your loyal customers

You offer some sort of special incentive or rate.  Perhaps $100 off a service or a deep discount for new subscribers.  Then in fine print, you place “offer valid ONLY for new customers.”  I don’t know about you, but when I see this, I feel like that’s a big slap in the face.  Here I am spending hundreds on your service year after year, and instead of rewarding me for my loyalty, I sit by while you hand out goodies only to the new customers. Sure, getting new customers is important, but you should never put them on a pedestal above your loyal repeat customers.

The Fix: While incentives for new customers can be a good strategy, don’t forget to take care of your loyal customers.  Discounts for loyalty, special bonuses and services, or other ‘veteran perks’ can and should be used to counter any ‘sting’ from lead-gathering offers.  A happy customer who constantly buys from you is worth more than 20 curious prospects any day.

Mistake 5 – You use social media only as your personal publishing ground

I’m not going to pretend to be an expert on social media.  I’m not even going to pretend to be an intern.  But I do know people.  And people are the driving force behind social media.

When used properly, it’s like talking to a room of people — a very big room with millions of people. When you hop on Twitter only to blast an update or do self promotion, people start to tune you out.  Would you pay attention to the guy that walks into the room and simply says, “I AM AWESOME, BUY STUFF FROM ME,” and then leaves without connecting with anyone?  Probably not.

The Fix: As I said, I’m no social media expert – but when I talk to people, they talk back to me.  And you can build rapport and grow a loyal following if you’re willing to respond and keep the conversation going.  And talk directly to different people.  Time consuming? Yes, but worth the effort when done right.

Mistake 6 – You try to sell things on your site only to make money, not bring value

Oh sure, ultimately we sell products to pay our rent and bills. The problem comes when you’re only focusing on how to fill up your bank account.  If all you think about is the profit, you’re not spending enough time thinking about how your product is going to help your customer.

And if someone trusts you enough to purchase from you and you reward him or her with a product that was clearly an attempt to earn money, they probably won’t buy from you ever again.

The Fix:  When creating a product to sell, your first priority should be to pump whatever you’re selling with value and quality – exceed your customers’ expectations.   Make sure it’s clear and useful.  What is the best way to gauge this?  When they buy from you, they should feel like they’re getting more than they paid for. They should feel like they’re getting a bargain.

Mistake 7 –You let yourself get trapped in by a wall of ‘expert advice’

The blogging, marketing, and website experts know what they’re talking about.  I’m not arguing that.  The problem comes when you listen to expert after expert and blindly follow their advice without understanding the fundamentals behind their suggestions.  Your blog journey is still your own.  And while we might be experts in our field, we’re not the end-all of information on the planet.  We’re still learning ourselves.

Besides, there’s a lot more that goes into the advice than a few sentences we wrote up.  There’s years of extra experience, intuition, and know-how that backs up each decision. So while the tips you learn from experienced bloggers should be taken into account and heeded, don’t let yourself get trapped in by a wall of advice,

How to Fix it – Build on the fundamentals, then go out there and experiment a little.  No one holds the keys to all the answers.  And you may discover a new profitable method on your own!

Keeping your website conversions flowing

Most importantly, when working on the snags in your conversions, stay positive and inquisitive.  Everyone runs into conversion ruts at one point or another; such as unexplained dips in traffic or conversions drop-offs that don’t make sense.  Don’t let these things discourage you.  Ask friends to go through your sales funnel and give you feedback, get a conversion consultant to look over your site, read up on everything about marketing you can get your hands on – and always be testing!

Danielle Lynn writes over at theclearcopywriter.comabout copywriting and freelancing. She mentors several students and businesses at a time. Check out her newly-launched Copywriting Workout and join along to test your copy-chops!


Think Traffic is now The Sparkline. Click here to check it out.

Or View The Archives

Sarah Russell October 27, 2011 at 6:36 am

Very well said, Danielle! I’ve definitely made every one of these mistakes before… :)

I think the first two are absolutely key. There’s no reason to sit back and whine about how you never make any sales when you haven’t put in the effort to make them happen. Thanks for the actionable advice on how to fix these issues – or avoid them altogether!

Danielle Lynn October 27, 2011 at 9:16 am

Hi Sarah,

Yep… me too! Social media is my worst offender. (Or maybe I’m social media’s worst offender?)

But absolutely about the first two being key— I realized that myself. I expected my sites to be monetized, but then I had nothing to offer! Once I put out some effort and got something of value out there, I just started asking myself “Now, why didn’t I do that sooner!?”

Dave Tong October 27, 2011 at 6:58 am

Man, 1 & 3 are my biggest issues… Still couldn’t think of a solution :(

If anyone can offer me advice, I’m all ears (site URL on my username here)…

Danielle Lynn October 27, 2011 at 9:25 am

Hi Dave,

I took a look at your site – It looks like you have the right idea. Here’s where I’d do to take care of your #1 and #3 problem:

You’re offering a free photography bootcamp for opt-ins.

Expand on that idea and offer a paid version. Perhaps the version people are opting-in for is the ‘lite’ version of your bootcamp.

After opt-in, you deliver the value, you walk them through the photography bootcamp via the email subscriptions. Intermittently, you talk about the paid “Pro” version – which comes with additional features that the lite version doesn’t have.

Or perhaps you give them the first part of the course for free, and then they can pay to get the rest.

Or maybe they can purchase one-on-one photography coaching lessons with you. Hey, the sky’s the limit!

Try some different things out — curiosity is your friend in marketing. :)

Steve@Earn Money Online October 27, 2011 at 7:25 am

So many people target traffic. Traffic traffic traffic. Conversions are far more important though, for monetization. I would rather have significantly lower traffic with higher conversions any day.

All the people who constantly worry about getting “eyes” on their work ought to be just as concerned about what those eyes DO once they get there. thanks for bringing up an important topic and providing some good solutions.

Danielle Lynn October 27, 2011 at 9:32 am

Hey Steve,

I absolutely agree. I’d rather have 100 loyal, repeat customers than 10,000 random visitors any day.

(Although I’d also love to have 10,000 loyal customers over 100 :) )

Sometimes it’s funny to watch people spend hour after hour carefully sending traffic to their site – and yet the site isn’t even set up to guide the visitors through a functional funnel.

I’m glad you enjoyed the post, and I appreciate your comments!

Rolan October 27, 2011 at 12:40 pm

Great article! My friend and I just started a food blog and I’m gonna reference this article to make sure I don’t make these same mistakes.

For example, with social media, I find myself lately just tweeting new posts or promotions, but not really engaging those who RT or send me messasges. Paradigm shift! Not doing that anymore.

Also, I recently put up an email opt-in form for get new subscribers. I’ll make sure to keep my subscribers up to date.

Thanks again for the post!

Danielle Lynn October 27, 2011 at 9:00 pm

Hi Rolan, thank you!

A food blog eh? Sounds delicious. :)

Social media is my reoccurring mistake too. Sometimes I’m ‘good’ and I go ont there and chat with people, but other weeks I just tweet my latest post and push twitter out of my head. I find when I actually engage people, I get much better results.

Nicely done on putting up the opt-in! No problem and thank you for taking the time to comment.

Marcus October 27, 2011 at 1:47 pm

Great advice. I especially like the emphasis on content, since my degree is in creative writing. :)

I’d actually go further, to concentrate on optimizing your site for conversions before trying to generate traffic.

That’s where I spend the bulk of my time working on these days for launching new sites. I have to build a sales funnel, create an auto-responder e-mail sequence, write a freebie like an e-book to give to new e-mail subscribers, etc. These all take far longer than just installing a WordPress theme.

The more I learn about Internet marketing, the more I realize how much work I need to do. At least if I want to succeed.

Danielle Lynn October 27, 2011 at 9:03 pm

Hi Marcus,

Funny that you got your degree in creative writing, mine was English — but with emphasis in communications and creative writing. Bet you wrote up a lot of short stories too. :)

Absolutely. In fact, most of the time, I feel like I ‘reverse engineer’ sites. I start with the ‘value idea’ or a specific product, then I work on the steps leading towards people exchanging money for that product, then build the site around that.

And interne marketing-wise, It sounds like you’re taking the right steps!

Extreme John October 28, 2011 at 6:32 am

Excellent write up. I usually encounter these mistakes myself. I see them in my own blog as well as from other blogs. One of the most common is Mistake no. 2. What’s the use of having a very interesting landing page when new visitors are not properly welcomed? It’s like getting inside a hotel for the first time and the building doesn’t even have a front desk at all. That would really be a total disaster.

Danielle Lynn October 31, 2011 at 10:28 am

Thank you John,

Haha – that would be a disaster! I could imagine people piling up suitcases in the corner while they curl up in the fetal position muttering “need a room… need a room…”

Great analogy!

Jamie Northrup October 28, 2011 at 8:13 am

Well said Danielle, I’m guilty of 3 of these mistakes, but I’m working on solutions already for 2 of them, the one I’m having problems with (well problems is a big word for not taking the time to do it) is the email list, I really need to take the time to work on that, I will try adding 30 minutes a day on this for the next few weeks to see what I can come up with.

Danielle Lynn October 31, 2011 at 10:30 am

Hi Jamie,

30 minutes a day to fix these little problems is a great place to start. :) They might seem like little fixes, but they’ll really add up (in a good way!)

Would love to hear how that works out for you.

Scott Dudley October 31, 2011 at 1:12 am

Some real golden nuggets in this post, and I love the fact that you suggest a fix for one as well. Subscribers are the life blood of any business and it is always great to work out new ways to improve your opt in rates.

Danielle Lynn October 31, 2011 at 10:32 am

Hi Scott,

Thank you, I always like to suggest ways to improve things. I find identifying problems is only part of improving things. Finding solutions, then executing those solutions, are the other pieces to the puzzle.

And yep — treat your subscribers well. :)

Josh Sarz November 1, 2011 at 8:42 am

I can’t believe how many of these things I’m actually guilty of. Thanks for pointing them out, I’ll need to work on them.

Thanks for a very informative, revealing and honest post.

Danielle Lynn November 16, 2011 at 6:03 am

No problem Josh!

I appreciate it :)

Hugh November 1, 2011 at 9:18 am

Great list of tips, Danielle, thanks! I’m kind of just starting out on my audience-building journey, and I’ll certainly keep this post handy. As I was reading it, I was thinking of all the great (and not so great) email lists to which I am subscribed and I can definitely see how these tips and observations flesh out in these campaigns. Like you say, analyze some good email campaigns and cherry pick the best parts from each. Cheers!

Lamar J November 2, 2011 at 12:51 pm

Hi,

As someone starting out, everything seems overwhelming. Maybe it’s just me. Anyway, thank you for these tips. They are succinct and actionable. Time to get to it.

Thanks again.

Marcus October 28, 2011 at 3:12 am

Guilty, I did write a lot of short stories for my writing workshops in college. Ha ha!

“Reverse engineering” a website from the end of the sales funnel to the beginning is a brilliant strategy. I’ve made the opposite mistake so many times: being inspired with what I think is a cool idea, quickly set up a WordPress site, then get no traffic because no one is interested. I’ll try to be smarter for future websites.

Jamie Northrup October 31, 2011 at 12:46 pm

I will keep you posted for sure, I use Feedburner right now, but know I need to use Aweber or MailChimp to have more success, which do you recommend between the 2?

Danielle Lynn November 1, 2011 at 5:38 am

I personally use Aweber and don’t have any experience with MailChimp. However, I’ve heard that people have had problems when trying to migrate their list (move it from MailChimp to Aweber.) So I’d personally investigate both and see which one has the features you need. Look past any initial perks and try to think of how your list will grow over the next few months, even years.

Jamie Northrup November 1, 2011 at 6:29 am

Thanks for the input, I’ll check both of them out.

Comments on this entry are closed.

Sites That Link to This Post