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People Pay, Not Pageviews. Here’s Why People Are Leaving Your Website Without Converting

You’ve rolled out a lot of marketing tactics to boost traffic for your website. After copious amounts of content production, sharing, social engagement, and even paid ads, you feel like you can finally celebrate because your site is now pulling in tens of thousands of unique visits every month with a ton of page views.

However, if your conversions are bottoming out and growth is sluggish, then don’t celebrate just yet.

I hear about this problem on a regular basis. Unfortunately, pageviews don’t pay the bills. Purchases do.

If you’re struggling and want to improve your conversion rates, you should look beyond the traditional CRO recommendations and A/B testing recommendations for bottlenecks.

Here are some reasons why your visitors might be bailing on you:

Your Design is Turning Them Away

According to data from SmartInsights, more than 80% of people use smartphones as their primary method for accessing the web. You’ll see similar rates of mobile usage if you review visitor device information on your analytics platform.

It’s important to be aware of this trend, since 30% of mobile users admit to abandoning a transaction if the website isn’t fully optimized for mobile browsing.

Personally, I find it incredibly frustrating to visit a site on my phone, only to be greeted by a site that requires me to zoom in and scroll horizontally. It goes from bad to worse when a pop-up designed for desktop users suddenly fills my mobile screen and I’m unable to close it. That site is basically dead to me on mobile and I’ll never try to go back after that bad experience.

mobile-design-responsive
Responsive and mobile-compatible designs fit content to a mobile display, greatly reduce the need to zoom. Image Source

Google understands that frustration, and they have updated their algorithm to make mobile compatibility a ranking factor. If your site isn’t currently using a responsive, mobile-compatible design then it’s time to fix it. Otherwise you’ll miss out on conversions and risk a significant drop in organic search rank (and subsequent organic traffic).

Mobile usability aside, there are other on-page elements that can repel your visitors like:

  • Multiple calls to action that prevent them from taking action (analysis paralysis)
  • Poor navigation
  • Sliders and rotators
  • Too many steps in navigation to reach content/products
  • Confusing or cluttered content

Rather than guess at what makes a good user experience, you can quickly identify and work to eliminate a lot of usability issues by working with UserTesting.com. You can submit your site to be reviewed by real people and watch videos of how the interact with and react to your site.

Autoplay Videos Hijack the User Experience

Don’t you just love the autoplay feature on ESPN and CNN.com? You land on a page to read an article, a video loads (with an ad) and you scramble to hit the pause or mute button so you can read the article. Or you just hit the back button to read the story on a different site with a better user experience.

With that being said..

Implementing video on your website could work wonders for conversions. According to a Liveclicker survey among major retail brands, the more videos a visitor watches, the more likely they are to spend within your funnel.

videos-watched-average-order-value

According to a survey of major online retailers, the use of video on product pages lifted conversions an average of 9%.

But setting videos to autoplay could potentially harm your conversions. It’s potentially a major disruption. According to W3C (the group responsible for setting standards for web design best practices), autoplaying audio can interrupt the navigation process as a user has to search for the source of the audio to shut it down.

Certain groups of people, especially those with attention disorders, can be easily distracted by motion which can disrupt the user experience and make it difficult for them to focus.

Worst case scenario, the visitor has a negative reaction to the disruption and closes the page.

Instead of autoplaying the video, create a call-to-action that draws visitors’ attention to it and persuades them to click the play button on their own. Another option is to run the video on silent in the same way Facebook autoplays video in a user’s feed.

Your Value Proposition is Unclear

If you’re not clearly communicating the value and benefits of your offer, then your visitors won’t feel compelled to click or make a purchase.

Why should they, if they have no idea what they’ll get out of the exchange?

Here’s a great example from Help Scout where they reference the launch of the Apple’s early iPod product. Not every member of their audience is tech-savvy, so trying to leverage storage capacity (a feature) would be meaningless to many people.

ipod-marketing-messaging

Instead, they communicated the real value and benefit of the product: 1,000 songs in your pocket.

Make sure your value proposition is crystal clear on your landing pages. Test different variations to see which phrasing gives you the best conversion lift.

Content Doesn’t Match Audience Intent

The first conversion opportunity isn’t on your website, it’s wherever your visitor came from. In most cases, this will be organic search or an ad elsewhere on the web. The headline and description make a specific promise to the reader and set their expectations.

If they arrive on your website and find something completely different, such as copy or offers that don’t match their intent, they’re more likely to click the back button.

For example, if you’re targeting enterprise businesses and your audience is mostly CMOs and upper-level marketers, they’re not likely to opt-in if you’re only offering a free e-book on local marketing strategies.

target-audience-user-intent
Image Source

Make sure the copy, design elements, offers, and calls-to-action all line up with user intent to lift conversions on your landing pages. This is where audience research pays off.

Understanding the specific needs and pain points of audience segments will help you create more targeted offers to keep your visitors engaged.

Site Load Time is Terrible

Kissmetrics produced an infographic that shows us just how load time can impact your bottom line. Not only is load time a ranking factor for organic search, but it can also have a pretty significant impact on conversions.

As many as 47% of consumers expect a page to load in 2 seconds or less. If they’re met with prolonged loading graphics or a hanging white page then you risk losing them – and their patience can be short.

In fact, a delay of just 1 second in load time can result in a 7% reduction in conversions.

Do everything you can to reduce page load time on your website in order to avoid negatively impacting your conversion rates. I recommend:

Opt-Ins Aren’t Optimized

The old trick for improving conversions with opt-in messages was to reduce the number of form fields. This advice was based on a study from 2008 so by now, it’s obsolete. In fact, ConversionXL examined another study by Unbounce that compared shortened forms to optimized forms.

The result?

The forms with fewer fields performed worse. Meanwhile, the forms with improved label copy instead of reduced field counts saw a 19.21% lift in conversions.

reduced-form-fields-test

So which method is the best approach?

The answer is “it depends.” There’s no concrete answer here. If you’re experiencing friction with opt-ins, then your ideal approach is to test variations and see what works best for your audience. Optimize the labels, try different field counts, adjust the call-to-action, and continue testing until you’re satisfied with the conversions.

Trouble with the Calls-to-Action

You would think that crafting an amazing offer, telling a great story with visuals, and writing dynamite copy would send your conversions through the roof. It’s actually quite the opposite.

Even if your audience is in tune with your offer, your conversions are going to suffer if you don’t have a strong, compelling call-to-action. In many cases, customers just won’t engage unless you specifically tell them what you want them to do.

storenvy call to action example
A bold call to action captures attention and tells the audience what to do.

If you’re missing a call-to-action altogether, then you’re definitely going to suffer from low conversions. One study from Small Business Trends found that 70% of B2B businesses lack a call-to-action on their homepage.

Such a simple thing can have a major impact and at least it’s an easy fix:

  • Create a call-to-action that is prominent and stands out from other page elements
  • Make it compelling and focus on the value; what do visitors get by clicking?
  • Make your call-to-action relevant to match the audience’s intent
  • Use verbs and actionable language
  • Leverage urgency with words like “Now” and “Today”

Be sure test different versions of your call-to-action to determine which designs and copy offer the greatest lift in conversions.

See Where People Drop Off with Kissmetrics

Curious to know where people are dropping off before signing up? The Kissmetrics Funnel Report shows you.

Here’s how it looks:

kissmetrics ecommerce funnel

See where (and who) people are leaving the funnel, then A/B test those drop offs till you find improvements, which will increase overall funnel performance.

For more check out this post where we show you how to find areas of your site that need testing the most.

There’s No Secret Formula

There’s no one specific thing you can do to suddenly make your conversions soar. While these individual items could hurt your conversions, making a single adjustment isn’t guaranteed to change or improve anything.

Rather than taking a tactical approach to improving conversions, identify the elements that could be creating problems and start testing. A/B testing small changes is more likely to help improve conversions over time and eliminate trouble areas like these.

What have you done to increase conversions on your website? Share your approach and results with me in the comments below.

About the Author: Andrew Raso is the co-founder and director of Online Marketing Gurus, a fast-growing, award-winning search company working with brands including HelloMolly, Baku Swimwear, and Forcast. Follow him on Twitter at @andrewraso1 or on LinkedIn.

  1. Thanks Andrew for writing this great content. I personally like “Opt-Ins Aren’t Optimized” point since this is the one which people mostly miss.

  2. Sadly, a lot of bloggers and website owners still focus on page views/hits/visits as their primary metric thinking that raising that number is the end all and be all of a successful website. A lot of website owners forget that there are people behind those numbers (well, for the part that matters anyway) and only people can lead to sales. Thanks Andrew for humanizing those metrics a bit.

    Also very spot on with this – “Content Doesn’t Match Audience Intent” – especially now where all the rave is about clickbait titles and maximizing clickthroughs.

    • Absolutely, Kurt. Recognizing who is behind the clicks is key, particularly when you keep overall goals in mind. Thanks for reading. Cheers!

  3. Danielle Nocon Sep 04, 2016 at 4:37 pm

    As a user, so many of your observations resonate with me. For instance, when accessing a site on my cell phone, I have found pop-ups that “won’t go away” extremely frustrating. I keep tapping the X and the pop-up won’t close.
    I will add another pop-up-related frustration: Pop-ups that pop-up repeatedly – as I scroll down the same page or visit other pages.
    So, I would say a good place to start is paying attention to the things that frustrate you as a user and don’t do them on your own site ;-)

    • Ha! I agree, Danielle. It’s common sense, really, and important to be on the forefront with your own content and with others’ in order to really know what works and what doesn’t. Learn from others’ successes and mistakes along the way.

      Thanks for reading – cheers!

  4. Tabitha Grayson Sep 06, 2016 at 3:08 pm

    Thanks for the great overview of common site failings. The video autoplay is a particular pet peeve of mine :)

    The root problem for many of these is people thinking too much about company goals / needs and not enough about audience motivations. Especially the motivations of the audience segments that convert.

    Shameless self-promotion… I write about this in more detail in my book “Six Steps to a Winning Website” – https://www.amazon.com/dp/B01KPERHM4/

    • It’s easy to disconnect from your audience and consider only numbers when you’re dealing with technology. But you’re right, audience motivations are key.

      Thanks for reading – and good luck!

  5. It is really irritating when a video suddenly starts playing automatically when you are in the middle of reading something.

  6. That’s an eye-opener, Andrew!

    Loved reading it, notably the part where you mentioned that the value proposition communicated needs to be clear. It’s the difference between converting a lead in a matter of seconds and losing one, I feel. Great read!

  7. Johnston Horsbrugh Nov 29, 2016 at 11:06 am

    Absolutely. There is no use in bragging about how many page views you have and how many clicks. Targeting your audience so that the clicks are relevant and then converting those clicks into sales is what’s important.

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