Conversion Optimization: Things that Hurt Conversion (#4 of 4)

So we’ve established that a good conversion rate is integral to online business success online. But what are the most common factors that impede conversion rates? I’ve outlined a few here…

Poor Site Performance

Poor site performance, in other words a site’s loading speed, can have a profound impact on conversion rates. Google research suggests that about 40% of users will bounce if a webpage takes longer than three seconds to fully load (and a mere one second, if above-the-fold content lags). While on the flip side, as one Walmart study suggests, for every one second improvement in page speed, conversions increase 2%, for every 100 millisecond improvement, revenues increase 1%.

So what are some of the most common elements that impact loading speed?

  • Oversized Images: A site’s images, if not optimized, can play a big role in slowing performance.
  • Un-minified Code: The size of the codebase is another element that can slowdown page loading. Employing a process called “minifying” can help.
  • Render Blocking Javascript: A lot of external script calls is also a common issue that affects page speed because it forces the loading process to wait while the script is being downloaded which delays page rendering.

So knowing all this, what can we do to make a site faster? Let’s take a look…

Analyze Page Speed

First diagnose your site’s speed issues. Here are a few readily accessible tools for doing that:

  • Google PageSpeed Insights: Google provides a very useful tool appropriately called “PageSpeed Insights”. The tool analyzes a site’s loading speed and provides suggestions for optimizing each identified issue along with links to Google documentation on various remedies.
  • Google Speed Scorecard: Google’s Speed Scorecard is a speed benchmarking tool for comparing your website to others (e.g. your competitors).

Improving Page Speed

  • Prioritize Visible Content: Prioritize above-the-fold components to load first since those are what the user sees first. This tactic is known as progressive loading and gives the user the illusion of a quick loading page which serves to reassure them and, overall, improve bounce rates.
  • Limit The Use of Render Blocking JavaScript: Avoid and/or minimize the use of any render blocking external scripts, instead, opt to place Javascript or CSS in-line where possible (and advisable).
  • Optimize Images: Compress your site images. A free online tool called TinyPNG is a great, free way to optimize PNGs and JPGs. To use it go to either: or (both go to the same page).
  • Minify Code: Loading speed issues relating to the size of the codebase are often tied to specific characteristics of the code itself, things like: additional spaces, comments, and unnecessary lines in the code itself. These elements contribute to the overall size of the codebase making it take longer to run. To improve, employ a process called “minifying” which removes unnecessary elements to shrink down the cod. A free tool called Minify Code can be used to do this.

Design Motivates Action

Conversion rates are inexorably tied to user experience. Why? Friction. For a site to be effective and successful, it must be consistent and provide good direction for visitors to find where they want to go efficiently (we often refer to this as a “scent trail”). An effective scent trail feels simple, intuitive, easily navigable and is low-friction. One that people don’t have to think about. And generally speaking, the sites that most people gravitate towards offer excellent user experiences. They load quickly, are well designed, and make the path to the right information easy and accessible. The same holds true for landing pages. As a rule, landing pages convert better when they successfully communicate the value proposition and seamlessly encourage users to complete a goal-related action. 

In his book, Don’t Make Me Think, Steve Krug explains how effective websites let users accomplish their intended tasks as easily and directly as possible. Krug points out that people are good at “satisficing”, that is, taking the first available solution to the problem on their mind and site design must take advantage of that by making the goals of the business readily available and easy to accomplish.

To that end, here are some things to consider:

Brand Consistency

At the most basic level, intuitive site design starts with consistency. Consistency supports

familiarity which in turn supports trust (in a company, a brand, a website). Do this well and users will begin to rely on the site. And this approach should go beyond the look and feel of the site, it should cover digital communications, customer support and offline experiences (like physical locations, staff uniforms — basically anything affects customer perception).

Mobile First

It’s essential that a website is optimized for mobile devices. And nowadays that shouldn’t have to be said, yet the internet is still littered with examples to the contrary. One thing is as clear as ever, customers will go elsewhere if the site does not work exceptionally well on a smartphone. When it comes to site design, think “mobile first” — enough said.

Drive Relevance Through Storytelling

The way content is delivered can directly affect conversion rates. That is, as the old marketing adage goes, “tell a story”. A story the target audience relates to and values. In short, storytelling is about developing a personality for a brand in order to differentiate it from competitors. There are a handful of ways to do that from testimonials to case studies. It can be woven into email subject lines and landing page headers. 

Use Video

An effective use of video content can go a long way to reducing friction created by user errors. Studies have shown that the use of video on landing pages can significantly increase conversion rates. The use of video, in the form of tutorials or how-to videos, can also help answer common questions and solve common challenges customers face when deciding whether or not to purchase.

Reduce Friction – In Site Navigation

One of the biggest problems that can negatively impact conversion rates on a landing page is when it offers too many navigational links taking visitors away from the page. In most cases, minimalist landing pages drive higher conversion. These are pages designed with one goal in mind, to convert visitors. From a UX standpoint, this makes obvious sense: minimize decisions so users can focus on the page goal, ancillary links only serve to distract from it.

Reduce Friction – In Sales Funnels

A site’s conversion rate will be directly proportionate to the level of effort required of a visitor to commit to an action. Embrace this core tenet and your sales funnels will be more successful. Bottomline, customers and prospects need clear, simple and well-defined options. Complex processes or confusing features will only adversely affect your conversion rate. So err on the side of simplicity, clearly define a page’s goals and, from that perspective, design an efficient workflow. Rather than trying to achieve too many goals at the same time (or worse, carrying out a strategy based on an undefined goal), design so users don’t have to think too hard by:

  1. Prioritizing what you want to achieve.
  2. Breaking the workflow down into manageable tasks.
  3. Then designing flows that are focused and streamlined.

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