Long, long ago, in a galaxy very much like ours (in fact, it was ours), it was a generally-accepted notion that getting traffic to your site – any traffic – was a very good thing. Corporate parties and even commissions were based on the levels of traffic coming to companies’ websites. If people came to the site, the thinking went: surely we’ve won the battle for online revenue – right?

These days, we know such “wisdom” not to be the case. Getting customers to your online doorstep is only the start of the battle to win them over. It sounds like a monumental uphill struggle, but every journey consists of smaller steps. So, we pooled together a list of simple tasks you can start completing today that’ll help you optimize the conversion rate of your website.

17 ways to reach conversion rate Nirvana

1.  Check your wording
Check the language you’ve used in the different pages of your funnel – does it make sense to people unfamiliar with your company/product?


On the SlideDeck pricing page, we named one of the license tiers “Multi-site license”. But when we got more literal, and changed the wording to “10-site license”, we saw an immediate and significant bump in sales – people had a better understanding of what they were getting for their money, and felt more comfortable completing the purchase.

Clear calls to action make all the difference, when it comes to converting visitors to customers 2.  Clear calls to action
We can’t emphasize this enough: your call to action must be prominent and clear. Everything should be either subordinate to – or supportive of – elements that enable visitors to take the action you intend them to.

3.  Speed
Is your site loading slowly? We all know that today’s internet user has the patience of Christian Bale on set. Make sure your site is snappy and responsive or else they’ll, uh, Bale (sorry, couldn’t resist). For more on this, check out Fred Wilson’s golden principle of speed.

4.  Make your customers feel safe
Anytime your website and your users are exchanging info, trust and credibility is key. For ecommerce sites, ensure that you’re providing your customers with a secure HTTPS connection on your checkout pages, and prominently show your Verisign/Thawte/Geotrust, etc. certificate to show them that their transaction is protected.
Security warnings will shake the faith of your visitors in your website and your business

This extends to your content, too – accreditations and certifications can help get your users over the skepticism barrier.

Clear error messaging helps reduce people's frustration when trying to do what you want them to do - pay you!

5.  Optimize your checkout form
Remove friction from your checkout process with forms that are thoughtfully-designed and well-built. Have you checked that the order of your fields’ focus when tabbing through them is logical? Do your fields have clear labels? Is your error messaging and validation located in an intuitive place within the form, and human-readable? Paying careful attention to all of these little things add up to a frustration-free experience.

6. Remove distractions
Also be sure to remove distractions like ads from your checkout pages. They’ve already made their decision at this point – why try to change their mind?

7.  Check for broken links
It’s good for all of us to have the occasional “Duh!” moment, every once in a while…

8.  A/B test pages in your funnel
A/B testing is a huge topic worthy of its own blogosphere, but as a general idea, try testing out small changes to specific elements in your conversion funnel and monitor the results of these changes. If you’re not seeing any substantial changes, you can also try introducing different layouts and concepts that might improve your conversion funnel.

If your challenger design loses, try testing another that takes a completely opposite approach to the content/desired action. You may find that your users’ rejection of your first design is actually a big clue as to what they do want! For example, let’s say you’re testing a product page that has a small testimonials section, versus a challenger version without them. If the challenger yields a lower conversion, you may find that upping the emphasis on these testimonials will net you more conversions.

9. Craft your funnels
Look through your landing pages to make sure their content is tailored toward the people most likely to arrive there. For example, if you’re attracting developers to a certain page, don’t skimp on the technical details – likewise don’t send your newbies running for the hills by confronting them with giant blocks of code on pages . Our own Morgan Brown and Chuck Longanecker have a great post on designing user flows over at Smashing Magazine.

10. Differentiate
Ensure your products are distinct enough from one another to help customers to make a clear choice.

Our SlideDeck team saw a big increase in conversions when they included a set of new themes with the Multi-site license. Until that point, the only difference between Multi-site and the other pricing tiers was the number of websites it could be used on.

11. Don’t use Flash for critical content
Although Flash is nearly ubiquitous on desktop PCs, that’s far from the case in the mobile landscape, where the flash-less iOS holds a commanding share of the market. Make sure your critical call-to-action either avoids using flash, or you have a reliable fallback for incompatible devices.

12. Audit your website’s accessibility
According to a Pew Research report, 2% of adults in the US have a disability that interferes with their ability to use the Internet. That’s 6 million people who could benefit from your website embracing accessibility standards! [View source]

13. To .js, or not to .js?
Ensure your site degrades gracefully when Javascript is turned off – are critical elements/links hidden or rendered useless? A recent Yahoo! survey pegs the number of users with javascript turned off at around 2% of US internet users. As with auditing your website’s accessiblity, there’s a significant audience of people who may benefit from taking a “progressive enhancement” approach to using Javascript for interactivity on your website. [View source]

14. Offer instant utility
For software products and web applications, consider building a free demo that seamlessly onboards visitors into becoming users. Instant utility is another of Fred Wilson’s 10 Golden Principles of Successful Web Apps.

Our Hello Bar team recently experienced the benefits of instant utility by building a live demo into the homepage of hellobar.com. Visitors can quickly configure their own Hello Bar, and preview how it looks on their website – and if they like it, they can save it to their account simply by signing up right there. The demo converts visitors into users at the rate of 20%!

15. Paper, or plastic?
Accepting a wide range of payment types – from eChecks to Bitcoin – in addition to the standard Paypal/credit/debit card issuers will only help you avoid customers hitting a critical roadblock right at the point of checkout.

Take the burden of deciding off your customers by talking about the benefits of your product or service, instead of features

16. Benefits, vs. features
Adjust your copy to talk about benefits, instead of features. As espoused in the classic usability tome “Don’t Make Me Think” by Steve Krug, use your content to tell customers why they should convert, instead of expecting them to figure it out on their own, based on a list of bullet points about what your product can do.

17. Optimize for organic traffic
A quick glance at your analytics package of choice can tell you which keywords are driving organic traffic to your website, thereby giving you some insight into what they’re looking for. Once you know what they want, give it to them!

Of course, conversion rate optimization is a far deeper field of study than just the above methods. So what did we miss? Share your favorite CRO tips in the comments, and help us add to this post!