How to Be the MacGyver of the Web: 9 Ways to Boost Your Conversion Rate on a Shoestring Budget


Of all the TV shows I watched as a little kid, one of my favorites was MacGyver.

Why? Because MacGyver could do anything he put his mind to. He didn’t need a ton of cash to accomplish his tasks, and he made do with what he had.

In business, you are always going to be financially constrained, and there won’t be enough time in the world to get everything done. Yet, you still have to find a way to improve and grow your business.

One of those ways in which you can grow your business is conversion optimization. Although it is still a new concept in the marketing world, you don’t have to hire consultants or employees to squeeze more money out of your existing visitor base.

Here is how you can optimize your conversion rate on a shoestring budget:

Conversion tip #1: Free isn’t always free

Before you start optimizing your conversion rate, you will have to pick a split testing software. The software will track the changes you are making to your site, and it will tell you if the changes are helping or hurting your conversion rate.

There are a few options out there:

  1. Google Experiments – within Google Analytics, go to your website, click “Behavior” in the sidebar, and then click “Experiments”. This is where you can split-test your conversion rates. It is free to use, but if you aren’t technical, you will have to hire someone to help make changes to your site.
  2. Optimizely – it starts at $19 a month and does everything that Google Experiments does without requiring you to have any technical skills. They have a WYSIWYG editor, and you can change your site with a few clicks.
  3. Visual Website Optimizer – it contains similar to Optimizely features, but pricing starts at $49.

If you are technical and are able to make changes to your own site, you should use Google Experiments to optimize your conversions. If you aren’t technical, I recommend using Optimizely. Sure, it costs money, but it is cheaper to spend $19 a month than it is to pay a designer and a developer to make changes to your website.

Conversion tip #2: Analyze your funnel

If you had to choose a page to run an A/B test on, which page would it be?

Your homepage, right? If you didn’t pick your homepage, I bet you picked your checkout page.

Those are the two pages that are at the top and bottom of your funnel. Just because they hold those positions, however, doesn’t mean they are the ones you should be focusing on.

By setting up your funnels in Google Analytics or KISSmetrics, you can visually see the pages that are causing your conversion rate to drop.


If you look at the image above, you’ll notice that the biggest drop off happens on the “viewed signup page”. This means that only 25% of the people who see that page continue onto the next step.

Based on the funnel above, a good place to start your A/B testing efforts would be on the “viewed signup page.”

Before you start any tests, make sure you look at your funnel to figure out what page you should start off with. The last thing you want to do is to waste time on a page that is doing fairly well already.

Conversion tip #3: Test call-to-action buttons

One of the simplest tests you can run is testing your button colors and text. You’ll come across some blog posts claiming that one color converts better than the other, but, in reality, the color that converts the best is the one that usually stands out from your website design.

These colors tend to be red, orange, green, yellow and blue, but, again, you should test what works best for your website.

For example, I tested red call-to-action buttons on Crazy Egg because everyone said red converts better than orange and green. In the end, it caused our conversion rate to drop by more than 10%.

As for button text, you need to come up with text that relates to your product or service. With Crazy Egg, we got a 20% plus lift by using the phrase “show me my heatmap” over the generic call-to-action text “see pricing and plans”.

When running button tests, make sure you follow these two rules:

  1. The color of the button needs to stand out from your design.
  2. Your call-to-action text should relate to your product or service.

Conversion tip #4: Tell a story

Stories are a powerful way to connect with your readers and boost your conversion rate. Why? Because it is easier for people to relate to stories than to data.

For example, Chris Haddad is a dating consultant who sells informational products online that teach women how to find their perfect match. When he started to sell his product online, he listed the benefits of the product and the reasons for you to buy it. His original offer converted at 2%.

But when he changed his landing page copy to tell the story of how his girlfriend (now his wife) used specific tactics to keep him interested and lock him down, his conversion rate went up to 8%. The reason for the 4x increase was his personal story that women could relate to.

Storytelling is powerful as long as your potential customers can relate to it. If you decide to test this tactic out, make sure you keep your story to the point and don’t ramble on with filler text as this can hurt your conversion rate.

Conversion tip #5: Address the pain

Why do you buy a product or sign up for a service? It’s because it solves a problem you are having, right?

People don’t care about all the features and benefits you have to offer. All they want to know is how you are going to solve their problem and how much it is going to cost them.

A good example of this is Freckle. Their old landing page had too much information on the product features and benefits. So, with their new version they tested the “problem and solution” selling. By addressing the pain of their potential customers, they were able to increase their conversion rate by 240%.

If you want to leverage this strategy, you shouldn’t focus on selling your product. Your focus should be on your customers’ struggles and pains. Most people have become accustomed to their struggles and pains due to the fact that they deal with them on a daily basis. Reminded of their problems, they are likely to realize their pains again and be more inclined to purchase your solution.

Conversion tip #6: Headlines matter

Did you know that your attention span is shorter than that of a goldfish? A goldfish has an attention span of 9 seconds, while your attention span is only 8 seconds.

For this reason, the headline is one the most important elements you should be testing on your page.

So, how do you come up with headline variations? Well, you have a few options to test out:

  1. You can address a pain point, like Freckle did, with a headline like “our biggest issue was that people forgot to track their time.”
  2. You can describe what your product offers, similarly to what we do with Crazy Egg: “a Crazy Egg picture tells a stunning story.”
  3. You can try to make a bold statement like Moz does with their headline: “there is a better way to do marketing.”
  4. You can use social proof within your headline like Basecamp does with theirs: “last week 6,703 companies signed up for Basecamp to manage their projects.”
  5. You can make a promise like Visual Website Optimizer does with their headline: “increase your website sales and conversions.”

The possibilities of headline testing are endless. The headlines above are just a few examples of the types of headlines you can test. There are at least 10 other types of headlines you can test such as making a statement through the use of data.

But before you start A/B testing your headlines, you should check out a few case studies on Visual Website Optimizer as they will help you come up with some headline test ideas. For example, the one on how Movexa increased their sales by 89% by making their headline clearer is interesting.

Conversion tip #7: See what’s working for your competitors

Although copying what your competitors are doing won’t always work for you, tracking their approach can give you a lot of ideas.

While Google Analytics tracks your traffic stats, tools like CRO Monitor and Which Test Won tell you what your competitors are doing from an A/B testing perspective.

In many cases, copying elements of your competitors’ winning variations will help you improve your conversion rate. At the very least, it will give you ideas on what converts better.

The one thing you need to be careful about is copying testing data from companies who are in a similar, but not the same, space. When I started out with A/B testing, I copied Highrise’s call-to-action text because they released a blog post showing how the text “see pricing and plans” increased their conversions by 200%. So, I naturally decided that we should try testing that call-to-action text on Crazy Egg.

Although Highrise is used by similar types of customers, that call-to-action text decreased our conversion rate. This happened because we did two things wrong:

  1. We used data from someone who wasn’t a direct competitor and just copied what worked for them without understanding why.
  2. We didn’t focus on understanding our visitors and the issues they had with our site. If we did this, we would have focused on the web elements that our visitors had issues with.

Again, it is smart to use CRO Monitor and Which Test Won as long as you are careful with what you do with that data.

Conversion tip #8: Replicate ad buys

Conversion optimization doesn’t start with your website. It actually starts with your traffic sources. No matter how much work you do to improve your design, some traffic sources will just convert better than others.

So, instead of focusing all of your efforts on maximizing your conversion rate from a design perspective, consider spending a portion of your time optimizing the conversion rate of your traffic sources.

A simple way to figure out what traffic sources are converting well is to look at your goals in Google Analytics:

google analytics goals

If you notice that certain sources and campaigns are driving profitable traffic, you should spend more time and energy scaling them out. This should help you generate some quick wins.

On the flip side, if you don’t have your conversion tracking set up, you probably want to read these step-by-step instructions to help you set it up.

If you want to take it further, you can find out the traffic sources that are doing well for your competitors by using SEMrush and What Runs Where. These tools will show you all of the places your competition is getting its traffic from.

The rule of thumb to follow when using these tools is: if your competition has been buying ads from certain sites for long periods of time, chances are they are converting well.

Conversion tip #9: Be explicit with your copy

Don’t assume people know if your solution is for them. Sometimes people will go to your site and wonder if your product or service was built for them.

Campaign Monitor increased their conversions into double-digit percentages by telling their site visitors that the product was meant for designers. Sure, they may have neglected certain users by doing this, but it still led to an increase in conversions.

We did something similar with Crazy Egg when we told each visitor who the product was ideally suited for.

crazy egg user types

When we tested this out, we saw an increase in our conversion rate by 13%, which isn’t too bad. Not only did it help increase our front-end revenue, but my prediction is that it will increase the lifetime value of our customers as those customer types tend to pay us longer.

Don’t be afraid to target a specific customer type with your copy. You’ll be surprised how a few simple words, such as “this product is ideally suited for…”, can increase your conversion rate.


Although spending thousands of dollars on conversion consultants can make you more money, you can actually do a lot on your own. All you have to be willing to do is put in the time and effort.

I hope the tips above help you improve your conversion rate. You now have no excuses as I taught you how to increase your sales without having to be technologically savvy. 🙂

In what other ways can you boost your conversion rate?


  1. Vincent Nguyen :

    The new company I’m working with wants me to hold off until January before we start digging into conversions. Ahhh… This article’s got me excited for it again!

  2. Nice post, Neil!

    I just saw a presentation just like this at SES Chicago on MacGyver problem solving tips for CRO:

    • Steven, glad you liked it. I will definitely have to check out the presentation 🙂

    • Angie Schottmuller (@aschottmuller) :

      Thanks for the shout out, Steve! I was surprised to see a MacGyver themed article after my presentation as well. (Perhaps Neil is into #MacGyverMondays too?) Bring on the problem solving!

  3. All of my bookmarks are categorized by topic.
    You are the only person that I have a folder which only has your content..

    Thank you for another great article I can add to my resources.

  4. Story telling has work for decades. It is interesting that we can use it in split testing to boost conversions as well. Never thought about that.

    Thanks for sharing Neil.

  5. Hey Neil,

    Thanks for another very useful article. I had not thought about using Google Experiments before, so that is a nice takeaway, among others. A/B testing is something I definitely need to do more of.

    Have a great week,

  6. Another great post packed with useful content. I really appreciate your articles Neil. You’re a true Internet marketing guru.

  7. Miguel Gonzalez :

    Me quito el sombrero Neil. Tus posts me están ayudando muchísimo.

    Un cordial saludo,

  8. Gold nuggets! All I can say. Your blog is the number one online resource for digital marketers. Thank you neil

  9. Are you kidding me? The Phoenix Institute had a HUGE budget and paid for everything, including all the travel to the places he solved problems with duct tape and juice fruit. MacGyver was not bootstrapped!

    • I am not sure where I mentioned the Phoenix Institute in the post. All of the examples above are of smaller companies/sites unless one of them is owned by the Phoenix Institute…

      The purpose of this post is to show that you can do a lot with a little amount of money. Even if the examples above are from companies who make millions of dollars, it doesn’t mean you have to spend a lot of money to get tests done.

      • Angie Schottmuller (@aschottmuller) :

        LOL. Susan, your comment was brilliant. Neil, MacGyver worked for the Phoenix Institute. =)

  10. Michael Zipursky :

    Great tips Neil! Always enjoy your articles.

  11. This is the nugget of the post for me:

    “Conversion optimization doesn’t start with your website. It actually starts with your traffic sources. No matter how much work you do to improve your design, some traffic sources will just convert better than others.”

    Think: Stumbleupon 🙂

  12. Hi Neil,

    Incredible! You as always shared gold mine of info here, i am sure, it’s going to help many companies even without budget, to improve their RoI drastically.. Thank you.

  13. Nikolaou Nikolaou :

    How about if you use multiple types of funnels ?

    Popups on first enter , banner ads , internal links , email , direct , social etc.

    I like to take a gunshot approach at first , build up the traffic so its stable and then when I can have a good sample size I can A/B test each funnel seperately without adding another until I am happy with the previous one.

    I find it very difficult to A/B test everything at once as we are talking hundreds and hundreds of variables on each funnel as well as seasonal content ,sales etc.

    I keep more to a gut feeling and always place url trackers and tweak each one when I am not promoting or building new content.

    Ofcourse we post up to 5 times a day at some occassions and this is different for a simple business that promotes only 1 product and uses only one funnel.

    • If you use multiple funnels the same things would apply as above. Only difference would be that you would get all of the funnels up first, and then start testing them one at a time.

      That is the strategy I used myself on Quick Sprout.

  14. I apologize for my English. I tried most of the measures they you propose, but unfortunately none works. I have a 100% original site. Is a content site, is about political, movies and books. Is four years old and still barely make 15-20 visits per day. Moreover, PR = 2? Only 2 after four years ?!!… Excuse me but I do not believe in what you write. I think it’s just a matter of chance …

    • Mircea, I assure you it’s not a matter of chance. If you keep up with the tactics you will surely see results. It’s all about creating quality content and doing all the right things when it comes to optimization.

  15. Neil, whatever you share is just so helpful. Love reading your posts! It is very important to A/B test the most important pages that are not doing so well, it can be time consuming but its well worth it. But the points that you mentioned about story telling is something that I should consider for my website. Thanks for sharing such valuable tips 🙂

  16. Brodey Sheppard :

    Good Write up Neil, I never liked the show myself, I am a little too young to get the show, Although “SpongeBob Square Pants” is very similar! HA!

    Keep the good stuff coming!

  17. Ahh Macgyver 🙂 One of my favorite shows as a kid too.
    Excellent tips, thanks for sharing, will test them out. Thanks.

  18. Hi Neil,

    I read the quick sprout traffic guide and learned tons of really valuable info, I highly recommended it for new website owners like myself!

    Here’s my question, I often hear you talk about listing which problems you can solve for customers in product descriptions, but I’m a bit puzzeled as to how this applies to a handmade jewelry store?


    • In your case it would be emotion based selling. You would have to figure out why your customers want to buy home made jewelry and try to appeal to those emotions through your images and content.

  19. Barbara McKinney :

    There’s no need to spend huge amount of money if we have a cheaper option.Honestly, I’m not familiar with conversion optimization but I will check it out soon.Thanks for the tips Neil.

  20. Neil, Thanks Again!
    I just writing post about A/B testing our product, that is why it’s very interesting post for me.
    Concerning Call-to-Action Button, ecxept color and text, does it make sense to test the place of CTA button?
    I think that users should see CTA button without scrolling, and that right side of the page is more preferrable than left side. What do you think?

    • Yuliya, I think it definitely depends and you should definitely test it out. I think you’ll find some great insights once you test. Please let me know what you find 🙂

  21. Neil,

    I think you are addicted with MacGyver..and I this post and the way of you wrote.

    For me, Conversion is an art and i should learn a lot from you.

  22. Dominic DiBernardo :

    Hey Neil,

    Thanks for the tips. I just started a blog about digital analytics last month and am so happy to have found your site. It is filling my head todo list with tons of action items.



  23. Hi Neil,

    I want your help, could you please tell me what is wrong with my blog? as i am not getting much traffic on my blogs i have done all that i can do for it but still crying for traffic. Most of the traffic of my blog come from Google and Google plus, but from Facebook and twitter not a single one, i share all my content on Facebook and twitter as i share on Google plus, but on Google plus more people are sharing commenting and discussing on my posts but not on Facebook and twitter, i don’t know where is the barrier. can you help Neil?


    • I checked out your site and social profiles. The reason you don’t get enough social media traffic from Facebook and Twitter is because you haven’t built up your social media accounts. If you participate more on those communities or try advertising to increase your reach, you will get more social media traffic.

  24. Thanks Neil, Sorry i posted the same question again, i got my answer on the above question, thanks for the reply.

  25. Abhimanyu Arora :

    As usual a great article!! Thanks for sharing this valuable information.!!!

  26. Hello Neil,

    I just found out about your website a few days ago. I just started my own website and I must say I your website has a lot of valuable information. These conversion tips are really great! I am experimenting with headlines, call to action buttons and the way I write my content. My goal is to get more subscribers for my website. I think a lot of it comes down to good content that is well written, unique, engaging and helpful. This combined with good clear and simple web design gets you really far.

    I noticed that since I started writing exiting, challenging headlines a lot more people read my posts. It has to convince people to click on it. And after you intro has to convince people to read the rest of the article ;-).

    Great site and I will keep following it!



    • Bastiaan, glad we could connect. I definitely think if you follow all the steps outlined on my guides you will see tremendous results. It’s all a matter of patience. As you know with conversion optimization it’s all about testing. Please let me know if you need any particular help. Looking forward to hearing more from you 🙂

  27. Focusing on people’s problem and give the solution, instead of focusing on selling…Thanks for the great advice!! Excellent!

  28. Hi Neil,
    So far over my head as usual and not enough hours in the day. Thanks for the info though and I will continue my quest to help the struggling Aussie artist conquer the fear of the online world. Thanks again.

  29. Leo @Newbiesup :

    I was reading through all comments but just cannot help replying on this one. LOL


  30. manujeevanprakash :

    hi neil ,

    Nice article ,but do u think the color shades of call to action button really improves the conversion rate??? . I am still confused on this point …….

    • Manujeevanprakash, I definitely think testing colors will provide you better insights on what works and what doesn’t. Try it out!

  31. Great stuff Neil. You never fail to serve up AWESOME content. I follow everything you write.

  32. Susan Petracco :

    Sorry! It was a joke with a lovely error thrown in…MacGyver was employed by the Phoenix Foundation, which I misremembered as the Phoenix Institute. 🙂

  33. Susan Petracco :

    ^^^^ those were supposed to be replies in the earlier thread but they aren’t getting threaded. I think I’ll go back to work, and the coffee pot, again!

  34. Good stuff – a client of mine has been looking at Optimizely and we are already planning to test it. Seeing you advocate for it helps convince them that testing it is the right way to go. Having worked with Google Experiments before, we prefer something less demanding from a technical perspective.

  35. I LOVE YOUR WORK! 🙂 Superb, as always.

    I am a HUGE fan! Thanks for putting so much time and energy into giving back so much!

    After working through a ton of your stuff I totally redid my site and I swear everytime I read more I have a LIST of new ideas to work with! Thank you! Thank you!


  36. I have been a fan of your blog from a long time. Not even a single post which I can say is not useful!!

  37. I love reading your posts because I always learn something new.

    Plus you had me at McGyver 😉

    Using what you have, can find and afford and then work on what you need, is a great lesson.

  38. TY for posting that, very usefull post! 🙂

  39. The best way to learn all of these techniques is just to give it a try.

    Not working?

    Try again.

    You can spend days, weeks or even months trying to build a plan and reading thousands of posts explaining how you can do this or how you can do that… Instead of that, you should try. Test. Work. Improve.

    I really like your post Neil, good job!

  40. Ankush Katiyar :

    Thanks for sharing the post with us. It always show a way to look the things around in different way. Number one blog. Neil rocks…

  41. Awesome free content Neil! This is great stuff!

  42. LOL, I loved to watch McGyver and this article sure comes in hand for some tweaks and ideas on our site… Tip no.: 9 is something I implemented already and helped me improve conversion by 9% as well as reduce bounce back by 3% by simply saying listing some ideas about what could be achieved with our products (title: “What can you do with this?”)

    • Linus, it was definitely a great show that taught people they could be crafty in any industry. It’s all about doing all the small things and taking all the smart shortcuts to get to your ultimate destination.

  43. bonjour NEIL PATEL, I know that to be successful in developing my website, I have to increase traffic into my website. I love your blog post. after reading your post, I have some new ideas. thanks you very much. have a good day!

  44. Perry Bernard :

    I’m really enjoying your articles, Neil. Great stuff! No doubt I will find some more real gems (like this post) amongst your wise words.
    Have a great Christmas!

  45. Your articles are just awesome. No words to define anymore. I wanna read them all.

  46. Split testing will always be an important method when it comes to testing conversions. After all, you will not be able to really test how pages convert if you don’t test them. Although it may take some time of trial and error, it is an effort worth taking as it can shoot your conversions through the roof afterwards.

    • Ivan, great points. When you split test you can really find out what works and what doesn’t then iterate from there !

  47. Thank you for a consistent article. To my mind is really a good opportunity for the young and promising starts up to enter the business world if they lack funding themselves

  48. Chris Vincent :

    Using social proof – eg testimonials or well known client/brand names – on your homepage is another proven way to boost conversions. As long as they are verified (ie not just a name) this can immediately create credibility and legitimacy.

  49. What is the best way to sell more on your website? You can reduce the price of your products to create more demand, but there’s a better way. It’s known as the scarcity principle and it works by making customers believe that the item won’t be available anymore if they wait longer.

    Limited time offers is the most widely used approach. See how you can create limited time offers on your website and use scarcity tactics.

  50. I’m currently looking at a couple of softwares that will inform you which company’s visiting your website but haven’t contacted you. Think this is done by IP tracking. Be keen to have some help on experiences anyone’s had: (£29 per month) (£499 per month)
    www. (£299 per month).

    Planning on trialling them all (I’ve done the first two so far and both seem great and Canndi is a bit different as has some other features for B2C).

    Any advice appreciated

    • Hi Rheema,

      We used to use LF, but it was just a bit too expensive.

      Recently started using Traffic Truffle and we have been really impressed.

      We get a similar number of leads revealed per day, and we pay £49 per month.

      Hope this helps.

  51. Lonnie Livingood :

    Keep writing about it Neil! Whatever mild advantage that gives you, is well worth the knowledge and inspiration it gives us.

  52. Great article, thanks. Really inspirational.


  53. Nice tutorial. I found many of your tips really interesting. It will take time but i hope to improve my conversions 🙂

    • You may not see the results right away Victor, but just remember to patient and enjoy what you’re learning during the process

  54. Hanuman Chalisa :

    Wow! This is an amazingly thorough list. It clearly shows you know what you’re talking about.

    Keep up the great work! Thanks!

  55. investir en bourse :

    Thanks for sharing such a fastidiouus opinion, piece of writing is pleasant,
    thatss why i have read it fully

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