What Every Marketer Needs to Know about Conversion Optimization

conversion optimization

Traffic acquisition is becoming more and more expensive as time goes on. Whether you are leveraging paid advertising, content marketing, or SEO, you are spending time on growing your traffic. That means you are spending money.

To make your traffic acquisition profitable, you have to figure out how to get your visitors to convert into customers. If you can figure out how to increase your conversion rate, you’ll have more money to spend on marketing, which will help you beat your competitors.

Before you get started with conversion optimization, there are three things you need to know:

Lesson #1: Friction could be your worst conversion enemy

An essential element of increasing conversion is reducing friction. Too often, however, in the excitement over A/B testing, we – as marketers – fail to focus on friction.

Friction is anything that can get in the way of a conversion. Every conversion specialist will tell you: “Reduce friction!” But what does this actually mean? In order to reduce friction, you have to know what it is and then work on getting rid of it.

Friction, as Peep Laja defines it, is “psychological resistance to a given element.” Unfortunately, “it is a natural part of selling.” Friction can arise anywhere in the sales process, and it will – simply because human psychology is endlessly complex and extraordinarily varied. Since so much of friction is internally/psychologically rooted, it’s hard to define exactly where it might occur on your site.

Here are some ways in which you can categorize friction and some questions to help you identify possible sources of friction on your site:

Complexity friction

This kind of friction is making things more complicated than they need to be. Always remember the mantra KISS — Keep It Simple, Stupid. The more complexity in your conversion process, the greater your risk of friction.

  • Is there too much information?
  • Am I introducing any extraneous topics or issues?
  • Do I have any unnecessary form fields?
  • Are there any terms or concepts that might be confusing to the visitor?

Information Friction

Information that you introduce or don’t introduce can create friction. Analyze the information on your page.

  • Does the user have enough information to make a decision?
  • Is there any more information that the user might want? Questions to be answered?
  • Is the information organized logically?
  • Does the information flow well?

Style Friction

Even your design style can be a friction element. If most of your users react against a certain type of design style on your website, you may wish to alter your style to better accommodate your visitors.

  • Does my design style offend or please most of my visitors?
  • Do I have enough stylistic interest to engage users and eliminate style friction?

Time Friction

Time is crucial when considering your conversion optimization. Obviously, this goes beyond page speed or load time. In this case, I’m interested in the amount of time that it takes a user to go from the first contact with the page to the final conversion point.

  • Does the page take too long to view, read, or scroll?
  • Does the form have too many fields to fill out?
  • Does the conversion feel too rushed?
  • Are there too many/not enough pages in the funnel process?

Visual Friction

There is a huge variety of visual elements that can either create or reduce friction. Video placement, font kerning, background patterns, button color — an endless array of visual components affect friction.

  • Is the text size appropriate for headlines and content?
  • Is the call-to-action button an appropriate color?
  • Are prices clearly indicated?
  • Does the background color and text make for readable content?

One of the best ways to discover sources of friction is to ask users (e.g., a study group) about their experience. Where did they experience friction? Collect a list of the top friction points, create a variety of changes to implement, and then commence A/B testing each of them.

Lesson #2: User anxiety can derail a high percentage of potential conversions

I’m convinced that in order to optimize conversion rates, marketers have to study psychological barriers to conversion and learn how to overcome them.

What we often overlook is that behind every A/B test, copy change, color enhancement, and image improvement lurk the complex variables of human cognition and psychological responses.

One such psychological response is anxiety. Anxiety is a “feeling of worry, nervousness, or unease, typically about an imminent event or something with an uncertain outcome.” In an e-commerce setting, users will seldom convert if they are experiencing anxiety. For this reason, you need to work at reducing your customers’ anxiety.

Marketing Sherpa’s analysis of anxiety demonstrates its negative impact on the conversion process:

marketing sherpa

To help you understand the equation above, here is the list of its elements:

  • “C” = Probability of conversion
  • “m” = Motivation of user
  • “v” = Clarity of the value proposition
  • “i” = Incentive (additional) to take action
  • “f” = Friction elements present
  • “a” = Anxiety elements present

The reason why anxiety is such a powerful factor is because, according to Marketing Sherpa, “its degree/impact is often disproportionate to the measure of risk.” Thus, we tend to downplay its effect as we consider our overall page design and conversion elements.

Here are some of the most significant anxiety-inducing features of websites:

Unclear content

If a website’s content is confusing, misleading, or strange-sounding, it will introduce a high level of user anxiety into the process. The human mind craves something that will help to stabilize or clarify a new experience. If the website’s content introduces a disequilibrium into the user’s mental state, it can raise his or her anxiety level. There are several ways in which website copy can do this:

  • Misspellings and grammatical errors
  • Not enough content
  • False claims or unverified statistics
  • Over-the-top testimonials (usually accompanied by stock profile pictures)
  • Multiple exclamation points
  • Highly emotive expressions like “Unbelievable!” “Shocking!” or “OMG!”

Although website content doesn’t need to sound like Harvard Business Review every time, it should at least have some semblance of professionalism and balance.

Too many ads or ad-like elements

With the huge number of advertisements that we face on a daily basis, we’re accustomed to tuning many of them out. We tend to view ads with a degree of suspicion, knowing that they are placed to try to sell us something. We, as marketers, understand this intuitively, which is why much of our strategic efforts is directed at overcoming the cognitive bias against advertisements.

When your website contains a lot of advertisements, it activates the brain’s amygdala — a subconscious warning center. This response will produce a low-grade anxiety that may cause the user to either distrust what he or she is reading and seeing or to leave the page altogether.

Anything highly unfamiliar or unexpected

Humans crave the familiar. We gravitate towards the same people, the same route to work, the same style of clothing, the same computer operating system, the same types of foods. Sure, it’s true that many people are adventure-seekers and thrill-finders, always looking for a new level of danger or risk. But even such people experience the anxiety triggers of the unfamiliar. They simply deal with them differently.

Anything that is unfamiliar or unexpected produces anxiety. If your website uses extremely cutting edge design techniques or unique animation, it may be intriguing to the user, but it may also introduce a level of anxiety that reduces the likelihood of a conversion.

Often, the tried-and-true familiar methods are the best.

Request for too much information

Form elements on a website are extremely significant. This is the point of conversion on many landing pages, and a lot of care and effort goes into crafting just the right experience. If there are too many fields of information, it could create anxiety.

Many people have a highly developed sense of privacy, especially when it comes to online interaction. For a website to be requesting detailed information about one’s identity is considered an invasion of privacy. You’re better off requesting just the basics than getting greedy and asking for a lot.

Trust is another important psychological element you need to keep in mind. As you work to eliminate anxiety, you should concurrently work to improve trust, either by adding trust elements or enhancing existing features to improve their trustworthiness.

Lesson #3: What you remove is just as important as what you add

Often, the question in many marketers’ minds is this — “What can I add that will make this website better?”

I think that’s the wrong question.

The right question is this: “What can I change that will make this website better?”

That’s why every marketer must also be an A/B tester. Marketers test changes. Sometimes, the best changes are those that eliminate elements. Removal is a quick and easy gain. By simply deleting something (or a lot of somethings), you can instantly gain conversion uptick.

Here are some potentially distracting elements:

  • Images – unnecessary pictures can distract from the goal of conversion. It’s common to assume that an image, regardless of its quality, style, or subject, will enhance the page. Actually, this may not be true. I recommend A/B testing the presence vs. the absence of images to see what impact it makes.
  • Videos – I’ve used explainer videos with a lot of success. However, I’ve also identified spots where explainer videos are impeding the conversion process.
  • Links that open in the same tab – one major landing page mistake is adding a clickable link/button/image that is not the conversion element. If you have links on your page that go off the landing page — i.e., opening a new offsite page — you are risking the loss of a conversion. If you’re interested in analyzing the click behavior of users on your website, you may want to analyze a heatmap.

Removing stuff is often just as effective, if not more so, than adding stuff. Conversion optimization is about change, not just a simple process of addition/subtraction. So, keep testing and implementing, testing and implementing.


Conversion optimization is more than the sum of a variety of A/B tests. It’s more than tweaking button colors and adding stronger CTAs. Much more.

If you address the three major issues in this post, you’ll be able to push your conversion optimization process farther and drive conversion rates higher.

What do you think every marketer should know about conversion optimization?


  1. Scott @ Kawntent :

    This is a great point – I think a lot of folks are too focused on the amount of traffic they are getting.

    To put it in perspective – increasing your conversion rate is exponentially better than increasing your traffic by the same factor, since increasing traffic usually costs $$$ and increasing your conversion can just take your time and patience.

    • Scott, glad you liked it. Thanks for reading through 🙂

    • Nice point Scott. Traffic is nice but if it does not convert, then what is the point? I personally did a conversion audit of my blog after my first month and was able to increase it by 33%. Even without a lot of traffic, you can usually get enough visits to run a decent test and see improvements.

      Thanks Neil for another sweet article!

    • donmadan tvizle :

      Scott, glad you liked it. Thanks for reading through


  2. Thank’s Sir
    At first seems to me a tight article this one 🙂

  3. Hello Neil.
    It’s such an interesting post from you again. Now I’m sure that I’ve learned something great about conversion optimization.
    And you are absolutely right about links that open in the same window being a distracting element. 🙂
    Thanks for sharing and keep the posts coming. 🙂

  4. I like te idea to remove some distraction rather than to add more. I would like to implement it on my websites.

  5. Nikhil Waghdhare :

    Hey Neil,

    Great content. This post consist everything that I want to know about conversion optimization. This post is really helpful thank you for sharing this… 🙂

  6. Michael Bely :

    Hey Neil,

    Interesting information. Especially the formula for probability of conversion provided by MarketingSherpa.

    A little sad that they (MarketingSherpa) do not explain much about this formula.
    Without deeper explanations It seems more like it is not a mathematical expression but something like about marketing feelings and assumptions.

    Nevertheless, it looks ok 🙂

  7. Praveen Ravindran :

    Great detailed information provided on conversion optimization.

    A/B testing is one of the areas marketers hesitate to implement or get started. Is it because they feel it’s bit complicated? Or maybe I am wrong?


  8. Azizul Yusof :

    “What do you think every marketer should know about conversion optimization?”

    Understands who’s your audience, ie, what they like, what they love, what they are looking for and etc…. and work on the conversions, based on that.

    That’s the most important of all.

    Note: segment your audience first and choose the right segment to work on.

  9. Awesome post Neil! I’m working on improving CRO.. Couldn’t have come at a better time. Would love to know more about improving a website ‘s credibility.

  10. This is a nice, clear list of actions one should perform when creating a sales page and examining the sales funnel. Added it to my bookmarks – thank you!

  11. Alejandra Ruani :

    “Trust” and “the familiar” are huge… we optimised our checkout flow, so customers don’t get dropped into the cart asking for money right away… now it’s more of a journey. Conversions tripled.

    Great advice, Neil!

  12. Totally agree with this and in this day in age with all the hype out there, what I found is just simply being real, authentic, and pumping awesome value out will increase conversions and it might just be the one of the best and easiest ways. I know with the last few courses I bought the purchases were based on trusting the people that were offering them up based on their authenticity.
    Totally love your realness Neil!
    Keep the awesome content coming.

  13. Maybe you can post a blog on the biggest factor, being motivation. Motivation has a 4 in the equation and is the thing that will change the conversion funnel / rate the most.

    If your offering free gold then users will be happy go to hell and back dealing with the worst checkout process in the world. You could have popups and bad images and errors in the page, but your conversion rate would still be high as the motivation for the product your offering is huge.

    If you’re offering a product that say other retailers also offer at a similar price, the Motivation is much lower and in this instance users simply will not put up with such a horrid experience.

    Its important to understand the motivation of your customer which comes back to understanding them and knowing the way they think. Implementing something like urgency into the process in certain circumstances will increase motivation, think of ticketing sites where you only have so many minutes to complete your purchase.

  14. Julian Adorney :

    Hey Neil,

    Great article! I was pleasantly surprised to find a lot of stuff that wasn’t in “The definitive Guide to Conversion Optimization” (another great resource).

    I was wondering, though, about calls to action on a blog: my goal is to convert visitors to subscribers. I understand how to make a great CTA box at the bottom of the article (and on the sidebar), but how do I use the article to subtly guide people to signing up, without coming across as too ‘sales’y?

    Thanks in advance!

  15. Hello Neil,

    A great statement. We are moving away from the thoughts that a single click would convert a new client.

    Thank you for your amazing never ending school of wisdom


  16. Leon M Alexander :

    G’day Neil:

    This post really resonated for me. I have an interest in helping people overcome anxiety, and now I might be a cause of it for some.

    I have been under the impress that the more “fancy” a website is, the more professional it looks.

    Loading up with images just for the sake of it, just adds to clutter and slows site loading time.

    Reckon the KISS mantra is the way to go.

  17. Harlene Truong :

    You mentioned about using alots of A/B tests for conversion optimisation, is there any alternative tests without running ads?
    Thanks for pointing out.

  18. It’s a nice Post Neil Patel Sir……

  19. Ahmed Aljonaid :

    Neil, Thank you very much for another power tips. I definitely agree with everything you’ve mentioned here, especially when it comes to familiarity.

    At one stage, I thought adding all those cool widgets would increase engagement and conversion. The opposite was the truth. After doing a split test for 3 consecutive months, the conversion dropped by almost 39%.

    Also, removing popups from some pages and replacing it with a top opt-in bar has done wonder and increase conversions.

    As much as I hate testing, I know it is important, and I could see it even clearer through your articles. So, thank you again.

  20. Vinit Balani :

    Thanks Neil for the wonderful insights. Your articles are a great help for newbies like me. 🙂

  21. Yes Neil bro. I am agree with your conclusion. Nice post btw sir.

  22. Marissa Davidson :

    Wonderful perspective 🙂 I have learned the three important things to consider about conversion optimization. Users might enjoy reading or seeing your website if you have a clear content. Visitors can be turned into customers if they already trusted your website. It will more likely to increase your conversion rate.

  23. hi

    your unsubscribe link does not route anywhere, how do i unsubscribe

  24. Kaleb Nation :

    Wow, I hope these tips and tricks will work for me, lets see what will happen?

  25. I think increasing conversion rate is much more important than getting more traffic. You always produce quality content. How do you get ideas for these posts Neil?

  26. This was exactly what I was trying to explain to my last employer about conversion optimisation.

    Reduce distractions, explain complicated jargon, make things as simple as possible for the user. Unfortunately they didn’t want to know they thought they new best. So I ended up moving to my current employer www.seonuts.co.uk.

    At least they listen to me now.

    Great article by the way.

  27. Hi, Neil

    I hope these tips and tricks will work for my blog, thanks for your all tips and tricks.

    Especially, I am really impressed with the term, Links that open in the same tab, you are absolutely right about this, even I got result after removing less important links.

    By the well thanks a lot!

  28. Really informative Neil..

    Re marketing campaigns also have the ability to drag the potential customers in to conversion. Can you write in detail about the Re marketing campaign using AdWords for conversion?

    That reminds, You have written least about these paid things!!!

  29. Very good information Neil. I just love the formula of it and in my finding CTA’s Text and Colors plays a huge rule in physiology.

    Still we don’t know what works 🙂 so here comes the A/B/C/D test . The more we test the better data we got for further ROI.

    I like your detailed information and between how do you track the conversion via videos?


  30. Johan Hedin :

    Great post Neal. The conversion is a whole science and you covered many important points. I find whiteboard explainer videos to work very well also. People love videos and they communicate to all our senses as well. So landing pages with relevant information covering the main usps along with a video works for me…

  31. Atamyrat Hangeldiyev :

    Thanks a lot for nice information dear Neil Patel, and thanks for your other contents about SEO 🙂

  32. David Prochaska :

    You know, as a lot of us are into SEO an search marketing, we think about driving traffic traffic to a website, but what about when they land there?

    It’s all about the user experience, and if one doesn’t think about creating the ultimate experience for the visitor, then you might as well just be buying website traffic from someone off of Fiverr.

    Great post, Neil.

  33. I just learned so many things from your blog. As a newbie blogger every single time this blog guide me. Today I just learned something new,previously I never concentrated on conversation rate or conversion optimization. Thanks Neil for guiding me out in it.

    • Michelle, glad I could help. Thanks for reading and I look forward to hearing more from you 🙂

  34. Howdy Neil I am surely gonna try out the methods metioned above just to see if they work 🙂

  35. I like your comment about highly developed privacy screens among consumers. People are super sensitive about what information they give out on some sites, but will post all kinds of things on social media that they wouldn’t share with marketers.

  36. Very good article Neil, thanks!

  37. Nice article Neil .Do u have any article about setting a Custom URL in Google + Page ..Please reply …

  38. One if the most business critical “friction” elements is user engagement and web performance. If you page is too fat (i.e. Heavy or loaded with too many JavaScript calls, social APIs, widgets, etc.), you will LOSE potential customers. Marketers, especially ecommerce marketers, should understand the importance of web performance as it related to conversions and bounce rates. If you’re page takes too long to load, you will lose visitors/customers.

  39. Ensuring a personalized, responsive solution that adapts to visitor context and user actions improves engagement and increases mobile and web conversions. How engaging is your site?

  40. Very good article Neil, thanks!

  41. Cem Akbulut :

    After read this post, go to Neil’s conversion optimization guide 🙂


  42. Very useful post. I found on google search and add to my chrome. Thanks Neil.

  43. Thank u sir

  44. gastrit tedavisi :

    wowww great post.

  45. basur tedavisi :

    Very good article Neil, thanks

  46. very good

  47. adiyaman tutunu :

    thank u sir, good sharing

  48. Pomodoro Zaman Yönetimi :

    very nice post

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