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The #1 Conversion Mistake Most Websites Make

by Joseph Putnam

Internet marketing is challenging.

Unlike a physical sales process where salespeople talk face to face with customers, internet marketing requires businesses to do everything through a website.

You can’t ask customers questions to see where they are in the sales process, and you don’t have the luxury of treating each customer differently based on their background.

Businesses have to figure out how to land sales by funneling customers through their home page, but often, they make a very significant mistake.

Getting your priorities straight

The number one conversion mistake that most businesses make is not identifying the most important goal for each page of their site. Instead of optimizing to capitalize on the number one goal for each page, they give everything equal priority, and that’s a huge mistake.

I’ll give an example.

On a recent copywriting project I worked on, the number one goal for the home page was to gather contact information from prospective customers. Since the company couldn’t do much until they had contact info to follow up with, almost nothing else mattered compared to getting a phone number or e-mail address from each and every visitor.

But for some reason the decision was made to place the contact request form in the footer of the website. The footer? Really? How does the most important piece of the page end up in the footer?

The simple answer is that they didn’t know how to prioritize the number one goal for the home page. So instead of creating a design that focused visitors’ attention on signing up in order to be contacted, the sign up form was relegated to the footer. The priorities for the page were turned upside down because the number one goal wasn’t identified or emphasized.

So what should a business do instead?

Step #1: Identify goals and prioritize

The first step is to figure out what the number one goal is for each page. Is it signing up for updates? Is it purchasing a product? Or is it clicking through to learn more?

Whatever it is, the number one priority needs to have the most prominent placement on the page, and everything else needs to fit around it and not distract.

A website that does this well is the Single Grain marketing agency.

Their first priority is to get people to download their SEO guide (which they trade for contact information), and their second priority is to get people to click to find out how they can work with Single Grain (which ultimately leads to a contact form where visitors can request a proposal). Everything else on the home page fits around these main calls to action and doesn’t distract in any way.

So step number one is to identify priorities and to design accordingly.

Step #2: Create a funnel

The second step is to create a funnel that walks people down the path the company wants them to take.

Too many businesses design their websites without a funnel in mind. They don’t create a path that will lead customers where they want them to go. Instead, they give all of the information on their site equal emphasis, and they hope that customers will make the right choice based on the buffet of menu and link options.

Never ever do this. Never trust that site visitors will make the right choice, and never leave them to meander around your website hoping they’ll find what you want them to find.

Site visitors need to be led by the hand. They need a path to walk down that leads to the conversion goal you have in mind.  Not because they are stupid, quite the opposite actually.   If they can’t easily find what they are looking for on your site they are smart enough to know they can find it somewhere else.

Basecamp provides a good example of a website with goals prioritized and an effective path laid out for customers.

The homepage emphasizes the main calls to action: “Find out why” or “start your first project for free.” The homepage is prioritized to focus on these two links. People can also log in or click on the links in the footer, but the prioritization of the page leads customers down this path.

Why this path? Because Basecamp wants to get prospective customers to first learn more about their product. Learning more brings them one step closer to buying, but in the case they’re already sold (maybe they visited the website previously), there’s also an option to start a project right now for free.

Basecamp guides customers to their number one priority: signing up for a free trial which results in visitors becoming paid customers. It’s easy to see why this is Basecamp’s number one priority.


The first step is for businesses to figure out what they’re number one goal is for their site and for every page. After making this decision, they have to design in a way to emphasize the top goals on each page and to lead customers down the right path to accomplish what the business wants to accomplish.

Not everything on a site or page deserves equal emphasis. Something must be chosen as the top priority and receive proper emphasis. It’s every business’s job to figure out what that is and to design and write copy to accomplish goals accordingly.

What about your website? What’s the number one goal? Do you have a funnel in place to accomplish that goal?

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Joseph Putnam

Joe Putnam is the Director of Marketing at iSpionage, a competitive intelligence tool that makes it easy for PPC advertisers to download their competitors’ top keywords, ads, and landing pages. He also recently wrote a free guide titled The Top 10 PPC Mistakes and How to Fix Them.


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  1. Rijo says:
    March 4, 2014 at 7:15 am

    Thanks Joseph

    Even though this article is 2 yr old this has been useful to make me explore more options for reaching the main goal.

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