Conversion Rate Optimization: 5 Mistakes to Avoid

21 Jun, 2021

Conversion Rate Optimization: 5 Mistakes to Avoid

You’ve got a great product with a unique selling point—and yet you’re not selling. What’s more: people are coming to your website but not buying. You’ve got the conversion blues. What’s the problem?

If you’ve got a good product and web-traffic, your website most likely needs some conversion rate optimization (CRO). Indeed maybe the copy is flat, the landing page design garbled, the navigation or site structure cumbersome. It could be any of these things among other potential problem spots that is keeping visitors from becoming buyers.

This article looks at what CRO is and considers 5 common mistakes to avoid when it comes to website optimization, so you can improve conversions and revenues.

Table of Contents

What Is Conversion Rate Optimization?

Conversion rate optimization (CRO) is about getting more users to perform certain desired actions on your website. Say you have 100 visitors on your landing page but only 3 click through to a product page from there. Getting those 3 clicks up to 10 is the essence of CRO.

So CRO looks at boosting conversion rate around specific issues. For example, is there something not streamlined about your checkout process that is causing low conversions? What about your landing page—is the call to action (CTA) unclear?

One way of thinking about CTO, then, is that it’s less about attracting visitors to your site and more about improving the conversion rates of the traffic you already have. By enhancing things like user experience (UX), CTA button placement, even the formatting of your text, you can convert visitors to customers.

Calculating Conversion Rates

Calculating conversion rates is pretty straight forward:

Conversion Rate (%) = # of Conversions ÷ Total Number of Website Visits (X 100)

If you want to boost conversion around purchases over a one month time frame, for example, you would look at the fact that you get 200 visitors per month, with 4 purchases/conversions.

Conversion Rate = 4 / 200 X 100 = 2%

Not bad. But you might benefit from a little website TLC… and CRO!

The Main Objectives of CRO

In order to increase conversion rate, CRO focuses primarily on the following:

  • Improving website functionality
  • Learning about visitor behavior through various methods of data collection and analysis, such as A/B and/or multivariate testing or customer interviews to better understand user experience.

While there are many reasons particular reasons that your website may not be converting, they tend to relate to some shortcoming in these main categories:

  • Navigation or Site structure
  • Landing page design
  • Copy
  • Call to Action
  • Forms
  • Page Speed

CRO seeks to increase conversions within these categories rather than looking at things like pricing or other issues that might affect whether a visitor buys a product or not.

5 Common Mistakes to Avoid When Thinking about Conversions

We all want to boost conversions. It sounds so technical. So serious. So important. In what follows, this article looks at some mistakes e-commerce owners make when it comes to CTO.

Fixating on Conversion Rates

In an article on CRO, it may seem odd to suggest right off the bat that perhaps the biggest error you can make is to fixate on conversion rates. But hitting an average conversion rate—between 1 and 4 percent-—regardless of context is one thing e-commerce owners get hung up to their potential detriment.

Think of it this way, for a second. How would you respond to the following claims? All women need to hit a size 4 dress and all men should fit into size 10 shoes. Hitting a 4 percent conversion rate is like getting into a size 4. It doesn’t necessarily fit.

So what does a 4 percent conversion rate outside the context of your business, your website, your products, your customers, your visitors, your conversion goals over a multitude of various categories mean? Not much. Or maybe a lot. It’s hard to tell.

Conversion rates differ depending on context and goals. Thinking less about hitting an average conversion rate and more about the unique hydraulics of your e-commerce business--your customers, your visitors, your specific conversion rate per web page and per conversion goal (ad clicks vs. blog signups have different ends) is a more productive approach to CTO than non-site specific conversion rates.

Not Understanding What a Conversion Is

It’s common to read about brands or companies that just boosted conversions by 4% or 37%, but what does conversion even mean? Sure, it sounds great. But are these conversions reaching goals or are they more like confetti at a birthday party with a few guests?

Consider these scenarios.

  • Someone shares a social media post about your brand to a friend. A conversion. Nice.
  • A husband goes to your site and purchases an elegant time-piece for his wife. Also a conversion. Much nicer.

All conversions, therefore, are not equal. There is a difference between a micro-conversion, like someone sharing a social media post with a friend, and a macro-conversion, such as purchasing a timeless anniversary gift.

Boosting micro-conversions can be a bit like padding stats in sports. Yes, this or that player had more yards gained than another - but those yards came on a losing team and didn’t amount to any wins. Similarly you can be “boosting conversions,” but not selling products.

With that in mind, beware of gaudy claims about companies increasing conversions by x%. That might just mean that they got you a few more “add to cart” clicks, but didn’t get you any purchases from it.

In lieu of micro-conversions, macro-conversions are about bigger desired actions: purchases, revenue, demo-requests. So while micro-conversions are essential to a well-functioning web-site, always keep in mind what boosting conversions are in the service of.

Thinking all CRO Solutions Should Be Quantifiable

We exist now under the sovereign rule of Data and Analytics and that’s great. Both can solve many things we can’t and do so at superhuman speed. And while data collection and analysis is crucial to CRO, it’s not the only path to conversions.

Let’s think about the following scene. A young woman is looking for T-shirts online and chances upon your store. You have a great product—but you also have flat, off-duty prose that feels heavy and plodding. She can’t be bothered getting through the text. She leaves your site and buys a T-shirt down the internet road because she loved its product descriptions written with a millennial panache befitting the young woman’s cosmopolitanism.

How does quantitative data driven decision-making account for that? It doesn’t. Sometimes you need to go into a qualitative space to come up with strategies for growth.

Not Listening to Your Customers and Visitors

You need to know who is going on your website, who is leaving, who is staying, and for what reasons. So focus on users rather than numbers. Or, if you can’t think outside of the numerical, make sure that your understanding of your users is 3-D, rather than flat and one-dimensional.

Talking with visitors and users is the best way to develop understanding of the strengths and weaknesses of your website. A user-centred, qualitative approach rather than a strictly data-centered one will open up new worlds of conversions and insights.

By balancing qualitative and quantitative approaches to your site you will not only identify problem areas that the other can’t see, but you’ll develop (through testing and experimenting) insights into user behavior for high leveraged click-through rates.

There are lots of techniques out there for qualitative approaches to understand the “why” in addition to “how many”:

  • Website session recording tools that show how users navigate your site
  • Online reviews where you can read about people’s experience of your brand and/or product
  • Website feedback tools
  • Usability testing tools where a panel of potential or current customers can voice their thoughts and opinions on your website

Thinking There’s a “Best Practices” Hack

If you look online, you will instantly find many versions of something like “5 Best Practices to Improve CTO”:

  • Use a strong color for your CTA buttons that you don’t use elsewhere and get more conversions
  • Build social trust with testimonials
  • Create FOMO (Fear of Missing Out) on your product page or cart page, so people will have a sense of urgency and buy
  • Don’t use lots of pop-ups
  • Make your copy amazing!! (whatever that vague formulation means)

All these practices are important without a doubt. But they kind of belong with “get rich quick” schemes, or diets where you can eat whatever you want and still lose weight, or miracle creams to make you look 19 years old forever.

Instead of hacks, focus on boutique, site-specific solutions that combine qualitative and quantitative approaches. Collect and analyze data, talk with customers and visitors, run A/B testing on your webpages to determine best outcomes, and experiment. Go the way of the samurai, not the huckster who thinks changing the color of a button will fix your problems.


By thinking about CRO in ways deeper than cosmetic ‘best practices” hacks or purely data driven analytics, you can begin to develop a more 3-Dimensional understanding of the users on your website which will help boost conversions of visitors to customers to brand loyalists.

Recommendify is a leader in AI-based product personalization. Since 2014, it has been helping e-commerce brands with personalization solutions. Click below to book a demo.

Ready to increase your sales?

Let's talk about driving sales for your brand with AI-based personalized recommendations.