Why Most Websites Don't Convert Well

November 1, 2012
Brendan Egan

As the holiday season approaches (can’t believe it will be Thanksgiving in 3 weeks and Christmas in less than 2 months), we of course will start noticing sales and promotions popping up left and right in department stores around the world.  Did you know that department stores hire consultants to make sure their layout is inviting, their navigation in the store is clear, they have strong sales banners, everything is up to date, and nothing is cluttered or confusing?  I used to work in retail, and I know first hand that these are some of the most important things to having a successful holiday season for a retail store.

But did you know that these same exact things apply to websites?  And they’re actually the reason why most websites don’t convert as well as they could.  Often times a website design is the creation of the business owner.  They want everything a certain way, but they don’t trust the expert advise of their web designer or marketing consultant.  Here are the 5 most common reasons websites don’t end up converting well:

No Call To Action

It amazes me how many times I go to a website, find what I want, but there is no call to action on how to get what I want.  If its a service site, it needs a clear phone number and contact form.  If its a product site or e-commerce site, it needs a clear buy now button or locate a dealer button.  So many sites, especially older sites but even some newer sites, have terrible calls to action.  Department stores use enormous sale signs as their call to action, and websites should do the same in having a clear, visible call to action.

Poor Layout/Structure

Did you know most people bounce from a website, that is they visit the site and without looking at any other pages they leave?  Most websites have a bounce rate about 50%, however websites with poor structure/layout have bounce rates as high as 90%, and fantastic websites with great layouts and flow have bounce rates as low as 20%.  Much like a department store, your website has to flow well and have a good layout.  If you go to the store, would you expect to find socks next to shoes or next to chainsaws?  Your website should be laid out properly and in a common sense fashion just like a department store.

Confusing Sites

When you go to a website, you expect it to not be confusing and contain what you are looking for.  While I fully support the entrepreneurial spirit, a business that offers consulting services shouldn’t share a website with that owners other business that offers dog walking.  You wouldn’t go to Nordstrom to find drywall much like you wouldn’t go to a consulting site to find dog walking.  Make sure your site has a clear purpose, and if you own multiple businesses they should each have their own site.  Also make sure other elements like the navigation and layout of your site aren’t confusing to visitors and accurately represent what your company is all about.

Cluttered Sites

This one drives me insane.  Ever go to a website and there is just SO much going on that you have no idea where to go?  It’s like when you go to a department store on Black Friday and can’t find what you’re looking for anywhere because it looks like the store was just robbed.  When everything is everywhere and there’s no organization, it will make you leave a department store, and leave a website.


When you go to the store in November in Chicago, would you want to find heavy winter coats or swimming trunks?  The same applies to a website.  Visitors don’t want to find old, outdated, useless information.  They want information that is fresh, updated, and relevant to them.  And beyond the content, the same applies to the site as a whole.  Would you rather go shopping in a brand new store or in a store that hasn’t been remodeled since 1970 and smells musty when you walk in the door?  Websites just like anything else need to constantly receive attention, care, updating, and remodeling to keep them up to date and inviting to visitors.

So there you have it, the 5 main reasons websites don’t convert well and some real world, tangible shopping examples to help with grasping the concepts and problems behind these points.  If you have a website that is receiving traffic but isn’t converting well, there’s a good chance one of the five (or all of the five) things mentioned above are part of the problem.  Give us a call at 888-918-1665 and we’ll take a look at your site, for free, and provide a free proposal for fixing the issues and helping you get more business.

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