3 Steps to Online Conversion Success

Online conversion is often the largest immediate opportunity for publishers to improve their online businesses. Why? Most media websites are focused on eyeballs, because under the advertising model, publishers get paid every time someone clicks on anything. It doesn’t matter what the visitor clicks on—as long as a click gets registered, page views go up, and the publisher earns another fraction of a penny.

As a result of this dynamic, many media websites look . . . hmm, how do I say this nicely . . . terrible! There is too much stuff on each page, dizzying amounts of articles to click on, pop-up ads on top of pop-up ads (this isn’t hyperbole—I’ve actually seen a pop-up ad literally pop up over another pop-up), videos that auto-play, and so forth.

Conversion is broadly defined as “motivating the visitor to take a desired action.” It can be for a sale, but it could also be for an email sign up or click through to another page. Here are three simple ways you can make sure you increase your conversion rate in no time:

1. Pass the Five Second Rule.

Within 5 seconds of coming to your site, I should be able to tell: 

  1. Who you target
  2. What problem you solve for them
  3. Why you are better than anything else out there

If your homepage is cluttered with too much stuff, you may scare away visitors.

Keep your primary landing pages clean. My favorite example is from a company called Unbounce. When you go to their site, it says in big letters The Conversion Platform for Marketers. Unbounce is the easiest way to build and test custom landing pages, website popups and sticky bars. Improve your post-click conversion rates and launch more campaigns, fast.” It’s very clear they help markers increase their conversion without needing to lobby for IT time.

Clearly demonstrating your value proposition is proven to be the number one driver of conversion.

2. Limit yourself to one call to action per page.

Don’t ask people to subscribe to your magazine, buy your book, enroll in an email newsletter, and visit your sponsor’s site on the same page. People hate choice. In fact, psychologist Barry Schwartz wrote a whole book about this (The Paradox of Choice). Be strategic and limit the options on each page.

3. Always be testing.

There are great tools out there (like Unbounce, OptinMonster, Google Optimize, and more) that will allow you to test different offers, call to action copy, and user experience. Take advantage. But don’t randomly hack away. Have a conscientious testing plan (what I call a “Learning Agenda”) to scientifically test hypotheses. For example, on the agenda could be “What offer leads to the most new subscriber signups?”.  Then you can test free trial, cancel any time, $10 off, etc. until you find a clear winner.

If you apply these three simple rules to your site, you’ll find you can quickly increase subscription and product sales, as well as email signups and engagement with your advertisers.


Rob Ristagno is the CEO and Founder of The Sterling Woods Group, a firm that builds new revenue streams for media companies and publishers. He is an expert in direct monetization of content. Prior to creating The Sterling Woods Group, Rob served as a senior executive for several niche media and e-commerce companies. He most recently was the Chief Operating Officer of America’s Test Kitchen, considered to be the gold standard in the niche media world for building diversified – and often digital – revenue streams.


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