Why Conversion Rates are Vastly More Important Than Increasing Traffic

The most important point every online business needs to know is this: Conversions (how many people take the desired action – whether that is completing a purchase, gaining potential leads, or increasing a subscriber base) are more important by far than increasing traffic.

It does not matter how much traffic you receive if those visitors do not take the desired action.

This is vastly more important if you are buying traffic in any form. Even if you don’t directly pay for visitors and high traffic has not yet cost you more money for bandwidth, it does still increase your overhead and time.

Investing in increasing your conversion rate will pay off much faster and better than increasing your traffic.

* NEW * Special Thanks to MikeTek of UnstuckDigital for sharing an excellent post which includes graphs that clearly show the effect of improving conversion rates.  I encourage you to study the information presented there until it makes sense to you.

Conversion rates are so critical that the book Call to Action: Secret Formulas to Improve Online Results can be found on most every serious Online Marketer’s bookshelf. The most famous quote from that book by the Authors and acknowledged conversion rate experts Bryan and Jeffrey Eisenberg is this:

“Trying to increase sales simply by driving more traffic to a website with a poor customer conversion rate is like trying to keep a leaky bucket (your sales funnel) full by adding more water instead of plugging the holes. Instead, work on keeping more of your visitors from falling out of the funnel on the way to the close.”

The reason for dismal conversion rates on most online sites becomes obvious as soon as you know the most likely causes. Usability issues are the most common and easiest to identify and correct. Technical issues – particularly with either the shopping cart or merchant approval processes are next (and can be much tougher to diagnose).

Every issue you identify and correct will cause an incremental increase in conversion rates. The two most common ecommerce Web design errors can depress sales by up to 70%! Correct them and you can almost triple your sales.

Watch for upcoming posts in our Increasing Conversion Rates category covering those two common Web site design mistakes, what else to improve, and how to increase conversions through simple – sometimes free – changes.



  • Bryan Eisenberg, author and conversion expert
  • FutureNow’s GrokDotCom Marketing Optimization Blog


  • *** Don’t Make Me Think by Steven Krug *** Every person involved in the design, creation, ownership or any other aspect of any Web site should own this book. It is simple, concise, to the point, and easy enough for anyone to understand – even people with no Internet or technical background. You can read a Sample Chapter from the book. Buying a copy of this book for every member of your Team will be the best thing any Web site owner ever did. You’ll never make obvious mistakes again if you keep this book handy! Have a CEO or Owner asking you to make one? Give them this book! [NOTE: Look for the second edition.]
  • Call to Action by Bryan and Jeffery Eisenberg – Not an easy read and best suited for Marketers serious about improving their conversion rates and increasing their understanding of Web site design. Covers the use of funnels to direct specific personas through a Web site to increase conversions.
  • Waiting for Your Cat to Bark?: Persuading Customers When They Ignore Marketing
    by Bryan and Jeffery Eisenberg – Follow on to Call to Action and #1 Best Selling book on major book lists including New York Times, Wall Street Journal, Business Week and Amazon.com
  • Usability Books Worth Reading


  • Advanced Common Sense – hire Steve Krug himself to do an Expert Web Site Usability Review. Steve also offers a Web Site Usability Workshop.
  • Future Now Inc. – Hire the acknowledged Subject Matter Experts on Conversions, Bryan and Jeffery Eisenberg. See their Conversion Optimization Services.

Ecommerce Tips:

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Gail Gardner

Small Business Marketing Strategist at GrowMap
Creator and owner of GrowMap.com, Gail is primarily known for mentoring small businesses and encouraging bloggers to join collaborations to share skills and support small business.


  1. David Peterson says:

    Here is my favourite tool for A/B testing. This is the most user friendly tool on the web.http://www.coreminer.com/calculators/ab-test

  2. I’m experiencing that first hand now.
    I noticed my traffic increasing but my conversion rate dropping quite rappidly. The problem is: I’m focussing on a more general keyword, so more people are searching for it but they are less likely to buy. Because I am focusing most of my resources on that, my older, less popular but better conversing keywords are dropping down a bit.
    But I will focus on the more general keyword for now because the increase in traffic that I can get for it, even though a lower percentage actually buys, the total amount of buyers is much bigger.
    You rather have 2000 visitors a month of which 8% buys or 25.000 of which 4% buys?
    Danny would love you to read ..Remington RM1015P 10-Inch 8 Amp Electric Pole chain SawMy Profile

    • Hi Danny,

      It is REALLY important to understand the connection between general and specific keyword phrases and conversions. Many search marketing agencies are seriously damaging their client’s sales revenues by deleting general keywords because analytics makes it look like they don’t convert when in fact that more general phrases are how their client is being found.

      Cut off spending on those general keywords and when the potential sales in the pipeline are complete there will be few to replace them – but since there will be some time between the change in ad spend happens and the sales drop many won’t realize THEY CAUSED THE DROP.

      Because most analytics programs including Google Analytics credit conversions only to the LAST click. Many eventual buyers that first searched on the general keyword phrases later search and return on a specific phrase such as the brand, model name, model number or even color or size of what they’ve decided on.

      That new search for a specific phrase OVERWRITES the earlier general phrase search – making it LOOK LIKE general keyword phrases are not converting when in fact THEY GENERATED THAT SALE because that buyer RETURNED on that new search based on what they learned on their original search AND their recognition of your site.

      If you didn’t buy general phrase and they had not been to your site before they would be far less likely to select YOUR ad when they did the specific search EVEN IF other merchants are selling exactly the same products.

      THIS is why reliance on analytics is dangerous in the hands of most people buying AdWords or similar ads today. They do NOT have a clear understanding of the big picture.

      I have heard many consultants and employees of search marketing agencies bragging about how much money they save their clients because they quit bidding on what THEY THINK are non-performing keyword phrases – completely oblivious to the damage they’re doing to their client’s sales.

      The wisest strategy is to make sure you rank highest on the specific phrases and get as much traffic as you can bidding lower down the page for the general phrases. Except in very rare circumstances you DO NOT want to bid into first or second position on general, high traffic phrases because you can generate a far higher ROI from buying more traffic for the same money.
      growmap would love you to read ..Blog Outreach ServicesMy Profile

  3. I agree with Adam that traffic is not really important but the most important things that needs to understand is how good that effect or lots of traffc on your site.
    kirsty would love you to read ..Split Tests on Shopping Carts and Content Management SystemsMy Profile

  4. Just wanted to check in, and say this is probably the most informative site I have found to date. It give me enough information to understand what information I am actually lacking. It got me shoved in the right direction and I am learning new things daily!!! I am starting to understand why some of these web-site building secrets are kept secret. It is a major leg up on the competition when you learn to build your site on your own, and understand the INS and OUTS and what everything actually does. I have a LONG way to go, but I am persistently gaining ground, even if bits and pieces. A big thanks for these posts to get me pointed in the right direction! KEEP IT UP!

  5. Fantastic blog this is really interesting

  6. I agree the conversion rate is so important I think people overlook this, but on this post it really explains well why conversion rates are vital.

  7. Hi,
    If you want conversion rate high than it is necessary that you should concentrate on the target audience.
    Thanks for sharing.

  8. I agree with the point. Getting more traffic to your website is not enough, the most important thing is how are you going to benefit from these traffics. Let say, you sell a service (any kind of service), and the traffic to your website reaches to 1000 but the bad news is, no one from these traffic avail your service. so, what’s the point of getting too much traffic if you can’t convert these traffic to gain income.

  9. If your site is not user friendly and makes it hard for the consumer to find what they are looking for, the more your conversion rate is going to suffer. Having good, updated and relevant content for your readers is also a good way to improve your conversions.

    • Hello David and welcome to GrowMap,

      Yes, relevant content on an attractive on a site that is easy to figure out is the best way to increase conversions. Many sites lack upgraded search (or even have no search at all) and are usability tests. Too bad they can’t seem to figure out how important it is to improve sites to increase conversions.

      Have you seen Dr. Pete’s excellent new tool the Usability ROI calculator at http://www.usereffect.com/topic/new-tool-usability-roi-calculator?

  10. @MikeTek I found it extremely stressful. I believe the reason the business did not simply go back to the original site was because it wasn’t who the owner wanted to be.

    The converting site generated the vast majority of their sales from one particular product line. That line was even more heavily affected by the redesign because the new site did not have the functionality the original custom site had.

    Specifically, buyers needed to be able to select multiple different types of a particular style of this item. The original site left them on the page as they added items to their cart making it simple and obvious.

    The new site dumped them out to the home page when they selected “continue shopping” after adding each item to the cart. Finding their way back to that item was seriously painful if they could do it at all.

    The business owner appeared to see that new site built by a company that was the platinum sponsor at the Internet Retailer Conference that year as hitting the big time and was unwilling to sacrifice “making it” there.

    To save the business by reverting to the old site or to admit that this new site had many SERIOUS issues in spite of the company that built it – or because of that – was simply not something the owner was willing to do.

    What had been a growing company with four employees ended up being run by the owner part-time because another job was necessary to support the new site with an overhead five times higher and sales 70% lower.

    The other moral of this story is small businesses should work with small companies that understand that taking two months to resolve problems is long enough to put you out of business.

    Companies used to working with corporations are used to moving at a snail’s pace and are highly unlikely to be responsive to serious concerns or to expedite solutions to problems they caused and should have known better than to create in the first place.

    InternetStrategist’s last blog post..Promote Your Business Without Cash

  11. Ouch, that sounds like a real nightmare.

    People have a hard time grasping the idea of the sunk cost.

    Once you’ve spend the money, the money is gone. If you find the that thing you got for the money is worthless or, as in the case above, actually costing you more money the need to scrap it is obvious.

    “Sticking with it” when the original decision was the wrong one is like stomping on the gas when you realize you’ve hit a dead end.

  12. I just added the link you suggested and also links to other posts related to conversions that I have done here. I encourage anyone else who has information and links to share to leave them here in the comments.

    We DO encourage related links and we ARE a dofollow blog. Akismet will often delay them either for moderation or classify them as SPAM; however, I do regularly review and rescue all valid comments.

    InternetStrategist’s last blog post..Don’t Make ANY Changes Based on Web Analytics Until You READ THIS FIRST

  13. @MikeTek Thank you for your comments and the link. I learned this really clearly the hard way when a client I grew from under $180,000 to $1.1 million in annual sales in eight months decided to remodel their Web site.

    Sales dropped 70% and stayed there. The cause was clearly a serious decline in their conversion rate because of issues with the new site. Their new hosting company experts insisted is wasn’t. Analytics people and I did what we could but the owner of the business did not believe us.

    All they had to do was go back to the original site and sales would have recovered. That did not happen. Sometimes you have to accept that you can not save people from their own decisions.

    I will add that link to this post so others are sure to see it. It illustrates clearly why conversions are truly more important than more traffic.

    InternetStrategist’s last blog post..The Serious Drawbacks to Using FLASH for Web Design: Usability, SEO, Editability

  14. Spot on post.

    The truth is you need both traffic and conversions to win, but people always seem to think the traffic is the problem (and the answer to their prayers).

    Dr. Pete at UserEffect.com has a great post on traffic and conversion as the “two levers” of eCommerce. You might not run an eCommerce site, but the principles remain valid. Dr. Pete’s stuff is awesome overall so I recommend bookmarking his site / subscribing to his feed.

    A website that converts well also tends to offer a much better overall user experience – and those are the websites that people can’t help but share (perpetually building traffic).

    MikeTek’s last blog post..On Web Marketing & Low-cost Outsourcing

  15. @Andy Thank you. This is SO very important and so little understood. And if they’re buying any of that traffic that just multiplies the importance!

    InternetStrategist’s last blog post..Promote Your Business Without Cash

  16. Great post.. At my company we are constantly getting asked to help increase traffic. My response is – what are you doing with the traffic you are getting now?

    Traffic is easy – conversions are not. You hit the nail head on when you say “Investing in increasing your conversion rate will pay off much faster and better than increasing your traffic.” I tell clients they’ll get a much better ROI if they focus on creating an engaging experience and design conversion focused content strategies than just “driving traffic”

    Andy Brudtkuhl’s last blog post..5 Ways To Not Be an Internet Marketing Spammer

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