The Big 3 Conversion Killers We Found (by Analyzing 200+ Opt-In Forms & Landing Pages)

Recently we invited you, the Thrive Themes customers and readers, to send us examples of your landing pages and opt-in forms. Within just a few days, we'd already received over 200 submissions and we went about analyzing all of them.

In today’s post, you’ll discover the "Big 3" - the most common conversion killers that we encountered again and again in the examples you sent in. If you have a website, chances are that you’re making at least one of these 3 mistakes - and fixing it will transform the effectiveness of your website.


Conversion Killer 1:
More Emails, Anyone?

Turning visitors into email subscribers is the number one goal on many websites. And for good reason: email subscribers are highly engaged and getting permission to send emails is the perfect first step for creating loyal fans and customers.

But here’s the problem: no one wants to be on yet another mailing list.

Think about your inbox. I bet you’re already getting too many damn newsletters AND those newsletters are generally your least favorite emails. Your website visitors feel the exact same way.

So if you show them an opt-in offer like this:

Their reaction will be:

Now, I know what you’re saying: "but Shane, my newsletter is awesome. I don’t spam people with nonsense, like most of those newsletters I get in my inbox."

Sure, but your visitors don’t know that.

If you want to get email subscribers, there’s no way around a proper value exchange. You get something you want (the email address and permission to send), so you have to offer something your visitors want, in return.

Remember this: it’s always a value exchange.

Here, let me demonstrate…

If you have any kind of “subscribe to our newsletter” thing going on on your website right now, then you aren’t getting many subscribers. Getting more subscribers is something you want. And creating a great opt-in offer is what you need to do, in order to get what you want.

Now I’m going to give you this amazing, step-by-step guide for creating a perfect, conversion boosting opt-in offer in no time at all. And all you have to do is click on this link… and opt in.

Being a Thrive Themes subscriber is awesome. We send out great, action-packed content pieces on a regular basis. We’re never annoying or spammy. We’re incredibly attractive (just like our subscribers).

And yet, I’m never asking you to “subscribe to our newsletter”. You’ll discover how great our emails are once you subscribe. And you’ll subscribe because on this site, you’ll find relevant, high-value offers in exchange for your email address (just like this one about how to create killer opt-in offers).

TL;DR: How to Fix Conversion Killer Nr. 1

  1. Download this guide on how to create a super-compelling opt-in offer.
  2. Create a badass opt-in bribe and use it to replace every single instance of a "subscribe to our newsletter" opt-in form you have.
  3. Use your newly acquired opt-in offer creation skills to create even more of them, targeted specifically to popular posts and categories on your site.
  4. Watch in awe as subscribers pile onto your mailing list at never before seen rates.

Conversion Killer 2:
Do All the Things!

This second problem is as common if not more so than the first one. In some cases, it's extreme and easy to spot, but you might have the same problem in a more subtle way, on your pages.

For illustrative purposes, here’s an extreme example (this screenshot is not photoshopped):

Do you see the problem here?

Specifically, it’s that on this single page, the visitor is being asked to sign up to get an opt-in offer, sign up in a separate slide-in to "join my newsletter", use one of 5 sharing buttons to share the post and like something on Facebook (in a ribbon that's separate from the already existing social buttons).

One could say that it's a bit much...​

The problem can be summarized as "CTA overload": there are too many calls to action and the visitor's attention is being pulled in too many different directions.​

We saw this problem in two different variations:

  1. There are too many calls to action distracting from the main goal of the page (e.g. share buttons all over a page where the main goal is to get the visitor to make a purchase).
  2. On an opt-in landing page, an call to action for a completely different opt-in offer is shown in a ribbon, overlay or slide-in (see example below).

You can fix this with two simple steps. Take a look at any landing page on your site and ask yourself:

​1) How many actions are possible on this page?

Apart from leaving the website, how many things can the visitor do, here? Possible actions include:

  • ​Clicking on links, buttons or navigation menu items.
  • Clicking on social share buttons.
  • Clicking on social follow buttons.
  • Clicking a "play" button on a video or other media player.
  • Filling out form fields.
  • Leaving a comment.

The more actions are possible on your landing page, the more confusing and less focused it is.

2) Are the priorities on this page clear?​

If more than one action is possible on the page, are the priorities clear? Is the main conversion goal clearly highlighted as the most noticeable, most important thing on the page? Or is it being crowded out by other elements?

Example & Treatment

Here's an example of a landing page suffering from a relatively mild case of CTA overload:

This isn't too bad. It's just that the important portion of this landing page is a bit crowded out by the top navigation and by the footer. And in both of those areas many actions are possible, so there's a lot of potential distraction on the page.

Here's my suggested treatment:​

By removing all the additional links from the header and footer, not only do we focus the visitor's attention to the most important part of the page, we're also saving space. This allows us to use a larger headline and give the elements on the landing page a bit more room to breathe.

TL;DR: How to Fix Conversion Killer Nr. 2

  1. As a general rule, stick to one possible action per landing page.
  2. If you have more than one call to action, make sure there's a clear priority and your most important conversion goal is the most highlighted thing on the page.
  3. Avoid using plugins that indiscriminately plaster social sharing buttons, ribbons and opt-in forms onto every page of your site. Instead, use tools with detailed targeting options, such as Thrive Leads.

Conversion Killer 3:
Read Me if You Can

The best copy in the world is completely pointless if no one can read it.

In a similar vein, the more difficult it is for your visitors to read text on your site, the less likely they are going to even try.​

We've seen two manifestations of this problem in the examples we analyzed:

1) Poor Choice of Colors and Contrast

Here's what you need to know about text on your site:

Light text on dark backgrounds is difficult to read, because it strains the eyes. For short sections, it's fine, but don't force your visitors to read large blocks of text like this.

Grey or light text on light backgrounds is also difficult to read, especially for those who don't have perfect eyesight. It may look cool, but it's not very readable.

Avoid color combinations that create an unpleasant, strong contrast against each other. It strains the eyes and lowers readability.

This concerns any text on your site and on colored backgrounds. An even more common problem is caused by background images.

2) Background Image with Poor Contrast to Text

When you use a photograph as a background image and overlay text, it can be quite tricky to make both the photograph visible and the text readable.

Here's an example and treatment for this problem:

Because parts of the image are bright and parts are dark, the text is hard to read, no matter what color we choose for it. A wide range of brightness in different areas is quite typical of photographs, so this is a common problem. The easiest way to handle it is to add a dark overlay to the image:

We've simply added a layer of black, at 50% opacity. The image is still clearly visible, but now the text is crisp and easy to read. A huge improvement!

If you’re a Thrive Content Builder or Thrive Landing Pages user, I have to fully admit that we don’t have any feature to make this easier for you. Yet. It’s in the works. In the meantime, use an image editing tool like Pixlr, PicMonkey or Canva to adjust the image the way you need it, before uploading it.

TL;DR: How to Fix Conversion Killer Nr. 3

  1. Always check to make sure all of the text on your page is easy and pleasant to read.
  2. When using background images with text overlay, either choose the images very carefully or add a dark overlay to the image, to make sure it provides a strong enough contrast to the text.

Your Roadmap to “Ahead of the Curve”

As you saw from the examples we posted here, these "Big 3" conversion killers are extremely common. Luckily, all of them are very easy to spot and also easy to fix.

That means that with this post, you have a roadmap to ensure that any opt-in offer or landing page you create from now on is already ahead of the curve from where most of your competitors are at.

Check your site for these 3 issues right now and make it a priority to fix them. You’ll be amazed at how big of a difference it can make to the user experience of your visitors - and to the conversion rates on your site.


P.S.: If you spotted a screenshot from your site among our examples (we couldn't list all of the suitable ones, but chances are...), try the improvement we suggest in this post and let us know how it goes for you!

Author: Shane Melaugh

Shane Melaugh is a co-founder and the CEO of Thrive Themes. When he isn’t plotting new ways to create awesome WordPress themes & plugins, he likes to geek out about camera equipment and medieval swords. He also writes about startups and marketing here.

  • Babs says:

    Woo hoo! I got here first… Wow. Just In time to see the new article. Shane you’ve really made valid points with these analysis you guys have done.

    Will keep these in mind. Thanks for taking your time :)

    The best,

  • Ed H says:

    Awesome, thanks for the positive critique of my landing page! Will definitely update it in the next couple of days!

  • Greg says:

    Regarding the do all things part: I once heard someone say that if you are standing 10-15 feet away from your monitor and you don’t know what to do on a landing page, then the page isn’t clear.

    This spans everything from the layout of the page to the button size and color, to the contrast of the text to the background.

    I’m not sure if it’s a hard and fast rule… and most designers would probably scoff at this. But it’s something that I’ve tried to take into account when creating my conversion widgets and landing pages.

  • Mike says:

    That was so good I wanted to subscribe again! I find myself going through withdrawals if I don’t see something in my inbox from Thrive Themes for more than a few days. Thanks for over delivering.

  • Paul B says:

    Guilty of sin #3. “Thanks” for using Fit Events as an example! Off to apply your valuable advice. Thanks for the great plugin and continually valuable content you put out.

  • Tambra L says:

    Great information as usual! I’m going back to my sales page to double check now! Thank you.

  • Tamas Bodzsar says:

    Great! Thank you for this useful tips.

  • Rick says:

    Thanks Shane! Great tips as usual!

  • Michél Duhme says:

    The opt in for the Guide is not available

  • Dennis says:

    Thanks Shane – BTW the optin for the guide goes to a 404 page

  • Kevin Barham says:

    Thanks Shane – Awesome contact once again. I’m not surprised that these are the top 3. I’ve seen lots of examples of this across all niches.
    Thanks for sharing

  • Mark Kessler says:

    Thank you, Shane. This awesome, and solution-filled post couldn’t have come at a better time. Thanks!

  • G G says:

    Awesome stuff! – thanks, especially the tip with darkening the background pic, never thought of that….

  • Richard says:

    Great post, simple and important points well made! Thanks.

  • John says:

    I filled out your form to receive a guide on building an opt-in offer and then saw this:
    The page you are looking for seems to be missing. Perhaps searching can help.”

    Possibly another thing to avoid…

    • Shane Melaugh says:

      Sorry about that, John. True, that’s quite the conversion killer as well. :D

      We’ve fixed the issue since, so please try again.

  • Brian says:

    Hi Shane,

    very well explained.

    These are probably the key points of a good landing page.

    I once created a landing page / Sales Pages.

    Is that OK?

    What do you think?

    The site was created with the Thrive Content Builder

    best regards


  • Andy says:

    The download sent me to a 404 page. I’ll wait and see if something arrives in my email box.

  • Great Article! … However, clicking the opt-in link took me off the page onto an overlay opt-in box, then when clicking on the submit button, that took me to an Error page. So I had to go backwards in order to finish reading the original article. BUT, in the meantime, since I was taken to an error page, I worried that my contact info had NOT been registered, AND I wasted more time clicking on the other links that seemed to be going to the same offer, wondering if I should re-enter my info and try again? … And I VERY much dislike links that do not take you to a new page or tab. These links that keep you on same page to do the opt-in or whatever and don’t allow me to bring the item up on a new page irritate me quite a lot. It’s much easier to be taken o a new page, fill in the data, submit the page, close that page, and the original article is still right there. … I’m assuming why many sites doing that overlay opt-in is they convert better, but I have a BIG problem with doing stuff to visitors when the same things irritate me. … I really wish smooth user experiences with less hassle counted for more value. Contrary to Seth Godin, maybe interruption marketing will never go away?

    • Shane Melaugh says:

      Sorry about this issue, David. We’ve fixed the issue that caused the error message you saw.

      As for overlays: yes, they do indeed work incredibly well in most tests that we’ve run (and read about).

  • Kalista says:

    Terrific insights and information. Your articles are always so clear and beneficial. Thanks so much.

  • stephanie says:

    Thanks for the great tips…already made updates to my landing page. Appreciate your help!

  • Hey Shane, that’s a real high value analysis what you made here. Thank you very much for consistently delivering such premium content!

  • Todd G says:

    What a fantastic tutorial on how to increase the number of subscribers! Thank you so much. Having been made aware of these frequent mistakes before creating these landing pages for the site should increase the effectiveness. I don’t often make it all the way through tutorials like this, most of them lack substance, but this one was well worth the read and worthy of recognition. Thank you.

    • Shane Melaugh says:

      Thanks for your comment, Todd! It’s great to know that you found it easy to get through the whole post and extract the value from it. :)

  • Valerie says:

    I love that I always get such valuable information from your posts. I’m going to review my own sites for these conversion killers immediately. (AND correct the problems)

  • Julian says:

    Awesome stuff, Shane!

    Will definitely keep these in mind.

    My landing pages are alright, though. I think. :-) Thrive Landing Pages has really awesome templates.

    Plus Thrive Leads has some amazing targeting options. :D

    Cheers, Shane!

    – Julian

    • Shane Melaugh says:

      Thank you very much, Julian! Yes, we made sure to include all the targeting options needed to avoid the “CTA clutter” issue we saw on so many landing pages. The same can’t be said for some of our competitors…

  • Harvey says:

    “If you’re a Thrive Content Builder or Thrive Landing Pages user, I have to fully admit that we don’t have any feature to make this easier for you. Yet. It’s in the works.”.

    I love how you folks at Thrive CONSISTENTLY over deliver and provide massive value for your ” agency ” subscribers, not only do you help us, but you hold us by the hand by setting the example with your emails. Oh, and Hanne’s a good choice to use in the videos. (she does have a little more hair than you Shane!)

  • John P says:

    Love the transparency when you admitted that TCE currently can’t add an overlay color. And even loved more knowing that it is coming.

    Off topic, would love global saved sections. Edit once, update global.

    • Shane Melaugh says:

      Thanks, John. I’m the first to admit that none of our products are perfect. That’s whey they’re always a work in progress, with new features and improvements being released regularly.

  • Carolynn says:

    Great information! I’m going to go through my pages and opt-ins to make sure I fix my mistakes.
    BTW: I got the guide about 10 minutes ago so the link must have been fixed.

  • Mal says:

    Thanks Shane for the great info… I’m glad I passed. :>)
    cheers, Mal.

    • Shane Melaugh says:

      Thanks, Mal. We’ll have more conversion clinics to come. Maybe I’ll “get” you with one of the future ones. :)

  • steve s says:

    I look forward to receiving emails from Shane and when I got the email promoting this post I was biting at the bit (excited) to browse over to Thrive to read the post. Everything these guys develop is the best of the best and this article is just as good as any product they develop. Great post guys.



  • Sarah Jane says:

    Thank you for such great solutions to mistakes I was making. I am going to put this into action on my site.

    Thanks Shane for your post! Great tips!

  • Fiona says:

    Thanks for the great reminders to keeping my – and my client – opt in offers simple.

    Really simple, and OBVIOUS, what the next step is.

    One page, one purpose.

    So remove, everything, that isn’t lined up with that goal.

    – Fiona

  • Eli S says:

    This is good stuff!

  • Rahman Ramesh says:

    I subscribe to many newsletters – including Frank Kern and Jay Abraham. But I always open yours first because you provide real value compared to others. Thank you.

  • dave says:

    This is great helpful stuff indeed. Much appreciated.

    You asked me to give you feedback almost a month or so ago with regards Thrive integration with Infusionsoft where there where some challenges. I have not heard a word from you. Must say I was rather disappointed as I did put in a fair bit of groundwork to my reply to you and had hoped that I would at least get some sort of reply from you!! To date, still nothing. I am sure that you have a ton of stuff you are working on and you sure do have a great system / offering. If you for some reason didn’t actually receive my email please do let me know and I will happily resend it.

    All the best.


  • Thanks Shane

    Great insights. The cool grey text was my big takeaway from this. Love the set up and delivery of this high value stuff that you guys at Thrive provide for us.

  • Erika N says:

    This is awesome info to couple with the info I’m getting from the list building challenge with Hanne. Thanks Thrive Team!!!

  • Gediminas Baciulis says:

    I hope you will add soon ability to add overlays to images. This would save a lot of time.

  • Mary says:

    As you so diligently explained, this is one problem I will no longer have. Great direction with the picture creating it to look darker as an overlay would make it crystal clear with color type text to be very readable. I see this constantly and never understood what to do. Shane you are a genius. I am a proud member of Thrive, and very glad I am!

  • Angelo says:

    Fantastic article Shane, thanks! Goodness, dare I say I’ve made at least one of these errors, I’ll be updating my landing pages today! :) Really great info here, thanks for sharing.

  • Fantastic article Shane, thanks! Amazing how easy it is to make these simple mistakes, and what a HUGE impact they have on results. Great info as always.

  • judith h says:

    Loving thrives content so helpful

  • Another great read!

  • Valerie C says:

    TL;DR: — using an abbreviation that reasonably savvy people have to google is either horrible or brilliant. The fact that I cared enough to look it up (and I had heard the phrase before)… I’d rather see a graphic with the words (small, of course).

    Fab content, though. I’m redesigning my own site. (I have Leads, Headlines & Ultimatum to play with.)

  • Don says:

    Excellent Observations that I Have Overlooked with Easy to Choose & Use Solutions… Thanks.

  • Ian Brodie says:

    Hey Shane – I’m going to build a little on your point #1 and add a note of caution.

    While you’re absolutely right that the focus should be on the thing of immediate value you’re offering and not on subscribing for yet more emails – if you’re going to be sending regular emails you must mention this in your optin process somewhere (for example in the pop up box you could say “Get free instant access to the Super Widget – and our regular widget tips by email”). Your example doesn’t mention that when people opt in for the freebie they’re going to be getting regular emails from you.

    It’s a legal requirement in many countries to say what people are signing up to. It also makes sure that you set the right expectations – a major cause of spam reports is people signing up for what they thought was a one-off thing that turned out to be regular emails. And finally, it’s just good manners, you want to get the relationship off on the right foot.

    So while you should focus on the super valuable thing they get immediately, you must also mention that they’ll be getting regular emails from you.


    • John A says:

      Thank you, Ian B, for clarifying this point about making it clear that they would continue to get information from you.I’m

  • Very interesting article. I was juat thinking about pop ups like this the other day to analyze how to better implement them myself. The win-win you describe in the fireplace pop up definitely caught my attention. Prior to finishing reading the pop up I was wondering how much something like that would cost. It hit the nail on the head.

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