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

Shane Melaugh   104

Updated on August 16, 2023

In this post, you’ll discover the "Big 3 Conversion Killers" - the top mistakes that plague opt-in forms and landing pages and doom them to failure.

We uncovered the Big 3 by analyzing over 200 websites sent in by Thrive Themes readers and customers. That means that if you have a website, chances are that you’re making at least one of these 3 mistakes - and fixing them will boost your conversion rates.

Don’t you worry, though. These top 3 conversion killers are easy to find and fix. After detecting the problem, you can simply log into Thrive Architect to make your landing page opt-ins more conversion focused.


Conversion Killer 1:
More Emails, Anyone?

email subscription opt-in page examples

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:

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.

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!

Conversion killer: Landing pages showing too many CTAs

 The second conversion killer that prevents opt-in landing pages to convert is just as common as the first one. Sometimes, it's obvious and easy to spot. For example, here:

A landing page example showing too many CTAs

For the record: no, this is not photoshopped. This is an actual screenshot from an actual website.

The problem is overwhelmingly obvious. 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.
  • Like something on Facebook (in a ribbon that's separate from the already existing social buttons).

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.

In our analysis, we encountered two different flavors of the CTA overload problem:

  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).
CTA overload example: page opt-in and ribbon opt-in show different CTAs

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

1) How many actions are possible on this landing 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.
  • Making a purchase or moving towards the next step in a checkout flow.
  • 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.
  • Answering a quiz or poll question.

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?

What we're looking for here is called "visual hierarchy" and it's a cornerstone of conversion focused design. To learn more about visual hierarchy and see examples applied to button design, check out this tutorial.

Example & Treatment

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

Mild CTA overload

This isn't too bad. But important elements like the heading and the image are drowned out by the size of the footer and the many links therein. The visual hierarchy on the page is meek and many actions are possible, so there's a lot of potential distraction on the page.

Here's my suggested treatment:

how to fix CTA overload in your opt-in

I removed all the additional links from the header and footer. This narrows the focus of the page and keeps the visitor's attention honed in on what really matters. It also saves space, which gives me the freedom to use a larger header font (and that improves visual hierarchy). It also gives the entire page a bit more room to breathe - makes it less busy and overwhelming.

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

Conversion killer: unreadable texts

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 colors and contrast:

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, which brings me to the second problem:

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:

A multicolor background image example

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:

How to use multicolor images as a background on your landing pages

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 use Thrive Architect to edit your content and build your pages, you can create this overlay effect without needing Photoshop or any other editing tools! Check out this tutorial to learn more about how to create the perfect background image for text.

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.

And you don't even have to take our word for it: you can use Thrive Leads (for opt-in forms) and Thrive Optimize (for landing pages) to run A/B tests and see if these fixes really boost your conversion rates.


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!

by Shane Melaugh  March 13, 2018


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Leave a Comment

  • 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,

  • 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.

  • 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.

  • 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.

  • 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.

    • 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. 🙂

  • 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)

  • 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. 😀

    Cheers, Shane!

    – Julian

    • 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…

  • 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.

    • 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.

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

  • 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.



  • 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

  • Sorry about that, John. True, that’s quite the conversion killer as well. 😀

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

  • 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).

  • 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.

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

  • 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!

  • 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.

  • As always, Shane, brilliant! Simple things that are so easily overlooked. By reading this, I discovered that my blog posts have too many CTAs. I’ll be changing that today. Thanks for writing this 🙂

  • 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.)

  • 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.


  • 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.

  • Shane, another great info packed post. Thanks for all that you do. While I certainly understand that specific landing pages should be focused on one main goal, I think I struggle a bit with the home page.

    It seems to me that the home page is more like a Grand Central Station, which needs to provide a way to get to ALL the trains (or busses.) So how do you make a really great conversion focused home page for a company that has 200 products, that covers 5 market segments, with tons of excellent lead magnets?

    • Thank you for your comment, Carl!

      I think what you describe is a problem on the business level rather than on the design level. A business must have some relatively simple, identifiable thing that makes it stand out, even if it sells many different products. For example, Amazon, which basically sells everything, is not so much a business about selling everything to everyone as it is a convenience business: their promise is that you can get what you want, quickly and with good customer support if something goes wrong. Also, note how they use algorithms and recommendations to personalize their homepage and marketing messages. Amazon’s goal is to identify you and show you stuff that’s relevant to your interests, as quickly as possible. They’re not trying to show you all they have to offer.

      So, the question is: what does your business stand for? What’s a single statement that your customers should recognize you by? That’s what you need to advertise on your homepage, primarily.

      The next step after that is to let visitors self segment. Here’s a post with some information about that: How to Create a Homepage With Multiple Offers

      • Great answer, a real valid one that will enable us to focus and provide better value and website design to our visitors. Capturing their attention is really easier said than done, but with all the tutorials and case studies you guys provide, we should have a solid base from where to start.

        I don´t want to be a pain in the neck, and I know I have mentioned this before, but please let us have a sneak peak to the new theme, so that we can start thinking on ways to combine all this training with the latest and greatest Thrive Themes Tools.
        I´m up for a remake with the new Theme plus all of the plugins.

        Thank you.

      • I agree with Lius.

        I think this is an important question and not just from the ‘eagerly anticipated’ viewpoint.

        There are numerous threads within the support forum that are reporting issues ‘and bugs’ with some functionalities of products.

        On closer investigation, the support team are establishing that the majority of issues or reported ‘bugs’ are actually related to conflicts with none Thrive products, i.e. other WordPress themes that may or may not be coded to the codex standards etc.

        Personally, I’d like to avoid any such conflicts so I have opted to stay exclusively with Thrive products as a Thrive member.

        Given that the current Thrive suite of themes are to be phased out, it would help to know when the new Theme Builder is going to be available or an indication of when the current Thrive themes are to be phased out.

        On the one hand I am looking forward to the new Thrive Theme Builder but on the other hand I am a little reluctant to start any new site with any of the existing Thrive themes.

        Hopefully that makes sense.

      • Thank you Jonah,

        You explained it a lot better than me. This is why I’m eager to start using the new theme, and I’m also keepeing it to Thrive Products only as much as possible.

      • Thank you for your explanation, Jonah. Believe me, we’re feverishly working on the new theme and we aren’t trying to keep you in the dark about it. But it’s a big project and I don’t want to make promises I can’t keep.

  • That weird moment when you’re reading a blog post about landing pages and see your own page mentioned!!!

    Of course, I definitely remember the review that you did for me (and others) several years ago. That page is very different now and converts at 40-50%.

  • Funny as I am reading this, I went back to my site and noticed the 2 pop-up, share me & other fun stuff all pulling the client away from the main reason of the page

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