We Analyzed YOUR Funnels – This is Why You’re Losing Leads

Hanne   56

When was the last time you subscribed to your website?

No that’s not a typo… I want to know when you subscribed to your own website for the last time.

For the conversion optimization before/after article, we randomly looked at opt-in forms and landing pages that you, our readers, sent us to optimize.

We took it beyond the landing page. We looked at the opt-in form, subscribed to the list, waited for the first email to arrive and looked at the confirmation, thank you and download pages.

Let me tell you, it wasn’t always pretty…

Many of the funnels left us confused and disappointed. That's why we decided to write this article, to make sure you can avoid the most common mistakes in your funnels.


Is Your Funnel Leaking?

For a random visitor to become an engaged subscriber, he has to go through a number of steps in the lead generation funnel.

If one of the steps is broken, you’re losing out on your end goal: engaged subscribers.

Your opt-in form is only the very first step in the funnel.

Improving the opt-in form will help to get more subscribers but if the rest of the funnel is broken you’re pouring water in a leaking bucket.

Repairing the bucket first will improve your end results.

Fixing your funnel should be done before trying to optimize your opt-in form because you never get a second chance to make a first impression. If new subscribers were disappointed or confused, they will never come back.

Now, it is hard to quantify how many people you’re actually “losing” on the different steps of your funnel, but there are some indicators that you could do better:

  • Incongruent subscriber numbers. If you are using a double opt-in process and the number of subscribers reported in Thrive Leads is much higher than the “actual” subscribers your email service reports there is a problem. This indicates a big loss in leads between the moment your visitor subscribes and the moment they have to go to their inbox and confirm their address.
  • The open rate on your first email is low. The first email you send to your subscribers is one of the most opened email. Aim for at least 60% open rate. If you get lower open rates on this email, something is seriously wrong.
  • Insufficient visits to the download page. If the visits to your download page are much lower than the number of leads you get, something is wrong with the delivery of your downloadable.
  • Low sales. If you’re making an immediate offer to subscribers, low (or no) sales indicate that something is not working in your funnel.
  • Overall unsubscribes are high. This indicates unengaged or confused subscribers. Your unsubscribe rate per email should not be higher than 1%.

It’s a Numbers Game

One of the reasons I love online marketing is that everything is quantifiable. And depending on what number you increase or decrease in your funnel you can immediately anticipate the end results.

Let me show you what I mean...

Imagine you have a lead generation funnel with a free guide, a confirmed opt-in process and a thank you/download page.

  • ​2500 people visit your website.
  • 100 people sign up through your opt-in form on your website.
  • 60 people confirm their email address.
  • 45 people go on to visit the download page.

You went from 100 signups to 45 engaged subscribers.

Now imagine that through testing you improve your opt-in rate from 4% to 4.8%

You would end up with 54 engaged subscribers.

Now imagine you concentrate on the other funnel steps FIRST.

Without increasing any signups, you could end up with 76 engaged subscribers simply by fixing your funnel.

If you then concentrate on improving your opt-in forms, you’ll get exponential results.

Increasing signups AFTER improving the complete funnel would result in 91 new engaged subscribers.

Now let’s take a look at the most common mistakes we discovered and how to fix them.

The 7 Most Common Mistakes in a Lead Generation Funnel

The first important step in the subscription process is what happens right after somebody subscribes to your newsletter, the second they click that subscribe button. As the website owner, you’re 100% in control to guide the experience.

You want to give positive feedback and acknowledge the action your visitor just took.

Your new subscriber should have zero questions about what’s going to happen next and feel good about what he just did.

Unfortunately that is not always the case...

Funnel Mistake 1: Reloading the Page

Imagine you ring your neighbour’s doorbell. He opens, greets you and asks if you want to come in for a cup of coffee.

“Sure, thanks!” you answer.

Now, he looks you straight in the eyes and without saying a word he slams the door in your face.

How would that make you feel?

Confused? Frustrated? Angry? Disappointed?

This is exactly what happens when you reload a page after your visitor opts-in. You leave him wondering: What just happened?

Did I just opt-in? Will I receive the free report that was promised? Do I have to confirm my email address?

It’s rude and confusing!

Don’t slam the door into your subscriber’s face, don’t reload a page without any further indications.

Quick Fix

I’m going to imagine that you’re not just trying to be rude but that you were actually trying to accomplish something useful for your visitors: letting them continue their journey on your website without interruptions.

In that case you should use the thank you state we recently added to Thrive Leads. This will allow you to properly thank your visitors for signing up without interruptions.

Funnel Mistake 2: Using the Default Email Provider Page

Let’s be honest, these pages are just plain ugly.

The message is boring, the layout is bad and as a cherry on top, the most visible element on the page is a link to your email provider.

On this page, there is no incentive to confirm your email address...

This is bad practice and will most likely hurt your conversions.

Quick Fix

Create a compelling confirmation page on your website.

Thank your subscribers for taking the first step and give them a reason to confirm their email address.

You can simply load one of the “confirmation landing pages” included in Thrive Landing Pages and you’re good to go!

Now you can use this page as the redirect URL of your opt-in form.

This literally takes 2 minutes to set up but can make a huge difference in your lead generation efforts.

Funnel Mistake 3: Linking to the PDF

Reloading the page or sending subscribers off to the default confirmation page are definite no-no’s.

Having your subscribe button link directly to the PDF could be acceptable if done right.

Unfortunately most of the time it isn’t.

Linking to the PDF after signup might seem like a good idea because you give your new subscribers immediately what they were promised.

But think about it.

Does the PDF do the best job in:

  • Thanking your new subscriber?
  • Welcoming them?
  • Introducing your brand?

Probably not. Most free guides don’t. They give good information but do a poor job in building the relationship.

Quick Fix

Create a new page on your website that is the download page for the PDF.

On this download page, you can build a relationship by presenting yourself, your brand, thanking your visitor for signing up, setting expectations for future newsletters, etc.

As you can see on this download page, we've added a welcome video, an introduction to explain what type of messages our subscriber will receive and links to the best blog content.

You can build this page from scratch or you can use a “Download Landing Page” included in Thrive Landing Pages.

Now, instead of linking the subscribe button immediately to the PDF document, link it to the download page. You're still giving your subscribers what they signed up for, but you're also building a relationship with them.

Funnel Mistake 4: Redirecting to an Upsell Page

There is a thin line between being efficient and being scammy.

Redirecting to a sales page when somebody clicks on the subscribe button can very quickly come over as scammy when done wrong.

I’m sure you’ve often read that you should make an offer immediately after someone signs up to your list.

Arguments are that this will help you make more sales.

You have your reader's attention and they showed interest. If you make them an irresistible offer right after they signup, they will buy, right?

Yes, but…

Only when you do it the right way.

Bluntly redirecting to a sales page will confuse your visitor about what just happened.

Will they get the free guide they were promised? Was the acclaimed free guide actually something they need to pay for?

You should never redirect new leads to a sales page without acknowledging they signed up.

Quick Fix

Source: Upsell page Digital Marketer

Add a message on your upsell page to acknowledge they opted in and that you will deliver on your promise.

Just like in the example, make sure this message is the very first thing visitors will see on the page.​

If you want your upsell page to work​, make sure your new subscriber doesn't feel as if he's been tricked into buying.

Funnel Mistake 5: Default Welcome Email

Default welcome emails are bad.

They emphasize on the wrong things.

Just take a quick look at the MailChimp example above, there are two things that stand out:

  • The unsubscribe button
  • The MailChimp logo

Not really what you want, right?

You want new subscribers to feel welcome. You want to start building a relationship. You want them to look forward to your next email.

Default welcome emails do a very bad job at that!​

We know it can be tricky to get the default email look good, but it is worth the time.

Done wrong the first email might be the only one your subscriber will ever open...

Quick Fix

Do a Google search for "your email provider+ customize welcome email" (eg. Aweber+customize welcome email). This will give you tutorials on how to avoid sending the default welcome email to your new subscribers.

Take some time to personalize this message.

And if you need inspiration to write an enticing welcome email you can check out these examples. 

Funnel Mistake 6: No Welcome Message at All

Imagine you’re browsing around looking for information about Facebook ads. You arrive on this website that offers a free guide “10 Costly Mistakes to Avoid With Your Facebook Ads”. That’s exactly what you’re looking for, you subscribe and are redirected to the PDF.

You read the 10 mistakes and learn something new about retargeting. You jot down some notes, close the tab with the PDF and continue browsing.

Days later you receive an email from Bryan Johnson: “A 30-day Plan to Gain Instagram Followers”.

You’ve never heard of this Bryan guy, so you hit the SPAM button.

Here’s the harsh truth, most people will subscribe because you offer them something valuable. They will not remember your website URL, let alone your name.

The longer the time between subscribing and receiving the first email, the bigger the risk that your subscriber forgot about ever signing up in the first place.

He’ll ignore your messages, unsubscribe or worse hit the SPAM button.

Don’t be Bryan Johnson, introduce yourself properly in a welcome email and you’ll get better open and delivery rates for all future emails.

Quick Fix

Make sure people receive a personalized welcome email immediately after signing up.

Even if you give them access to the free guide right away and are not using a double confirmed opt-in, you should still send them a thank you email.

Funnel Mistake 7: Confusing Links in the Email

When you receive a welcome email, what’s the first thing you do?

You look for a blue text with an underline: a link to click on.

If the first link you click on leads you back to the blog instead of giving you access to the free guide, you’re confused and frustrated.

Your subscribers are no different!

They are scanning and your emails should be scan friendly.

Quick Fix

What’s the goal of your email?

  • Have them confirm their email?
  • Click on the download link?

Be clear about your goal and make sure this is the only call-to-action in the email.

Go Incognito to Follow in Your Visitor’s Footsteps

Now it’s your turn, open your website in an incognito window and subscribe to the first opt-in form you find.

Imagine you know nothing about you or your business and observe the different steps in your lead generation funnel.

Are you offering the best experience possible for new subscribers or is it time to fix that leaking funnel?

Let me know in the comments below!

by Hanne  November 8, 2016


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Leave a Comment

  • Epic post, Hanne.

    Quick question regarding the “thank you state” and tracking pixels (GA, FB pixel, etc).

    Have you ever considered loading this async in order to make it possible to add custom tracking code there that loads only on the “thank you state”, not on the pageload? I mean, I personally don’t see it as a big challenge in terms of development, why aren’t you considering this? I’ve read through dozens of comments on a previous post where you first introduced the “thank you state” and tons of people were requesting this.

    PS: leadpages loads those “thank you” scripts on the pageload as well and that’s one of the (many more) reasons for which I canceled my subscription there. If you would load it async, this will set you far away in front of all your competitors, no jokes aside

  • Some valuable advice there Hanne. It’s amazing how many seemingly high profile sites are making these fundamental errors. Thanks for posting the reminder!

  • This is an excellent article. I am not a Thrive Themes customer yet but I need to be as you seem to make the process so much easier. Thank you. I learnt a lot.

  • Hey Hanne,
    thanks for an amazing checklist-like post!

    At least I have all these newbie mistakes catched up now 😉

  • I’d just like to tell you that I’ve joined about 25 different newsletters (for various things) that I receive regular email updates for. BUT… the Thrive Themes emails are the ONLY ones that I eagerly wait for to arrive. They are the first sender that I look for when I check my emails because I KNOW that EVERY email I get will share something valuable with me, that I can use in my business straight away. Signing up for the Thrive Themes email list is a reward in and of itself. I cannot say that about any other mailing list that I am on. Well done Thrive Team and THANK YOU!!!

    • Same here, Megan. The newsletter/content itself should be charged for… lol JUST KIDDING, DON’T DO THAT.
      Jokes aside, great content, as usual.


      • Hi Diego,
        Hmmmmm interesting idea 😉 But don’t worry, we’re not planning on charging for it

    • Wow Megan, thank you! That means a lot to us 🙂 We’re grateful for every subscriber and we’ll continue bringing value to your inbox!

  • I have been putting off building my 1st funnel. Scared I’d get it wrong! This article has given me the info I need to move forward confidently…. Thank you

    • Hi Mary, sometimes a little bit of “tough love” is needed to make those funnels better. I’m glad you appreciate it.

  • Hello Hanne, thanks for all the info. Well, there is a lot to be done on my blog! Quick question, how do we set up an automated welcome email? Can it be done with thrive leads? Thanks in advance!

    • Hi Amaia,

      No that is not a Thrive Leads function because it depends on the email provider you’re using (eg. Aweber, MailChimp, Active Campaign, etc.).
      I’m sure you can easily find a tutorial on how to set this up for your specific provider 🙂

  • 1st in! I went ahead and made a couple of small tweaks to my funnel after this, changed the ‘sender’ name, small edit to the welcome email… I wondered how often you should email your subscribers in a fitness niche? Mine is currently set to 1-daily for the first 5-days, then every 4-days then on…

    • Great to know you took action on this post Nick!

      About the frequency, there is not really a set in stone answer.
      Much will depend on the value of the information you’re sending! I do think it is good practice to email more in the beginning after someone signs up because that is when they are most looking for information.

  • Hi Hanne,

    I don’t know if I’m making funnel mistakes, but there’s certainly some room for improvement. You’ve given me so many ideas of how to handle the funnel flow more efficiently, more effectively… and more friendly 🙂

    I think the “friendly” is the most important and thanks so much for giving me several methods for doing that. I’ve got some wheels spinning here…

    • Hi Donna,

      Thanks 🙂 I agree with the friendly being important… it shows you care about your visitors and subscribers!

  • Hanne, this is pure gold it really is. For some time now I’ve been meaning to scrub up my opt-in funnel, something I haven’t touched since setting up over a year ago. Bad I know.

    I’m going to subscribe to my own list right now and see what needs improving.

    Thanks again.

    • Hi Fabrizio,

      We’ve all been there! We set up a funnel and forget about it… but after a while things change and it is good to go back and do a check up 🙂

  • Many thanks Hanne for this easy to follow and really practical post.
    I totally agree on the fact that we need to follow our subscription process to be 100% sure that it is friendly.
    I will check again what I’ve done so far, because when you are too busy (as a normal blogger), you often forget what you have created so far.
    I’m still thinking about buying Thrive leads and Content builder, because I’m sure they are wonderful tools (still stuck on the price for my starting blog doing only 100 euros a month). But I will one day…Sure

    • Hi Stéphane,

      Yes indeed, we always have 100 things to do and going back to check existing funnels is often put on the “To Do” one day maybe list 🙂
      And about our tools, I’m sure you’ll make the right decision about when it’s time for you to start using them.

  • Excellent post. A keeper. Now I have a question. I have a product with a simple squeeze page that leads to a thank you page where they can download my free eBook directly. Once they do that I take over from my autoresponder emails. Is that a bad way to go about it?

    • Hi Sylviane,

      Form what you describe, it seems like a good way to do things. Make sure to make the download page a page where you start building the relationship and set expectations about what to come (what is the value you’ll be offering them in the autoresponder emails, etc.).

  • These are powerful! I’ve made a few of these mistakes already! Eek! Thank you for helping, Hanne. (Love your name. Is it pronounced Hanna? We could call you Helping Hanne!)

  • This is common sense. I’m surprised that some people actually need to be told this. I do this on a regular basis.

    Anyhoo … It’s time someone educated bloggers about the best practices of setting up funnels. Good post 🙂

    • I think you just told us why you’re surprised: you do this on a regular basis.
      Many website owners will only build 1 funnel or just start out and having all the moving pieces in place for sure is not easy.
      There’s a lot to learn and to think about 🙂

  • Dank Je Hanne.. ! Weer geweldige post … vanaf nu ga ik verder in het Engels. Kwestie van het voor iedereen begrijpelijk te houden newaar 😉

    Great post Hanne ! These are all such great tips that I would put into practice. Yes I agree you really need to take the contact by the end all the way .. and a follow up welcome email afterwards is such a great idea !

    Thx again for your insights.

  • This is a great post, thank you. I’m confused about one thing though. When the prospect signs up do you take them straight to a download page and at the same time send them a confirmation email that when they click on the link to confirm they get sent to the same download page? It seems like you are doing the same thing twice. To avoid this is it best when they sign up to give them a short welcome, ask them to check their email inbox and then allow them to keep browsing your website?

    • Hi Gareth,
      In the post I cover both double and single opt-in. If you’re using a double opt-in process (when people have to confirm their address) I would most definitely NOT send them to the download page immediately but send them to a custom confirmation page to encourage them to go to their inbox and click on the confirmation link.

  • Great advice. Keep the good work Hanne.

    One question

    What would be the best practice (data-driven supported) to ask for the sale after the download page?

    -Send an email with the offer a few days later, redirecting the potential customer to the sales page?
    -Have some MOFU campaigns to this group advertising the sales page?
    -Use the quick fix shared above to advertise the Sales page?
    -Video on the download page proposing to help, with a CTA to the sales page?


    • Hi Stephane,

      I do not have a data driven answer to share on the top of my head here but I can tell you this:
      Email follow-up and retargeting have been very successful for us.
      I think the choice to send people immediately to a sales page after sign up or not will depend a lot on your market and your target audience. Some audiences will be really put off by this.
      A video on the download page would for sure be something to test.
      So my answer would be: you have to test what works best in your market for your price point and type of product.
      Trying to sell a 7$ ebook vs a 297$ video course will not demand the same approach…

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