Beware of Conversion Cannibalism

How we allow CTAs to cannibalise on each other.

Cover photo: @jerrysilfwer


Does your web design suf­fer from con­ver­sion cannibalism?

Organisations add CTAs fre­quently, hop­ing to increase con­ver­sions. They hope that 1+1=3, but in real­ity, it’s closer to 1+1=0.

Adding more CTAs (call-to-actions) to a single browser view will allow these but­tons and forms to can­ni­bal­ise each oth­er­’s con­ver­sion rates.

I will demon­strate why less is more in web design.

Here we go:

Conversion Cannibalism

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Conversion Cannibalism

Imagine a web page with 1,000 vis­it­ors per day. The page has only one but­ton for the users to click. On aver­age, the site’s con­ver­sion rate is 2%, equal to 20 clicks on your button.

So, what if you add anoth­er but­ton? The page’s con­ver­sion rate does­n’t increase in most use cases — it falls. Instead of get­ting 20 clicks on one but­ton, you might get 10 clicks on two.

Two call-to-actions in the same browser view will typ­ic­ally can­ni­bal­ise each other.

The Paradox of Choice

An easy way to think of web­site CTAs (call-to-actions) is to think of but­tons and forms. 

Buttons and forms are sub­ject to the para­dox of choice. 

In 1995, Professor Shena Iyengar from Columbia University launched a mar­ket stall with dif­fer­ent jam fla­vours. When she offered twenty-four options, more people came to the booth. When she only offered six choices, more people con­ver­ted into pay­ing customers.

Our decision-mak­ing pro­cess is com­plex, but research­ers have offered many pos­sible explan­a­tions, such as decision fatigue, ana­lys­is para­lys­is, and buy­er­’s remorse. 1Piasecki, M., & Hanna, S. (2011). A Redefinition of the Paradox of Choice. , 347 – 366. https://​doi​.org/​1​0​.​1​0​0​7​/​978 – 94-007‑0510-4_19

Horizontal vs Vertical CTAs

On the web today, we see a trend where there is white space to both the left and right of but­tons and forms. We also see a trend where more of the same CTAs are stacked from top to bottom.

  • The few who reach your content’s call to action (con­tent diver = click­ing ver­tic­ally) are more valu­able than those who only scan its first head­line (con­tent surfer = click­ing horizontally).

There is a form of “align­ment can­ni­bal­ism” tak­ing place when it comes to but­tons and forms. These align­ment issues should be con­sidered when design­ing a web page:

  • Buttons and forms with dif­fer­ent CTAs com­pete on a web page. One single CTA often con­verts more than sev­er­al CTAs.
  • Button and form ele­ments com­pete when stacked hori­zont­ally on a web page. Presenting only one but­ton or form per hori­zont­al block would be best.
  • Buttons and forms with dif­fer­ent CTAs com­pete with each oth­er if stacked ver­tic­ally. But not as much as if you stacked them horizontally.
  • If but­tons and forms are stacked ver­tic­ally and con­tain the same CTA, the total con­ver­sion rate for that web page is likely to go up!

Learn more: Beware of Conversion Cannibalism

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The Classic Front Page Debate

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The Classic Home Page Debate

We must put all these items on our home page because they’re all import­ant to us.”

I often get involved in heated debates on what to include on the home page. If I weigh into the debate that they should remove cer­tain ele­ments, the chances are that someone will get offen­ded. Like, “How dare you remove my work from our home page?”

Since this situ­ation is tricky, here’s a men­tal mod­el to help you clean up your home page approach:

The key to an effi­cient home page design is to stop think­ing about what’s “import­ant” and “not important”.

Take a look at Google’s de facto home page:

Google's home page.
Google’s home page.

Now, Google has many essen­tial products: 

  • Google Gmail
  • Google Drive
  • Google Maps
  • Google Chrome
  • Google Earth
  • Google Trends
  • Google Ads
  • Google Adsense
  • Google Analytics
  • Google Scholar

… to name a few. However, the only ser­vice on the home page apart from Google Search is Gmail (top right corner), which isn’t prom­in­ent on the home page.

All these Google products are reas­on­ably sig­ni­fic­ant, right? However, they still don’t replace Google’s de facto home page — the Google Search page.

If Google can keep its home page clean, why can­’t you? Is everything in your busi­ness more import­ant to your vis­it­ors than, let’s say, Google Drive?

Small Ask vs Big Ask

What single CTA (call-to-action) should you focus your home page on? Instead of basing your design decision on “bot­tom line import­ance,” focus­ing on a small rather than a big ask often makes sense.

Small ask = a value pro­pos­i­tion that requires little effort and resources for a pro­spect to accept. It works best when the ask offers a swift, hassle-free solu­tion for an urgent pain point.

Big ask = a value pro­pos­i­tion that requires high engage­ment and a sub­stan­tial trans­ac­tion by the pro­spect. It works best when mutu­al under­stand­ing and trust are thor­oughly established.

By pri­or­it­ising a small ask on the home page design, you increase the like­li­hood of build­ing a “yes lad­der” by ask­ing pos­ing slightly big­ger asks in sequence over time.

Learn more: The Classic Home Page Debate

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Priority: The Small Ask

The choice of what to put on the front page isn’t related to what’s neces­sary or not neces­sary. Instead, it should be regarded only as a point of entry into your brand’s universe.

Instead of cram­ming everything into one front page, your busi­ness could util­ise mul­tiple high-con­vert­ing land­ing pages, a strategy I call ice­berg pub­lish­ing, where many hid­den dir­ect land­ing pages are beneath the site’s surface.

By mak­ing a small ask (your email address in exchange for some­thing valu­able to you) instead of a big ask (invest in hir­ing me as an advisor), I can cap­ture and nur­ture trust­ing rela­tion­ships over time, slowly mov­ing pro­spects from 9% to 1%. 

Looking back at the Google example, one could say they use mul­tiple front pages. If we look at Google Drive’s “front page,” we can see the same strategy: just one mes­sage and one call-to-action above the fold. It works because it’s crys­tal clear:

More and more con­ver­sion experts argue that most pages with­in a web­site’s struc­ture should be land­ing pages. Landing pages are access­ible for search engines to drive rel­ev­ant traffic since they’re stripped of unne­ces­sary con­tent.

Types of Landing Pages

Landing pages serves a single purpose.
Landing pages serve a single purpose.
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Types of Landing Pages

Landing page (LP) = a single-pur­pose web page stripped of stand­ard menus and side­bars with a single CTA (call-to-action) chosen to match the visitor’s demon­strated intent.

Here are a few examples of land­ing page types:

  • Lead cap­ture pages. These are designed to gath­er con­tact inform­a­tion from vis­it­ors, usu­ally in exchange for some­thing valu­able like an ebook, a webin­ar, or a free tri­al. They typ­ic­ally include a form and a brief descrip­tion of what the vis­it­or will get in return for their information.
  • Click-through pages. These pages are used primar­ily in e‑commerce and SaaS (Software as a Service) indus­tries. They provide detailed inform­a­tion about a product or offer and lead vis­it­ors to a shop­ping cart or checkout.
  • Sales pages. Focused on dir­ectly selling a product or ser­vice. They often include detailed descrip­tions, bene­fits, testi­mo­ni­als, and a strong call to action (CTA) to make a purchase.
  • Squeeze pages. A type of lead cap­ture page, squeeze pages are designed to extract inform­a­tion from vis­it­ors, usu­ally through a form. They often have min­im­al con­tent except for a pitch and a form.
  • Registration pages. These pages provide inform­a­tion about the event and include a regis­tra­tion form. They are designed to sign up vis­it­ors for an event or a webinar.
  • Thank you pages. After a vis­it­or takes action (like sign­ing up or mak­ing a pur­chase), these pages thank them and can also guide them towards the next steps, like down­load­ing a resource or check­ing related products.
  • Launch pages. These pages are used for new products or ser­vices and aim to build excite­ment and anti­cip­a­tion. They might include a count­down timer, teas­er inform­a­tion, and an option to sign up for updates.
  • Unsubscribe pages. Used when someone unsub­scribes from a ser­vice or email list. They often include options to recon­sider the decision or provide feed­back.
  • Coming soon pages. Like launch pages, they are used before a web­site or product launch to build anti­cip­a­tion and gath­er early interest or email sign-ups.
  • 404 error pages. While not a typ­ic­al land­ing page, a well-designed 404 page can turn an error into an oppor­tun­ity, guid­ing lost vis­it­ors back to the main site or to spe­cif­ic actions.

The above examples are to name a few examples of land­ing pages. Only your ima­gin­a­tion will determ­ine what types of effi­cient land­ing pages you can develop!

Each land­ing page type serves a spe­cif­ic pur­pose in the cus­tom­er jour­ney, focus­ing on a single object­ive: increas­ing conversions.

Read also: Types of Landing Pages

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Signature - Jerry Silfwer - Doctor Spin

Thanks for read­ing. Please sup­port my blog by shar­ing art­icles with oth­er com­mu­nic­a­tions and mar­ket­ing pro­fes­sion­als. You might also con­sider my PR ser­vices or speak­ing engage­ments.

PR Resource: The Engagement Pyramid

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The Engagement Pyramid

The 1% rule of online engage­ment was mainly an urb­an legend on the inter­net. However, a peer-reviewed paper from 2014 con­firmed the 1% rule of thumb. 2Trevor van Mierlo. (2014). The 1% Rule in Four Digital Health Social Networks: An Observational Study. Journal of Medical Internet Research, 16(2), e33 – e33. … Continue read­ing

Active pub­lics dis­trib­ute them­selves in a way proven sci­en­tific­ally by soci­olo­gists — long before the inter­net and social media emerged. 

The Engagement Pyramid divides pub­lics into three dis­tinct groups:

  • Creators (1%)
  • Contributors (9%)
  • Lurkers (90%)

When study­ing inter­net for­ums spe­cific­ally, it’s not uncom­mon to find that 90% of users have nev­er pos­ted (lurk­ers), 9% are adding only to exist­ing top­ics and threads (con­trib­ut­ors), and 1% are act­ively start­ing new sub­jects and threads (cre­at­ors).

The Engagement Pyramid is some­times called the 1% rule or the 90−9−1 principle.

The 90−9−1 prin­ciple and Zipf’s Law both effect­ively clas­si­fy mem­bers in online sup­port groups, with the Zipf dis­tri­bu­tion account­ing for 98.6% of the vari­ance.”
Source: Internet Interventions 3Carron-Arthur, B., Cunningham, J., & Griffiths, K. (2014). Describing the dis­tri­bu­tion of engage­ment in an Internet sup­port group by post fre­quency: A com­par­is­on of the 90−9−1 Principle and … Continue read­ing

Learn more: The Engagement Pyramid (The 90−9−1 Principle)

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PR Resource: Deep Content

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Deep Content

Above is an example of an online con­tent struc­ture that’s five levels deep. In the example above, five lay­ers of ever­green con­tent are stacked:

  • Level 1: Articles
  • Level 2: Content Upgrade
  • Level 3: Resource/​Lead Magnet
  • Level 4: Ebook
  • Level 5: Online Course

Deep con­tent is centred around provid­ing increas­ingly high­er qual­ity to engaged users. ideally, the user­’s engage­ment should determ­ine when the inform­a­tion need has been ful­filled, not the lim­it­a­tions of the web­site’s avail­able content.

  • The few who reach your content’s call to action (con­tent diver = click­ing ver­tic­ally) are more valu­able than those who only scan its first head­line (con­tent surfer = click­ing horizontally).

As for the import­ance of struc­ture and depth, the logic is the same as that of ice­berg pub­lish­ing and con­tent themes.

Learn more: The Deep Content PR Strategy: Win By Going Deeper

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1 Piasecki, M., & Hanna, S. (2011). A Redefinition of the Paradox of Choice. , 347 – 366. https://​doi​.org/​1​0​.​1​0​0​7​/​978 – 94-007‑0510-4_19
2 Trevor van Mierlo. (2014). The 1% Rule in Four Digital Health Social Networks: An Observational Study. Journal of Medical Internet Research, 16(2), e33 – e33. https://​doi​.org/​1​0​.​2​1​9​6​/​j​m​i​r​.​2​966
3 Carron-Arthur, B., Cunningham, J., & Griffiths, K. (2014). Describing the dis­tri­bu­tion of engage­ment in an Internet sup­port group by post fre­quency: A com­par­is­on of the 90−9−1 Principle and Zipf’s Law. Internet Interventions, 1, 165 – 168. https://​doi​.org/​1​0​.​1​0​1​6​/​J​.​I​N​V​E​N​T​.​2​0​1​4​.​0​9​.​003
Jerry Silfwer
Jerry Silfwer
Jerry Silfwer, alias Doctor Spin, is an awarded senior adviser specialising in public relations and digital strategy. Currently CEO at Spin Factory and KIX Communication Index. Before that, he worked at Kaufmann, Whispr Group, Springtime PR, and Spotlight PR. Based in Stockholm, Sweden.

The Cover Photo

The cover photo isn't related to public relations; it's just a photo of mine. Think of it as a 'decorative diversion', a subtle reminder that there is more to life than strategic communication.

The cover photo has



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