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Beware of Conversion Cannibalism

How we allow CTAs to cannibalise on each other.

Cover photo: @jerrysilfwer

Does your front page suf­fer from con­ver­sion cannibalism?

Most organ­isa­tions put too much con­tent on their front pages. Unknowingly, they hurt their con­ver­sions and, by exten­sion — their busi­ness objectives.

In this art­icle, I will demon­strate why less is more in front-page design.

Let’s go:

The Website Front-Page Debate

We must put my stuff on the front page because it’s crucial.”

I often get involved in heated debates on what to include on the front 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 front page?”

Since this is a tricky situ­ation, I want to give you some easy-to-fol­low examples to help you straight­en your front-page strategy.

The key to an effi­cient front page design is to stop think­ing about what to put on the front page regard­ing what’s “import­ant” and what’s “not import­ant”. Take a look at Google’s front page:

The Google Front Page
Google’s front page is clean. How about yours?

Now, Google has lots of essen­tial products. Google Drive, Google Maps, Google Chrome, Google Earth, Google Trends, Google Adsense, Google Scholar, and many more. The only ser­vice that makes it onto the front page is Gmail (top right corner), but it isn’t exactly prom­in­ent on the front page.

All these Google products are reas­on­ably sig­ni­fic­ant, right? Even still, these Google products don’t make the cut for Google’s front page — the Google search page.

And Google ought to know some­thing about how the web works.

The Paradox of Choice

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

So, what if you add anoth­er but­ton? In most use cases, the con­ver­sion rate for the page does­n’t go up — it falls. Instead of get­ting 20 clicks on one but­ton, you might get ten clicks on two buttons. 

Competing call-to-actions will can­ni­bal­ise each other.

This is 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.

Strive to show vis­it­ors only what they came for. Kill your darlings.

Only when the user goes deep­er into your site can you show them more of your content.

Horizontal vs Vertical CTAs

An easy way to think of web­site CTAs (call-to-actions) is to think of but­tons and forms. Buttons and forms are pre­cious since they determ­ine your conversions.

There is a form of “align­ment can­ni­bal­ism” tak­ing place when it comes to but­tons and forms. And these align­ment issues should be con­sidered when design­ing your front page.

  • Buttons and forms with dif­fer­ent CTAs com­pete on a web page. One single CTA often con­verts more than sev­er­al CTAs in total.
  • Buttons and forms com­pete with each oth­er when they’re stacked hori­zont­ally on a web page. It would be best to strive only to present one single but­ton or form per hori­zont­al block.
  • 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!

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

You’re Probably Not an Exception

Yes, there are suc­cess­ful busi­nesses that also have cluttered websites:

Amazon​.com might be the prime example, but my favour­ite got to be ling​scars​.com and her rather “more-is-more” approach to web design:

Lings Car Website Design
A prime example of cluttered web­site design that works — for Ling.

But your busi­ness is prob­ably not Ling’s. And it prob­ably isn’t Amazon’s.

You also have to ask your­self if cluttered is the right dir­ec­tion for your brand. A stat­ist­ic­al guess would be: No.

Unless you’re run­ning a non-posh e‑com­merce- or news site with lots of con­tent and a high turnover on con­tent items, I would be care­ful with such an over-the-top strategy.

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, your front page should be regarded only as a point of entry into your brand’s universe.

The psy­cho­logy behind focus­ing on smal­ler asks is straight­for­ward, as explained by the Engagement Pyramid:

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. 1Trevor 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 2Carron-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

💡 Subscribe and get a free ebook on how to get bet­ter PR ideas.

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%. 

(Small asks are often referred to as lead mag­nets.)

The Iceberg Publishing Strategy

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; there is 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. 

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

Types of Landing Pages

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

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 Landing Pages: Used primar­ily in e‑commerce and SaaS (Software as a Service) indus­tries, these pages provide detailed inform­a­tion about a product or offer and lead vis­it­ors to a shop­ping cart or checkout.
  • Sales Pages: These are 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 squeeze inform­a­tion out of vis­it­ors, usu­ally through a form. They often have min­im­al con­tent except for a pitch and a form.
  • Event/​Webinar Registration Pages: Designed to sign up vis­it­ors for an event or a webin­ar, these pages provide inform­a­tion about the event and include a regis­tra­tion form.
  • Thank You Pages: After a vis­it­or takes an action (like sign­ing up or mak­ing a pur­chase), these pages thank them and can also be used to guide them towards the next steps, like down­load­ing a resource or check­ing related products.
  • Launch Pages: Used for new products or ser­vices, these pages aim to build excite­ment and anti­cip­a­tion. They might include a count­down timer, teas­er inform­a­tion, and an option to sign up for updates.
  • Unsubscribe Pages: These pages are used when someone chooses to unsub­scribe from a ser­vice or email list. They often include options to recon­sider the decision or provide feedback.
  • Coming Soon Pages: Similar to 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.

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

Read also: Iceberg Publishing — The Cool Way to Grow Traffic and Conversions

💡 Subscribe and get a free ebook on how to get bet­ter PR ideas.

Bonus Resource: Deep Content

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 Content Divers since they’re more valu­able than Surface Dwellers.

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

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

💡 Subscribe and get a free ebook on how to get bet­ter PR ideas.

1 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
2 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 KIX Index and Spin Factory. Before that, he worked at Kaufmann, Whispr Group, Springtime PR, and Spotlight PR. Based in Stockholm, Sweden.

The Cover Photo

The cover photo has nothing to do with public relations, of course. I share for no other reason that I happen to enjoy photography. Call it an “ornamental distraction”—and a subtle reminder to appreciate nature.

The cover photo has


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