Are you a conversion-focused marketer stuck in the straightjacket of organizational politics?

If so, you likely want to make conversion-driven changes to your company website, such as:

  • Reducing the number of distractions.
  • Making your calls-to-action more visible.
  • Split-testing variations in your headlines/positioning statements.

But unfortunately, others in your organization aren’t walking the path of conversion enlightenment, and people get in your way:

  • Your website has many ‘cooks,’ and getting everyone to agree is impossible.
  • Creatives thumb their nose at your ideas.
  • Your site has multiple owners/stakeholders with different goals.
  • Your development team says the changes will take too long.
  • Your SEO guy wants that keyword anchored in the H1 no matter what.

So in the end, your ideas go unused. And instead of establishing data-driven conversion funnels that make money for your company, like this:

Image Source: HighRise

You’re left with something that more resembles this:

Seriously, check out this site, it’s amazing…

And likewise, your traffic continues to behave like a herd of cats: clicking elements with no links, getting distracted by almost anything, and visiting pages that don’t matter (562 visits to my privacy policy, really?!)


So the problem is this: most company websites don’t incorporate conversion-centered design. Instead, they’re designed to satisfy brand requirements, creative egos, and the goals of third-party stakeholders.

This is maddening for conversion-focused marketers, mainly because they know: 

  • Most websites have poor information architecture, meaning they don’t align the user’s needs with the site owner’s needs.
  • High-traffic pages aren’t necessarily high-converting, as a healthy percentage of users gravitate towards pages that only exist as a formality (e.g. ‘About’ pages).
  • The conversion path of organic visitors is often ignored, since most time is usually spent optimizing the path of paid users.
  • You can’t burden the user with finding your high-converting funnels.

So without further ado, here are four lightweight conversion-focused tweaks you can do that won’t offend your brand guidelines, won’t piss off your developers, and won’t send your boss into a tizzy. 

1: The four-hour headline test 

First off, hat tip to Brian Massey from Conversion Sciences for his insight on this approach. 

Back in the fall, I began kicking Brian’s tires for conversion optimization ideas that could be implemented in less than four hours.  

But being the responsible “conversion scientist” he is, Brian wasn’t exactly open to the idea at first. Here’s his reply below: 


Not a good start. But I pressed him, and he eventually gave me this idea:

The four-hour headline test

  • Hour one: Write 25 headlines for your best performing landing page and pick four that are very different from each other.
  • Hour two: Create four pages, one with each headline.
  • Hour three: Set up Google Experiments, Optimzely, Visual Website Optimizer or to send a quarter of the traffic to each. Up your ad spends to ensure you get several thousand visits over a week or two. Wait at least one week, until the test reaches statistical significance.
  • Hour four:  If there’s a winner, make the change permanent.

Why does this approach work well? Because headlines and value propositions are the heaviest hitters when it comes to content. Changing them will usually have a bigger impact—positive or negative—than any other content change you can make.

And with a headline test, you don’t need to perform any surgery on your site, so developers won’t be bothered. If you can get other colleagues to agree on 4 test headlines, you have a lightweight conversion test the yields valuable insight.

2: Exit-intent technology

By most measurements, the pool of users who abandon your site without taking your desired action is between 70 and 95%.

So how can you glean value from this massive flow of users? An exit popup (I call them exit overlays) is designed to do just that: convert otherwise abandoning users into last-second sales and email signups.  

An exit overlay is a modal lightbox controlled by what’s known as exit-intent technology, which identifies users who are about to abandon your site without buying. 

When the technology detects an abandoning user, the exit overlay is activated. Here are a couple of examples: 

Exit overlay driving email opt-ins on

Exit overlay driving quote submissions on 

But before you get worried that I’m pushing you to use an old school pop-up, consider this:

  • Exit overlays do not open new windows.
  • Exit overlays do not inhibit users from leaving your site by blocking or disabling the navigation bar.
  • Exit overlays are permitted on both Google Adwords and Bing Ads PPC campaigns (pop-ups are not).
  •  Exit overlays are shown only to abandoning users—so they don’t interrupt active browsing sessions—and can be targeted so users only ever see them once.

And as a lightweight conversion fix, exit overlays can be used for what’s called traffic-shaping, which is essentially funneling abandoning users from low-converting pages to high-converting pages. 

Here’s a sketch of how traffic-shaping works:

You may still object to this kind of tactic, which is fine, but it’s generating some kickass results for etailers and marketers across the web.

America’s Cardroom example

America’s Cardroom (ACR) is an online betting portal that offers poker tournaments to players around the world.


ACR wanted to draw the attention of homepage traffic to an upcoming tournament, called Winning Millions. But like many organizations, their homepage must appeal to many different user groups, so establishing a strong conversion funnel for tournament signups was difficult.

To solve this problem, ACR launched a traffic-shaping campaign that would move homepage traffic to its high-converting landing page for Winning Millions. Screenshot below:

So in this example, the homepage was the source page for the campaign, and the Winning Millions lander was the target page. To create a bridge between the two pages, ACR added an exit overlay to the source page:

The exit overlay conveyed relevant value to the customer, and used many conversion-centered design principles including: 

  • Adding a measure of exclusivity with the CTA “Qualify for Free”
  • Using high contrast to delineate the CTA from other graphical elements
  • Using ample blank space to help the important elements (CTA) stand out as much as possible

ACR also made sure to target the exit overlay so only first-time visitors to the homepage would see it, thus avoiding the potential of irritating existing customers with the messaging.

Results from ACR’s traffic shaping campaign

  • Directed 3.44% of abandoning visitors from the ACR homepage to new traffic for the Winning Millions landing page.
  • Drove a 7.35% increase in signups for the Winning Millions tournament.

Equipping your site with exit-intent technology requires adding just one line of javascript code to your header, making it a lightweight fix that shouldn’t irritate your developers.

3: The value-focused CTA adjustment

In conversion optimization, call-to-action (CTA) button tweaks that generate big lifts are half fact, half fiction.

The prevailing ‘wisdom’ that changing the colour of your CTA will give you 20% more sales? Fiction

But getting results from refocusing your CTA on the benefit of clicking, rather than task? Fact.

My first example of this is from footwear retailer, and was published on the Econsultancy blog last year

On Schuh’s original checkout form, the CTA “Buy Now” was used, much to the chagrin of deputy head of commerce Stuart Mcmillan, who felt that the language was “inducing a feeling of loss aversion” amongst visitors.

Acting on this theory, his marketing team switched the CTA from “Buy Now” to “Add to basket”— a very simple change. 

Here’s a screenshot:

The treatment CTA boosted basket adds by a healthy 17%, a significant leap for such a large retailer (and for such a small copy adjustment). 

Here’s another example from ‘Content Evangelist’ Michael Aagaard of This example involves both a headline and a CTA tweak, but the logic stands.

Tasked with increasing email signups for, Michael’s first split-test was two simple tweaks to the form headline and CTA copy. 

Screenshot below: 


Changing the CTA from “Sign Up +” to “Sign Up & Get The Best Daily Tips” is a great example of taking the focus off the task of signing up, and moving it on to the value of signing up. 

Michael ran a split-test test for 9 days, and the results were convincing: over a sample size of 13,560 visitors, the treatment page increased signups 31.54% at a statistical confidence of 99.99%.

4: Hello Bar 

Hello Bar is one of many projects created by web marketing whiz Neil Patel, who is also behind Quicksprout, Crazy Egg and Kissmetrics.


It’s a lead-gneration tool that allows you to create a full-width at the top of your site where you can add a custom message and call-to-action.

Essentially, the tool directs users from your homepage to your most important content, landing pages, or conversion funnels.

Other than the obvious benefit of capturing more leads, the great thing about Hello Bar is that it’s visible enough to draw a fair amount of traffic, yet not intrusive enough to interfere with brand guidelines or piss off developers.

It’s also quite versatile. You can use it as a trigger for a download, or (my favourite) use it to send users to a high-converting page. 

Setup is pretty simple: write your message, embed your code, and fire away!


It’s often said that conversion optimization (CRO) is a bit like sex in high school: everyone talks about, but few are actually doing it. 

And for good reason: CRO is not easy, and it doesn’t happen overnight, so selling the idea to managers and developers can be a real challenge.

As such, starting out with some lightweight fixes is a great way to not only boost your conversion rate, but also demonstrate the power of optimization to your colleagues.

Do you have any lightweight conversion fixes to add to this post? Drop me a comment!