Jeremy Smith Dec 8, 2014 8:31:20 AM 25 min read

8 Conversion Optimization Tips for Low-Traffic Sites

If your site doesn’t get much traffic, you probably feel left out of the conversion optimization game.

Have you ever experienced this? You want to be cool and do CRO, but then you read crap like this and feel like quitting your job:

How much traffic do i need to a b test

If A/B testing is that elitist, then how the heck do you start conversion optimization? Simply put, how do you optimize a site with such little traffic?

Most CROs recommend that a site be experiencing weekly traffic volume into the thousands before conducting A/B testing, which kind of puts you at a disadvantage for running tests and making optimizations.

What can you do to optimize your low-traffic site?

I get this question all the time. Thankfully, I have some answers. If you’re low on the traffic totem pole, I wrote this article for you.

1. You don’t need high traffic to optimize your website.

First, let’s dispense with the idea that CRO is only for high-traffic sites.

Admittedly, there are some things related to CRO that do require high amounts of traffic. One such thing is A/B testing. Some A/B testing platforms do not work without 1k visitors per week.

For example, Optimizely indicates an ideal test sample size with 1,010 visitors. The problem is, some sites don’t get that much traffic in the right amount of time to run an accurate and statistically reliable test.

a b test sample size calculator

This image below of a VWO test indicates tens of thousands of visitors for a top test, which is way more than a little teeny e-commerce site receives.

VWO test results of tens of thousands of visitors for a top test

What are you supposed to do?

Thankfully, conversion optimization isn’t just about A/B testing. Conversion optimization is about the whole spectrum of creating a better experience and optimal conditions for a conversion to take place.

If you don’t have enough traffic for split testing, don’t sweat it.

2. You should still run tests.

Testing is the bread-and-butter of a conversion optimizer, but that doesn’t necessarily mean A/B testing. You can run other types of tests.

Let me give you a few options.

Five Second Test

Usability Hub's five-second tests give you the ability to crowdsource user testing for any website or wireframe. According to the site, it “helps you understand people’s first impressions of your designs.”

Here’s a screenshot of one of the tests that I participated in. (I roasted the site. It was terrible.)

five second test

The tester gets real-life feedback of his or her website, and it comes from the voluntary army of people who either want to earn credit for their own sites to get tested, or who altruistically give of their own time and expertise.

Findings from this test will powerfully affect the conversion optimization of the website.

User Testing

User Testing does the same thing. Not only do you get users' responses, but you get videos of it, too. You can identify what people are doing and how they are reacting on your website.

The great thing about User Testing is that you can use it at any phase of development.

user testing

I’ve been able to create powerful actionable information for my clients by running a few of these tests.


YouEye operates on the same principle. People review your site and provide feedback.

youeye home page

You get the benefit of discerning customer satisfaction, points of confusion, areas of ease, overall satisfaction and customer reactions to marketing.

With data like this, there’s no telling what you can do. Shape your funnel, shorten your funnel, position your brand better, and enhance the overall digital experience for any user.

Try My UI

Try My UI is yet another variation on the theme of real-person testing. Try My UI offers a simple and straightforward method by which you can find out how the user is interacting with your site, complete with a video. Testers can also take a survey, provide a rating and write notes.

try my ui dashboard

The idea of conversion optimization isn’t so much about conversions specifically, as it is about user experience broadly. A site that has lousy user experience is a site that will have lousy conversions.

The better you improve your user experience, no matter how small the trickle of visitors, the better you will be able to optimize for conversions.

3. Enhance the conversion flow.

Many sites that don’t have high traffic don’t quite know where to start with conversion optimization.

That’s why I recommend focusing on the biggest and most important feature of all. This is what I call conversion flow.

What is conversion flow?

Conversion flow is the ability of a page to draw the user into a conversion. Friction, as you’re probably aware, is anything that gets in the way.

I like to think of conversion flow as an object floating in a river. The faster and smoother the river is flowing, the easier the object floats down the river.

A website with a conversion focus should do the same thing. The user should simply, almost effortlessly, flow to the conversion action, whatever that is.

To analyze conversion flow, simply step back and look at your website or landing page with a simple idea in your mind: how easy is it to convert? Turn that question around in your mind as you analyze the page.

Let’s look at a page as an example. Here is a website, General Kinematics. They sell multi-million dollar machines to recycling centers. As you can probably guess, they don’t get torrents of traffic. The sales cycle, quite obviously, is really long. And conversions? People simply don’t click the “buy” button on a $12.5 million product and select two-day shipping.

Thus, the goal of the General Kinematics website is to gain leads in the form of quotes or questions from prospective buyers.

So, here’s the recycling equipment page.

General Kinematics landing page

Overall, it’s not horrible. If I were the site owner, I might do a few things:

  • Add a persistent sidebar with the CTA
  • Add a slide-in CTA
  • Create in-text CTAs
  • Remove some of the extraneous form fields (e.g., “company,” or “ZIP”)
  • Draw attention to the form through visual elements. As it is now, the arrow is small and the area of the form is dark, meaning that the eye easily passes over it.

See what I’m doing here? I’m making conversion optimization recommendations based simply on a conversion flow approach.

You can do this with any website. Here’s the simple process:

  • Figure out what it is you want the user to do. Fill out a form? Buy an item? Select a size? Get a quote?
  • Pretend you’re a user, and look at the page.
  • How easy is it to convert? How hard? What gets in your way?

This is one of the simplest ways to spot problems with your conversions, create solutions and start to see an uptick in your conversion rate.

4. Lower the conversion action.

If you don’t have much traffic, then you will logically have fewer conversions. It’s more important than ever for you to maximize the number of conversions you gain from your existing trickle of visitors.

What I recommend in this case is to make the conversion action as low-scale as possible. In other words, rather than ask the user to do something big and monumental, just ask them to do something small and simple.

Here’s an example. I don’t know what the traffic is like for this site that sells butterfly wings, but I doubt it’s extraordinarily high. Instead of a “buy it now” CTA, they use a simple “add to basket.”

Partycity's low action CTA

Someone is more likely to add something to his or her basket than to “buy now.” Thus, the conversion action has a higher likelihood of converting the few visitors that the site receives.

Here’s a landing page for an email delivery service.

Partycity's low action CTA

This page could use some work. For one, the headline is confusing, the video is confusing, and the gibberish at the bottom makes me feel like I’m doing my taxes. Plus, the capture form is long and scary looking. It’s all red, has stars on it, and they want me to “get started now.” Frankly, this is the kind of conversion action that I’m going to flee from. A paltry 77 words of copy don’t make me feel like getting started.

This is what we want to do with a conversion action analysis. Get that action as low as possible to get conversions as high as possible.

5. Test pages that have the highest amount of traffic.

Your site doesn’t have a lot of traffic, but you probably have some pages that perform higher than others. Instead of running granular tests on specific landing pages, start conducting more general tests on your high-traffic pages.

For example, you may want to test your product pages, because that’s where the money is. That’s where the conversions happen, right?

Yeah, but you don’t have any traffic on those pages. Fine, then. Test your homepage instead. You do have traffic on your homepage, even if it’s still not astronomical. Go ahead and run tests on your homepage, and leave the product pages for a time when your site actually does pull up in the traffic race.

You can learn a lot from any test, regardless of what it is you’re testing. As you figure out some of the principles that work, you can apply these principles to other pages on your website.

No, you don’t have a lot of traffic, but you can still gain insights from the traffic that you do have, based on those high traffic pages.

6. Study the case studies, and make relevant adjustments.

This recommendation goes against my conversion-optimization nature, but it is an effective method for low-traffic sites. Desperate times call for desperate measures.

The idea is a simple, and usually a not recommended one. Here are the three steps:

  • Read conversion optimization case studies.
  • Find examples and niches that are closest to yours.
  • Do to your site whatever they did that caused their conversions to go up.

If split testing is out of reach due to low traffic, then you simply piggyback on the sites that do have testable traffic.

Here are some places to get your case study fix:

There are so many agonizing variables here, so please don’t be disappointed and ask for your money back if it doesn’t work.

True to my nature, I need to put a big caveat as a postscript to this recommendation: Every niche is different. Results that they got will differ from the results that you get.

You’ve been warned.

7. Make changes and watch the metrics.

Admittedly, this is unscientific and somewhat risky, but that’s okay, because it works.

The idea is this: Just make changes based on conversion best practices, and see what happens.

We’ve already established the fact that split testing is out of reach for most low-traffic sites. Even further out of reach are multivariate tests — tests in which you change one or more factors. Just because this is the case doesn’t mean that you have to give up on testing altogether.

You can run your own casual and, yes, unscientific tests.

The bigger the changes you make, the bigger results you will see. The results may be awesome. The results may suck. You just never know until you try.

I recommend running these tests sequentially. Like this ...

  1. Make a change.
  2. Wait a month.
  3. See what happens.

Now, it’s a new month.

  1. Make another change.
  2. Wait a month.
  3. See what happens again.

And so on.

That adds a bit of scientific spin to an otherwise unscientific method.

You may be surprised at how much you learn. This is a powerful way to affect higher conversion rates without so much as looking at Optimizely or VWO!

8. Do SEO. Get traffic.

CROs (that includes me) are fond of disparaging SEO. We like to quote the percentages of how much it costs to acquire traffic versus the cost of converting the traffic you already have. Some of us even joke about SEO being dead.

But what if you don’t have any traffic? Now the situation is reversed. Now it’s time for the SEO to derisively snort at the CRO.

If you don’t have any conversions because of low traffic, try to get some higher traffic. Sure, organic traffic isn’t exactly free. It does require SEO, and SEO is alive and well today.

At the very least, get your site audited by a competent SEO agency to see if there’s anything clogging up the organic traffic path. See if you have any hurdles to clear in the pursuit of more targeted traffic to your site. As long as you have a clear SEO strategy, an active niche and a decent site, you should get plenty of traffic.

Figure out whether you have an SEO problem, and then you can have more fun with the whole CRO bit.

In these early traffic-building days, spend more on acquiring traffic than on testing and optimizing for conversions. Once you build that traffic, you’ll have a much more profitable time doing testing and conversion optimization.


I’m unflinchingly optimistic when it comes to conversion optimization. I’m confident that CRO can work for anyone.

The toughest situation, though, is the low-traffic sites. If you don’t have traffic, you don’t have conversions. There’s nothing to optimize.

But if you have any traffic, then you can optimize it. There is no lower threshold for doing CRO. So, go out there and do some optimization.




Jeremy Smith

Digital marketer with a penchant for dance; helping clients see the light through the jungle of tweets since before Twitter was cool.