Jeremy Smith Feb 19, 2019 11:25:24 AM 33 min read

Four Psychological Triggers on Your Landing Pages That Are Turning Customers Away

You’ve worked hard on your landing page — really hard. You’ve fine-tuned every last pixel on your CTA button, retinted the image several more times, wordsmithed the heck out of that headline, and placed that killer testimonial right where you want it to be.

How in the world could anyone not convert? Heck, this landing page is probably going to score a 100% conversion rate ... maybe higher!

I hate to break it to you, but as kickass awesome as your landing page probably is, there might be some psychological triggers turning your customers away. Instead of loving your landing page, they’re going to loathe it. Instead of converting, they’re going to curse it.

The problem comes when you’ve set off some psychological trigger. These aren’t obvious issues. They are subtle, but nonetheless real.

Based on my research, I’ve compiled the four most common psychological triggers on landing pages. These are the mistakes that could cost you several percentage points on your conversion rate.

Note:  To make this article as laser-focused as possible, the advice I deliver is for landing pages specifically. At Unbounce, we define landing pages as ...

“a standalone web page distinct from your main website that has been designed for a single focused objective.”

The goal of a landing page is single, focused, powerful and unstoppable. It’s all about conversions. Do your landing pages have these negative psychological triggers?

4 Psychological Triggers

the psychological trigger turning customers away

1. Featuring a bland CTA.

The call to action is the single most important element on your landing page.

Don’t blow it with a psychological no-brainer.

Here, the psychological trigger is actually a non-trigger. Let me explain.

When you create a CTA, your goal is to create a psychological reaction in the mind of the user. You want them to think, “I’m curious” or “I’m excited,” or “I want to sign up for that conference” or “I want to learn more about that free e-book.”

The CTA is your final effort to create that psychological sizzle that will push them over the edge and into conversion land.

If, however, you use a bland CTA, you’ve totally lost your opportunity to do this. Instead of something exciting — “Discover the five secrets NOW!” — you feature something mind-numbingly boring — “Submit.”

Who in the wide world is going get a tingle of psychological scintillation from a word like "submit"?

Thanks to HubSpot, I can graphically convey the iniquity of using “submit.”

Reader Be Warned: Bar graphs ahead.



Want a whole panoply of face-palming stupid CTAs? They’ve been tested.



“Click here” barely squeaks by as passable, but don’t try it. I’m not even a huge fan of “subscribe.”

So what do you do to get an awesome CTA?

I’ve assembled a few of my favorites below. Use them as inspiration, or you can flat-out steal them and try not to feel guilty when your conversion rates clock in at around 50% of so.

Here’s a shout out to HubSpot, since they had such awesome data:


See how easy it's to create an effective CTAs Note: I have no affiliation with Hubspot.


This one uses the a form of the word “you” (always popular), with the appealing “create.”

GetResponse CTA

Knowing that I can “order now” is way more mouthwatering than “submit.”

Order now CTA instead of submit.

You can worry all you want about button size, button placement, button color, and all the other cool stuff. But if you go all boring with your CTA text, you may have crossed the psychological line of naughtiness.

2. Overusing testimonials.

Testimonials are awesome. But if you overuse testimonials, you could set off a psychological trigger.

Why? When people read a testimonial, they’ve got their guard up. They want to find out whether you’re a snake oil salesman with “true” miracle stories, or if you’re legitimate, high-quality and worthy of trust.

This is a thing.


This is an actual screenshot  I took as I was researching this article today.

Overusing testimonials

In case that image is too small, here are a few selections:

Testimonials Generator 1.0

Stuff Your Inbox With Genuine Testimonials! No Hassle - No Hype. The...

I could stop right there and let you gape in awe at that awesome  “the” at the end of the sentence that has no purpose for existing in this universe. But wait there’s more …

Stuff Your Inbox With Genuine Testimonials! No Hassle - No Hype. The whole process is handled by the Bot and all you have to do is to open your inbox regularly to read and select the testimonials that are coming!

Testimonials Generator is simple to use:No Server Set Up Required No Head Aches No HTML Experience Necessary Simple to use User Interface Unlimited Testimonials Bots Flexible Testimonials Forms Everything is done for you automatically in Testimonials Generator.

You see why people might be skeptical?

Here are testimonials from a landing page that you can trust. Why? They have pictures. They have cachet. They have actual companies that you can Google and find out about. And Tim Ferriss? Yes, please.



This one is good, too. Why? Picture. (Very big picture.) Name, position and linked website. Killer.


Highrise testimonials From Highrise.


Here’s an example of a landing page with an abysmally scammy-looking testimonial.

Problems? Generic names. Stock photos, and the marketing intern wrote the testimonials himself on Friday afternoon when he wanted to leave work to hit the bar in time for Friday Happy Hour.



And sometimes, people forget to remove dummy text. Whoops.



Any takers on BidShack? Not after getting psychologically freaked out with these non-testimonial testimonials.



Do you recognize “John,” or “Joe,” or “Tom?” Yeah, that guy. He’s done a testimonial for erectile dysfunction pills, scanners, and an iPhone app. Right. Use this image, and you’re toast.

using fake images for testimonials

Testimonials can either make or break your landing page. If you overdo it, you will trip a psychological wire and ruin the conversion. It’s just that simple.

3. Providing no guarantees.

According to implications of the signaling theory, guarantees are signs of trust and trustworthiness.

Economic scholars assume that market-level factors create in consumers' minds the notion that a guarantee is almost on the level of an intrinsic right. (See Joydeep Srivastava’s article “Price-Matching Guarantees as Signals of Low Store Prices: Survey and Experimental Evidence,” in Journal of Retailing.)

Consumers tend to view guarantees in differing ways based on referential prices, value perception and shopping intention (See the article by Biswas, et al., “Consumer Evaluation of Low Price Guarantees: The Moderating Role of Reference Price and Store Image,” Journal of Consumer Psychology.)

However, regardless of the shifting vantages and perceptions of the guarantee, one thing remains true — consumers expect guarantees.

It logically follows, then, that the lack of a guarantee may be a negative psychological trigger. If e-commerce guarantees are part of the consumer’s expectation, but your landing page makes no mention of that guarantee, then the consumer has a psychological experience of distrust.

Neil Patel tested guarantees vs. no guarantees (free trial), and discovered that through a 30-day satisfaction guarantee, he was able to improve his revenue. Even though he ended up giving some people their money back, he actually improved his overall revenue.

Here are the results of his study, based on 100 hypothetical monthly signups:

  • Original offer (no guarantee/no trial): $19,700 a month in revenue
  • Money back guarantee offer: $20,976 a month in revenue
  • Free trial with credit card upfront combined with a money-back guarantee offer: $24,428 a month in revenue.

Can you afford to offer a guarantee? If Patel’s statistics are any indication of what could be true, then maybe you can’t afford not to.

Offering guarantees poses a problem, however, for many landing pages. In order to be truly legitimate, a “guarantee” is a legal and financial contractual agreement between purchaser and merchant. Wouldn’t it jeopardize the conversion process to provide an outbound link to your guarantee legal page?

Yes, it could. However, just the word guarantee is a selling word.

In Buffer’s landmark article, “The Big List of 189 Words That Convert,” the word “guarantee” was listed as one of “28 words and phrases that make you feel safe.” Just the word itself is a psychological signal that can introduce positivity rather than negativity toward a transaction.

If you don’t want to risk having your customers bounce off your landing page to another page, just state your guarantee directly on the page. Strip away the legalese, and say exactly what your guarantee is. Use guarantee symbols and seals for bonus points.

Below are the 10 most commonly used types of guarantees. You can find one that works for you, regardless of your product or service.

1.  The Money-Back Guarantee

2.  The Risk-Free Guarantee

3.  100% Satisfaction Guarantee

4.  The Forever Guarantee

5.  Low Price Guarantee

6.  Free Trial

7.  Outside-the-Box Guarantees

8.  The Double Guarantee

9.  The $1 Million Service Guarantee

10.  The Zero Guarantee

(Check out the Kissmetrics article for a full review of all these guarantees.)

Here’s a nice guarantee sample from Rockable Press.



Chrome Industries uses the Forever Guarantee in three simple words on this sales page:  “Guaranteed for life.”

Guaranteed for life

In Unbounce’s Landing Page Builder for Marketer’s Course, this test was featured:



This is a privacy policy, but a guarantee nonetheless. It goes to show that the presence of the word “guarantee” is a win — even if it’s simply guaranteeing privacy.

Remember, you can use the guarantee without even saying “guarantee.” There are subtle ways to word it, that help you avoid the psychological scare of “this is risky.” How do you do it? Tell them it’s not risky. Here’s how Moz did it in an earlier version of their landing page (when they were still SEOMoz).



However you choose to go about it, don’t set off the psychological trigger of a no-guarantee. It’s just too dangerous. People can’t handle life on the edge like that.

(BASE jumping? Yes. Buying a $4 mug without a lifetime money-back risk free lifetime satisfaction guarantee? Heck no. Go figure. )

4. Overemphasizing "free."

Humans are suckers for "free." Free anything. I’ll bet if you offered “free air plus shipping and handling!” people would pay you for it.

Gregory Ciotti wrote in his popular CopyBlogger article that "free" is one of the most powerful words in the English language. Roger Dooley of the Neuromarketing blog wrote, “If there’s a more potent attractor out there, it’s almost certainly 'FREE!'”

Marketers, copywriters, neuroscientists, and hucksters have all figured out that people fall for "free."

And just maybe it can be taken too far.

Along with the appeal of the word (and reality of) free, we’re also trained to be skeptical of “free.” Have you ever heard “there ain't no such thing as a free lunch” (TANSTAAFL)? Apart from the pardonable use of the double negative, this expression is true, even in the digital era.



When you start slinging around the word “free” with reckless abandon, you’re going to cross the threshold of someone’s psychological hen house.

Read Write Web called attention to this phenomenon in their article “The Danger of Free.” They ask, “Is the concept of free taking us down a dangerous road?” They answer their own question with an unequivocal “yes.” As consumers, we’re not just eager about free. We’re skeptical, too. “Free is making a lot of people nervous.”

If it’s too good to be true, it probably is. It’s like snake oil. And you are like the seller.



But if you overuse the free card, you run the risk of being gimmicky.

A customer, by definition, is a buyer. He or she is prepared to spend. If you hook them with free, then give them free. But don’t shy away from charging for legitimate high-quality goods or services.

And don’t overuse “free.” We as Internet shoppers are a skeptical lot. We Google your product and “scam.” We read fine print. We know a scam when we see it.

And if you ever do something like this, I may actually punch an actual hole in my laptop.

Never do this pop up CTA.


Let’s go back to that squeaky clean and really-quite-awesome landing page that I mentioned at the beginning of this article.

Ready to critique it? Okay, four questions. Real easy:

  • Is your CTA as plain as a pikestaff, or does it sizzle and maybe even pop a little bit? (Like bacon.)
  • Do you have real testimonials or stock-photos-of-those-people-that-everyone-recognizes-because-they’re-on-almost-every-single-other-scammer’s-website?
  • Do you have a real guarantee, or a scary drop into the abyss of e-commerce?
  • Do you have a tastefully worded “free” download, or are you spamming to high heaven with the word “free?”

End of critique.

Now, if you make the necessary corrections, your landing page will really start to nail. Your conversions might not go over 100% but, hey, there’s a first time for everything.





Jeremy Smith

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