How to increase your conversion rates: a study of 1,000 landing pages

Updated: May 17

An analysis of 1,000 landing pages to determine the factors that contribute to increasing conversion rates.

Whenever I speak about CRO, one of the most asked questions is "what is the most important factor to increase conversion rates on landing pages?"

It's very difficult to answer as it depends on a lot of different factors that contribute to decreasing friction and increasing desirability to take action.

But there are lots of interesting stats to look at, when analysing a large set of data for top performing landing pages.

And this is what I have, lots of data.

With the help of the amazing team at Unbounce and my own CRO competitive analysis method, I have gathered a huge variety of data points of over 1,000 landing pages to see what contributed to high conversion rates.

I am going to share the distilled findings so you can understand both the way users evaluate landing pages to take the desired action as well as highlight the tactics that top websites are using to increase their conversion rates.

These findings can be applied to different verticals and industries, from informing your veterinary marketing ideas to insurance and fitness. Human psychology works the same for everyone, which makes this research so outstanding, above all of the marketing tactics.

Summary of findings from the data

  1. Shorten forms convert better. On average, 3 fields form convert 12% better than pages with larger forms.

  2. Referral traffic can boost conversions if coming from a reputable and trusted website. When landing pages receive good quality referral traffic, their conversion rate is 34% higher than if they receive traffic from other sources.

  3. Removing navigation menu reduces distractions. On average, 16.5% of landing pages showing more than 10% conversion rate show no navigation menu.

  4. Top converting landing pages show a clear headline that is attention-grabbing with a clear benefit.

  5. High-quality pictures make the difference. Over 35% of all the higher converting pages included a high-quality image close to the headline.

Findings breakdown

There’s a lot to take in from the major findings, so I’m going to go through each one in a little more detail and explain what the core takeaway is. Before I do that, here’s a brief overview of the dataset that I examined.

A random sample of 1,000 landing pages were taken, and each of them showed a minimum conversion rate increase of 10% uplift. This resulted in a total of 9,000 conversions. For each of the landing pages, data was gathered related to their conversion rates boost (thanks to Unbounce) and their optimisation data, as well as a wide range of HTML elements from the page.

Shorter forms = more conversions

If you are a regular reader of my blog, you know that I am a supporter of shorter forms for generating leads. As the data shows, this is one of the biggest factors that determine conversion rates and this is what I have seen when running AB tests on forms.

conversion rates vs forms fields
Source: Unbounce |

The graph clearly shows the increase in conversion rates if the form fields are reduced.

The problem with form fields is that for a business that is not entirely online, it's more difficult to reduce fields to 3 only, as they are needed to feed the sales team with fresh leads. So adding extra fields is almost a mandatory requirement.

Action: go through your landing pages that show a lower than average conversion rate and try to reduce the form fields to 3, then AB test this new landing page with the original.

Referral traffic to landing pages can bring higher conversion volumes

We know that landing pages are designed to boost conversions, but what if the traffic comes from a good source of referral traffic? How important is this?

Well, the data shows that referral traffic can really make the difference in the amount of desired actions on your landing pages.

conversion rates by traffic sources
Source: Unbounce |

This is by far the most clear factor that determines conversion rates. The data shows, in fact, that landing pages that on average had 28% conversion rates had over 55% of the traffic coming from trusted third-party websites.

Whenever I segment the traffic sources for a landing page and I see higher conversion rates from referral traffic, I always ask myself: "how can I get more referral traffic from websites that are relevant to me?"

Having many websites that bring traffic is great, but having the right websites can really make the difference.

What you should aim for is not the number of websites bringing traffic to your landing page, but the relevancy of them.

Action: Use tools like SEMrush to identify websites that are relevant to you and start planning a strategy to make them send traffic to you on a regular basis.

Removing navigation items = more conversions

Removing navigation items has been always one of the most easiest things to do in CRO. There is sometimes the argument that removing the menu will not give users the possibility to visit your other website pages.

But this is not an issue if your traffic sources come to your landing page and they already know you, because they have heard of you somewhere else.

So the previous point of having many good referral traffic goes hand-in-hand with removing the navigation items.

conversion rate vs number of navigation items
Source: Unbounce |

The results show that pages with 0 menu items reach 33% conversion rates, while landing pages with 1 navigation item, the company logo, reached 28% CR.

However, only 16% of all the landing pages analysed showed 0 menu items, which is very low and it's a worrying number.

As the results clearly show, reducing the number of menu items can greatly leverage your conversion rates, this seems to suggest that distracting users with unnecessary button can kill your conversions.

Actions: look at your landing pages showing 1 or more navigation items and AB test it with a new landing page without any item.

A clear and short headline works best

The headline is the first and most important piece of text the reader will see on your landing page. It's probably the most important factor that can drive users to fill in the form and convert.

I have ran tests myself on headlines on several landing pages and I have also noticed that making them very clear and persuasive can boost conversions.

In one of my tests, I have changed the headline from "Career Change Guide" to "Career Change eBook" and conversion rates raised from 27% to 38%, from one single word changed.

Users perceive the eBook to be more valuable than a guide and when it comes to career change this makes complete sense!

landing page headline example

I am mentioning clear headlines because it's very important to write clear text that shows the value of what you are offering to users. Readability plays a great role into this and there is almost an exact science behind readability.

What is readability? it's the quality of your writing. If readability is high, people will understand easily what you are writing about. If readability is low, people might still understand what you are trying to say, but their experience will probably be very poor.

readability vs conversion rates
Source: |

This graph clearly shows that an easy to read headline with an Excellent readability score will contribute to higher conversion rates because users are able to understand quickly and easily the benefits of your offers.

Readability also extends to the whole copy of your landing page, not just your headline. Being able to write the benefits in a few words is very important, in your sub headline and the rest of your copy.

The data also shows that short headlines tend to convert better, those up to 10 words. This makes complete sense because short makes it easier to understand in a few seconds.

Action: Determine the difference between features and benefits and explain benefits in your headline. Answer the question: "how can you formulate a statement that summarise what your product or service do that is useful for your visitors?"

Over 35% of landing pages with 30% conversion rates use high-quality pictures

Together with a clear headline goes a nice, high-quality picture. Our brains process pictures 60,000 times faster than words. This means that visitors will be affected by the images on your landing page immediately.

From the data analysed, there was a clear correlation between a good looking photo and a boost in conversions.

The vertical axis shows conversion rates up to 45% and the horizontal axis shows the image usage percentage. In other words, 35% of landing pages using high-quality images reached up to 45% conversion rates.

Is this because an image is worth 1,000 words? Or it is because the image should be relevant to your product or service. The data suggest that both assumptions turn out to be true. Images that visitors process are those that will stay in their brain as the image of your brand.

Action: get a good image that will convey the values of your brand, there isn't a specific best practice or formula to determine the effectiveness of an image. This should be based on what you offer.