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Lead Capture Love: How to Transform Your Website from a Leaky Bucket to a Conversion Machine

  • Marisa MurgatroydMarisa Murgatroyd

Does marketing and lead generation ever feel like a black hole of time and money?

Are you disappointed with the results you’re getting from your efforts?

Or do you feel like there’s no real way to track your ROI?

Well, the issue might not be your marketing…

If you’re directing traffic to a website that just isn’t converting, it’s like pouring water into a leaky bucket.

So how do you stop the gaps in your website that are causing your prospects to bounce before they discover how GREAT you are?

Entrepreneurs and small businesses come to me every day because their websites just aren’t working. They may look good, but they’re not getting results in terms of leads and customers.

An effective website can convert 10-30% of your unique visitors into subscribers. And an effective opt-in sequence can automatically convert 1-5% of those subscribers into buyers.

Of course, dedicated squeeze pages and launch sequences can convert at a much higher level. But we’re talking about your main branded website here – aka, the front door of your online business…

So if that old song, “There’s a hole in your bucket,” is running through your head on auto-play, don’t worry.

Here are my top 5 quick fixes to transform your website from a leaky bucket to a conversion machine:

1 – Simply Get Noticed

Most people won’t stick around to find out what you do and why they should care, if there’s nothing on your website that instantly stands out and draws them in. Or worse yet, if your website looks ugly, unprofessional or you’re simply sending the wrong signals, they may be hightailing straight for the back button.

The average website visit lasts less than a minute and 17% of all website visits last less than 4 seconds, so you have to grab someone in those first few seconds or it’s over.

The first place to hook them is the top 300 pixels of your website. This prime above-the-fold real estate determines whether someone’s going to stick around and keep reading or bounce and never come back.

The first set of factors that help you get noticed are visual – bold graphics, color, contrast, shape, video, fonts and design all attract the eye and pull in your visitor.

Only after you’ve attracted them do they start to read your logo and your tagline to discover who you are and why they should care enough to keep browsing.

I recommend making a quick audit of the top 300 pixels of your website to see how you’re coming across. Don’t leave it up to you to make the final judgment, ask your prospects or ideal clients what their first impression was. How they experience your business and why they chose to work with you vs. everyone else in the market? Do those top 300 pixel make the impression you’re hoping for?

You can easily update your banner without having to redesign your entire website. More and more businesses are starting to minimize their company branding in the top banner and get straight to the value, the opt-in, and what their visitor wants.

Check out my post on Websites That Convert: Best Home Page Design for Building Your List for more ideas on how you can maximize this space to get results.

2 – It’s All About the Opt-In

You’ve probably heard that the #1 goal of any website is to collect email addresses. The reason is simple: most people who visit your website will never come back. If you don’t capture their email address, you’ll have no way to reach out to them in the future. It’s like they never even existed.

This is the biggest hole that business owners need to fill and it starts with finding how well your current website is performing.

If you don’t have a way for people to opt-in, your conversion rate is 0%. If you have a gift, you’re going to want to find out how well it is performing, because if your numbers are low (less than 5% of your unique visitors are signing up for your list) you’re losing valuable leads.

If you have Google Analytics installed on your website, you can check your conversion rate in just 5 minutes. Simply set the date range to 3 or 6 months (giving yourself a long enough period to really get a sense of how your site is performing over time). Take note of the number of Unique Visitors to your site during this time period. Then go to Content Overview, click to view the whole report and show at least 100 rows. Go through and add up all the unique page views of your thank you or confirmation pages (or the goal pages that people get to after they opt-in). Then divide these pages by your unique visitors. If you have a little tech savvy, you can set this up as up as a Goal in Conversions so you can instantly see how you’re doing in the future.

I just did this exercise and discovered that my opt-in rate for the last 6-months is well over 30%. That’s really good.

So how do you get there?

First step is, you got it, get noticed. Is your opt-in offer within the top 500 pixels of your website? Does it stand out graphically through an evocative graphic, a flow chart, a 3D model of a report, CD or DVD cover? Do you have a clear call-to-action and a prominent button that gets their attention? Do you use arrows or visual guides to draw their eye to the actual opt-in fields? Do you use a video that let’s people know what they’ll get if they opt-in? Have you tested your headlines to make sure they convert? If your site is in WordPress, you can use a multivariate test plug-in like WP Test Monkey to test these elements until you have the combination that converts the best.

The next step is to make sure you’re giving your audience something they actually want. That’s usually something focused, specific and valuable that directly relates to your products or services. That way you’re building a list of people who are interested in what you offer.

This could be their first experience of your content, so you want to give away your best stuff. What’s the most valuable thing that you know? What’s that thing that you say or do that makes people stop in their tracks and thank you?

Paste a link to your website below and I’ll let you know how I think your opt-in could be improved.

3 – And After the Opt-In…

OK, you’ve gotten that first date. Now what?

You have a few opportunities to impress: the very first is what your new subscriber sees immediately after they press that GET INSTANT ACCESS or DOWNLOAD NOW button.  Whether you send someone to a confirmation page or directly to the content you promised, this page is a key opportunity to engage people and draw them deeper into your world. I use a plug-in called FansFlood to immediately give my new subscribers a surprise gift in exchange for a Facebook like. This simultaneously adds another level of value, while skyrocketing my fanbase and giving me another opportunity to engage with new subscribers on a different platform (that means I’m going to them in more than one place rather than crossing my fingers and hoping they’ll come back to visit me on my website).

The next opportunity is the email they receive immediately after they sign-up. What’s the tone you want to strike? How can you phrase that email to make them feel like they made the right decision in giving you their personal details? Let them know they’ve joined a community (not just your business newsletter) and what they can expect to receive moving forward. Get them into the habit of clicking on your links by including a compelling, benefit-rich call-to-action that encourages them to return to your website to claim their gift and reminds them of the specific value they’ll get from this.

The third opportunity is the subsequent chain of autoresponders that your email marketing software delivers over the next week, month or beyond. Really think through the pathway you want to lead your new subscriber down. How can this pathway ultimately end in a sale? How can you give a week or two of value that builds up to the sale, so your subscriber feels like you’re offering them an opportunity rather than shoving a product down their throats? Finally, how can you optimize the subject lines of these emails so they keep opening them?

4 – Direct People Where they Want to Go

Most likely, people came to your site for a reason – whether someone forwarded them a link, whether they saw you on Facebook, or whether you showed up in Google for a search they ran.

Your first order of business is to give people what they want. Of course, you have to know what that is.

I recently updated my home page because people told me they loved my stuff, but they couldn’t tell what I offered. So I put in an OPTION 1, 2 and 3 right below my home page with calls to action that lead into my most popular products and services. That way, new visitors can quickly find out what I do and click through to read more.

I also realized that my blog posts were getting 75% of the traffic that came to my website and lots of engagement (in terms of comments, likes, tweets and more), so I decided to integrate excerpts of my 4 most recent blog posts on my home page. Now my home page shows fresh, dynamic content that directs people into my most popular free content.

Why are people visiting your website? And what can you do to give them what they want and direct them to where they want to go?

The rule of thumb on any website is to always let people know where they are and tell them what to do next. Yes that means integrating prominent teasers and calls to action throughout your website like a trail of breadcrumbs that draws them deeper into your world.

5 – Finally, Give People a Reason to Come Back

Ask yourself this question, Why would anyone want to visit your website a second time?

It’s not to read your product and service descriptions over and over again.

It’s because they know they can come to you for fresh, relevant and dynamic content around a particular topic that’s meaningful or important to them.

It’s also because of the experience you provide them through the way you do what you do – your tone, how you tell stories, the value you give them over time. And the questions you spark in their minds – do you challenge them or hold them to a bigger vision of themselves? Do you inspire and empower them to do or be more? Do you allow them to contribute to a larger movement or dialogue? Does your content invite conversation? Do you respond to people who post on your site or Facebook wall? Do people feel like you care about them and whether they “get it?” Do you offer multiple touch points or opportunities for engagement beyond your website? Do you go to them and offer value where they’re already hanging out whether that’s industry forums or Facebook groups or live events?

The only way to build a loyal community who trusts you, engages with you, loves your business and spreads the word is to give value over and over again.

When people develop a specific impression, experience or story they tell themselves about you, you can say that you have a brand. Branding is the process of shaping the associations your prospects and clients has about you. It is something that happens every day through every touch point and every interaction… not a one time process of developing a logo. And it can often become the most valuable asset in your business, bringing you the most ROI through word of mouth, repeat sales and referrals.

Don’t worry if you don’t feel like you have a brand right now. In my world we have something called the “law of recency”. That means that your customers most remember their last impression of you. So the way to move forward is to simply change your next impression. That means changing the way you write that next blog post or answer that next phone call or you name it…

Leave a comment below and let me know how you’re going to stop the holes in your website and turn that next visitor into one of your most loyal customers

27 thoughts on Lead Capture Love: How to Transform Your Website from a Leaky Bucket to a Conversion Machine

Stacie Walker

Hello Marisa,

This is an excellent post! Easy to read and simple instructions on how to plug up the holes to obtain more conversions. Thanks for sharing your expertise.

To Your Success,

Stacie W.

Marisa Murgatroyd

Thanks Stacie! Happy plugging…


This is really excellent – chock-full of good information. Would you mind taking a look at my homepage (linked in my name) and let me know if you have any suggestions? Although I don’t have an opt-in form prominently on the home page per se, I do have a pop-up that displays once on the first visit. My overall conversion rate is between 8 and 12%.

Marisa Murgatroyd

Hi Shayna,

Your home page looks awesome! I think the opt-in pop-up and call to actions are all very clear and bold. Only thing missing is some social proof and a clear indication of who your audience is. What results have you gotten for other people in improving their english? Are you serving people learning English for the first time or just trying to brush up on their skills or to be more fluid in a professional setting?

Good luck!

Zach @TruthInMarketing

Hi Marisa,

There’s so much great content in your post.

What is your recommendation for the order a new start up website should implement different aspects such as an opt in, auto responder series, free gift, etc. I mean, I really don’t have any significant traffic right now…do I need to have my opt in and free gift and auto responder series set up right away? Or should I wait a bit and concentrate on other things like just putting on good initial content?

Any advice you could give would be really appreciated! Thanks!

Marisa Murgatroyd

Hi Zach,

Congrats on starting your new blog! If you have any traffic at all, I would recommend having an opt-in, free gift that relates to your products and/or services and at least 3 autoresponders queued up and ready to go. Otherwise, there’s a good chance that your traffic will come once and never return. You can start with something simple for now — like 10 tips to _______ (biggest problem that you solve) — and replace it with something more valuable later. Of course, having great content is also key.

Take care,


Hey Marissa!
Thanks for sharing some plug-in ideas with us. I’m in the middle of a bit of a transformation right now in my biz. I have an opt-in, but I’m getting way more RSS feeds than sign-ups. I’ve been focused on empowering women in relationship, but am moving now into where more of my passion lies – confidence, body image and fashion coaching. Any feedback you could give me along those lines would be greatly appreciated! You can find me at:
I have the option to widgetize the banner area as well as put a widget area under or below the nav bar – but I tried to add a widget there yesterday and it didn’t take. I’ve not gotten a chance to problem-solve that yet, but you’ve given me the incentive to do so.
Thanks for this article, it was really helpful!

Marisa Murgatroyd

Hi Merry!

I definitely think you could work on your top banner. Right now I’m having trouble reading all the fonts you have going on. The novelty pink and purple fonts against magenta or against the background image are just hard to read. I would give your “3 Secrets for a Happy Sexy Life” report a sub-title so people understand what you’re offering. Also, the opt-in fields in the right sidebar are disconnected from the actual gift, so you’re probably losing opt-ins.

Finally, you’re leading with vague, rational, high-level terms like “confidence,” “body image,” and “relationship empowerment”. I think it would be more powerful to actual get into the minds of your audience and to speak to the specific needs, challenges, frustrations and aspirations that they have.

Blue skies,


Hey Marissa, Great step-by-step process. I’m going to check out out your plug-in recommendations and see how I can integrate them into my site. My website is

Marisa Murgatroyd

Hi Ben,

Checked out your site and your messaging is clear. I get what you do and it resonates. My one concern is that your design looks home-made and you’re serving an executive audience. I think investing in branding and professional design could give you more credibility to your audience.

Take care,

Mike Kawula

Holy Content…this was Awesome Marissa!

Well my bucket is completely rotted with just drips being caught. We have 45K visitors month and capture only 350 (.007%). I know you said 10-30% on average, though is that also applicable to an internet retailer? I’d be happy capturing 5%. We convert our traffic into sales at 3.5%, but I’d love to be able to better stay in front of those that don’t convert, thoughts?

Thanks again and scrolling to your site now!

Marisa Murgatroyd

Hi Mike,

While a .007% conversion to your list is definitely sub-par, a 3.5% conversion to sales is not bad at all. However, I do imagine most people coming to your site for discount cleaning supplies have a clear and immediate need, so I think you could improve.

My main thought on landing on your site was holy smokes, there’s a lot going on here. I just didn’t know where to look or what to do first or how to access what I needed. You may get better results simply by streamlining your home page and clearing out some of the unnecessary stuff that’s distracting people from what you want them to do.


Take care,

Mike Kawula

Thanks Marisa and love your blog, awesome content! Have a Great Weekend!

Jean Ferratier

This was a very informative article. I understand your words but I don’t know how to incorporate them into my website. I started on blogspot and do pretty well since I am not selling anything yet but provide a blog. Then, I moved the blog to a website on WordPress. It started out well but the person who set it up left. I have to find someone to teach me how to add and change content and videos. I need to offer some incentive for opt-in. (There is a button for that) and set up an auto responder but I don’t know where to find that.. At least I have a start but I really need to get moving. I cringe a little not to have captured addresses of those that have come to the blog.

Marisa Murgatroyd

Hi Jean,

Don’t worry about lost traffic in the past. Just focus in on how you can capture traffic moving forward. WordPress is the most commonly used website/blog CMS, so I’m sure you can find someone to support you in updating your site. It’s easy to add an autoresponder using a free email marketing system such as MailChimp or a paid service such as AWeber.

Good luck!


Thank you for the great article. Gave me some great ideas of how to improve our current, brand new website, and how to improve on building out a new website we are currently designing. Thanks so much for sharing!

Marisa Murgatroyd

You are welcome… congrats on getting your new site up.


Would you mind taking a look at the website and giving me few pointers as to how we could improve? I have some ideas but just want to see what you think, we are now building a second site for a new product of ours that will be an ecommerce site similar to the one we have now.

The webstie is

Thanks so much for all your advice! Look forward to seeing what you think.



These tips are great . . . and daunting. I don’t need to take the Does Your Website Suck quiz to know the answer. As a newbie biz owner, my initial goal was simply to get online. Thanks for laying out the details of how to take my website to the next level. Back to the drawing board.

Marisa Murgatroyd

Hi Gayle — Thanks for your kind words. I was hoping to be more actionable than daunting… while optimizing your site and converting your visitors into subscribers, fans and clients takes some work. It will definitely pay off in ROI for your business!

Lauryn Doll

Awesome post. I consider myself to have a great developing voice, but I know my website needs more in terms of opt-ins and conversions. I have done everything on my own for the longest, so my next step in the site’s evolution, when I’m ready for it, is to pay for a really good design, including opt-in and branding elements (color, etc) to take it to the next level.

Thank you 🙂

Mike Kawula

Hey Lauryn – Good Luck with the development of the site. Like the message, short-term to drive more opt-ins why not write an article or do a video on Jay-Z seems like your customers demo and title it “3 Secrete Tips to get some HIP-HOP Marketing Results Like Jay-Z” or something. I received advice to take Join Mailing List out few years back and once we changed it we got more opt-ins (not enough though) Good Luck and Giants.???? J.E.T.S

Marisa Murgatroyd

Hi Lauryn,

I think you hit the nail on the head with your site. A more specific opt-in gift would help you a lot, as would a design face-lift. For example, the top 250 pixels of your website are taken up by a banner that isn’t doesn’t relate to your business. I’m also a little bit unclear about what specifically you write about. When I hear “Sexy Focused Ambitions: Succeed Without Selling Out” I think of women professionals but I’m not sure what their problem is and how you help them.

Take care,

Al Seward

That was an awesome article Marisa. I love your writing style instructional and engaging. I would love to get your thoughts on my homepage for my new blog. I haven’t developed my opt in.


Hi Marisa,

Great article. My angle is a bit different from a contentblog. But still lessons can be learned. My site is presently litsed on page 1 for my keywords, and slowly rising. And my conversion rate varies between 5 and 75%, over time the conversion is stable around 16%. I think I can do better since this is a free service, And i would like some pointers.

Br. Tonny



Thanks for the feedback. What are your thoughts on using dynamic, but subtle lightboxes like, hellobar, kissinsights, etc., to increase user engagement and conversion? Seems like some websites struggle with are static websites/webpages. Have you seen success with more dynamic calls to action?


Kerri Ho

Hi Marisa,

Thank you so much for this very comprehensive and practical post! Amazing!
Look forward to hearing your feedback on my opt-in .

Every success to you!

Comments are closed.