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Seven Dead Ends on Your Website--and How to Fix Them Today

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You work hard to drive traffic to your site. Steering people toward your site is hard work. You combine search marketing, social media, and email marketing. You might even be paying good money for those visitors.

But once you have them, are you making the most of those visits? Or is your site sending them down one-way, dead-end streets? Are there places where your user flow completely stops?

Sadly, most websites are filled with dead ends.

Here are seven blind alleys that are probably on your site right now. Those hidden corners where you offer your visitor nothing—your "thank you" pages, your "Nothing Found" pages, and even your most-visited marketing pages.

The following seven dead ends are all common, huge missed opportunities...

1. Service Pages

Amazingly, most marketing websites have pages that just stop. No call to action. No internal links. The text just ends, and the visitor is left at a lonely little footer.

Great websites have pages designed specifically to gently guide visitors toward actions, toward next steps.

Detour: Add calls to action at the bottom of your services pages, offering to answer questions, start a conversation, get in touch.

Detour: Add internal links throughout your site, directing visitors to related, high-value pages.

2. Blog Posts

Great bloggers often end posts with questions or a trigger for comments and conversation. Bad bloggers don't even link to themselves.

It's nice to have a helpful blog, but don't forget that you're a marketer. Each post should send a bit of traffic deeper into your site.

Detour: Check your Analytics for older posts that are still getting traffic. Reread the post. Anything else it should link to? Maybe a newer blog post? Add these links into the body text if possible or as "related links" at the bottom of the post.

Detour: Make sure every blog post links to at least one of your marketing pages.

3. Site Search 'No Results' Page

Does your site have a search tool? What do visitors find if they find nothing? A blank page with the two words "no results"? That is another dead end, and it is especially bad, since visitors may be surprised—or frustrated.

Detours: The NN Group has published guidelines for "no results" pages that offer some excellent ways to keep visitors moving:

  • "Did you mean...?"
  • Popular Categories
  • Search Suggestions or Top Searches

Tip: If you're wondering what to include as your top searches, just check the Site Search report in your Google Analytics.

4. E-commerce Checkout 'Thank You' Page

Would you like to create an account? Or checkout as a guest? Everyone makes the same choice: "I'm here to buy this product, not create an account." There is simply no perceived benefit in creating an account. It's simply a speed bump on the road to checkout. In my experience, it can cost an e-commerce site up to 30% of sales.

On the other hand, if you give people what they want first (the product), they may give you what you want (a new account). So offer to let them create an account after the checkout and tell them what's in it for them. "Save your order history and address for faster checkout next time..."

The results? 40% of visitors who buy also create an account.

Detour: Give buyers a chance to create an account after the purchase.

5. Lead Generation 'Thank You' Page

Success on any lead generation site means the visitor will hit the "thank you" page. But then what? A good "thank you" page sets expectations about what happens next, but it doesn't have to be a dead end.

On the Orbit Media website, we added a "Subscribe to our newsletter" option on this "thank you" page. The result? People use it to subscribe almost every day. We added around 250 new subscribers from this page last year:

Detour: Give visitors an option to subscribe!

Detour: Add links to content that will build even more confidence. Share your service philosophy or best-practices with a link to your About section.

6. Newsletter Signup 'Thank You' Page

Here's another "thank you" page that needs to direct some traffic. A visitor who subscribes to a newsletter already likes you a lot. This is the perfect place to offer a social media connection. After giving you an email address, clicking the "like" button is easy cheese.

Detour: Add a social media widget, like a Facebook box, to this page, giving visitors an opportunity to see which of their friends are your fans. They might like that.

7. 'Page Not Found' 404 Page

Even if you've been very careful when changing the URLs of pages, you may still have a few broken links. Even if you don't some people are still landing on a "404 Page Not Found" page. It's inevitable.

There are many examples of cute, clever, and funny 404 pages. Cute or not, don't make it a dead end.

Detour: As with the "no results" page, give visitors a path forward. Add a short list of links to a popular posts or high-value marketing pages.

Tip: Link to the posts with the highest conversion rate for turning visitors into subscribers. ‎

Reroute Traffic, Then Measure

The goal of every marketing site is to keep visitors flowing through paths of success for themselves and their business. Find places where the flow stops, and then add the detours.

Once you've rerouted traffic, add an annotation into Google Analytics so it will be easy to measure the increase in average pages per visit.

Every page on your site should answer this question: "What would I like my visitors to do next?" And the answer shouldn't be "go somewhere else."

Care to comment? Go straight ahead to the comment section below. Or turn left at one of these related links.

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Andy Crestodina is the Strategic Director of Orbit Media, a Web design company in Chicago. He's also the author of Content Chemistry, An Illustrated Guide to Content Marketing. Connect with Andy on .

Twitter: @crestodina

LinkedIn: Andy Crestodina

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  • by Anupam Bonanthaya Mon Mar 24, 2014 via web

    Good one Andy. I would add one more to the list - testimonials pages ! Most customer testimonials or case study pages ( in case of B2B) are dead ends.

  • by Andy Crestodina Mon Mar 24, 2014 via web

    Hello, Anupam.

    Yes, it's possible that a testimonials page is a dead end, but actually, I don't recommend making a testimonials page at all! If you have testimonials, the best place for them is on the product or service pages. That way they are right there, and serve as supportive evidence. Social proof needs to be near the claim!

    If you look at your Analytics, you may notice that very few visitors go to testimonial pages. So take them out and sprinkle them throughout the site on every page. Testimonials are weak when you put them all together. They're strong when they're spread out...

  • by Anupam Bonanthaya Mon Mar 24, 2014 via web

    agree 1000% !
    you need to take your stories to your audience, and not expect them to come to them. spreading them across the marketing - landing pages, feature pages, home page, sign-up, blog, newsletters, emails, social pages, etc etc is the way to go. and if there is a reason to group them somewhere, or if you need a detailed story/case-study page, then it better not be a dead end - have clear CTA's to get conversion. see a good example in my recent post -

  • by Kimmy Burgess Mon Mar 24, 2014 via web

    Website maintenance should be left to professionals. Most people don't know web coding. The owners should always keep a tab on their site, and suggest proper modifications. It is a wise idea to provide some links to popular posts on not found pages.

  • by RTMLguru Wed Mar 26, 2014 via web

    If you are not grouping keywords correctly on your site then it would be harmful. Within each campaign, you can break down your ads and keywords into ad groups.

  • by Robin Williams Mon Mar 31, 2014 via web

    I must say this article is very informative to all website holder. I am also agree with Mr. Anupam. Testimonials pages is also very important.

  • by Simin Tue Apr 8, 2014 via web

    great article.I definitely enjoyed reading it. thanks for sharing

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