Why Isn’t My Website Making Sales? Troubleshooting Your Digital Marketing

You’ve spent time, energy and money planning your business, developing your product or service, getting your website up, and perhaps running some advertising. You weren’t expecting to immediately dominate your market, but you were expecting something. And yet, when the site goes live, nothing.

You give it a week, get some technical issues on the site sorted. Maybe now people will start buying? Nope. Another couple of weeks (these things take time to get started, right?). Still nothing.

How long should you wait? A month? Two months? Six months?

If your website isn’t making sales, this is not something that you should ignore. Unless you have just started a digital marketing campaign and you haven’t yet given it a realistic chance to succeed, time seldom fixes these issues. If your website is generating zero sales, then giving it another two months of generating zero sales will produce… zero sales.


Something has to change — and fast. But first, you need to identify exactly where things are going wrong. All too often, I get emails from new businesses who are worried that they’ve had zero sales, and they’re planning to rebuild their website, change their product, or do something else drastic. When I look at the stats, the reason they’ve had nothing come in is that they are essentially invisible and their website gets no traffic.

You could be giving away free Lamborghinis, but if no-one is seeing your website, all you’ll have is a warehouse full of Lamborghinis that no one is claiming. Poor you.

When we’re analysing where things are going wrong, we follow a very structured process which mimics the buyer journey. In this post, I’m going to break this journey down for you so that you can identify where your website and digital marketing blockages are, eliminate them, and start picking up those all important new sales.

First thing first: Can customers actually buy anything? Identifying technical website issues

You’ll probably groan, but trust me: I’ve seen groups of very clever people tear their hair out over a marketing campaign that just doesn’t seem to be working, only to find that the contact form or buy button isn’t working properly. No matter how much you have tried and tested your website, you absolutely have to find out the answers to these four questions right now:

  1. Go through the entire process of buying or converting on your website. Does everything work as it should?
  2. If it seems to work okay, next you must check the back end. If you are driving people to a contact form, are you getting the notification emails when people submit the form? We like to use Gravity Forms because it saves all form submissions inside the plugin so you can check whether people are filling the form out even if you’re not getting the notification emails. Sometimes these notification emails get caught by an overenthusiastic spam filter, so you must check.
  3. If you’re selling products, do all of your payment gateways work on all browsers? We once ran an offer via Facebook ads with Paypal as the payment processor. It didn’t seem to be doing as well as we expected and we couldn’t figure out why. Turns out that Paypal was conflicting with the Facebook mobile browser and that people using this mobile browser were unable to checkout using Paypal. The problem is that EVERYONE who clicks on a Facebook ad from the mobile app uses this Facebook mobile browser! Doh! This issue didn’t show up until we tested the payment inside Facebook. Testing via other mobile browsers worked absolutely fine.
  4. Speaking of mobile, does your website work properly on all devices? And by properly, I don’t mean “is it possible to use your website on all devices”. I mean, “is it easy to use for people on all devices?”

Another example I saw recently was a long copy landing page which had a contact form in the right-hand sidebar as the main call to action. On desktop computers, this worked great because the contact form was on the right-hand side of the page, just where the Amazon “buy now” button is. Perfect!

However, on mobile, conversion rates were appalling. Why? Because the sidebar was being forced to the bottom of the page, underneath the long copy. Mobile users who wanted to quickly fill in the form would have to scroll for 10 seconds just to see that there was a contact form at all. No one scrolls for 10 seconds on mobile, not even for a free Lamborghini.

If your website is functioning correctly but you’re still getting no sales or leads, the next step is to examine your traffic.

Am I getting enough traffic?

Ask fifty owners of websites getting more than 500,000 visitors to their websites each month, “who needs more traffic?” What happens? Fifty hands go up. I get it, everyone needs more traffic. But if your website is getting no sales, we need to do some quick maths…

Conversion rates vary between markets and according to the type of visitors you are getting to your website. But there is almost always a way to get at least 1% of your visitors to convert into buyers or leads. Assuming this conservative conversion rate, do you get enough visitors to your website?

If you launched your website and in the first month only brought in 60 visitors, 20 of whom were friends and family, 4 of whom were you testing your website on different devices, should you expect any sales? Probably not. In which case, your next task is to bring in more traffic to your website.

If you are getting visitors in the hundreds, thousands, or even tens of thousands, but you are still not getting any sales, you need to examine the type of traffic to see whether these people should be turning into buyers. In the screenshot from Google Analytics above, notice how the language settings of the visitors is spammy? That indicates that at least some of the traffic the site is receiving isn’t legitimate

Next, check your landing pages. Are people coming in through your blog posts, homepage, or other pages? Blog traffic will often have lower commercial intent because these people are looking for information or advice rather than necessarily to buy.

To check how people are finding your website, click Acquisition, then All Traffic, and then Channels. In the image below, we see that a site which seems to be getting some traffic but just isn’t converting.

Social traffic tends not to convert as well as Organic or Paid Search traffic (of course, there are exceptions), so although we’d have expected the site to be getting some leads from this social traffic, there are no panic stations yet.

The site is also getting a small amount of organic traffic, and these visitors seem to be using the site —  over 3 pages per session and a low bounce rate of 12.82%. So we might expect this organic traffic to have brought in at least one sale so far, right?

On closer examination, we see that not all of this traffic is what it seems. Clicking on Organic Traffic shows us this:

This website owner could do with running some paid search ads to check whether qualified search traffic is likely to buy. If it is, then SEO efforts must be improved to pick up more search traffic as it’s super low at the moment.

If the quality traffic that your website is getting is low, you’ll obviously need to get more high-quality visitors to your website. How do you do this? Well, that’s what the rest of our blog, our books, and our podcast is for! However, in a nutshell, you need to make sure that your website is being seen in the sort of places that people are looking for the thing that you offer.

If you solve a problem or fill a need for someone, the best place to be seen is usually in search engines. So paying the proper attention to SEO is a good medium and long-term game plan. Pay Per Click through Google Adwords and Bing Ads can be a good way to drive search traffic to your site quickly. Although these channels can get expensive if not managed properly, so make sure that the traffic is converting or you might end up out of pocket here.

If you’re selling an impulse product or something that people see and immediately want, then social ads on Facebook, Instagram, and Pinterest could work well for you. Make sure to target the right types of audience, so that the most relevant buyers are seeing your ads.

I’m using a digital marketing agency. What sort of traffic growth should I expect?

As you can imagine, the answer to this question depends on a number of factors:

  • Which channels is the agency using? If they are using fast channels like PPC, you should see signs of life quite quickly because they will be bringing traffic to your website within days. If they are working only on SEO, results will be much slower, but you should still expect to see growth on a monthly basis.
  • How much work are they doing? Cheap digital marketing is synonymous with little or no work, and you are often better learning yourself and going it alone than opting for the cheapest marketing companies who will do little to no work.
  • Are they looking at the big picture? Some digital marketing companies work in only one area and will wash their hands of anything that is not on their patch. Agencies that handle PPC, for example, might bring paid search traffic to your site but might not be able to help if you find this traffic isn’t converting into customers. If you need help in multiple areas, find a company like Exposure Ninja who has expertise across the board.

We’ve written a blog post about agency expectations, but the important thing is that you are seeing constant growth and that this growth is fast enough that you feel encouraged by their work.

If you’re getting traffic to your website and this traffic looks legit, the next step is to see how this traffic is engaging with your website.

Why aren’t my visitors buying? Troubleshooting visitor engagement

It might feel frustrating to be seeing good traffic numbers and no resulting sales but, actually, people in this situation are usually fairly close to success. The hardest part of digital marketing is getting attention in the first place. So now you have visitors, it’s time to figure out how to make them buy.

The first step is to troubleshoot the basics: how long are visitors spending on the website and is there anything that is immediately turning them off?

To check this, we look at bounce rate and session duration inside Google Analytics.

In the example below, you’ll see this very new site has started picking up a small number of new visitors, but they are screaming a collective “Hell no!”:

The top traffic source is Paid Search, which should be well-qualified visitors. But 93.44% of them are leaving the site without visiting a second page, and the average visit length of these folks is just 7 seconds! Either the ads are misleading or the site sucks.

Even our trusty favourite, organic search traffic, which has an absolutely teensy number of visitors so far, still has a high bounce rate.

In this situation, we’d give the site another week or so to pick up more traffic numbers, but early signs don’t look good — clearly something is putting visitors off.

If you find that your bounce rate is high, that average duration is low, and that people aren’t visiting many pages, then you have found your blockage: the first impression your website gives. Check out my blog post on how to reduce bounce rate, and run some user tests to find out what sort of first impression the site is giving people.

It might even be time to start thinking about a new website. If in doubt, request a free marketing review from our super review Ninjas. They’ll tell it like it is and if you need a new website, they’ll tell you.

What if my engagement looks okay?

In the example below, notice how the traffic numbers look okay. Visitors seem happy enough and, projecting our simplistic and conservative conversion rate of 1%, we’d expect 44 conversions (4,445 new users x 1%):

The engagement stats look okay too. The bounce rate on some of those channels looks a little high, but it’s certainly not in the danger zone. In a case like this, clearly people are using the website and, better yet, they aren’t horrendously repelled by what they see.

If this is you, then you are almost there. Victory is so close that you can smell the celebratory pizza. Your visitors are relevant, engaged, and interested. We just have to get them converting.

Why aren’t my visitors enquiring or buying (‘converting’)?

There is only one reason that an interested visitor doesn’t ‘convert’ to a customer or lead on your website:

They haven’t been offered something where the perceived pleasure outweighs the perceived pain to the extent that they are motivated to action.

In other words, either you or the thing you’re selling, is not appealing enough that people want to buy it. 

Is your conversion goal sufficiently appealing?

Your ‘conversion goal’ is the thing that you’re asking people to do on your website. Sometimes this is “Request a free quote”, sometimes it’s “Buy Now”. Basically, what do you want people to DO when they visit your website?

The problem is that most websites’ conversion goals are unclear. Worse, many websites are completely devoid of conversion goals whatsoever.

A struggling service business might treat their website as a passive brochure, where visitors can get information about the services they offer. And that’s it. It’s like a salesperson who just reels off the spec or hands over an information sheet then walks away without ever asking for the sale.

To a website visitor, this approach sounds like:

If you want to buy from me, take the initiative to reach out to me and tell me exactly which of my services you want to buy. You don’t know me and you don’t know if I’m right for you but, once you’ve hunted out my contact details, I’m going to try to sell the hell out of you until you buy. This will feel uncomfortable and weird if you’re not ready yet, so don’t bother getting in contact unless you are ready to buy from me.

ECommerce businesses, meanwhile, can be equally guilty of failing to make their conversion goals sufficiently appealing. Obviously the goal of an eCommerce site is to sell products. But sticking up a single low-res image of each product with a sentence of text and expecting people to buy, is often a leap of faith too far.

To the visitors of many struggling eCommerce websites, here’s what they see:

Here’s a low resolution picture of a product with very little information at a higher price than you can buy it on on Amazon. You’ve never heard of me or my company and I’m going to take you through a long and painful checkout process before charging a fortune for delivery which will take five times as long as Amazon, which, incidentally, you know, like, and trust already. Because you can’t really see the product and don’t really know anything about it, you are taking a big risk by buying it from me. But hey! At least you get to practice putting your contact and payment details into a massive unsecured form.

Maybe that felt a little harsh and you might even be angry. But don’t shoot the messenger. This is not me talking; this is your website visitor. Don’t despair and lose hope. Remember, you are almost there.

Understanding the mindset of your visitors, and particularly their risk perception, will help you to convert them better.

Here’s the message that you need to be delivering in order to absolutely maximise the number that want to buy:

  • [For service businesses] If you have some pain, I want to help you fix it. You don’t need to know anything about my products, nor do you have to have researched what I offer. If you have this problem, I am here to help you and get you on your way. Despite being very valuable to you, this help won’t cost you a penny. It’ll take you less than 10 seconds to get the help you need. Just give me a few details. Once you give me these details, here’s exactly what will happen…
  • [For eCommerce businesses] Here’s the perfect product for people in your situation. You can see it in multiple angles, up close, and get a feel for it which is as close to picking it up and holding it as possible. Here’s a video of someone using it so you can see it in action. Lots of people in your situation have chosen to buy this product from us, and they are happy with their decision both with the product and with their experience of us. Here are their reviews. All of the technical information and advice on how to use it is here. If you’d like to buy it, it’s very good value, the process is very simple, and it’ll be delivered quickly. If you’re not happy with it for any reason, just send it back to us and we’ll give you a refund. As you’re new to us, we’d like to show you how good we are. So here’s an extra special something to welcome you.

Those are the messages your website needs to convey to maximise leads/sales. Many companies decide to dial back or add pre-qualification hurdles, particularly in the case of the service business, to ensure that all of the leads they get are qualified potential clients, particularly if they are offering a free consultation or spending time and money servicing the leads. But if we’re talking about turning around a site that is currently selling nothing, let’s start by casting the widest and most attractive net possible.

A common mistake on sites that are zeroing is expecting the visitor to do all of the work and take on all of the risk. You’ll notice that in both of the good eCommerce and service company messages is that the seller removes as much of the risk as possible. They explain exactly what happens and offers something that appears to be far more valuable than the price that is being asked.

In fact, offering something more valuable than the price that is being asked is the foundation of every successful business transaction. Even if the “price” is “give me your email address” and the transaction is just having someone fill in a lead capture form.

Incidentally, this is why “sign up for our newsletter” is the worst call to action ever invented. The visitor reads it as “give me your email address and prepare to be spammed”.

So if you’re getting website visitors and they’re sticking around on your website but they’re not buying or turning into leads, then you need to look at your calls to action. What are you asking people to do on your website? Does the perceived benefit MASSIVELY outweigh the perceived risk to them?

If you sell something at a high price, or if you sell something which requires some discovery or customisation (like consultancy), going in for the kill straight from your website is not a good idea. Instead, offer your website visitors an easy, desirable first step which opens up a conversation where you can establish the precise need and prescribe the right solution.

Are you using social proof?

Before people buy, they like to know that others in their situation have made the same choice and been happy with that choice. Testimonials and case studies are a great way to do this, as are reviews, both on your website and on third-party sites like Facebook, Google+ and TripAdvisor.

The challenge for new businesses is getting those all-important first reviews. The good news is that you don’t need many: one review is better than none, and you should have a way of getting someone to review your product or service.

One of the things that eCommerce businesses can do to boost the social proof of their websites is to include product videos where a knowledgeable person in the company shows visitors around each product. This should be done in a sensitive way as to avoid coming across overly ‘pitchy’, but as long as the reviewer is clearly knowledgeable and passionate, the effects of these videos can be significant. When I interviewed conversion expert Khalid Saleh on the Exposure Ninja podcast, he mentioned how Skis.com increased their product page conversion rate 30% by adding this type of video.

How can I know for sure what aspect of my website is turning people off?

Recognising which element of your website is preventing people from converting is the first step to fixing it. Here are some ways to identify why people aren’t buying:

Run User Tests

The simplest thing to do is to run some user tests. We like usertesting.com and they have a free taster service (good idea) called peek.usertesting.com. It’s important to recognise that all user tests are slightly biased because a) the testers are sophisticated enough to sign up and install user testing software, so there’s a slight selection bias towards those who are able to do these things, and b) when people are being tested, they tend to give answers which make them seem clever. If they can’t figure out what your site is about, they’ll often start talking about the elements they like or don’t like. Even so, user tests are a useful tool to start with.

Install Live Chat

The next thing you can do is install live chat on your site and have it pop up when people have been on the page a little while. You can start by asking them a question like “How can I help you today?” If they are stuck or unsure about something, this question can get them talking. If you notice that different website visitors all seem to be asking the same questions, this is an indication that there is an issue on your website that needs to be addressed.

Use Exit Popups

Lastly, you can test using an exit popup. This is a type of popup that appears when someone moves to leave your website. You can use this to offer them something enticing to get them to stay or an extra incentive to move forward with you.

Let’s say that you’re an eCommerce business, for example. Your exit popup might include a code for a discount or for free delivery just in case that was the thing preventing the visitor from buying. You might want to offer them a free gift with their purchase just in case they need something to make the perceived reward higher than the perceived risk.

If you’re a service business, your exit popup might include an offer for a webinar or a free download that your visitors can request. Perhaps they weren’t ready to buy yet. But, by offering them something free of charge which is designed to move them closer to their goals, you have a chance to give them something to begin the relationship with you in a low-risk way.

Need some help generating more sales from your website?

Request a free digital marketing review from Exposure Ninja. We’ll take a look at your website, marketing, and competitors and give you honest feedback about what you need to do to get more leads and sales. We’ll even make you a prioritised action plan that you can follow. It’s totally free but it will take us a couple of days to make it for you. This is because each one is made manually by one of our marketing experts — no automated software reports here!

Nothing’s working, I can’t figure it out and I’m desperate!

If you’ve tried everything and yet no-one is converting from your website, it might be time to take a look at your business model or offering. Do you see successful competitors in your market? How is their offering different to yours? Do they have more credibility than you? Is their product or service more appealing than yours?

Taking an honest look like this can be painful. But guess what? It’s nowhere near as painful as quitting. So ask for feedback from people far enough away from your business that they will tell you straight up. Pay a target customer to give you honest feedback about what they do and don’t like. Make it clear to them that you are paying for the honesty not for praise.

If you’re at a complete loss, then be sure that you’ve asked yourself these questions…

  • Are customers buying/signing up/contacting? If so, why? If not, is it clear that they are supposed to take the action that you want them to take?
  • Does the perceived benefit of this action outweigh the cost?
  • Premium products have to bring a premium benefit. Premium is about more than a high price tag, and the product or service quality must not only justify the high price tag, but communicate the difference clearly on the website.
  • Do your product pages SELL? In other words, are you getting visitors to them but no one is buying?
  • Try selling at cost price. This is obviously not sustainable in the long-term, but in the short-term it will tell you if it’s price which is putting people off.
  • Is there social proof? Can you add more reviews, testimonials and case studies to show that purchasers were successful and happy as a result of their purchase?
  • Is there enough demand for this product or service? How do you know? Check to see if your competitors are running Google adverts for the phrases that you are targeting, as this shows that these searches have commercial intent (i.e. result in purchases being made).
  • Do you see successful competitors?

…And be sure to do these things:

  • Don’t rely on your BRAND if you’re a new company. Brand equity is built over time and with multiple touch points. If you are a new brand, your brand equity is essentially zero, so you will have to work harder to sell your products than established competitors. Accept this, and get on with selling.
  • Run user tests and have testers analyse your site and your successful competitors’ websites. Don’t let the testers know which website you run, because you want their most honest feedback.
  • Add live chat, and see what people are asking about. This can guide you to the extra information you need to provide on your website and show you the common sticking points that visitors are facing.
  • Add an exit popup with a discount to tempt back those who have decided to leave.

If you’re still lost, if you still have no idea why you’re not making sells, then it’s time to contact us. Request a website and marketing review and let’s get this turned around.

Tags: digital marketing

About the Author

Tim is Head Ninja at Exposure Ninja and Europe's bestselling online marketing author.When he's not Ninja-ing he's playing in his band, going to the gym with his wife or fixing the destruction caused by their three fur babies, Ninja, Samurai and Shinobi.