7 Dead Ends On Your Website …and 10 Detours That Will Keep Your Visitors Moving

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Andy Crestodina

There’s a report in your Analytics called ‘User Flow.’ It’s a beautiful, but difficult report to read. It combines a lot of data, showing how visitors move throughout your site.


Honestly, I’ve never really gotten actionable insights from this report, but there’s one part of this report that has taught me a lot: the name, ‘User Flow.’

Think about that word, FLOW.

Visitors flow through your website or they don’t. They keep moving, or they hit a dead end. Sadly, most websites are filled with dead ends. Pages where the flow stops are where visitors are most likely to leave.

Here are seven of those dead ends 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.

These are all huge missed opportunities that are easy to fix by adding a simple detour.

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, and 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 two words “no results” is another dead end. This dead end is especially bad since it may surprise or frustrate visitors.

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

  • Top Searches

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

4. Ecommerce 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 on an ecommerce site. It’s a speed bump on the road to checkout. In my experience, it can cost an ecommerce site up to 30% of their 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. Don’t force them to.

5. Lead Generation Thank You Page

Success on any lead generation site means the visitor hits 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.

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

Re-Route Traffic, Then Measure

You work hard to drive traffic. It’s a lot of work to steer people toward your site. 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 that visit? Or is your site sending them down one-way, dead-end streets?

The goal of every site is to keep visitors flowing through paths of success for themselves and the business. Find places where the flow stops and add detours. If the detour was a subsequent action that creates another thank you page dead end, add another detour.

Once you’ve re-routed 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 “leave my website.”

Care to comment? Go straight ahead to the comment section below.

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Comments (13)
  • Andy, I loooooooove this. Thank you for re-sharing on LinkedIn tonight! Sharing with my team during tomorrow’s weekly call.

    • Thanks, Paige! I’m glad you liked this one. And yes, I’m sharing a bit more on LinkedIn lately. Working on amping up my social activity a bit!

  • Hello,

    I am very happy to visit this website and read the great information that you present. Thank you

  • Congratulations on the bylined Tribune article. Well-deserved. Now, how about a regular column in Crain’s?

  • Many great tips! I knew you from IIT courses. And keep reading the posts, may I ask a tiny question? In 3. Guidelines for…, the hyplink, is it better if the link is set up as ” open in a new tab/window”?. For me, I click that link during I read the post, and I need to go back and right click the link and then read the post and the 3 guidelines for XXX.


  • Great post, Andy. Especially as we are all always updating/changing our sites. Wonderful reminders.

  • Thanks Andy, great ideas! I’ve put two things to my to-do list: add new links to popular posts and include a link to past newsletters for my subscriber thank you page.

    • Yes, Susie! Put links to your best stuff on your thank you pages. Or have us do it for you. 🙂

  • Great tips, thank you! I particularly like the one about revisiting old blog posts and adding in links to newer ones – something I can put into practice straightaway on a series I’m writing about English idioms.

    • Very few bloggers do this. Everyone knows they should link from new content to old content, but almost no one remembers to go back to old posts and link to the new ones!

      If you want your new content discovered, why not link to it from past (and sometimes popular) posts! Which reminds me… I need to create a link or two to this one. 🙂

      • Hey Andy… Great tip. Whats the best way to link new content to old blogs?

        • When you post something new, you can quickly find old posts to link to it by using Google to search your site. For example, if you wrote a new post on armadillos, you could search for linking opportunities by entering this into Google…

          site:www.yoursite.com armadillos

          That will show you every page on your site that uses that word. Each of those is an opportunity to link to the new page!

          • The tip about adding links to traffic-generating older posts was also my favorite tip – immediately emailed it to myself so I’d remember! Thanks for always giving new, actionable ideas.

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