Is Your PayPal Button Hurting Conversions?

Take a look at this screen shot of a shopping cart page. Can you spot the 2 conversion killers?

Time’s up.

Need a hint?

Cart button styling

Of the 5 calls to action, the checkout button is the smallest of them all. PayPal and Google Checkout, while important CTAs, are placed in the bottom right corner (the conventional placement for Checkout or Continue buttons), styled larger than the checkout button and visually separated in a box. The poor and lowly checkout button is styled the same as secondary calls to action, “Get estimate” and “Continue shopping” = a big no-no. The alternative payment options may appear to be the only checkout options at a glance. Because a good chunk of online shoppers prefer to use a credit card, this could be responsible for many lost sales and future customers.

PayPal tagline

It’s crucial to communicate security in your checkout, as it’s one of the top anxieties shoppers have about purchasing online. This e-tailer does not use a “Secure Checkout” label or a lock icon to indicate security. This is an Internet Retailer 500 site, and a well known brand, so maybe its reputation overcomes this FUD (fear, uncertainty, doubt). However, the PayPal tagline “The safer, easier way to pay” may actually undermine the perceived safety of the site, suggesting PayPal is safer than regular checkout. In other words, checking out with a credit card carries risk.

I could have posted many more shots of top retailers making the same design mistakes. Instead, I’ll show you 2 who are doing it right.

Exhibit A is eBags, who styles its checkout button large, and stacks alternative payment buttons below. Notice eBags chose the PayPal button without the tagline. (I would ditch the horizontal line break, however).

Exhibit B is Alibris. Instead of a cart button, the user is presented with radio buttons that present the PayPal and credit card options clearly.

Which is the better approach? That’s a good candidate for an A/B test.

Is it always wrong to use the PayPal button with the tagline? If you only offer PayPal, no credit cards, it’s a good value proposition. Go ahead and use it.


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19 Responses to “Is Your PayPal Button Hurting Conversions?”

  1. Chris says:

    Great post, and something a lot of companies don’t even consider. An absolute essential to increasing conversion rate.

  2. Wow, great example! I can’t believe that the first screen capture is from an Internet Retailer 500 site. It’s truly amazing that someone on their staff hasn’t looked into this before.

    I was going to say that there may have been some sort of arrangement made between the merchant and PayPal in order to promote the PayPal option. However, the Google Checkout button is just as large as the PayPal button, and both absolutely overwhelm the regular checkout button.

    A real eye opener. Thanks for this post.

    – Mike from

  3. Viktor says:

    without PayPal you would loose more Conversion as you loose that way here described!

  4. Thanks for the great post, Linda. It’s amazing how often the obvious goes unnoticed. Shameless plug: We have a good thread going on in the Visitor Centric community right now about the proper implementation of paypal if anyone interested:

  5. Himagain says:

    Luckily, being rich and eccentric, I don’t need to do all these complicated analyses…………….
    BUT I thought a Paypal button very conspicuously placed was a big confidence booster, as it is both extremely well-known AND well-reputed (if not by the cognoscenti).

    I was so amazed by this reverse idea, I immediately real-world tested it on my private list. 88% of them buy via Paypal by choice and 16 indicated that they do not trust “house” finance services at all. (I don’t, either.)

    As this always interesting blog is for the flogging-cognoscenti, it would be interesting if members commented on their own buying habits, here.


  6. I don’t think that the top example is TOO bad. It would be awesome of that Checkout button was really big and colored like eBag’s page but besides that, I thought it was fine. With respect to PayPal, I find it so much easier to use this for my transactions. I buy literally everything online and a good majority of the stores I buy from have the PayPal checkout option. With this option, my credit card and shipping information are all saved and it makes the order process that much simpler. I don’t have to type anything in, I don’t have to worry about the website having security flaws. I feel like it increases my impulse buys because it’s just a few clicks and I’m done. Also, you’re protected by PayPal incase something does go wrong.

    P.S. I’ve never seen your blog before today and your content is quite interesting.



  7. Himagain says:

    Hi Linda,
    How do you get time to read your own blog?
    The effort today to keep up with the two entirely different areas of science and market-fashions out in the Cyberbog is immense.
    I follow a rule from the last century (1900′s) which works in all areas of life and was most valuable when Kylneth first taught me as I sank out of sight in the information explosion in the 70′s:
    “Before you add a new anything, something of equal weight must be discarded to make room.”
    Today, I do that with blogs.
    Dropped three for yours.

    But I do miss the more controlled atmosphere of the Bulletin Boards and their continuity, where supported dissension was often the great leveller.

    Thanks for the fact-based posts here of yours, they are good – maybe that’s why not much dissension in the comments??? :-)

    Read you soon,

    • Hi Himagain,

      Thanks for your kind words about the blog. We’ve never had much commentary here on the blog relative to discussion boards – I suspect it’s because a lot of folks have a large feed reader and commenting requires visiting the website from an email or RSS reader – an extra click. Also, a subscriber is different than a forum member because the forum member joined the forum specifically to talk :) Also, I don’t always post with a lead in to a discussion (e.g. sign off with a “what do you think”?) which maybe I should do more of.

      A final reason, I suspect, why there’s not more discussion here is I have to moderate the comments due to spam, so sometimes comments appear a bit late on the site. I want to make sure comments with links to offensive sites don’t see the light of day here. We seem to get a lot of them in the middle of the night :(

      • Himagain says:

        Hi Linda,
        I think the main problem is dilution. Once upon a time – before you were maybe born – :-) getting access to the original Bulletin Boards was a privilege. In the beginnings, it was a complex business to set up and run one. Also expensive.
        Today, there are almost as many Blogs as readers out there……
        A classic needle in a haystack problem, coupled with the ever-shrinking standards of educational discipline.
        Twittering (if ever a description was apt!) is the extent of most peoples ability to interact, I’m beginning to believe.

        But I find a few gems from time-to-time and this is one. Don’t go away.


        • Himagain,

          There is a set of discussion boards for conversion optimization topics at We call them the community forums, but I believe this is the type of interaction you’ve been describing.


          • Himagain says:

            Hi Tod,
            Yes, this is the classic structure. Of course, they require a LOT of minding and can dilute quickly from too many optional areas, but under good control are the most useful of general access …. fora(?)(forums).

            BUT most of all, they require the obtaining of participants, as per my earlier comment on “dilution”, whereas the blog requires intelligent commentary by the owner, consistently and constantly. So they tend to go away after a while having said all they have to(can) say on their precise subject.

            BTW – been there, done that – signed up. Your board looks consistent and uncluttered.

  8. Am looking to revise my e-commerce methods- and found this excellent blog while searching for information (have just subscribed!) Thanks!
    Noted that the 2 payment examples shown are 2 common: but would it not be so – that retailers such as ALibris & Amazon do the ‘payment choice’ (along with shipping/billing choices) because you have to sign in to buy from them? And isn’t the A example what most people expect from an e-commerce shopping cart where you don’t have to log in or register, but just stop by and purchase? So, a thought occurred to me in looking at these examples & comments; would it increase conversion and diminish ‘FUD’ by not only adding your previously mentioned ‚ÄúSecure Checkout’ label or a lock icon to indicate security”, but also, to try adding your own ‘Checkout tagline’ in the same way PayPal does? A tagline note under a large checkout button that says “Secure Checkout SSL Verified” or a button that reads “Proceed to Our Secure Checkout” or some such phrase, with site verification info being visible close by on that same page.
    Would that be another option to try? Has anyone tested that as an option to see if it increases conversion?

    • Hi Stephanie, I agree there should be counter-fud messaging about secure checkout, my concern with the PayPal button is it suggests PP is more secure than regular credit card checkout, which arouses concern about the regular checkout in *some* people.

      I think the Alibris / Amaozon approach works with non-accounts too. It’s a workflow design.

      • Himagain says:

        Hi Linda,
        Actually, the Paypal method is quite clever. A good marketing tactic as it promotes itself and actually does as you surmised: subtly knocks the competition.
        How did they get to this preeminence so quickly against massive opposition?
        The ol’ K.I.S.S. principle.

        Even today, many online traders hate them for their autocratic ways and the danger that by their own competitors – not the consumers – can have their business crippled overnight. (In a manner that suggests a completely illegal method, if one reads further on it.)

        But, anyone not using their services today, would certainly be throwing an enormous percentage of their sales out with the bathwater…

  9. Hi Linda -
    What I was suggesting was to create your shopping cart using an alternate version of the PayPal button without the tagline -
    (see examples: ) – AND to create your own button for your shop that has a tagline of it’s own that subtly suggests that YOUR shop button is better than PayPal… Wouldn’t that take care of what you were concerned about? Or am I missing something?

  10. Hi Linda,

    I stumbled across your post by accident and am very thankful for doing so. As the Director of Communications at (an Internet Dutch Auction marketplace) I get updates as to how our LiveChat function is being used on a Daily Basis and the two most asked questions we receive are: “How do I pay without using PayPal.” and “Is Pricefalls secure?”

    Thank you very much for this post, not only is the information relevant but the comments after were also very helpful.



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