How do you make a form convert higher? What are the universal best practices?
Yesterday I spoke to a lead who told me that people visiting his site never filled out the form. On a recent project through illuminea.com, an agency where I work part-time, we also recently had a customer who told us that the form was a useless method of contact because he never got any leads from it.
The problem with both of these marketers is that they misidentified the cause of the problem. Their forms were aweful. In the one case, there were over a dozen fields, the button read submit, and the form was submerged below content. In the other case, things were even worse with a captcha and a ‘clear form’ button.
Here are 7 best practices to maximize your forms’ conversion rate:
1) Minimize the number of form fields.
That doesn’t mean only ask for email, it means to ask for the minimum necessary for your business. In some cases, that’s just email, but more commonly you also want the name, position in the company, size of the company, phone, whether they also want to subscribe to your newsletter (in case off a lead gen form offering something like a whitepaper), etc.
Why it works: People want to expend the least amount of effort. Indulge them.
2) Message match.
The source of the traffic to the form should use the same call to action as the title of the page, the title of the form (if there’s a separate one) and the text of the button. Don’t use a button that reads “submit.”
Ex.: If your ad says “download a free whitepaper,” then your landing page title, form title and form submission button should also say “download a free whitepaper.” You can test alternatives like get instead of download or add “now” or “today” but you shouldn’t have it read “give me guidance” even if that’s one of the topics of the whitepaper. Why not? Because it’s not what they came for.
Why it works: You’re fulfilling your promise, which alternative language commonly fails to do.
Note: Check out also Oli Gardner’s useful best practices on calls-to-action.
3) Eliminate distractions like navigation, blog sidebars, long copy etc.
Anything that can take people’s attention away from the form will… and if they leave the page with a link or if they lose focus, your form will convert fewer people.
This also goes for extra copy – get the fold to start above the fold by cutting down copy to the minimum necessary for clarity.
Why it works: This increases focus and again makes it easier to convert.
4) Use appropriate reassurances.
If you’ve got a lead gen form, telling people that your content has been seen elsewhere (popular trade publications or mainstream media) helps.
Why it works: It takes away uncertainty about the quality of the content they’re about to download, or your trustworthiness.
If you’re in e-commerce, reassuring people about the safety of your site with security logos and SSL encryption (visible in modern browsers’ URL bars) helps.
Why it works: This best practice removes hesitation about the security of people’s credit card info online.
5) Improve the offer with a bonus.
This should really be number one since the quality of your offer is the key driver of conversions (think how many hoops people would jump through for a free Lamborghini). The other issues are just more common, unfortunately.
Why it works: You’re increasing people’s main motivation for filling out your form.
If you need a phone number without dashes – say so. Or better yet, provide three fields for the phone number and auto tab once one has been completed.
If there’s a password required, state whether you need numbers or disallow certain characters above, beside or below the field. Don’t only show it afterward as an error.
Why it works: It prevents frustration and encourages correct filling in from the start. After a person made an error, they’re less likely to complete the form if it’s your fault.
7) Avoid obstacles like captchas and traps like “clear form” buttons.
Captchas frustrate your prospects and clear form buttons get accidental clicks by people trying to submit the form. Forcing someone to restart is the opposite of what you want to do!
Why it works: You’re again keeping work to a minimum and making it easy on your prospects.
In sum: Keep it simple, provide the best possible offer from the get-go and eliminate excess.