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Best Practices for Building High-Converting Forms

Forms are the primary call to action for most landing pages. They exist to entice visitors to provide their information typically in exchange for a piece of content. Sure, you can put together a quick form and slap it on your website and just wait for the leads to start rolling in but my guess is, they won't. 

Now you've wasted time and energy building and publishing a form that no one is going to fill out, never mind whatever piece of content or giveaway you created for the other side of that form. 

How to Build High-Converting Landing Page Forms

Optimizing forms isn't nearly as complicated as some of the meatier marketing projects, but it can have a large impact. If you have 1,000 new visitors to your site a month, a 5% conversion rate only gets you about 50 people a month. That's assuming those are all quality leads (hint: they never are). 

Now, boost that number to 20% and you have 200 leads rolling in a month. If only 1/3 of those are good leads in your target market, it makes a dramatic difference in filling your pipeline and keeping the sales team busy. 

To get started, we will review the initial planning phase, then move on to form creation, and finally, my favorite part, testing and optimizing!

Step One: Set your Goal & Baseline

To get the greatest number of submissions, you need to continuously change, optimize, and measure the performance of your forms. But to do that effectively, you have to start with a baseline. How will you know what works if you don’t have something to compare it to?

What to track & measure:

  • The total number of new visitors
  • Conversion rate percentage
  • Bounce Rate

Depending on the tools you are using, whether it's marketing software or Google Analytics (preferablly a combination of a few) you will gather this data different ways.

Step Two: Build Your Forms

1. KISS: Keep It Short & Simple

Every question you ask is an obstacle to that person getting what they want.

Keep fields at an absolute minimum. If your offer is really good, you can ask for a little more information. But 3 fields is optimal for highest conversion rate.

Don’t believe it? Neil Patel increased his conversion rate by 26% just by getting rid of one field.

2. Make the Offer Clear.

Tell people exactly what they are getting. Is it a white paper, newsletter, or infographic? Whatever it is, let people know. If possible, include a short video introducing the offer, or a freebie sample of what they will be getting. Be sure to include any disclaimers on the bottom of the form.

3. Only One Form Per Offer.

In order to feature exactly what they will be getting, you need to create a new form for each offer you have. Yes, you will have a lot of forms by the time you are done. But doing this will ensure your visitors are never confused about what you are giving them in exchanging for their information. 

Plus, you'll find form analytics to be simpler and more straightforward with separate forms.

4. Make Them Stand Out!

Make sure the CTA button on your form stands out and can easily be seen. And for heaven’s sake, don’t just put “Submit.”

What will they get when they submit the form?

  • “Start My Free Trial”
  • “Get My White Paper”
  • “Sign Up for the Newsletter”

In addition to your button standing out on the form, your form needs to stand out on the page.  It should never have to compete with a busy webpage. The surrounding text and images should exist to drive people to the form.

5. It better be easy.

Highlight required fields clearly, and ask only the pertinent information for what you are offering. Field names need to be explicit; “Name” doesn’t tell me if you want first, last or both. Eliminate any friction. Make it as simple as possible for your visitors to fill out your form.

Step Three: Test, Measure, Test

Now that you have your forms created, you want to make sure you are consistently analyzing and optimizing them. 

Test things like:

  • Submit button messages
  • Drop downs vs checkboxes
  • Number of form fields
  • Submit button colors
  • What info you ask for
  • Even what kind of content you are offering!

There's no definitive rule on what you should test, but you only want to select one thing at a time or you won't know what to contribute the results to. 

Make sure you gather and analyze your data for a set period of time. Gather monthly data over a quarter, or 3 months, to compare. A month is the bare minimum that you want to test, and it's best if you can test the same months year after year (ex. August-Oct 2013 vs Aug-Oct 2014). 

Three months in the summer will have different results than November, December, and January. If that isn't feasible, than the longer you can gather data, the better your results will be. Run tests for the same amount of time (in this case, 3 months). After gathering all the data, compare each month individually and then the quarter as a whole to see what improved or didn't improve. 

This is why it is important to gather form views and form submissions, as well as the quality of each lead and their conversion from one phase in the sales funnel to the next. 

There are times when one figure will get worse, but what really matters will improve. For example, you may find that adding more form fields decreases the number of submission but increases the quality of those leads. This doesn't mean you would immediately go and change all your forms; there are offers and pages where you find a longer form is more appropriate. You may change that form, then move on to another one and play with the wording on the submit button. Again, run the test for the same amount of time that you gathered data for. 

Continuous Improvement

There are a myriad of possibilities to ensure you are always improving your forms, as they are a critical component of building your funnel, and you never quite know what works until you test it.

What have you found to increase your conversion rate that surprised you?

Written by Samantha McCollough / October 6, 2014

Writer. Reader. Lover of naps, dogs, sunshine and ironic humor. Samantha's specialties include SEO, content marketing, and rescuing turtles in the road. Oh, and she's a #marketing engineer... with an artistic flair.

Articles by Samantha McCollough