Over the years, I’ve done a lot of work with form optimization. In this article, I’ll cover some tried and true form optimization tips. I’ve done most of my testing on the PPC side, but obviously, the information can also be used effectively to improve overall form conversions on websites.

1.  Include A Privacy Line

In general, a privacy line below the form helps with overall conversions. Try something like “we respect your privacy” or “we do not provide information to third parties”. Other variables we’ve tested around the lead form do not increase conversions as much as this one does. Here, it’s the trust factor that tends to increase form conversion rates.

2.  Go For Fewer Form Elements

Think of gathering information from a client not as an event but as process. The idea is to ease into a relationship with your prospects — you do not want to startle or put buyers on edge by asking too many questions.

For example, with a client who sells windows that block out loud city noises, we obtain basic information like name, email and phone number and follow up with an automated email that requests more information like the size and shape of windows (we provide easy diagrams in a follow up email).

Note: it’s best to send follow up emails sooner rather than later as a hot prospect is better than a cold one. In my testing, the sweet spot is between 3 to 5 fields.

3.  Take Up Less Space With Form Fields

Don’t leave a lot of space in between form fields. The game is to have fewer elements on the page (as I mentioned in #2) and to try to incorporate more elements into a smaller space. Here are a couple ideas:

  • Try 2 elements per line to take up less space. For example, ask for first/last name in one field rather than asking for the information in two separate fields.
  • Reduce the amount of space between each form field.

Take a look at the Criteo.com screenshot below as an example:

4.  Use Optional Form Fields

Use optional fields on your form to decrease the amount of information requested from the get-go from prospects. Prospects are able to provide more information if they’d like but they are not forced to.

One of my favorite “formulas” is the five-field form with 3 required fields and 2 optional ones. Take a look at suggestions below for some ideas:

  • Name – required
  • Email – required
  • Phone number – required
  • City – optional
  • State – optional

5. Try A Two-Page Lead Form

Another great option is to use a two-page strategy. Again, encompasses the idea of not moving too fast.

A good analogy to think of here is dating. If you ask your date 100 questions right off the bat, you’re likely to freak out them out and not get a second date. It’s a far more effective to ask questions over a longer period of time (like over a second or third date) than to pounce all over your poor date the second you meet.

Criteo.com uses this strategy effectively. Take a look at the screenshots below:

Page 1 of form:

Page 2 of form:

Note: Two and even three page forms can convert better than one page ones.

6.  Include A Lead Form Above The Fold

In our testing, the best place lead forms convert is in the upper right hand corner of page. I like to include a form at the bottom of the page even if it’s below the fold as it emphasizes the call to action and doesn’t hurt overall conversion figures.

7.  Use Compelling Words On Submit Buttons

Specific and benefit-oriented wording like “get a free obligation quote now” and “get a quote now” tends to convert better than “click here” or a “submit” buttons.

Weaving benefits into the buttons is also an excellent way to reiterate benefits. You’ll likely have many wording ideas so the key idea is to test different ones.

8. Design Buttons That Convert

My absolute favorite button colors are orange and blue, as they tend to provide the best conversions. To determine appropriate button size/wording on buttons, step away from your computer and glance at your screen.

If size is appropriate, you should be able to see both buttons and wording on buttons if you’re walking by the computer. Optimizing for a smaller screen is best to ensure both laptop and desktop users can see buttons.

As I was writing this article, I attended a session on Form Optimization session at PubCon Las Vegas 2011. The final two quick form optimization tips are  from Brad Geddes’s presentation:

9.  Sentence casing is better than phrase casing

10.  Don’t ever use CAPTCHA on forms

Opinions expressed in the article are those of the guest author and not necessarily Search Engine Land.

Related Topics: Channel: SEM | Paid Search Column

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About The Author: was recently voted the 2013 Most influential SEM. She is the Vice President of Online Marketing Strategy at Page Zero Media where she focuses on search engine marketing strategy, landing page optimization (LPO) and conversion rate optimization (CRO).

Connect with the author via: Email | Twitter | Google+ | LinkedIn



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  • ChrisBridgett

    Hi Mona. I took a look at Page Zero’s website and was just wondering why there was no utilization of landing page forms (or even a contact form!), seeing as though you clearly know what you’re talking about when it comes to them? Also, how come the request quotation forms are so long-winded? I realise you need certain information from people to quote accurately, but surely it’d be easier to just take people’s details and contact them to find out more? That way you/your salespeople can further sell the product via phone/email instead of being limited to what the generic copy might have to say about a service or product on the website.

    I was expecting to see some form masterpieces on your site, but.. no!

  • http://twylah.com/experienceads Evan W.

    All that’s wonderful but if you don’t split test the page elements you are clueless!

  • http://www.acodez.in A.S.

    Completly agree with your points.A 4 four field form(name, email, phone, requirements) like in http://hayathproperties.com/kannur/ usually works best for us.Also a big button does the trick best.

  • kate

    I would add ‘don’t ask for any information that you don’t absolutely need’. You may need 20 pieces of information to segment your database, but your customer doesn’t care about that and will abandon form-fill if you ask for too much.

  • http://www.searchscientist.co.uk Louise McCartan

    Why not use CAPTCHA on forms? Surely it prevents a lot of spam enquiries.

  • http://www.turnthepage-onlinemarketing.com Robby

    I love this informative post this is full of useful landing page conversion tips. Like Louise I am a little surprised by the “no captcha” recommendation. I think I get it though – nothing should get in the way of a potential lead. Correct?

  • http://www.bgtheory.com Brad Geddes

    Captchas reduce good leads more than spam. You can use hidden fields to filter out spam bots by making rules for if hidden is filled out, then spam. If not, then pass through.

    I recently updated a video on creating forms that you can see on YouTube: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=CIZS3x-IF9Q&feature=youtu.be&hd=1

  • http://www.site-seeker.com Levi Spires

    What about placement on the page? Contact forms just under the header on the right side of the page seem to convert better than other placements.

    – Levi

  • http://www.evolution-seo.co.uk Kevin Gallagher

    HI,

    Its great that you say not to use captchas. Which I totally agree users just don’t like them even the thought of entering the one below is putting me of commenting lol.

    I think a lot of people use them as an anti spam measure. If we don’t use them how would we combat spam do you think?

  • DarioStereo

    Is this based on actual user testing, or just your experience tuning landing pages with PPC campaigns (which I would assume is based on A/B testing)?

  • http://Www.jonnyross.com jonnyross

    Hi Mona

    Some good advice, but I’m interested to hear more about captcha codes… Surely there is a place for them? One example is on here placing a comment!

    Or is your advice not to use them ever?

    Jonny

  • http://www.iamstevetay.com Steve Tay

    Great post Mona thanks for sharing this, excellent points.

    Also, thanks to Mr. Geddes for giving insight on the “No Captcha” rule.

  • Mona Elesseily

    @ChrisBridgett, Busted! Good job! You’re right our form is not best practice. We have an entire site redesign in the works including a much improved form, but it’s woefully behind schedule. Our client work always seems to get in the way!

    @EvanW, I agree with you, forms absolutely should be tested. Don’t just believe the “best practices”. Your mileage will vary. That said, you have to start somewhere and then move on to testing/optimizing. What better way to start than the best practices that have proven effective in the past? I’d start my testing regimen with the number of elements per form, the required vs. not required fields, etc.

    @Levi Spires, The answer was above in the article under point #6, specifically I advised “the upper right hand corner of page”

    @Kevin Gallagher, you can use hidden fields but they can sometimes be circumvented by the more clever spambots. Another approach is to use a technology with fancy client-side scripts that make it hard for spambots to impersonate a real user. I’ve heard for example that users of the landing page testing platform Unbounce get very little spam because their Javascript overlay isn’t executed by the spambots.

    @DarioStereo, It’s been our experience that additional fields like CAPTCHAs lower the conversion rate on forms.

    @jonnyross, Sure, there’s a place for CAPTCHAs – anywhere where you don’t care much about the drop in form conversion rate. And this comment form absolutely qualifies as one of those places. Not that I want to dissuade any of you commenters! ;)

  • http://callboxinc.com Judy Caroll

    Hi,

    Very helpful! We all need to have an engaging landing page since it’s the first page our visitors view. And when we succeed in getting their attention through this, we can lead them them to click onto other pages of our websites. When our visitors become aware of what we are/what we do, it’s more likely that they will share the word further to promote us. Thanks for the tips!

    Al the best,

    Judy

  • http://twitter.com/ChiragChhita Chirag chhita

    Great post! You mention that you should never use CAPTCHA, but what alternative would you suggest? We get millions of page views a month and would get thousands of spam submissions if we turned off CAPTCHA entirely.  

  • Brian harris

    Hi Moda,

    Great post well written, I have recently implemented a few of the technique above such as less field on our contact us form, works wonders on my new
    online fashion
    site.

  • http://www.fashionox.com/ fashionox

    @1360b315c6388fbae572cf04d82410c4:disqus  I understand your frustration I took have this same problem, I do not get millions of page views daily but I do get a lot of spam with CAPTCHA turned off.

    It will be interesting to hear any suggestion the community comes up with ;)

    Great post by the way Mona really enjoyed

 

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