Webform Optimization

7 years ago by
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There's nothing quite as frustrating for a digital marketer as having a well-built campaign fail because of poor attention to seemingly minute details. You see it all too often: whether it's an email with the wrong text-only content, a newsletter that passes the wrong parameter to your analytics software, or a banner that links to an online event that has already happened.

Of all the ostensible minutia, one blunder bothers me more than the rest. What is it? Online forms with too many fields.

I'm not just being hyperbolic (well, maybe a little), but form length is a real conversion killer. To illustrate this point, take a look at the graphic to the left.

At the top you have 1000 visitors to your homepage. Maybe they came in through organic search, from a referring site, or through a campaign. But no matter how they came in, you want them to convert. Only you know (or should) how many actually make it to a specific content page or conversion page, but for the purposes of argument, let's say 20% click through to one of these pages.

The race is not over. Next, the visitor sees your content, reads your pitch and might be interested enough to learn a little more. If you're hitting 15%, you're doing better than most. But that 15% represents only 3% of the visitors who started. I don't know what 1000 visitors is worth to you, but in my industry a qualified visitor could be worth a lot of money. Letting them fall through the cracks is simply unacceptable.

Form length comes into play because every additional field decreases the number of people willing to fill it out--it simply becomes too much of a commitment.

The VP of Marketing at marketing automation provider Marketo, recently published a case study based on the results of the company’s own lead generation efforts. He described how the company had created three different forms: a “short form” with five fields, a “medium form” with seven fields, and a “long form” with nine fields, and used these on three different versions of a landing page.

Marketo’s experiment showed the following results: Short Form:
  • Conversion rate 13.4%
  • Cost per conversion $31.24
Medium Form:
  • Conversion rate 12.0%
  • Cost per conversion $34.94
Long Form:
  • Conversion rate 10.0%
  • Cost per conversion $41.90

In essence, your cost per conversion goes up $1.50 - $3.50 for every field you add. Or, to put it a different way, your conversion rate declines by about 1% for every field you add. Clearly, shorter is better.

The question then becomes: How do you optimize a form. Take, for example, the form below.

Ten fields? Sure, we've all seen worse... on a college application. Seriously, though, this isn't nearly the worst I've seen. But it does present a good opportunity.

The first option to optimize this would be to simply remove the non-required fields. That would still leave us with seven fields, too many, but better.

The next option might be to institute progressive profiling. Progressive profiling is a service offered by most marketing automation tools (Marketo, Eloqua, etc.) that automatically displays new form fields to prospects based on the data points you have previously collected from them. So, if the prospect has already been to your site and filled out a form, she will be directed to fill out a form with different fields on the next visit. This will allow you to serve fewer fields in the first place.

There are actually many tools on the Internet that help you optimize your forms. Just today I spoke with an SaaS vendor with a that feeds data about the visitor's organization (like company name, size, etc.) to the site through an API so the site can display relevant content and eliminate now-redundant fields. Pretty cool.

Hopefully you now have a few more tricks to help you eliminate fields and increase conversions. If you're interested in learning more, I recommend Forms that Work: Designing Web Forms for Usability.

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