In many ways, online lead forms make and break an organisations marketing efforts. They’re the sharp end, the stage at which the end user – potentially a prospect who has been in your sales pipe for months or even years – is about to give you their precious contact details. Get this critical web element wrong, and your marketing efforts will yield poorer results, and thus ROI. Get them right and you can outcompete your competition on performance marketings sharpest metric. So how do we get them right?
We recognised the critical importance of lead forms conversion rates when we built the FunnelFuel B2B web analytics platform. This is a collection of critical data points which are often hard to truly capture. Capturing rich data like how long a user hovers over a form before they start filling it, how long it takes to fill, where the drop-off’s happen, what percentage of user start the processing of filling the form, how many re-submit the form and how the form performs with different surrounding content (A/B testing) are all data points that we have advised before, are very difficult to extra from Google Analytics
So when we identified the seven easiest ways to improve your online forms conversion rates we have our logical starting point;
1. Start by ensuring you collect the data that you need in order to make informed decisions
There’s any number of reasons why your form isn’t converting as highly as you’d like, and without collecting the sort of data that we outlined above, then we’re shooting blind. Lets look at some of the data that we require and what it can tell us;
What percentage of users start filling the form gives us an insight into how strong our calls to action are, how enticing our offer is and how the visual presentation of the form impacts a users perception on the process of filling it in. It is critical that this is measured only against users who have scrolled deep enough to see the form – which is a key differentiation with our analytics. This metric ideally wouldn’t look at page views divided by form starts, and instead needs to look at form element (the web page element that contains the form) views divided by form starts. If we don’t make this distinction, we don’t know if its other problems with the web page that are causing the drop off – like slow loading, poor mobile compatibility and many other such reasons.
The metric that captures the ‘form starters’ also partners closely with our ‘hesitation metric’ which looks at how long people who have seen the form – ie have scrolled deep enough to see it – have then taken to commence filling it in. A high hesitation time is an interesting insight in itself, and can indicate that a form is overly complex but the offer is strong, thus indicating a degree of reluctance to begin filling it in but ultimately it is deemed worth it. Trying to pinpoint the root cause of that reluctance (form length is a good starting point) can radically help improve the forms performance.
The forms conversion rate gives us a snapshot view of the number of people who start the form who then go all the way to completing it. This is a headline metric and it’s clear that we want this to be as high as possible. If the web forms conversion rate is very low, then it is a clear demonstration that something is amiss with the form itself, whether that is device issues (does it load poorly on mobile, does it not submit on Safari etc).
The forms time to completion gives us some good insights too. This is simply taking the number of people who start and finish the form (the converters) and measuring how long it took them to finish the form. A low conversion rate married with a high time to completion is a sign that the form is too complex, has ambiguity, drives confusion or perhaps takes a number of clicks to make it submit. In this instance, using the FunnelFuel session recordings can be an incredible way to find people who have struggled, and to debunk the issue. This also works with our time to conversion metric which includes the time spent on the page, reading surrounding content and separately the time spent on the website prior to converting. This drives good insight into what surrounding content works best, partnering brilliantly with our final point;
2. How the form performs on different pages, AKA, A/B testing
Sometimes the problem isn’t actually the form, its the collection of content that surrounds it, including the user journey that got the user to the specific page on your site where the form sits. This journey and the content consumed on it is the ‘sell’ before the form, and acts to build the intent for your product or service. Whilst this point is obvious and clear, it can easily get lost when someone is focussing on optimising their forms conversion rate. The forms performance can be the sum total of the performance of the web assets that proceed it.
Therefore how do we go about identifying which page elements and journeys work best? Well testing different call to action (CTA) texts, content sentiments, and even visual presentation like button colours all makes a difference. We’d encourage you to ensure the tests you run on your forms are robust, meaning you test the forms performance using a tool like the FunnelFuel A/B tester, in order to scientifically measure how a randomised sample of your traffic performs on each page that contains the form. That last bit was important – randomised and fair samples, its otherwise not fair to be judging a forms performance between different subsections of web traffic. Example, if you have a page dedicated to capturing conversions from retargeting web traffic, then this page is benefiting from heightened conversion intent traffic. If we compare that to a form, which could look identical, on a low intent / cold traffic page, then of course the performance will look different. So robust testing of funnels and forms needs to include building dedicated A/B tests for any page where the form is being addressed by a subset of the marketing funnel. We’re A/B testing different audiences and funnel stages to forms as well as surrounding content. It may well be that warm traffic coming in on remarketing campaigns is primed and ready to fill in more complex forms, compared to colder traffic which may need to start with smaller and more compact forms, and the marketer can work to enrich that data as the funnel stages progress.
Tests can therefore be expansive, taking funnel stage, user journey and surrounding page elements into consideration. Tests can also be expansive in what we test; moving through a sequential journey of improvement. When we’re starting an optimisation journey, we can think more radically by testing totally different content/media mixes and messaging. Simple pages, longer form pages, pages with audio or video, pages with simple text etc can all be sense checked. Once we identify a promising page structure for each funnel stage, we can move on to sequential tweaking of more subtle elements, whether thats button colours, call to action messages, form stage messaging, inline validation and other such sequential improvement tactics.
Can I get this data in GA?
Now we have collected the right data, we can continue checking for some of the most common mistakes that we have identified in web forms across hundreds of B2B case studies;
- Not optimised for all devices: over half of all B2B web traffic is now mobile, so its important to not assume that all form fills will be done on desktop devices. a 5 inch screen renders your content very differently to a 21 inch monitor. Easy ways to fix this form problem: leverage responsive web design and native phone attributes. Things like offering to scan business cards or other details can save a user time, and leans in on a tool which mobile is especially good for. Remembering typing is slower and less precise on touchscreens too.
- Big lists of options; our heat-map and session recording data, further validated by eye tracking studies have constantly shown large drop down lists to be a major pain point. They cause the user to start shooting up and down the page. Often we see forms where the company has tried to help by putting for example, the United States at the top of a country list, however this makes it impossible to start typing the country to quickly locate other countries beginning with ‘U’. Easy ways to fix this form problem: Ensure you have a search box at the top of any dropdown list
- Asking complicated, difficult or intrusive questions early This is a mistake we see often in an attempt to make forms really short. The logic makes sense however making a form too short, and therefore really complicated or difficult early means you miss out on the psychological consistency principal – which boils down to ‘ask easy questions to warm the lead up and it’s more likely they’ll answer the later more detailed questions
- No in-line validation Inline validation is where we give the user a prompt after they finish submitting information – such as a green tick when the information has been validated. This simple trick has been shown to lift form completions by 22%
- Vague validation errors There are plenty of reasons why a form may trigger validation errors, especially if you’re verifying things like addresses or emails. However errors like the one below leave the user with no information to work with in order to fix the issue – the likely outcome? an abandoned lead. What can we do better to fix this problem?
- Be really specific with the problem ‘we noticed there’s no @ in your email address’
- Be helpful and tell the user exactly what has gone wrong and how to fix it. This needs to be done in a really friendly customer services rep manner, and not using blunt technical jargon.
- Avoid abrasive language like ‘incorrect’ and use softer tones like ‘your username and email don’t match instead of ‘you entered your email incorrectly’.