5 1/2 Ways to Optimize Your Online Form

7 minute read
John Boyle avatar


Marketers devote a massive amount of resources in both time and money to customer acquisition.After all, that’s the creative fun stuff, right? Yet, many marketers don’t spend any time on developing an optimization strategy to increase conversion rates! Getting prospective customers to a brand’s website is great, but why not take it to the next level and focus on getting users to take action on your site?

One of the simplest and most elemental things to optimize on your site to boost conversions: your information capture forms.

The conversion performance of your forms is often one of the most critical metrics a marketer has. It doesn’t matter if it’s a lead generation form, a sales funnel or a newsletter sign up form, for a marketer this is where the goods are.You want information from them, they want something -- a whitepaper, a coupon, a credit card -- from you.

Make it simple for them! Help them, help you. With that in mind let’s take a look at 5½ ways to quickly and easily improve your forms.

#1. EXTRA, EXTRA!READ ALL ABOUT IT!Have a Clear & Simple Headline

Too often forms have ambiguous headlines that don’t clearly explain to the user what they are on the page to do and what to do next. Remember, your users didn’t spend months putting your site together like you did. Take off your marketer hat and put on your user hat.Vague headlines such as “Step 1” or “Sign In” don’t add value.

Try headlines that explain in a clear way what the user needs to do. For example, “Complete the Form Below to Receive Your Free Sample.” This example gives the user a simple direction, explains the benefit of completing the form and reminds them the sample is free. All of these elements add up to a higher conversion rate.

#2.  Keep Copy Short & Simple

One rule that is almost constant on the Internet: users do not want to read paragraphs and paragraphs of text. Big blocks of text look imposing, clutter up the page and often push the form you want your users to fill out below the fold of the page, preventing them from seeing it and completing it.

Step one in shortening copy: read it!Heck, you’ve worked on your site for so long you probably don’t even look at it anymore.Take a second look and try to think like the customer or visitor would.Is it too long?Is it a pain to read?Does it distract from your form?

Step two in shortening copy: keep only the essentials.

We all know the average internet user has a short attention span, so when drafting your copy, make sure you’re only keeping information that’s absolutely necessary. Cutting the text to only include the essential information or using a three-point checklist will increase the chances that it’s read.

Large blocks of text can also limit how your form is designed, and have a negative impact on conversions.

#3. Form Fields: Less Is More

Ask yourself an important question: Do you really need all the information you are asking from your users? Often times the answer is no. So get rid of those extra form fields! The more form fields you have, the more users will abandon. Extra “Nice to Have” information such as Salutation, Confirm email and Date of Birth will often drive down your conversion rate.

Also, the more invasive the questions you ask your customers in your forms, the higher the abandonment rate. Asking for information such as multiple phone numbers, social security numbers, gender, ethnicity, age and others will drive users away.

So what should you ask? Only what you need to know. Every business is different, but in most cases all you really need is Name, Address, Phone and/or Email. Stick with the basics and you will get much better results.

#4. Be a Super Hero (Shot)

Your “hero” shot is the dominant graphic on your conversion page. A hero shot is a great way to break up the text on the page and make it more visually appealing. It also gives you an opportunity to communicate additional positive messaging to users regarding your offer visually.

Try a variety of hero shots to see which one resonates best.Some ideas are to use a detailed list of benefits to users, a picture of industry professionals or a more conceptual picture.

At a previous company I worked with, we were marketing an education offer. Our hero shot showed young professionals in a business environment. We challenged it with a more conceptual hero shot of a man in a suit walking on a beach. The winner? The guy walking on the beach. No matter how hard we tried using more conventional imagery, we could never beat the guy walking on the beach! So give yourself some room to play with hero shots. The results may surprise you.

#5. How To Make Visitors “Submit”

After doing the “hard” work of site design and copywriting, many marketers just slap a Submit button on their field and never think about it again. But the fact is there are several important factors that go into making a successful submit button.

Learning Opportunities

Copy: Button copy that commits users to final decision often don’t perform as well. For example, “Buy,” “Purchase” or “Buy Now” have a sense of finality to them and may make users thinking twice before clicking. Try copy that describes the process more than the action. Copy along the lines of “Continue,” “Go,” “Learn More” or “Next” often perform better.

Size and Location: Here’s a general rule of thumb -- if you can’t see your Submit button from across the room it’s too small. Make it big and help users find it. Keep it close to the final form field in a natural line of sight. The last thing you want is a customer ready to make a purchase who can’t find the button to click!

Color: It might seem silly, but the color of your button does matter. In my experience green and orange buttons have successful click thru rates. Avoid the color red. Users associate the color red with “Stop” and that’s the last thing you want to do!

# 5½. Always Say Thank You!

They read the copy! They loved the hero shot! The put in their information! They clicked the Submit button! We’re done! Right?

Not just yet.

Take advantage of your Thank You page to communicate with users and offer additional monetization opportunities.

The best user is an informed user. Reiterate what they just did on your site. For example, if they just purchased two items show them their order number, shipping information, the two products they bought and let them know a confirmation email is on the way. This will reassure them that the process worked correctly. Be sure to show them how to contact you or your customer service team in case they have questions.

Don’t forget to think about ways to continue to monetize users at this point as well. Try putting Google ads on the page. Is there an affiliate program that may offer the user a related product? Investigate. In a previous position I was able to use offers such as these to generate over $150,000 in revenue a year. Is that something you would turn down? Heck no! Any revenue you generate from this type of initiative is straight profit so don’t leave it on the table.

As you can see there are many ways to improve your form performance. But these ideas aren’t set in stone. They are starting points. Every business, offer, site, traffic mix, user base is different, so be sure to test different approaches to find the best mix of factors that maximize your conversion rate.
What types of form optimization strategies have been successful for you and your users?

Title image courtesy of FuzzBones (Shutterstock).

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About the author

John Boyle

John Boyle has over 15 years of experience in e-commerce and online marketing. As a digital marketing and optimization consultant at Webtrends, he creates online marketing strategies designed to improve website monetization and improve customer experiences.

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