June 29, 2015 | Sarah Danks

The other day I wrote about a no-brainer best practice for lead generation website: using a form to capture your leads. It’s one of those “duh you should be doing this” techniques for websites, landing pages and whatnot, but shockingly there are still lead gen websites out there NOT utilizing forms.

Who knows why but suffice it to say those businesses are losing out on a huge opportunity to positively affect their bottom line. We all know they should be using contact forms, but there’s more to it than just that.

Optimize Your Lead Gen Forms

Over at Unbounce they’re pretty much experts when it comes to conversion rate optimization (CRO) — and that includes everything from landing page colors to lead gen forms. Oli Gardner’s advice on how to build your contact forms to best capture leads is very succinct and easy-to-follow:

  • Use optimum number of form fields
  • Only ask for the information you really need
  • Avoid “Submit” whenever possible
  • Whatever you do, always test what works best for you (and your clients)

So, without further ado I’m going to break down these four tips:

1) Number of form fields

This is a big debate in our industry — “how many form fields is the best number to have?” Well, there’s a general rule of thumb: less is better. BUT it all depends on your goals.

Pamela Vaughan wrote an entire post about how long landing page forms should be on Hubspot; in it she quotes:

“…the length of your form inevitably leads to a tradeoff between the quantity and quality of the leads you generate.”

See, if you only require two form fields, you’re apt to receive many more leads

…but will they be as qualified as you want them to be? So maybe you up the ante and build a form with five fields. Sure, your lead numbers will drop, but I’d wager they’re going to be stronger leads.

That being said, you never really know until you test what works for you. Take this excerpt from Oli’s infographic regarding number of form fields and conversion rates:


You can see the conversion rate per number of fields per form doesn’t vary wildly, but the majority of websites tested see better conversion rates with fewer fields in their lead gen forms.

2) Are you asking too much of your (potential) leads?

Of course you want to do all you can to pre-qualify your leads before they come to you. But at what cost?


This business has a sixteen-field form, thirteen of which are required. I’m no expert but I’m guessing that might be overkill.

Plus, when you scroll over various parts of the form, it’ll show you (in a nasty, you-did-something-wrong red warning) which fields are required…


…as it turns out, in the above example the “Comments” field isn’t required, but they make it appear to be.

From having worked on this account in a past life, I can assure you — this long (and involved) of a form, with nearly all of the fields required, turns visitors off. Also, requiring people to tell you — hell, remember in the first place — where they heard of your company?


I’d wager $100.00 the most common answer chosen in that drop-down field is still the first one. Why’s that? Because it’s easier to choose the top answer in a (massive) drop-down so you can get to the end and just be done with it, that’s why.

Again, I’ll let Oli’s research do the talking on drop-down form fields:


Andy Crestodina over at Orbit Media also gives some good advice on lead generation and cautions,

Don’t use a greedy form. Sure, you need a lot of information to qualify your leads, but get it during the sales process.”

Long story short? Don’t use drop-down forms if you don’t have to. And if you do use them, be sure they’re qualifying questions. I.e., don’t require people to remember where they heard of you.

3) Don’t use “submit” for your call-to-action

Please, don’t. It’s not that you won’t get conversions if you ply this over-used word; it’s that you’re missing a great — and easy — opportunity to acquire more.

The CRO expert who says this best is Peep Laja in his What To Call Your Call To Action article:

“When calling the user to action…use brief but meaningful link text that explains what the link or button offers.”

He says the web is full of bad calls-to-action. Either it’s laziness or following the rest of the crowd, but CTAs using “Submit” (or other vague wording) aren’t answering visitors’ questions or providing them with a clear sense of what the next step entails.

Oli lists several other words one shouldn’t use on CTAs:


But most importantly, you’ll want to —

4) Always test to see what works for YOU

You can throw around online marketing best practices all day long, but what it all boils down to is this: there’s no ONE way to do something. Maybe “Submit” is the best-performing CTA out of all the ones you’ve used…

…but you can’t know that until you test it.


Abraham Nord, the head of Conversion Improvement at SmartSearch Marketing, says successful landing pages don’t just happen. Rather, they’re a product of smart testing. He mentions three must-dos for landing page testing that work in regards to the form:

  • Don’t settle for the first “big win”
  • Run both A/B and multivariate tests (MVT)
  • Nothing is too small to test

Something as simple as the alignment of your contact form or reducing the number of fields can have an impact on your visitors — and whether or not they convert — but how can you determine which option is best if you haven’t tested it?

Still Not Convinced You Need To Use Forms?

Then you’d better contact us and we’ll walk you through it in more detail (see what I did there?). Trust me, not capturing lead information on your landing pages is hurting your business far more than you realize.

Bottom line is this: if your website or PPC landing page is focused on lead generation, you not only need to be using a form to capture leads…

…you need to be optimizing that form to work its best for you.



*Thanks to Oli’s infographic for the use of the (light blue) images!*



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