By Ryan Malone

landing page best practicesLead-capture forms on landing pages prove to be both friend and foe. They’re wonderful for collecting contact information and data for lead qualification, but too many can significantly harm your conversion rates—especially if visitors feel the questions are intrusive.

Clarify for Purpose

To determine the right number of form fields, first clarify the landing page’s purpose. What are you after? Is it the maximum number of leads, or are you more concerned about the quality? The questions might seem obvious, but some organinzations may focus on list building, while using marketing automation to score leads and increase lead quality.

A recent blog on landing page best practices explains, page simplicity (i.e., fewer fields) draws the visitor’s attention to the all-important call to action to complete the form—thereby increasing conversion rates, which are one of the key success metrics for a content marketing plan. However, you’ll be far from pinpointing legitimate prospects with the limited number of fields you used.

So what is the optimum number of form fields to collect the information you need without discouraging visitors from responding?

Among landing page best practices is A/B testing, which can reveal the effect on conversion rates caused by including a particular question. Along with input from your sales and marketing teams, this information can provide direction as you answer the “how many fields?” question. If you determine the information a field seeks is valuable but the effect on conversion rates is minimal, then you definitely know to include that question. Conversely, questions that provide little assistance in gauging a lead’s value but dramatically reduce conversion rates can be eliminated.

A word of caution: Don’t be thrown by A/B testing that reveals that asking for sensitive information will lower conversion rates. A recent analysis of more than 40,000 landing pages found that conversion rates decreased when asking for age (dropping from 18% to 15%), telephone number (19% to 13%), permission to call (17% to 12%), and street address (16% to 12%). Decreased rates are to be expected with sensitive questions; the challenge is to accurately decide which of these questions are necessary for sales and marketing and which are not.

The goals for the landing page should largely determine how many questions you ask. If a mass list of possible leads is what your company needs, then limit the number of questions as much as possible. But if the sales team already has so many potential leads that it can’t identify the ones that are actually likely to become customers, there’s little point in reducing the number of form fields to improve conversion rates. You may even welcome low conversion rates because visitors who take the time to fill out long forms are identifying themselves as legitimate leads by that act alone.

A compromise solution is to ask a few basic required questions and make additional questions optional. Visitors who fill out the optional questions become obvious sales targets and you get some valuable data, while not turning off less-interested visitors who nonetheless may eventually become customers. 

KEY THOUGHT
Landing page conversion rates and the amount of information gathered usually have an inverse relationship. Therefore, any decision about how many form fields to include involves a balancing of quantity with quality in a way that best meets your objectives.

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Ryan Malone

About the author

Ryan Malone is the founder and CEO of SmartBug Media and is a veteran of Deloitte & Touche, Seagate and several venture-backed technology companies. When he's not leading SmartBug and helping clients build high-octane marketing organizations, he's loving his wife and daughters and unsuccessfully learning the guitar. Go Terps! Read more articles by Ryan Malone.

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