For several years prior to coming to TradeMark Media, I worked for one of the best known Search Marketing agencies in the U.S. During that time, I advised many enterprise level clients on the various ways to drive additional traffic to their websites as well as on ways to improve their various conversion rates. A common conversation topic was “Why worry about doubling your site traffic, when you can double your conversion rate instead?” The end result is essentially the same, but it’s typically cheaper, faster and better (read: more user friendly) for the end user to address the usability and conversion aspects before you worry about driving traffic.
- Conversion rate optimization is often done on a project basis and does not require an ongoing investment.
- Once done, conversion optimization continues to yield results month after month.
What is conversion rate?
Before we get into the why and how, let’s first establish our foundation. When I say conversion, here’s what I mean… On every website, there are (hopefully) defined behaviors that the site owner wants the visitors to exhibit. For example, some may define their conversion goals as getting a visitor to download a white-paper or collateral. More often than not, the most commonly defined conversions tend to be filling out the lead form or completing a transaction (e-commerce). In more technical terms, your conversion rate is that percentage of total visitors that completes the desired action/goal. (Example: If you receive 1,000 visitors per month and get 20 web leads, then your Lead Conversion Rate is 2%)
Improving the Conversion Rate of your Web Forms
Volumes have been written on website usability and how to improve your conversion rate. However, in this article we are going to try to stick to focusing on improving the conversion rate of your web forms. If you want a more well-rounded understanding, there’s a great short book titled Don’t Make Me Think: A Common Sense Approach to Web Usability by Steve Krug. The title alone should give you a hint as to how to increase your site’s conversion rate.
10 Quick Tips to Help your Web Forms Convert Better
- Only *require* fields that are absolutely necessary to completing the task. Only ask for what you need. Don’t overload your forms with unnecessary fields. Many companies try to fully qualify or disqualify their prospects using the lead forms. While this may be appealing to the Sales team because they feel like more form info will make it easier to prioritize and cherry pick the best leads, it can actually be extremely detrimental to conversion. In fact, one study showed that every form field added reduced conversion by 5%. So think hard before you add those extra 2-5 fields to your forms. It could cost you 10%-25% in lead volume. See below: “Top 10 reasons why shopping carts are abandoned”
- Show fields only when it’s necessary to show them. Example: on a donation form, only show address fields for a note to the honoree, if the checkbox for “I want to honor someone” has been checked.
- Structure the forms so that they are easy to read and easy to fill out.
- Group fields together in a predictable, logical layout.
- Use common field labels so people can auto-fill the form.
- Let the user know when a mistake has been made and use plain language to clearly explain the error and how to correct it.
- Place error messages inline and style them to be obvious, so it’s clear what to correct when the user makes an error.
- Always save submitted data; don’t clear the form if someone makes a mistake.
- Allow users to resubmit forms with new data.
- Follow web conventions; this makes filling out the form more intuitive and efficient
- Radio buttons for a single selection; check boxes for multiple select)
- Use radio buttons instead of drop-downs for yes/no answers. This avoids extra mouse action.
- A single check box can be used if only a single acknowledgement is needed.
- Make form labels clickable with more information describing specifically the type of information you are wanting in that field.
- Place form labels above text fields. Forms are more readable when labels are on top.
- Use relevant text on the submit button (“Complete Survey” “Subscribe to Newsletter”))
- Let the system help the user by catching errors and allowing multiple formats for expected data (555-555-5555 or 555.555.5555)
- Select logical defaults (TX when majority of users are in Texas)
- Show hierarchy in button selection: SUBMIT reset
Top 10 reasons why shopping carts are abandoned
- High shipping prices (72%)
- Comparison shopping or browsing (61%)
- Changed mind (56%)
- Saving items for later purchase (51%)
- Total cost of items is too high (43%)
- Checkout process is too long (41%)
- Too much personal information is required (35%)
- Site Requires Registration before purchase (34%)
- Site is unstable or unreliable (31%)
- Checkout process is confusing (27%)
Reducing shopping cart abandonment: How to minimize orphaned carts By Michael Bloch
The art of the cart: Why people abandon shopping carts By Craig Goldwyn,
Study Data: Absolutely Pitiful Ecommerce Shopping Cart Abandonment Stats – - 4 Ways to Improve Yours By Anne Hollan
Bonus Tidbit: To Single or to Double opt-in, that is the question!
Ah, many will say it doesn’t really matter, but the truth is that there is benefit in knowing when to use double versus single opt-in. For those who are not familiar, single opt in refers to simply entering a few fields including your email address into an online form box and hitting submit. Voila, you’re on the list! Double opt-in, on the other hand, takes it a step further by sending you an email, after the initial submission, asking you to click a link in the email to approve the opt-in request.
Single opt-ins tend to convert at a higher rate because there’s only one step. There’s no confirmation link to get lost in an overcrowded email inbox that never gets confirmed. On the other hand, you tend to get much higher quality leads with double opt-in as the email gets verified as a working email for that person. You should be able to make an educated decision on single versus double opt-in based on how you use the lead data. Is it critical to have a valid email? If so, go with double opt-in. If not, choose single opt-in. It’s easier on the user and tends to get higher form fills (conversions). While I rarely recommend a double opt-in for a lead form, I may recommend it for an email newsletter.
What do I do now?
A recent Technorati article claims that only 3% of websites actually do their jobs effectively. With statistics like that, it’s no wonder why so many companies are seeking expert advice. Fortunately, you can sometimes make enough changes within the current structure to yield results. Hopefully this article will help reduce abandonment and loss due to low web form conversion. Other times improving your web forms is just a Band-Aid and the reality is that it might be cheaper and easier just to start from scratch with a new site built. If you choose to go this route, make sure you select an experienced agency with usability expertise to build your new site correctly from the ground up with the end goals in mind. Good luck, and don’t make me think!
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