You pay to bring visitors to your site, but you don’t get paid until visitors take action.  For financial services companies, your services are often too complex to close a sale online.  They may require one-on-one interaction with a sales representative.  You must convince a visitor to submit their information through a web form, which often acts as the first step in your sales process.

Since collecting leads is so important to the success of your online initiatives, you have to get this right.  Your site can’t justify its existence by simply providing information.  It must get results.  If your visitors find your forms confusing, if they don’t find them at all, or they don’t know what to do next, what happened earlier in the funnel is of limited value if you don’t capture the lead.

Welcome to the first in a two-part series on form optimization.   We’ll explore why so many of your prospects don’t click the submit button. You’ll learn how to reduce the friction, confusion, and effort that stops visitors from crossing the finish line.  First we’ll discuss the form itself.  In the second half of this series on form optimization, we’ll learn how to optimize the placement and function of your signup forms.

Headline Optimization

Most people don’t read web pages.  They skim.  They scan.  They skip over as much as they can, because they have work to do and little time in which to do it.  When I worked as a full-time copywriter, it pained me to realize that most visitors wouldn’t read my well-crafted copy.  They want to know just enough to decide if they should take action, so never count on them knowing a web form’s purpose by the text on the page.

Headlines and subheadlines are some of the few words a visitor will almost always read.  A good combination of an informative, straight-forward (and perhaps even dull) headline combined with a benefit or urgency-driven subheadline work well together.  The headline answers the “what?” question.  The subheadline answers the “Why?”  Here’s an example of what I mean:

Headline: Get Your Free Investor’s Guide

Subheadline: Learn How Successful Investors Cash In On
Deals Your Broker Doesn’t Even Know Exist

Test Idea: Test Headline and Subheadline combinations

Learn more about headline optimization

Form Fields

How Many is Too Many?

In most cases, the more information you ask for, the fewer visitors will complete your form, so ask for as few pieces of information as possible to maximize conversion rate.

Test Idea: Remove any form fields that are not absolutely required

On the other hand, the more relevant information that you require, typically the more qualified a prospect is.  If you get more leads than you can handle, or if you want fewer, better leads, consider asking for more relevant information.

Explain Why You Need Information

If you need a piece of information and it’s not clear why you’re asking for it, explain why you need it.  For example, if you have set the expectation that a sales representative will call to discuss your offerings, visitors might be confused if you ask for their mailing address unless you explain that you will also send them a packet by mail.

Ask for just the information that a prospect thinks you’ll need to provide the service they requested.  When you ask for more than they think you need, they’re likely to provide bogus information, anyway.  I do this frequently, so I apologize to whoever might actually have “” as their actual email address.

Follow Required Field Conventions

Make sure to flag any required fields with an asterisk before the field’s label.  This makes it easy for prospects to know what they can skip without encountering errors.

Group Similar Fields

Many fields fall into natural groupings, such as parts of a mailing address.  Group these together, and avoid spanning them across two columns.

Field Order

When there is a logical order that fields should be in, follow it.  For example, order address fields in the order in which they appear in a postal mail letter’s address.

For fields where there is no natural order or convention to follow, consider placing less personal information fields before those that visitors may be less willing to divulge.  When a visitor has filled out a few fields already, they are more likely to continue, since they have already invested time that they don’t want to feel was wasted.

Test Idea: Consider reordering form fields, asking for the least personal information first

Remove Distractions

If your form has elements which distract visitors either before filling out a form or at the end of the process, consider how to minimize or remove them.  For example, I have seen many forms where Privacy Policy links and “Hacker Safe” logos nestle right next to the final submit button on a form, almost begging a prospect not to complete their form.

When your prospect is “on final approach,” make every effort not to distract them from completing the very task that you paid to bring them to the site to do in the first place.

Test Idea: Consider moving any distracting elements from the top or bottom of the form.

Trust Logos

Consider the placement of your trust logos such as those which certify the security of a site.  They will usually have the most impact at the point where a prospect first has to make a decision influenced by how much they trust you.  This is often the point at which you ask for a credit card number or other personal information.

Test Idea: Test placing trust logos at different points in your lead capture process.

Note: For more established brands, trust logos likely have less impact than they do for lesser-known companies.  If I’m on the banking site of a Fortune 100 company, I’m probably going to assume that it’s safe to give them my information.


What form optimization techniques have you discovered that yield the biggest lift in conversion?  Comment on this post to weigh in and join the conversation.  We’d love to hear what you have to say.

In the last part of this series on form optimization techniques, I will go over topics related to the placement, functionality, and layout of forms.  If you have additional form or other conversion rate optimization topics that you would like me to cover in future posts, just add a comment to this post.


Steve Myers
Senior Optimization Consultant
Adobe Test&Target