5 Things Every Email Marketer Needs To Know About Forms
by Pam Neely last updated on 0

5 Things Every Email Marketer Needs To Know About Forms

Poor forms. They’re just about the least-sexy thing about marketing, including email marketing. Many of us think of them last, long after we’ve fussed over a landing page for hours. This is not a smart approach. While forms might seem boring compared to other parts of your landing pages or your site, they play a critical role in email marketing, especially in building your list. It’s worth your time to get to know them a bit, even if you only get the nutshell version.

This post is intended to be exactly that: The nutshell version of what an email marketer needs to know about forms. These five form-facts can help you get better results, and to send better emails, too.

1. Shorter forms are better – but not always

If you’ve been around digital marketing for any amount of time, you’ve probably heard that the longer a form is (i.e., how many fields the form has in it), the lower its conversion rate will be. This is generally true, but there’s an important factor here that more marketers need to consider: lead quality.

In two different surveys – one from Formstack and one from Ascend2 – lead quality has been voted more important than lead quantity.


So what does that really mean? It means that while marketers are still interested in getting more leads, what they really want is better leads.


This makes sense, actually. Any sales person can tell you that all leads are not created equal. And while we all say we want more leads, what we really want is more business. Higher quality leads generate more business.

So what do higher-quality leads have to do with longer forms? Well, you can tell a lot about a prospect based on how they fill out a form… if that form is long enough. So while a two-field form (say, with their email address and their name) might get more conversions (aka more leads), it doesn’t necessarily mean those leads are good leads.

What you might have to do, if you really wanted those higher-quality leads, is to add a few more fields. That would help you figure out who’s the most likely prospect. So instead of asking for just name and email address, you might ask for:

• Name
• Email Address
• Annual company revenue
• Are you planning to implement a (insert whatever your company does) system in the next 3 months?
• What’s your budget for implementing a (insert whatever your company does) system?

If you make prospects fill out those five fields, yes – you are going to get fewer people to complete the form. But in exchange, you’ll know far more about the people who do sign up. That will probably make your sales team way happier, and will allow them to focus on high-value targets, instead of wasting their time on looky-loos.

Want a detailed discussion on the pros and cons of adding a name field to your email opt-in forms? Check out this post on that subject.

2. Multi-page forms often convert better than single-page forms

This one’s counter-intuitive, but that’s exactly why I’m including it. We’ve been talking about why it’s good to keep forms short for maximum opt-ins, right? So it would make sense that a multi-page form would be a conversion disaster.

But that’s not so.

Formstack’s data wonks found that multi-page forms don’t just convert better than single-page forms. They convert more than three times better.

At first this seems impossible, but let’s think it through. Multi-page forms can be far easier for mobile users to fill out – a factor we’ll talk about in a moment. Multi-page forms also let the forms be visually larger, and can better allow for “branching logic”, which means the form fields change depending on how the user fills them out.

Another benefit to multi-page forms is that you don’t know how long they are until you reach the last page. Compare that to single-page forms, where you can see all those tedious fields, just waiting to be filled out.

I don’t know about you, but when I see ten or more fields on a form, I really want to bail. But once I’m in a multi-page form, I’m likely to continue with it (especially if there’s some type of “progress bar” visual), simply because I feel like I’ve invested time with it, and I want the reward for that time.

This all goes to show how critical it is to test. And how quirky human nature can be.


3. Mobile users often struggle with forms

Rigorously test any form you want to publish on mobile devices. Simply checking if the form looks good isn’t enough. Fill it out and submit the form on as many devices as you can get your hands on.

Also try to watch as other people attempt to complete the form on their mobile devices. If you see any trouble spots, circle back and do your best to smooth them out.

More than 50% of web traffic is now through mobile devices. It’s no longer okay to consider the needs of these users as an afterthought.

4. The words on the call to action button matter – a lot

The default button copy on most form submission buttons is “submit”. That is probably a major lost opportunity. As you can see below, “Next” gets more than four times the conversion rate of “Submit”. And “Continue” gets more than double what “Submit” gets.


While these figures are interesting, we still highly recommend you test the button/call-to-action copy on your forms. Every form and every audience and every website is different. What worked for the marketers in this survey might not work for you.

5. Try your form above the scroll line

Don’t make your visitors work one jot harder than they have to: Put your form where they can see it and fill it out without having to scroll.

That advice usually works, but not always. It’s the sort of thing you’ll have to test if you really want to be sure.


In this a/b split-test, putting the form above the fold increased opt-ins by 30%. But it doesn’t work every time. Sometimes having the form below the fold works better.
Of course, the scroll line on a digital page is going to move around, depending on which device your visitor is using and what their viewing settings are. That’s just part of the work of designing for multiple devices and multiple browsers. And it can be particularly hard if you’re designing for mobile users.

If you get stuck, consider using two forms: One at the top and one at the bottom of the page.


The form often makes or breaks a landing page, squeeze page or email list-building program. Don’t neglect it. You may not be able to test every possible aspect of your forms, but if you follow these best practices, you’ll probably do all right.

Back to you. Have you done any A/B split test with your opt-in forms? What worked and what didn’t? Share your experience in the comments.

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