Double your conversion rate, quadruple your sales?


Sound unrealistic?  It depends where you start from of course but one client I'm currently working with was able to turn up the heat through some simple changes to an estimate form pivotal to his business.

My client,, ships cars around the US for people relocating or just heading south for the Winter. The goal of his website is to get visitors to submit an estimate form to his sales team.  He came to me looking for help developing a profitable Google AdWords campaign but I believe that is the last step of any optimization project, never a beginning.  Here's why.

If your site converts 10% of your visitors and you get 1000 visitors a day you'll get 100 leads.  To double your leads with Google AdWords you'll need double the traffic.  Every day.  One thousand clicks at a typical cost-per-click of $1.50 is going to cost $1500 per day, $45,000 per month.  It's not sustainable for most businesses and depending on your experience with AdWords, you may end up attracting clicks from visitors outside your target audience, resulting in lower than expected conversions.

The best way to get an additional 100 leads is to double the conversion rate of your site from 10% to 20%.  The same 1000 visitors a day now yields 200 leads and, since conversion rates tend to be consistent (for most businesses), you'll pay once for the work and reap the rewards day after day with no extra expenditure.  If you run the same Google AdWords campaign after optimizing your site you'll have four times as many leads!

Just to be clear about conversion rates staying the same - it depends on what you do to market your business.  A hugely succesful marketing campaign that provides more information than your website does is likely to drive a spike in conversion rates but it masks the issues on your website.  Seasonal businesses are another exception but for the most part let's go with the consistency theory for the sake of argument.

Improving Conversion rates

Okay, so how did we impact conversion rates?  We started by ensuring that every page in his site was tagged with Google Analytics to help get a clear picture of what was happening on his site.  After confirming that the tracking codes were in place we waited a week to gather some meaningful data.  After all, it's hard to know if you've improved something if you don't measure it!

In our next meeting we used the data to decide how to track the goal of estimate form completions as a goal in the Google Analytics reporting interface.  We created a two step funnel to capture data about the number of visitors who saw the estimate page vs. those who submitted it successfully.

Another week passed as we collected the data to begin a meaningful discussion.  The funnel showed us that 25% of  visitors would submit it, or put another way 75% left without submitting the form.  Think about this for a second.  75% of people didn't do what he wanted them to do.  

The goals in Google Analytics are smart enough to know that a visitor who saw the form, clicked around on the site and then came back to submit it is still a succesful visit and a conversion.

Why do people leave?

There are many reasons why people leave sites and I'm sure you can think of others but some I have come across are:


  • Not ready to buy: Does your form alienate people who aren't ready to buy?
  • Form is buggy: Is it broken somehow in one or many web browsers?
  • Confusion: Is it confusing in the way it is laid out or are the questions confusing or hard to answer?
  • Restrictive: Do the options you offer as pre-selected answers to questions cover everything people might want to select?
  • Intrusive: Does the form require too much personal information too soon?  If you need just one way to get in touch with the customer is it clear or does it appear that they should submit everything?
  • Intimidating: Is the form too long or does it look to complicated?
  • Lack of information: Did the visitors receive enough information prior to arriving at the form to be able to submit it?  Is there anything they need to know to be able to answer the questions?


This is all well and good but how do you identify the issues?  Google Analytics only tells you who came, who left and who submitted the form but provides no further insight into the underlying problems. 

Form Analytics Tool

To dig deeper you need to use a form analytics tool and I can't recommend ClickTale enough.  The script is installed on your form and the thank you page just like the Google Analytics tracking code.  The full tutorial of Clicktale is beyond the scope of this article and the tool packs many more secret powers but I use it primarily for form analytics.  Try to pick a plan matching the number of pageviews your form sees each day unless you're installing the script throughout your site, in which case you'll need a bigger plan.  I like their model because even if you don't pick the right plan, it will record as many pageviews as you've paid for each day and no more but distributes these recordings throughout the day.

We waited a week for ClickTale to gather enough data about the form behavior then logged in to see what the tool could reveal.  We selected the last week as the date range for the form analytics report and after a brief pause the form is shown with key statistics across the top of the frame.  These include conversion rate, drop rate, completion time, blank field rate and refill rate.

Conversion rate is something we've seen before in Google Analytics but just to reiterate, it represents the percentage of visitors who turned into leads in this case.  You can consider this an absolute measure of success for your form since increasing leads generates more sales!  As the page loads you'll also see a funnel with more detail about how many people saw the form, started it vs. didn't, tried to submit the completed form vs. didn't and finally those who successfully submitted the completed form vs. those who were unable to submit it successfully.  This last point means a visitor submitted the form but something was wrong with either their data, or there was a technical problem.

Drop rate is the number of visitors who started the form but didn't submit it.  A high drop rate lets you know that visitors are getting stuck somewhere and if you click on the summary along the top it swaps out the conversion rate panel with a drop report panel highlighting the fields on your form where people most commonly stop filling out the form.

Completion time is the average time taken for visitors to complete the form over the period.  It took an average visitor 8 minutes to complete the estimate form for the period we reviewed.  Click the completion time summary to see the time taken to complete each field and find the fields where people are scratching their heads!

Blank field rate tells you what percentage of fields on the form are typically left empty.  Click the blank field rate summary to see an analysis of which fields were skipped most commonly.  If you really don't need the information that is being skipped you can reduce the complexity of the form and drive conversion rates by removing them.  If you do need the information, maybe you're asking the question in a way that isn't immediately obvious.  

Refill rate indicates what percentage of your visitors tried to answer a given field but were asked to try again.  The summary covers the whole form but click that number to see the detail behind the failure rate of each field.  A high refill rate suggests either a poorly worded question or a field that is allowing people to enter the wrong thing - like a date field that doesn't make the format obvious.  While a web server can convert most date formats into the form it needs, people will spend less time thinking if you make it so obvious that they never get it wrong in the first place.

People are empowered by forms they can fill in easily but project their anger about a complex form at your company and are unlikely to come back, unless you have some kind of monopoly.  

After reviewing my client's Clicktale data we removed some fields, renamed some and changed the options on others and just one week later he saw a 50% increase in number of leads submitted and conversion rates climbed from 25% to 36%.  Drop rate fell from 35% to 27%, completion time fell to just two minutes from eight minutes, half as many fields were left blank (11 down to 6) and the refill rate dropped from 4.7% to 2.7%! 

As you can see it's a big improvement from changes that took a couple of hours to implement.  We've contracted a designer to provide some different form designs to test based on the feedback from the last review and we expect to continue to improve.

Fixing some of the issues on your forms is a cheap and effective way of increasing conversion rates which lead ultimately to a sustainable increase in revenue for the cost of less than a day of the Google AdWords campaign.

Online marketing services offered by Adam Howitt Consulting, Inc.:

ClickTale From Analytics

Google Analytics

Search Engine Optimization

Comments (Comment Moderation is enabled. Your comment will not appear until approved.)
johans's Gravatar Nice info - clickTale looks like a nice tool.

Looking at the site I wonder what would happen if you moved the quote form right onto the home page? If they want to get people requesting quotes put it right up front.

The quote "mini form" that drops down obscures part of the menu and misleading as it is only part of the information needed to get a quote - leaves me wondering where I am going to enter my origin/destination.

I think they could simplify the site home page a lot as well.
# Posted By johans | 1/12/09 5:03 PM
Adam Howitt's Gravatar Hi Johans - thanks for the comment and the thoughts for the future changes. We're going to be using Google Website Optimizer to A/B test a couple of variants from my designer Jeff including an AJAX version among other things. Be sure to check back as I think A/B testing forms is worthy of another post altogether. Right now we're experimenting with some bullets and bold on the home page but I don't want to spoil my next blog post (next Monday)...
# Posted By Adam Howitt | 1/12/09 5:19 PM
Carsten's Gravatar I have to agree to Johans, the mini quote on the homepage is confusing me a lot. Why is there a menu point behind it. I reall want to see whats behind, but on the other hand i do not want to close the form, because i might want to fill it in later.

On the form i wonder why everything is so small. And why i have to enter my phone number in 3 input fields. why can't i put it all in one? The application behind the website should be smart enough to handle different formats.

once i closed that form theres this blinky banner "Save up to 65% Insaant Estimate! Click Here" Why do i have to click here? I do want to click on the headline "save up to 65%" as well, because that is what i want, i want to save i do not want to "click here".

Why do i have to enter my name in two fields? wouldn't one be enough? The worst that could happen is that the user enters only his lastname, but a good sales agent should not care to much about that.
# Posted By Carsten | 4/8/09 6:46 AM
Jezza Lenko's Gravatar Clicktale looks like a great product. There's a similar tool that hit the market recently called Loop11. Looks like a great tool for unmoderated user testing.
# Posted By Jezza Lenko | 4/23/09 12:32 AM
Robert Farago's Gravatar That is one ugly, ungainly website. Where's the branding? The unique selling point?

Also, why can't you book online? If there are logistical impediments, why not at least close the sale (Would you like to book your vehicle's move with National Auto Transport?) before handing off to a live agent?

More on my take here:
# Posted By Robert Farago | 11/20/09 8:58 AM
eva andrea's Gravatar Thanks for the great article on PPC techniques. I agree with you that increasing the traffic is not the key to increasing conversion. Can you provide other web analytic options with similar capacity to record in detail as ClickTale (still based on your personal experience in using the product)? Thanks, indeed a great help!
# Posted By eva andrea | 12/17/09 8:16 AM