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Every business website should have a “contact us” form that site visitors can fill in to make an appointment, request an estimate, jump on a free offer and otherwise turn into leads.  You may think the little stack of boxes with the “Submit” button at the end is, well, just a little stack of boxes. But marketers test and study these things with scientific precision.

Marketers have come up with six surprising insights into how to generate the most, best leads through web forms:

1. Keep it to 3 to 5 “fields” (fill-in boxes)

“Abandonment” is the big threat with forms—customers giving up because it looks too hard. Give them three to five fields, and you should be safe. In general, if you want more signups, present fewer fields, for instance, just one box for email address. If you want fewer, but better qualified leads, present more fields; motivated buyers will give you more information.  Really long forms work better broken into several pages with a “progress bar” (like what you see as a software download progresses).

2. Make it easy with social sign-in

Forms now come with an option to click an icon for Facebook or LinkedIn and automatically fill in the personal information. You’d think people would be wary of handing over their social identities, but no, studies find that option yields a higher completion rate than forms that require keying in the answers.

3. Place a form on the right side of web pages

For a “landing page”—in other words, where a user lands after clicking on your Google ad or other promotion—tests have shown that forms do better placed to the right in the first screen, with explanatory text on the left and plenty of white space around the form to make it pop.

4. Link to a privacy policy page

Everyone is so concerned about spam, identity theft and other hazards of the Database Age, so reassure them; on the form, link to a privacy policy page where you pledge that you won’t share their information, etc.

5. Don’t “Submit”

While everyone understands that “Submit” on a button means “I’m done,” comparative studies found that forms with that message performed worse than button text that reinforced the value of completing the form, like “Start My Free Trial” or “Book Now.”

6.  Test days of the week to promote your form

If you’re promoting sign-up through email or social media campaigns, timing could make a difference. A study by forms vendor Formstack found that lead generation forms peaked on Thursday afternoons. Contest entry forms did best evenings after 8 PM. Church website forms scored on Mondays, but non-profit groups won on Fridays. Why? Don’t ask – it’s science.

Learn more about customer relationship management on the Dex Media blog. 

Jeff B. Copeland is a senior manager for content at Dex Media, where he works on the Dex Media blog and email newsletter, the consumer information site EnlightenMe.com and other content projects.