Results: Testing Quality Leads from Instant Forms vs. Website

Should you use Instant Forms (often referred to as Facebook Lead Ads) or send people to a website form to build your email list? It’s a common question that I get from advertisers, and my answer has long been based on my own assumptions — or simply an instruction to “test it!”

I decided to take my own advice and stop making assumptions. I ran a test that generated 630 leads, and I’m ready to share what I learned.

The results were surprising — they were not at all consistent with my assumptions.


My assumptions are sourced from years of advertising and an understanding of the balance of quality and quantity. I have assumptions based on two common options…

1. Instant Forms: The benefit of using Instant Forms is that they are much easier for the user. They load immediately and do not take them off of Facebook or Instagram. The form is pre-filled with information from their profile (unless a custom question is asked). But, for the same reason that Instant Forms can lead to more volume, you can expect lower quality.

2. Website Forms: It can be a little bit more difficult to complete these forms. The user is directed to an external website, which may be considered an unexpected interruption. If form questions remain the same, the completion of the form will take more manual effort. Combined with the less dependable variable of website performance, you might expect that the volume of leads from website forms will be lower and more costly, but the quality should be higher.

In summary, my hypothesis: Instant Forms will produce more leads at a lower cost, but website leads will be of a higher quality. I believe that the additional quality will override the negatives of less volume to make them more valuable and cost effective.

Defining Quality Leads

This is a step that seems elementary until we consider the variables, particularly related to volume, costs, and time.

Volume: We need enough volume for the results to be meaningful. If a very small percentage of the original leads is considered “quality” based on our definition, more raw leads are needed to complete the test. Ideally, I’m hoping to generate at least 100 quality leads to make this test meaningful.

For that to be possible, it’s not reasonable (for my funnel, at least) to define a quality lead as someone who makes a purchase. It needs to be a far more prevalent action.

Costs: This could also get out of hand if we insist on generating a high volume of very high quality leads in order to get meaningful results. I’m willing to spend $2k or so on this, but I’d rather not go beyond that.

Time: Defining quality can’t be concluded immediately upon collecting the lead. We need the leads themselves to define it by making an important action. That could be completed within a day or it may take weeks (or more).

I decided that the easiest way to balance these variables that is consistent with my own goals and funnel was to weed out the “dead leads.” These are people who aren’t reachable.

We could technically focus only on email deliverability, but I wanted to take it a step further. Something that is important to me is that my emails drive consistent traffic to my website. This is critical for three primary reasons:

1. Deep Engagement. By clicking links in my emails, this tells me that a lead is finding value in my content.

2. Website Traffic. This is an important factor for the growth of my business. I need people engaged on my website, sharing my content, and sending signals to search engines.

3. Potential to Buy. If you’re getting value from my website, you are much more likely to buy from me. That could mean setting up a one-on-one session, joining my private membership, or purchasing a course.

To make this decision even easier, I already track whether people click links in my emails as a way of segmenting my most engaged leads. I put tags on all important external links. When clicked, it sends users through a timed automation which gives them a Lead Score.

So, let’s summarize…

Quality Lead = Clicked a link in one of my emails.

The lead magnet in this test includes a series of educational emails that provide links for further reading. They may also receive other emails related to blog posts. These leads will have plenty of opportunities to open, click, or ignore my emails.

Time: Once the campaigns are complete, I will give the leads at least two weeks to click a link before declaring them “dead” (or dead until proven otherwise) — knowing that some of these leads may still “come back to life” at some point.

The Test

The vehicle for this test is a lead magnet for beginner advertisers. I actually tried to use other lead magnets, but this one provides the most volume for the lowest cost, which makes it the best candidate to generate adequate volume for a test. It also sends out several emails with links in them, which makes it a good candidate for measuring quality.

I created two different ad sets and ads that are identical in the following ways…

Targeting: Advantage+ Audience, offering suggestions of people who are in the top 25% of time spent on my website during the past 30 days and those who have performed the VideoWatched custom event (watched an embedded YouTube video on my website). Geography focused only on people in the United States, United Kingdom, Canada, and Australia.

Advantage+ Audience

I excluded all people who subscribed to what I was promoting via website custom audience, email custom audience, and lead form custom audience.

Placements: Advantage+ Placements.

Ad Copy and Creative: One ad with three different text variations (same for both versions). The only difference is that one drove people to a website landing page and one to an Instant Form.


Tagging and Segmentation: It’s critical that I keep these leads separate. All leads who came through the Instant Form were given a unique tag in my CRM. I created a separate landing page with a unique form for the website lead version and I gave people who were directed to this page and form a different tag. This allowed me to easily track the leads who came in from each source.

Tracking Quality: I alluded to this above, but I add a tag in my CRM to specific links in my emails. This includes important links from the eight-email sequence that came directly from this lead magnet. It also includes other emails I send from my newsletter and other broadcasts, since these people could subscribe to other offerings.

This tagging results in a Lead Score. If you never click a link, you won’t have a Lead Score. When you click, you’re sent through a timed automation. For the first seven days, you’ll have a Lead Score of 5. If you never click again, that score will drop from 4 on down to 1 as time passes. But it will never drop back to 0.

SIDE NOTE: I strongly encourage marketers to use a similar approach to segmenting your email list to isolate those who are most engaged. This has allowed me to implement a strategy to send more emails to those who are engaged, which increases the amount of traffic to my website while not driving up opt-outs.

Results: Costs

I generated a total of 630 leads from this test. I spent about $100 more on the website leads because the volume was lagging and I wanted it to get a bit closer to the leads generated from the Instant Forms.

Instant Forms: $801.26 spent for 392 leads ($2.04 per lead)
Website Leads: $897.78 spent for 238 leads ($3.77 per lead)

Ads Manager and my CRM didn’t match up perfectly (they were close), but my CRM is the ultimate source of generated leads. The number can’t be higher or lower than what my CRM says. I don’t care if some leads came in organically (very few did). And Ads Manager is the ultimate source for the amount spent.

In my original hypothesis, I expected that leads from Instant Forms may be less expensive. But, I’ve also seen that CPM costs can be higher with Instant Forms, so I was a bit surprised by how much cheaper these leads were. They were nearly half the cost.

Results: Quality

This is the most important part. Recall that I assumed that lead quality from Instant Forms would be lower due to the fact that they are easier to complete. While it was possible that overall Cost Per Quality Lead might even out, I still expected to get more quality leads from website forms.

Well, that was not the case…

Instant Forms: 114 of 392 leads were definitively “Quality” (29.1% and $7.03 per Quality Lead)
Website Leads: 69 of 238 leads were definitively “Quality” (29.0% and $13.01 per Quality Lead)

The percentage of definitively “Quality” leads is nearly identical for both Instant Forms and website forms. Note that these percentages will only increase with time, as more people could conceivably click on links in my emails. I was originally going to wait at least a month to write this post, but the changes were so small from week-to-week that any movement from here won’t be significant enough to alter my evaluation.

Of course, the percentage of quality leads isn’t the bottom line here. Instant Forms generated nearly twice as many leads (at nearly half the cost), which means that they produced quality leads at nearly half the cost of website forms.

I was certainly not expecting that.


I wasn’t planning on using this as a factor, but mentioning it above gave me the idea to run a check.

If I am unable to deliver an email to someone, there is no coming back from that “dead lead” designation. Lack of deliverability is typically due to either a bad email address (intentional or not) or an unsubscribe.

Is one method more prone to deliverability issues than the other?

Instant Forms: 328 of 392 leads were deliverable (83.7%)
Website Leads: 220 of 238 leads were deliverable (92.4%)

This is interesting, but not shocking. Something I learned during this process was that there were people subscribing from Instant Forms who were not getting my emails (they commented or messaged that they weren’t receiving them). The reason for this is that they were on my email list years ago and unsubscribed. If they don’t resubscribe from my CRM’s forms (which would be the issue with Instant Forms), it needs to be done manually.

In other words, the results from Instant Forms are even more startling. Despite having to overcome an additional 8.7% that weren’t deliverable, Instant Forms were still able to generate the same percentage of engaged (“quality”) leads.

Learnings and Potential Adjustments

It’s difficult to argue with these results. There is enough volume to learn something from them. At the very least, it’s evidence that Instant Forms may be just as effective as website forms at generating quality leads.

Beyond that, I was a bit disappointed in the overall percentage of quality leads. Obviously, this applies to both the Instant Forms and website forms, since those percentages were about the same.

But, that’s something that has a long list of potential explanations. These are things that I can tweak…

1. The Lead Magnet. One of the reasons I didn’t love the idea of using the Beginners product as my lead magnet is that I don’t think these people align with my content all that well. They’re good to get in the door. But, this lead magnet served the purpose of generating more volume. I may have been able to use a different lead magnet to generate higher quality leads overall, but the costs may have been twice as high.

So, I still think this was the right choice for the test. But, going forward, it’s worth trying other lead magnets that better align with my more advanced content.

2. Targeting. I can’t say that this was a mistake, but only that it’s a potential factor. I firmly contend that you should use Advantage+ Audience for sales, but you should avoid it for the top of the funnel. Middle of the funnel is where it gets a bit hazy. There’s the potential for quality to be a problem.

What’s nice about Advantage+ Audience is that the suggestions you make shouldn’t be all that impactful, which limits the variance in results depending on what you use for inputs.

That becomes far more variable when using original audiences. It’s possible I could get better results on a smaller scale using interests or custom audiences or maybe even lookalike audiences. But those results will likely fall off eventually.

I could potentially use these same custom audiences with Advantage Custom Audience, but I suspect the results would be mostly the same. It still could be worth testing.

Increasing Quality

It’s also important to point out that there are endless ways to increase the quality of your leads. The fact that I’m at a shade under 30% is absolutely correctable. Beyond the type of lead magnet and targeting, there are some other rather obvious solutions…

1. More Questions. Whether it’s an Instant Form or website form, there’s a clear correlation between quality and quantity. If you want more volume, ask fewer questions. If you want higher quality leads, ask more questions.

2. Custom Questions. This is particularly the case for Instant Forms, that pre-fill answers for basic information that can be pulled from a lead’s profile. I can ask custom questions that require people to put thought into their answers.

3. Conversion Leads Optimization. This is something I’ve been setting up for the past few months, and I’ll be able to optimize for very soon. When running ads to Instant Forms, you have the ability to optimize for Leads or Conversion Leads.

Conversion Leads

To get anything out of Conversion Leads, you first need to go through a multi-month setup process to help Meta understand your CRM funnel. I’ve been doing that using leads from Instant Forms and sending events when people click my links. The process is 95% complete, so I hope to begin optimizing for Conversion Leads soon.

Conversion Leads

In all of these cases, it will be more expensive to get the lead. This is part of that balance we keep discussing. We already know that Quality Leads cost me between $7 and $13. Will Conversion Leads help decrease that cost? We won’t know until we try it.

Test Your Assumptions

This was a fun test, and I encourage you to always test your assumptions like this. Especially if you’ve been doing this for a long time, it’s easy to fall into complacency where you just assume that, through all of the changes of Meta’s products and systems, everything will work the way it always has.

It doesn’t mean that my test definitively proves that Instant Forms generate more quality leads at a lower cost than website leads. Far too many factors contribute to that determination to make such a statement.

But, my results were certainly eye-opening enough for me to take a step back and reassess what I previously believed to be true.

Your Turn

What kinds of results have you seen from Instant Forms vs. website forms?

Let me know in the comments below!