Even if you've barely dipped your toes in the world of online marketing, you may still already know what a "Call To Action" is. But what's a definitive guide without a definition first?
A "Call To Action (or CTA for short)" is a marketing term used extensively in advertising and selling. The most common goal for a call to action results in an immediate sale. It’s the part of your advertisement that tells your target audience what they should be doing when they’re on your website or landing page. While a call to action can refer to every piece of copy that helps you close a deal, you should also have the CTA button. Internet users know what a CTA is intuitively, but let’s illustrate it with some pretty classic examples:
CTAs aren’t exclusive to conversion optimization or website design. Everything that includes the art of persuasion, sales in particular, uses a call to action element to prompt some kind of response, although, in sales, it’s typically called “the close”.
Although a call to action is a concept that has been present in marketing practices for ages, this guide will be focusing on online marketing CTAs only, or, in other words: how to optimize your website with call to action (CTA) buttons that actually convert.
The bottom line is, your potential prospects cannot convert online without clicking a button. It’s thesingle piece of content you want the majority of your visitors to interact with.
In web design, a CTA can be any text whose purpose is to prompt the user to click it and continue down a conversion funnel: a banner, a button, or any other type of graphic or text. Its sole purpose is a click - which converts a user or site visitor into a lead, and ultimately into a customer.
But here’s the catch with getting started with CTAs: although it may be hard to resist, you can’t just slap “Click Here!” on a neon button, put it on your website, and wait for bucketloads of clicks and leads. There are underlying principles that make up a good CTA button that will make people want to click it.
Investing some time and effort into crafting a good CTA copy, polishing out the design while also keeping page context in mind, will definitely pay off in optimizing your conversion rate.
Why Are CTAs Important For Conversion Rate Optimization (CRO)
If you’ve been around the online marketing block, we're sure you know how important a good CTA is. A call to action is not just a button, or as simple as a text link; It’s a vital part of the marketing formula, and without it, you’ll be unable to convert. Just like ordinary corporeal businesses, you need that conventional element that users can find if you want them to take the desired action.
Let us give you an example: When you’re out shopping in a store, you don't usually have any difficulty spotting the cashier, right? The same principle should apply to your online business. Otherwise, you're wasting your content, effort, and time on users that will never convert.
A website without a quality CTA button makes as much sense as a store without a cashier. Every online business needs a CTA button, just like every store needs a cashier.
As Copyhackers so eloquently put it, that means “your call to action, most commonly represented on the page as a button, can make or break your page. Can make or break your conversion rate. Can make or break your business. Alas, take it seriously.”
Online users are known for their short attention spans, and if you’re growing a business that wants to give them a run for their money, then you have to approach your marketing strategy from every angle possible. And the action you want people to take could literally be anything:
download an app/ebook,
sign up for a webinar,
get a discount,
subscribe to a newsletter/channel
buy a product
create an account
The conversion funnel can both start and end with a click, so consequently, the list of content eligible for a CTA is very eclectic. Depending on your particular conversion scenario, a CTA button can be placed anywhere within your marketing strategy -- on your website, in an email, or even at the end of a blog post.
How To Design Your Call To Action Button
The most important tip we can give you for your CTA button? Make surepeople can tell it’s a button. It might sound unnecessary, but surprisingly, not many people live by this rule.
Now let’s dissect what makes a good CTA button design.
CTA Button Color
Color can give people an idea of where they should click. We have to acknowledge, however, that although the internet is flooded with research about CTA button layouts and colors that work best, there is no magic formula that guarantees your conversions will immediately skyrocket. The important thing is that you have to think your design through and make sure the CTA button is not just an afterthought.
Keeping that in mind, however, there are certain general guidelines that make a good CTA button design:
Pay attention to contrast when choosing a color. You can either choose a color outside of your brand’s color palette or make sure it stands out.
Avoid using the color grey for your buttons. People usually associate it with unclickable things
Make sure it doesn’t appear spammy. This is especially relevant if your site design is pretty busy.
CTA Button Size
Will your visitor be able to find the CTA button quickly if it’s written in a language they don’t understand? If the answer is no, that’s a clear sign that you have to change the design of your CTA. A well designed CTA is a button your site visitor can easily point to in a few seconds, using visual cues only.
It’s a plus when the button is reasonably large
Add whitespace to separate the button from other elements of the page
Make sure you place your CTA above the fold, and within the visitor’s eye path
If you have multiple CTAs on your landing page, make sure your main button stands out
Want to write a CTA that will push all the right buttons?
First things first, it’s important to remember that there is no single element that’s most important on a website. The contents of a website don’t live in a vacuum; they complement each other and guide your visitor down the conversion funnel.
That means that the best call to action examples aren’t "good" just because they feature a magical phrase. The best of them lead you into thinking that the process will only get better after you click. But let’s start with the basics.
There are two important questions you need to answer when you start brainstorming the CTA button that will work the best for your business.
What is the motivation people have when clicking my button?
What are you or your business going to do for them? Help them save money? Connect with peers? Make their lives easier or more organized? Help them lose weight or coach them about stuff?
What are they going to get when they click my button?
Are they signing up for a free trial? Ordering a new product? Registering for a webinar or subscribing to your newsletter?
Your answer should be clear, concise, and on point, and your CTA button copy should reflect it. You have to make sure you give your audience a reason as to WHY they should follow through, and identify your business' unique selling point (USP).
If you can answer them clearly, your work is practically half done.
The rest is making sure that your copy is compelling, risk-reducing, and benefit-oriented. Call to action copy is not just fluff; It has to address the anxieties the reader might have and reinforce the feeling that clicking the button will get them exactly what they want. Your copy needs to be written in such a way that it will show your potential prospects the value of clicking your button.
Once you understand the single, focused goal for your landing page, you should focus on writing a CTA that does it justice. Generally speaking, these are the principles to follow:
Avoid generic copy
Use a familiar imperative verb
Ease your prospects’ anxieties
State the benefits clearly
Avoid generic copy
To quote Joanna from Copyhackers again - “The problem with so many calls to action is that they’re amplifying the act of proceeding rather than the value of it.”
Don’t settle for stock, generic phrases or templates. By personalizing your CTA, you are letting your audience know exactly what to expect from that click, while also dissuading the wrong users with your clear and direct message.
Use A Familiar Imperative Verb
However, that doesn’t mean that you should avoid the conventional word choices for businesses in your niche at all costs. If you’re running an e-commerce website, of course you can start your CTA with a straightforward “buy,” or “shop,” or “order”. A simple “subscribe” will definitely do the job if you’re promoting a newsletter. People are familiar with conventional phrases and they know exactly what to expect from them, which means that they are likely to trust them. You just need to add a touch of personality to them so that your prospects recognize the value behind them.
In fact, starting a CTA with a strong, yet familiar command verb is common practice for a reason - it’s the most economical way of getting your point across. And we know exactly how crucial clarity is with calls to action. You also shouldn’t underestimate the power of the imperative - people understand that it demands action intuitively. So, don’t dilly dally, and get straight to the point!
Address Anxieties And Emphasize Benefits With Click-triggers
Unfortunately, even if you’re sure you have one hell of a product, it’s natural that your potential prospects have some anxieties around clicking the button. In this era of the internet, people feel concerned whether they will get the value promised to them and whether they will be abused in the process. And it’s hardly surprising, as most customers understand on some level that they are being marketed to. They have browsed and lived in an era where clickbait exists, and a lot of bombastic claims on the internet are not what they present themselves to be.
The rule of thumb is that the bigger the uncertainty, the more skeptical people are about clicking. Now it goes without saying that you should only make claims you can deliver on, but how can you reassure people of the things they are likely to be skeptical about?
This is where click-triggers come into play.
Any text positioned near your call to action with the sole purpose of compelling your visitors to click is called a "click trigger." Click triggers should ease your prospect’s anxieties and stress the benefits of clicking the button. Having a strong click trigger is of utmost importance because it is what turns a lead into a conversion. Without it, you will see much less success, as your site visitor will be left to decide whether to follow through on their own. No matter how great the product is, a lot of people won’t take that leap without prompting.
You should research your target audience, analyze reviews, and your customers’ experiences with your product or service, in order to gain insights that would, in turn, help you bring more conversions. At minimum, you should be addressing the same anxieties your competitors do.
But even without all this, there are some general anxieties that all online customers are subject to, regardless of demographics or infographics. The most present forms include concerns about data management and ownership, safety information, or spam. Here are a few common examples:
How trusted is this company?
How much experience do they have?
Where is the company located?
Are they a legit business?
Are these people going to suddenly go out of business, after I've moved all my stuff to their cloud?
This service is free now, but what if they decide to charge for it later?
And what exactly do I get for free?
If I install this, will my computer get a virus?
I don’t want them to spam me if I sign up for their newsletter.
Should I trust them with my credit card number and personal information?
If I sign up with Facebook, how much of my data will they be able to use?
If I sign up with my Facebook account, is this going to post to my profile?
Is there no other way to create an account but to use my Facebook account?
Secure account… How do I know exactly how secure it is?
Will they notify me when the trial ends so I can cancel before they charge me?
Or, in more general terms: Is there a catch I don’t know about?
So, your job is to be compelling enough to eliminate doubt and offer a click trigger in the CTA that will wipe away any skepticism. You could do this by providing testimonials, letting your visitors know of a sale, saying what it can do for them, etc.
So, whenever possible, include the following:
Tell them exactly what’s going to happen on the next page
(e.g., You’re just 1 step away from getting your free ebook)
Equally important, you should tell them what isn’t going to happen
No obligations, no credit card required.
If it’s a free trial, show how long the trial is.
If you have a free trial or a freemium offer, don’t miss a chance to emphasize it. One of the biggest obstacles to conversion is risk regarding payment. If you can take the edge off with some attractive offer emphasizing that it won’t cost a dime, do it. There’s a reason why marketers are so enthusiastic about this - people LOVE freebies, and it doesn’t hurt your CTA one bit to stress that your prospect will be getting something for free.
How many people or businesses are using your product or service and have gotten results
You should always show off the number of satisfied customers, or the number of projects finished.
Group copy about your money-back guarantee with credible credit card logos
You have to cherish your prospect’s feeling of safety.
Group company info – like location and user base
Putting a face to your business is always a good idea.
How secure your service is
Star ratings and reviews
Always include what your existing users have to say about you.
Offer multiple sign-in options
Sure, it would be ideal to have only one action the sole focus of a page. But, chances are your business concept can’t be easily summed up over a coffee break or in an elevator pitch, so you may want to include a “free demo” or a “take a tour” feature.
As an example, if you’re selling enterprise software, why not cater to the different ways people want to buy? You may want them all to sign up for a trial, but your visitors will have different buying habits, and if they are unfamiliar with your product, throwing in a demo can convert more leads later on.
Optimize For Return Visitors
If you regularly have new things to show on your site, it’s always beneficial to think up a strategy to emphasize that fact. In such cases, CTA buttons like “See Selection” or “See What’s New” can easily outperform “Shop Now”.
Pop-Ups, Sliders, and Banners
People have developed banner blindness in the bygone era of the internet where everything looked flashier, spammier, and absolutely irrelevant. Unfortunately, they carry it over to the present. It applies to pop-ups too.
Generally speaking, using a pop-up or a banner is the best way for you to ensure that nobody will read the information on it...unless done tastefully. Well done pop-ups can help your conversion rate, but there are guidelines to follow:
Make sure the information is relevant to what your page visitors are interested in
For example, if you’re presented with a pop-up offering you a free guide for calls to action at the end of this article, you might be interested.
Don’t bully your visitors with information
If a pop-up appears and blocks the page before your visitors have had the chance to take a look at what originally drew them to your page in the first place, you’re doing it all wrong. They will close the pop-up without reading it at best, and leave your site at worst. So the best way is to trigger the pop-up when they have at least started scrolling, and you can use a cookie to ensure that people will only see the opt-in once.
Make it easy for your visitors to close your pop-up
Don’t ever hide the close button, because no one’s going to spend time looking for it.
This is a masterfully optimized landing page and CTA button bundle.
The personal, playful tone of voice goes hand in hand with the clean landing page design. The copy clearly underlines the benefits a prospect might gain from getting a membership with an on point, visually attractive bullet list. There are conveniently two sign-in options available, and the fact 4466 businesses have signed up for the service doesn’t hurt either.
“Start a free 30-day trial” is concise enough that it leaves no room for doubt as to exactly what the prospect will be getting and for how long.
Clickminded has a textbook example of a great, great, conversion scenario. Let’s first look at the landing page. You have two CTAs that stand out in contrast to a neutral background. The “Start For Free” and “Enroll Right Now” are different in color and size, which allows users to set them apart, both from the backdrop and from each other.
The copy above them clearly states the benefits of taking the course: “10x your traffic”, and that is the copy largest in size.
They’ve added how many businesses are using their product and why, which reassures new visitors that this is a trusted service. If you scroll down the landing page you’ll see they have added the logos of their most trusted clients, which adds another level of credibility.
If you click on their “Start For Free” CTA, you’ll arrive at this beautiful, concise, and highly reassuring page with spot-on click triggers:
MindMeister’s website design is both colorful and clean. There are three sign up CTAs, the first two clearly being the focus, mainly because they are branded and impossible to miss. The headline reads “collaborative mind mapping,” which is both informational and to the point, and on the right, you have a visual representation of what the app looks like and the devices you can use it on. The presence of the logos is also a nice touch.
7 million people using MindMeister? Sign me up!
Bad CTA Practices (With Examples)
Are there cardinal sins of calls to action that are costing you precious conversions? We’ll explore some pretty bad examples so you can get a visual idea of what not to do.
Although the concept of CTA seems pretty straightforward, you’d be surprised how easy it is to mess up. There aren’t many call to action examples that are out-of-this-world bad, but most can use considerable improvement.
The Barely There CTA
Unfortunately, non-existent CTAs are not uncommon. By far, the biggest problem with calls to action is that a lot of content doesn’t include one in the first place, or if it does, it’s practically impossible to notice. Like we previously stated, a call to action has to be more than just obvious - it has to be impossible to miss. At the very least, if you don’t have a clear call to action, add one. Here’s an example of a site without a clear CTA, although it might not look it at first glance.
CoffeebeanHave our friends over at coffeebean.com brainstormed what the main CTA for their site should be? We don't think so. The first thing you see when you look at their landing page is this gigantic rotating slider that dominates the page. The CTA in focus is “find a store,” which is specific enough, but if we scroll down, we find out that is not the primary purpose of their site:Because the site has so much going on, you don’t really notice the CTA for shopping online, which should ideally be the star of the show. The CTAs in the upper right corner of the page don’t help either - they’re grey, difficult to spot because of that domineering, useless slider, and don’t serve their purpose one bit. Similarly or identically colored buttons, in close proximity to one another, make it difficult for the prospect to choose, especially if they are generic.
The "too vague" CTA
And then, there are examples when you do actually have a call to action button, but an incredibly generic one. The second most common CTA mistake is lack of detail. There are a ton of pathetic examples circling the internet, deterring users from clicking with their stock or lackluster text.
"Click here" - and what? Get a fabulous free virus today, limited offer? Behavioral arguments put aside, if your CTA button is designed properly, visitors will know that they are supposed to click there. You shouldn’t be telling them what they already know, you should be telling them what’s in it for them.
If your visitors aren’t sure what they are submitting for, they are far less likely to click, and you’ve definitely lost an X number of conversions.
The overly aggressive CTA
If CAPSLOCK and drama are usually in your repertoire, tone them down a bit. You can be assertive and effective without any exclamation marks. The last thing you want to do is bore or harass visitors with how hard you’re trying to sell.
Consider this example. Not only does the design look both aggressive and busy, it somehow manages to not have an easily distinguishable CTA. Would you be able to spot the CTA immediately? And even if you did, would you click it?
Take The Guesswork Out And Test
No amount of theory can substitute empirical data. Although we’ve taken the time to provide some general rules and guidelines that constitute the principles of efficient call to action buttons, the goal is not to copy them outright, but rather to be inspired to start optimizing your site.
Coming up with answers of what will work best for your business is not as difficult as it seems - all you have to do is tune it to your customers. At the end of the day, no element in your web design lives in isolation. If you’re tweaking your CTA, consider the page you are driving traffic to, and make it what visitors expect - to make sure you deliver on your promise.
And whatever you do, don’t forget to test!
You can measure how successful your CTA button is in two ways:
A conversion rate formula
This formula calculates the number of clicks in relation to the times the CTA was seen. In other words, optimizing and then waiting for results.
The second way to test the success of a CTA is with A/B testing, where two matching versions, set apart by a single variable, are compared to each other to test how they perform. Version A is usually the control version, most often the one currently used, while Version B has had some treatment that could bring a change in user behavior.
If you’re A/B Testing, don’t forget to segment your customers first. Different segments have different needs, and what works for one group might not work for another.
The ultimate checklist for CTA buttons that convert
In place of a conclusion, we would like to give you a checklist you can use to guide you through devising a personalized CTA button that can potentially do wonders for your conversion rate.
Be specific with your word choice rather than using generic copy
If you can add a benefit or point of value, do it
Use a strong, familiar imperative to start your CTA
Suggest instant gratification with phrases like “Now” and “Today”
Emphasize when something is free
Choose a contrasting color or a color outside your brand color palette
Add sufficient whitespace
Make sure the button is large enough
Use pop-ups, banners and rotating sliders with caution
Don’t use self-explanatory generic copy like “click here”
Don’t use CAPSLOCK, or use it very sparingly. It comes across as pushy and in-your-face more often than not
Don’t make your button a simple text link or grey
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