It can entice a swipe up, a sign-up, or even a bona fide conversion. Of the many elements that your ad needs to contain, the call to action (or CTA) is one of the most important.
Why? Because your CTA is what gets your audience to do what you want them to do. It will often be the first thing they see in your ad, so it has to be compelling. It needs to cut through the noise of the thousands of other ads that vie for a consumer’s attention, so it has to be memorable. And, it must communicate what action you want someone to take, so it has to be crystal clear.
In the spirit of making your CTA as strong as it can be, below are 15 best practices that will lead to higher returns and a greater number of conversions.
We know, this one might seem obvious! But it’s not uncommon for landing pages to fail because the CTA is either buried in other content or missing altogether. In some cases, marketers fail to set the CTA apart from their other text. In others, they provide too many options—or they have a button but fail to ask for any compelling action.
Your CTA should be easy to see and understand. Set it apart from the other text by adding space and making it large and distinct enough to convert. Do not trust that someone will click through to a services page, home page, or any other page without explicitly saying that’s what you want. The action you want them to take should be spelled out clearly right on the landing page.
Remember, your CTA is a call to action. Think about the various actions your visitors could complete, and use the most action-oriented copy possible. "Receive our newsletter" doesn't have quite the same punch as "Check out our newsletter" or "Sign up to read more." The first example is passive—it describes what will happen to your prospect after they do what you want. Instead, focus on what you want them to do.
By using action verbs and concise language, audiences will feel more compelled to participate. Tried-and-true options like "Buy now," "Sign up," and "Register" all fall within this category.
However, you can also write a CTA that focuses on the results that users will get. "Jumpstart your tech career," for instance, can drive someone to sign up for an online course. "Learn the secret to high conversions" can get someone intrigued enough to sign up for your free report on landing pages.
The color of your CTA button and text could be the most decisive factor between a successful landing page and one that compels fewer conversions. Testing a range of color options can help you figure out which are most likely to work well with your audience.
Studies show that red is a hot (pun slightly intended) color for CTA button success. However, marketers should also take into account other design elements on a page to ensure the CTA button stands out and remains an appealing part of the design. An orange button on a red background, for example, may not be visible enough to make an impact (or aesthetically pleasing enough for someone to stay on the page long enough to read it!)
Experiment with several combinations to determine which works best. One quick trick is to step back and squint at the page. Can you still see your CTA button even when you can't make out the details? Does it fit nicely into the rest of the page while still being noticeable? These are signs of good CTA button design.
Do you find yourself using the same rectangle every time you create a CTA button? Try changing shapes to see if it improves your results. While the most popular shapes for CTA buttons are rounded or squared-off rectangles, other shapes like scalloped edges or ovals can also be effective. To see what works with your audience, A/B test different options and record the results.
You can also play with effects and even subtle animations to see if these draw results. Try an animated version, for instance, that changes color every so often, or one that gives a small shake after a few seconds. Too much of a good thing can be annoying, but minor effects can stand out just enough to elicit attention. If you find a combination that seems to have a positive effect, make note of your results so you can repeat them for your next campaign.
A large and easy-to-read CTA is imperative: Someone glancing at the CTA for half a second should easily be able to read and parse your text.
That being said, make sure you also don't go too far in the other direction. CTA text that is far larger than the text around it can come off as obnoxious or demanding. Readers may find themselves subconsciously put off by text that is too big.
To make sure your CTA text and button are the right size, try looking at your page in a number of browsers and on a number of devices. While responsive design should be able to make every element work well, this extra step ensures that everything is working correctly, and allows you to put yourself in your prospect's position to truly see what they'll see when they arrive at your page.
CTA writers are faced with a double-edged sword: The CTAs they create must be specific, but they also only have a moment to get the point across. Too many words can mess with your design, leaving you with text that is too small or a button that is too large. It can also dull the impact you want your CTA to have.
To stay on the safe side, write CTAs that are between two and five words long. Try rearranging and eliminating words until you have distilled your message down to its essence.
If you are worried about losing important details, consider making additional landing pages that focus on different aspects of a campaign. For instance, one could focus on the fact that what you have is a limited-time offer, and another could focus on the free-trial aspect.
Up to 1 in 4 adults in the US has some sort of disability, some of which cause difficulties in reading or understanding CTAs. As such, it’s key to prioritize accessibility in marketing to ensure that your content can reach as many people as possible. Here are a few accessibility best practices for CTAs:
One of the strongest impulses marketers must work with is their prospect's fear of missing out. By adding a time-oriented message or scarcity to your CTA, you can create a sense of urgency that will keep them from delaying their action and create conversions.
Time-oriented words like "now" and "today" are obvious choices. However, you can also create urgency by intimating future events. For instance, "register before your competition" plants the idea that this is a chance for them to get an advantage that their competitors haven't found...yet.
You want as little friction between your prospect and the desired action as possible. Just removing the need to scroll can significantly increase your conversions. A CTA that is high on the page can grab a prospect's attention right away. Additional information that is not vital to their action but is an important part of your argument can go down below.
Putting your CTA above the fold also makes you think more critically about the other information that is posted. You have no time for throat-clearing and introductions when it comes to converting a new web visitor. Focusing on the text above the fold makes you think extra hard about what information your prospect needs to see to make up their mind. A headline, a good CTA, a graphic, and a few short sentences may be more effective than 1000 words on what makes your product better than the competition.
Your value proposition is just that: the value you propose to offer your prospect. Ideally, it is something they can get from you that is not being offered by your competitors.
What value does your current offer have for your prospect? Is it a free book? A no-credit-card-needed trial? A one-month, non-renewing subscription?
Whether you are offering an exclusive collection or something that is priced far better than your prospects will find anywhere else, let them know this in your CTA. "Save 50% today," for example, lets them know what value is being offered and communicates that the offer is urgent.
Write down your value proposition and figure out how it can be distilled down to a couple of words for a winning CTA. Try to convey it at the beginning or the end of the CTA for maximum impact.
We put a lot of pressure on the two to five little words that make up a CTA, but they don't have to do all the heavy lifting. Adding some supporting bonus text nearby can help increase your CTA’s impact and help you convince your prospect to take the plunge.
Bonus details like "30 days free" or "no credit card needed" can give people the push they need. You can also use space right above or below your CTA button to add elements like testimonials, data points on others' experiences, and other information that can help convince your prospect.
Some examples of bonus text that can help drive audiences to a decision include:
Not every CTA button needs the extra help; many can stand on their own. However, the additional push can often help improve your conversions. As with many of these best practices, it’s important to test different wording and supporting text to see what works best.
We're often told that an abundance of choice is a good thing. However, according to the paradox of choice, the more choices someone has, the less likely they are to make a decision. Additionally, when they do make a decision, they are less likely to be happy with the one that they've made.
If, for example, you have a service where people can sign up using a third-party option, too many choices can make them hesitate. Do they want to sign up with email, Facebook, Twitter, LinkedIn, or another service? You can simplify things for your prospect by limiting or eliminating options among their choices.
You may also be tempted to offer three or more sign-up levels to people who land on your service page. While this can sometimes be a positive—offering different levels gives you built-in upsell opportunities—it can also negatively impact conversions. Those who can’t decide which level they want may decide to buy nothing at all. This is another instance when A/B testing is crucial: Test multi-option pages where there's a bronze, silver, and gold option against a page in which you offer just one package to see which gets better conversions.
On a landing page, less is definitely more. Instead of thinking of white space (the space that's not occupied by any other element) as "negative space," think of it as an active element for an effective page.
White space around a CTA button can help draw users' attention to it and make them more likely to click. Play with different amounts of padding above and below the button. See if it's more effective when there are sidebars or other elements compared to when your CTA button is the only element in that area of text. By finding which ways are most effective, you can create cleaner, more cohesive pages with better results.
Your landing pages should be easy for your users to navigate. People naturally move from left to right and top to bottom when they are reading a page. Design your page and its CTA in such a way that the page follows people's natural progressions.
Your landing page should always allow readers to follow a natural flow. This is important even when you are experimenting with CTA placement. For instance, consider a layout in which you test putting your CTA above the fold. If you still have additional sales text below, put a second CTA button at the end. That way, people don't need to scroll back up to get to your offer.
No matter what you feel you've learned about effective CTAs, it is still important to continue to test and try new things. New technologies mean new behaviors from prospects. As different generations age into their buying years, they'll adopt habits that are different from prior generations. And sometimes, you'll stumble across a CTA idea that goes against established rules, yet is still highly effective.
It can be easy to fall into bad habits or stick with the status quo when it comes to your CTAs. But by embracing the best practices discussed in this post, you can optimize your CTAs to generate the best results possible. Over time, you'll find that you are able to create CTAs that get you higher conversions and a better return on your marketing investments.
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