It can incite the click of a mouse, a telephone call or sometimes even a bona fide conversion. Of the numerous messages that your ad copy needs to contain, the call to action (or CTA) will likely be the most important words you write.
The reason? The CTA is your instruction to your reader after you have made the case for your brand. This will often be the first thing they see and last thing they remember, so it has to be strong, unique and compelling. What’s more, it also has to cut through the noise when competing against thousands of other ads that will vie for your readers’ attention—so it also has to be memorable. And finally, this is the message that ultimately tells your readers what you want them to do, so it has to be crystal clear.
In the spirit of making your CTA the best it can be, below are 15 best practices that will lead to higher returns and a greater number of conversions.
While it might seem obvious, it is 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. 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 version 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.
The CTA can be focused specifically on the actions you want them to complete so they feel more compelled to participate. "Buy now," "sign up," "register" and similar wording all fall within this category.
However, you can also write a CTA with a focus on the results that they will get. "Jumpstart your tech career," for instance, can drive someone to sign up for an online course. "Learn the high conversion secret" can make 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.
In general, experts say green and orange buttons perform the best. However, you will also have to take into account other design elements on your page to ensure your CTA buttons stand out while remaining an appealing part of your design. An orange button on a red background, for example, may not be visible enough to make an impact.
Experiment with several combinations to determine which works best. One quick and dirty 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? This is a sign of good CTA button design.
With more and more people visiting your sites from mobile devices, 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 allows you to put yourself in your prospect's position to truly see what they'll see when they arrive at your page.
Do you find yourself going with the same rectangle every time you create a CTA button? Try changing shapes to see if it changes your results. While the most popular shapes for CTA buttons are rounded or squared-off rectangles, scalloped edges, ovals and other shapes can also be effective. Carefully A/B test and record 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 be different enough from the norm to elicit attention. If you find a combination that seems to have a positive effect, record your results so you can repeat them for your next campaign.
CTA writers are faced with a double-edged sword: you need your CTA to be specific, but you 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 would like 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 can focus on the fact that what you have is a limited time offer, the other can focus on the free-trial aspect.
It can feel a little awkward, particularly if you've been using "you" throughout the rest of the page text. But a recent case study showed a 90 percent increase in conversions when "I" versus "you" statements were A/B tested against one another.
For example "start my membership" may convert better than "start your membership." The subtle effect of moving from talking to the prospect to letting them talk to themselves can make all the difference when it comes to the actions that you want them to take.
One of the strongest impulses marketers have to work with is your prospect's fear of missing out. By adding a time-oriented message to your CTA, you can create a sense of urgency that will keep them from delaying.
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. Removing the need to even 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 harder about the other information that posted. You have no time for throat-clearing and introductions when it comes to converting a new web visitor. Focusing on the textabove 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 what you have to offer the prospect. Ideally, it is something they can get from you, but are not being offered by your competitor at this time.
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 also lets them know 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 the maximum amount of impact.
We put a lot of pressure on those two to five little words. The good news is they don't have to do all of the heavy lifting. Adding some supporting bonus text nearby can help increase its 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 push people to a decision include:
Not every CTA button needs the extra help; many can stand on their own. However, the additional push can help improve your conversions in some cases. Work with different wording to see what works best.
We're often told that an abundance of choice is a good thing. However, market research repeatedly shows 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.
This issue is known as the choice paradox. 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 remove friction for your prospect by limiting or completely eliminating the choices that they have to make. Try listing just one option or limiting options to your top three sign-on choices, by user preference.
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 up-sell opportunities—it can also paralyze people in their choice. Those who can't decide which they want may decide to buy nothing at all. 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. White space is the space that's not occupied by any other element. In design terms, your white space is what's located between columns, text, buttons and other page elements. Instead of thinking of it 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 side-bars 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.
Every fraction of a second that users need to spend navigating your page is time in which you could lose them.
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, such as the wider adoption of mobile, means new behavior 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. By staying conscious of best practices and the newest ideas, you can keep yourself sharper and generate far more results. Always think about ways that you can improve an existing CTA to connect more powerfully with your prospect. 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.