If you want consumers to do something after they see your online ad, email message, website, landing page, Facebook post, sales page, product page and so on, then you need to include a call to action (CTA). More importantly, that call to action needs to be powerful or no one will be motivated to do what you’re telling them to do.
In my book, Kick-Ass Copywriting in 10 Easy Steps, I shared three key things that every call to action must do:
- A call to action should drive customers to act now, not make them think about maybe acting later.
- A call to action shouldn’t suggest action. It should demand action.
- A call to action should make it easy for people to follow your instructions to act.
Related: 10 Laws of Social Media Marketing
Based on those three key things your calls to action must do, put yourself in your audience’s shoes. Consumers are busy. Don’t make them do more work than they have to. Instead, make it extremely clear why they should act, what their next steps should be and how to take those steps. You can do this through compelling copy and a carefully crafted call to action message.
As you create your online marketing materials, it’s likely each one will include a call to action button or link. There are many elements that affect the click rate and conversion rate for each piece, and the call to action button or link is one of the most critical. Keep the following hacks in mind. They can turn ineffective calls to action into click and conversion generators.
The words you use in your call to action message should evoke thoughts of a benefit that consumers will get when they take action. Don’t use generic text such as “Learn More”, “Download” or “Submit” in a call to action button. Instead, the call to action should hype a benefit.
For example, if you’re offering a free ebook that teaches people how to increase sales for their businesses, use that benefit in your call to action (e.g., Get My Free Ebook Now). Another option is to think of the problem the ebook can solve for your audience, and mention it in the call to action (e.g., I Want to Increase Sales).
2. Point of view
Calls to action should be written in the first person, which is typically more effective than the second person. “Get My Free Ebook” should drive more clicks and conversions than “Get Your Free Ebook”.
3. Verbs and adverbs
Most marketing materials want consumers to take action now, not later. With that in mind, your calls to action should create a sense of urgency using powerful verbs and strategically placed adverbs.
For example, if you’re promoting a special offer that expires soon, it’s easy to create a sense of urgency by adding the expiration date to your call to action. If there isn’t a time constraint for your offer, simply adding the adverb “now” along with a compelling verb to create the subconscious perception that people need to act quickly. It evokes the fear of missing out and can boost clicks and conversions significantly.
For a call to action button or link online, your copy should be short and succinct. Try to keep your call to action to five words or fewer unless you have a good reason to add more words. For example, if you’re offering a special price or a sale, it might make sense to extend your call to action.
Imagine you’re selling an ebook rather than offering it for free, and it’s currently 50% off the regular price. Your call to action could get more clicks and conversions if it says “Get 50% Off My Ebook Now” than it would if it simply says “Get My Ebook”.
When you create a landing page, email marketing message, or any other online marketing piece that gives you a lot of space to work with, it’s possible that you’ll want to include other links on the page. It’s best for your call to action button to be the only link on the page, but if you must include others, make sure your call to action button is the highest priority.
This doesn’t refer to its position on the page. It refers to visibility. The most important link and button on the page should be the call to action. Therefore, it should be the easiest to see and get to from anywhere on the page. All other links should be secondary.
The position of your call to action button or link is dictated by the user experience. You never want people to have to scroll very far to get to your call to action. Therefore, the call to action should always appear above the fold on long web pages (i.e., the area visible on screen without scrolling).
Always choose a contrasting color for your call to action button so it stands out from everything else on the page. You never want people to have trouble finding it or miss the message on it. Bright, bold colors work well and make sure the text on the button is a color that contrasts with the background color of the button.
Think about the psychology of color as you design your marketing materials and call to action buttons. People have very real, subconscious reactions to colors, which you can leverage to make sure your calls to action don’t go unnoticed.
The size of your call to action button is relative to the marketing piece. A small display ad will obviously have a much smaller call to action button than a full landing page or sales page. That means you have to choose the call to action size based on the design space. However, there are some universal size considerations.
Your call to action should be very visible and easy to read from a distance. Naturally, distance changes if someone is using a smartphone to view your call to action versus a large desktop monitor. Your call to action button size should responsively adjust for the device or you should create multiple versions to ensure it’s legible across various devices.
Throughout this article, you’ve seen both call to action “button” and “link” used. The format of your online call to action (i.e., a clickable button or link) might vary depending on your marketing piece, but buttons typically drive higher click and conversion rates.
The reason buttons usually perform better than links hasn’t been proven through research yet, but likely reasons are visibility and subconscious responses. In simplest terms, it’s easier to see a big, bright button, and that button is probably more memorable and more striking than text alone.
Add your call to action in multiple places on long pages to ensure people can get to it quickly and easily. For a page with a lot of copy that requires scrolling, you should show your call to action three times at a minimum (at the beginning, middle and end). Also, consider adding the call to action in a sidebar, as a pop-up or in the top navigation bar. Just remember that adding the call to action should enhance the user experience not annoy people.
11. Test and try again
It’s essential that you test your calls to action to optimize your click and conversion results. Test colors, messages, position, quantity, format, size, and length. Compare your results, and use the most effective designs.
With that said, it’s important to understand what works in one marketing piece might not work in another. One thing you can count on with calls to action is that testing is never done if you’re truly committed to optimizing your results and the return on your marketing investments.