The Call to Action Beginner’s Guide

A call to action (CTA) is exactly what it sounds like. It’s a prompt (usually a button) that directly tells users to take an action. But not just any action. A call to action is a strategic page element aimed at getting users to convert.

Why CTAs matter

It’s sometimes hard to believe a few words can have a huge effect on your conversion rate, but that’s what’s riding on your CTA. The call to action is your way of directing the user down the conversion funnel. When it’s done well, users will want to follow the direction of the CTA. 

CTAs have been analyzed and tested for years. There are literally hundreds of studies dedicated to figuring out what works and what doesn’t. All that research has revealed there are aspects of effective CTAs that hold true no matter what you’re selling. 

First and foremost, you’ll want to nail down the three core components of effective CTAs – color, copy and placement.

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CTA Color

Color is extremely powerful in terms of converting users. As mentioned in our conversion rate optimization tips, colors elicit emotions. Converting users is much easier when you understand what they are feeling and can direct an emotional response.

Take for instance, ADT security systems. Ever wonder why they use so much blue? People who are looking for a security system feel vulnerable to some degree. They are looking for protection. ADT’s design team probably knew the color blue tends to be associated with trust, order, dependability and security. 

Before you make your CTA button a random color or one that simply looks good, consider how you can use color to your advantage.

Pair the color with the mood you want customers to be in. In the example above, users may land on the ADT website feeling fearful, but that’s not how ADT wants people to feel about their products. Your button color can send a subliminal message to users that clicking on it will help them feel the way they want to feel.

Choose a button color that stands out. Bright orange may be a great CTA color on many sites, but what if orange is already a primary color on your website? If that’s the case an orange CTA button is going to blend in with other page elements instead of standing out.

Create high contrast with text color. Another thing you want to stand out is the CTA text within the button. If the text is lost your CTA will look like a block of color floating on the page with no purpose.

CTA Copy

The words used for the call to action is arguably the most important part. The CTA has to convey value for the user. It should also be action-oriented to prompt the user to take a desired action. Once you cover those two basics, keep optimizing your CTA with the tips below.

The Power of “Get”

Of all the action-oriented words, “get” is the universal winner. We like to get things more than we like to pay for them, earn them or sign up for them. The word “get” has the connotation that something is being given without much work on the part of the recipient. It isn’t always the most effective CTA wording, but many CTAs can be improved by including “get”.

Content Around the CTA

How the CTA itself is worded is key, but all the content around it also plays a role in converting users. You’ll want to:

  • Keep content sparse around the CTA so it doesn’t get lost.
  • Support the CTA with content that reflects the CTA.
  • Lead into the CTA with information and benefits that encourage clicks.  

In general, the content leading up to the CTA should tell users why they want to click through to the next page. 

Content After the CTA

Ideally, users are clicking the CTA button, but that isn’t the end of the user journey. Going from a click to a conversion often depends on what’s on the next page. The content should reinforce the call to action and deliver as promised. This is also a great opportunity to provide additional details that weren’t on the previous page. 

Make It Personal

The more personalized you can make a call to action the better it should convert. How much better? A study from Hubspot discovered personalized CTAs convert 202% more than non-personalized CTAs. Even using verbiage like “you” and “your” is more powerful than a generic CTA. 

Use Secondary In-Text CTAs

Button CTAs have a higher conversion rate, but in-text CTAs offer an additional opportunity to get users to continue down the funnel. In-text CTAs can also help your SEO efforts depending on the anchor text that’s used. 

CTA Placement

Where the CTA is on the page also matters. If users don’t see the CTA or can’t find it, then there’s no way for it to convert. Use the tips below to make sure your CTA will get attention. 

Above the Fold

The general rule of thumb is to put the CTA above the fold. That means the CTA should be visible without having to scroll down the page. 

Prominent Placement

You’ll want the CTA to have prominent placement that makes it the focal point on the page. 

Space for Size Adjustments

Put the CTA in a place that allows you to play around with the size. You may find that a bigger button converts better, and it gives you extra space for CTA text. 

Think About Mobile Users

Another reason to go larger with your buttons is big buttons are mobile-friendly. Anytime you are creating a CTA test out the placement to see how it looks on mobile devices since that’s how the majority of people access the Internet.

Examples of CTAs That Get Clicks

Mailchimp

Mailchimp does a lot of things right with its CTA. The content sets up the CTA beautifully, it’s prominent with little content around the button and it’s above the fold. 

Netflix

Netflix proves it doesn’t take much to convey value with the CTA and surrounding text. They also understand the power of a big, prominent button.

Prezi

All of the negative space in the design makes the green CTA on Prezi’s website really stand out. 

Spotify

The CTA on Spotify’s website it front and center so that no user can miss it.

Turbotax

Turbotax is a great example of offering value and using the surrounding text to get clicks. 

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