Most marketing professionals are aware of the importance of a good call-to-action (CTA). Just a few words can mean the difference between a bounce and a conversion. But creating one that is convincing and compelling enough to drive conversions is not as simple as it may seem. So below, we’ve outlined ten things that you can do to make your CTA generate as many clicks as possible.
1. Reduce Risk
There is a reason why nearly every company that sells software as a service (also known as: SaaS) offers a free trial to new customers. Because it works! After all, if you can cancel after two weeks or a month, without penalty, what’s the risk? Case in point: One company, Groove, discovered that offering a free trial increased their conversions by a whopping 328%.
Particularly when buying a subscription-based service, people don’t want to feel like they are locked into something by clicking a button. Netflix does a great job of assuaging this concern with their CTA: “JOIN FREE FOR A MONTH.” Above this bright red, eye-popping button is the copy “WATCH ANYWHERE. CANCEL ANYTIME.” By immediately informing the user that there is no long-term obligation (and giving one month away for free), Netflix is able to reduce lingering doubts and thereby increase conversions.
Using noncommittal, casual language in the CTA itself can be very effective, as Basecamp is well aware of. Their bright blue CTA reads, “Try Basecamp for free.” The use of the word “try,” instead of something more committal or potentially intimidating like “join,” is persuasive precisely because of how unaggressive and unassuming it is. Combined with the word “free” at the end, potential users are reminded that there is literally no risk in trying out the service. And they don’t feel pushed into signing up either. The strategic placement of the CTA (which pops up at the bottom right only when scrolling down the home page) reinforces the breezy nature of the CTA.
When a brand presents the user with a zero-risk opportunity, fear and hesitation are eliminated—or at the very least, reduced. As a result, users are much more inclined to click that button.
2. Make it Pop
As human beings, we are drawn to that which is visually appealing. Which is why it’s so important to design a CTA that jumps off the page—in a good way of course.
In terms of the size, an effective CTA should be big enough that it stands out, but not so big that it is obnoxious (this is a judgment call and really depends on the design of your page).
The color should be bright and stand out against the background. Many compelling CTAs are the same color as the brand’s logo. Many brands choose a brightly colored CTA for the one that they really want users to click (such as the “Sign up” button or primary CTA) and a nondescript, more neutrally colored button or link for the less important or negative option (such as the “Sign in” or “No thanks, I’m not interested” button, also known as the secondary CTA).
If it’s relevant to your brand or message, even embedding graphics within a CTA can prove to be attention-grabbing and highly effective. Since it seems that practically every CTA button out there is of a rectangular shape, you also might want to switch it up and consider a CTA that’s of a different shape—perhaps circular or triangular.
It’s also important to pay attention to the surrounding design. Simple design and the strategic use of white space allow the CTA to pop out more. In contrast, excessive copy or images can overwhelm the user and draw attention away from the CTA.
Finally, pay particular attention to the placement of your call-to-action. Keep in mind that it will be more conspicuous in the header, footer and sidebar.
3. Leave the User Guessing
Instead of bombarding your website visitors with information, reel them in slowly and remain semi-mysterious. One way to do this is to prompt with a question and then follow with a CTA button that reads something along the lines of “Find out now.” The mystery of what lies behind that button will pique curiosity and entice visitors to click.
4. Use First-Person Speech
It’s amazing how even slight tweaks in copy can make such a drastic difference in conversion rates. Changing the pronoun from “you” to “my” is one such example. Unbounce and ContentVerve performed a split test, comparing two pages that were identical except for the CTA. One read, “Start your free 30-day trial period” and the other read, “Start my free 30-day trial period.” While the difference in wording may seem trivial, the difference in click-through rate (CTR) between the two pages was drastic: the latter received 90% more clicks than the former.
Lesson learned: when crafting your CTA copy, aim to make it as personalized as possible—and put yourself directly in the shoes of your consumer.
5. Create a Feeling of Urgency
It’s human nature to place more value on things that are scarce or of limited supply (this interesting phenomenon has even got a name: the rule of scarcity). Imagine that you are at the bakery and there are ten blueberry muffins left and just two banana nut muffins left. Even if you’re told that the blueberry muffin is the best-selling flavor, your brain is likely to subconsciously assign more value to the banana nut muffin, since there is a lower quantity available. Consequently, you feel a greater sense of urgency to buy that flavor.
In similar fashion, insinuating that your service or product is exclusive or of a limited supply (even if it isn’t) is likely to increase CTR and conversions. Of course, this doesn’t mean that you should lie (after all, lying is the quickest way to undermine your brand’s credibility and lose customers). However, there are subtle ways of suggesting that your service or product is in-demand—without resorting to dishonesty.
In the CTA itself, you can use language such as “join the club,” “today’s specials,” or “now.” If it’s the case, the CTA can be accompanied by phrases that indicate a ticking clock, such as “Offer expires on June 20,” “Get it while it lasts,” and “For a limited time only.”
There are even more subtle ways to suggest scarcity. Which CTA do you find to be more effective: “Claim your free trial now” or “Start your free trial now”? My guess is the first one. The word “claim” hints that there are a limited number of trials available. It also has a more personalized feel—as if the trial is waiting just for you.
6. Be Benefits-Oriented
This may seem self-explanatory, but many brands do not clearly communicate their value propositions, resulting in lost customers and lower CTRs. It’s therefore imperative that the benefits of your service or product are clearly stated upfront. Why should people click that button? What’s in for them? Be sure that your potential customers know right off the bat—don’t leave them in a sea of ambiguity.
7. Guide (Don’t Push) People Into Buying
Nobody likes aggressive, pushy sales techniques. As opposed to using one single CTA that immediately pushes users to buy (and might end up scaring them away), it might be most effective to warm people up first. For instance, consider using a series of intriguing CTAs that guide visitors in the purchasing direction one by one, eventually enticing them to buy. By the time they reach the final CTA, they are more comfortable, familiar with your service or product and its benefits, and are more inclined to purchase.
For instance, on Spotify’s home page, the benefits of its family premium service are clearly stated in a single phrase, followed by a CTA that reads “LEARN MORE.” Once the consumer clicks, they are led to another page with a bright orange CTA that tempts the user further: “GET STARTED.” Only once visitors learn more about the service do they have the option to buy.
8. Steer Clear of Guilt-Tripping Language
Surely you know what I’m talking about here. It seems like these types of CTAs are everywhere nowadays. The positive, primary CTA reads something like “Buy my e-book now” and the negative, secondary CTA adjacent to it reads “No thanks. I’m not interested in learning about the environment.”
The false dichotomy used here makes the user feel as if they have to click the “buy” button if they are interested in the environment. Pangs of guilt and doubt ensue. While this is a clever manipulation tactic, it doesn’t serve to make your brand very likeable in the long run.
9. If Possible, Use Language That Relates to Your Brand
Barkbox, a company that sends out boxes filled with themed dog treats on a monthly basis, masters this technique. On their home page, there are two CTAs. One reads “FETCH A BOX” and the one next to it reads “GIVE A GIFT.” The first CTA utilizes a playful word that tends to be associated with dogs—much more interesting, relevant and clickable than something like “GET.”
10. And Last but Not Least…Test Away!
While the above techniques are likely to result in higher CTR and conversions, it’s always important to test every change you implement to be sure—after all, the end result will ultimately depend on your brand and buyer persona.
A/B testing (also known as split testing), which compares two different versions of your web page (or two different CTAs), is one way to do this.
Finally, remember that while calls-to-action are an integral part of the sales funnel process, there are many other factors to consider when it comes to optimizing customer acquisition and generating sales leads.