Website Design

Everything You Need To Know About Calls To Action (CTAs)

Your website needs all the help it can get to keep visitors engaged, and calls to action – or CTAs, as we marketers and brand strategists like to call them – are among the most useful yet often overlooked tools in your arsenal. They can nudge your visitors to take specific actions and, when placed strategically throughout your web and landing pages, bring them closer to interacting with your business.

CTAs lie at the crossroads between web design and psychology: for them to work, you need to carefully combine visual cues and website analytics with persuasion techniques and emotional triggers. So it’s safe to say that simply placing a “Learn More” button every here and there is not enough to turn your website into a lead generation machine.

In this article, we’ll take a close look at what makes a compelling CTA, the role CTAs play in conversion rate optimization (CRO), and how to assess CTA performance so you can do more of what works and less of what doesn’t.

What Is A Call To Action?

According to HubSpot, a CTA is an image or line of text in your marketing that asks someone to take action – think of buttons and hyperlinks. When used on your website, they can direct visitors to dedicated landing pages, invite them to download lead magnets, subscribe to your newsletter, or book an appointment. For example, a blog post – such as this one – can direct visitors to your services page, where you can discuss how your branding helps businesses stand out from the crowd and become truly memorable. Or, you know, whatever floats your boat.

While this post will focus primarily on website lead generation calls to action, you can use these magic nudges for various purposes, such as growing your social following (like, share, and subscribe, folks!), promoting events, or raising awareness about the causes you believe in. Check out this list of awesome CTAs for examples and inspiration.

Compass East CTA
Compass East, an accounting and financial solutions firm that targets small and medium-sized businesses, fronts a simple, compelling CTA on their homepage that stays true to their brand identity and incentivizes visitors with the promise of free service.

What Makes a Great Call To Action?

You should take several factors into account if you want to up your website conversion game with the help of strategic CTAs.

Placement

You can’t just throw around your CTAs wherever you feel like it – it doesn’t work that way. If you want your visitors to first off notice, then actually consider doing what you want them to do, we recommend you make informed placement decisions that take into account the overarching principles governing your website’s user experience design. Consider adding CTA buttons on your hero images and wherever the copy is compelling and ignites curiosity. In blog posts, a good rule of thumb is to section your copy into three parts and add a CTA at each break.

Balance is vital, so remember to always be reasonable – just because you can add a CTA somewhere, it doesn’t mean you have to. Think of user intent: if you were a visitor navigating your website, would you feel overwhelmed by what’s being asked of you? If the answer is yes, take it down a notch.

Siloam Health CTA
Siloam Health, a healthcare nonprofit serving those most in need of care, carefully balances their CTAs with elegant iconography that is as non-intrusive as it is inviting.

Clarity

Don’t leave visitors guessing, and be specific when you make an ask. Your CTAs should blend seamlessly with adjoining copy – for example, don’t add a book an appointment CTA to a paragraph or visual that describes your business’ community involvement. Your visitors will most likely not be mentally prepared to take this step, seeing how they were browsing unrelated sections of your website. It’s also advisable to incentivize them before adding the CTA: state what benefits they can expect, and assure them that you take their privacy seriously and don’t plan to bombard them with unrequested emails.

Ultimately you want to focus on the advantages and minimize risks and commitments. The less pressure your prospect feels, the higher the chances they will engage with your content.

Escape Game CTA
The Escape Game, one of America’s most exciting escape room games, are careful to pair the options they offer with clear explanations so that users know exactly what they can expect from each course of action.

Urgency

Fear of missing out (FOMO) works wonders when it comes to convincing people to take action – this is one of the reasons limited time offers and similarly phrased calls to action can bolster conversions by up to 147%. So next time you want to invite website visitors to download your ebook or sign up for a free product trial, consider using words and phrases such as “offer ends today” or “get your copy now”. Better yet, why not accompany your CTA with an “offer expires” countdown? Thrive Ultimatum, for example, is a scarcity marketing tool that helps WordPress websites capitalize on FOMO. Give it a try.

Personalization

In addition to being clear and urgent, your calls to action should also be highly personalized. Take into account your prospect’s behavior and tailor your messages accordingly. For example, if you add three different CTAs in the same article, landing page, or web page, tweak them to reflect personalized levels of familiarity with page content – i.e., to reflect how much attention your visitor paid to the copy. AudienceOps provides a great example of how you can implement this on a blog post: the CTA positioned after the intro assumes that the reader is unfamiliar with the content and plays on their confusion, the second one assumes the reader skimmed through the text and plays on curiosity, and the last one targets visitors who thoroughly read the material and may be interested in trying the product.

Macro Snacks CTA
Macro Snacks (HA!) play on their visitors’ curiosity and use gamification to connect and bring them closer to acquisition.

Strong Language and Visuals

On the internet, attention is a valuable currency that everyone’s competing for. Your CTAs need to reflect that in both language and style, so ensure that you use strong, impactful language, appealing fonts, striking colors that provide powerful contrast, and as much negative space as the visual construct requires. You want your CTAs to feel uncomfortably yet elegantly singled out, so as to make your visitor stop and stare. A little bit of intentionality can go a long way.

5th + Broadway CTA
Fifth + Broadway, Nashville’s largest mixed-use property to date, tries to amass a subscriber base by offering colorful, crafty discounts.

Secondary CTAs

Even if your CTAs are perfectly placed and beautifully built, your visitor may still not be ready to take the desired action, particularly if it involves a certain level of commitment, such as requesting a quote for an offer or giving detailed contact information. In situations like these, secondary CTAs can save the day, as they keep your prospect from leaving your website empty-handed, so to speak. A secondary CTA provides an alternative: download the ebook (primary call to action) OR sign up for the newsletter (secondary call to action), book a meeting OR leave a message. You get the gist.

Secondary CTAs can help your prospects feel safe and in control, so make sure to incorporate them on your most important landing pages.

The Monroe CTA
The Monroe, a boutique development in Nashville’s Germantown neighborhood, invites interested visitors to schedule a tour while also catering to onlookers with enticing photography and details about amenities.

Brand Consistency

No matter how badly you want your visitors to notice you, don’t stray away from your brand messaging and visual identity guidelines. Your aesthetic should feel consistent at every touchpoint to nurture long-term trust within your target groups, and jeopardizing that appeal for the sake of a lead generation campaign may not be worth it in the long run.

The solution? Be bold, creative, and expressive, but all within the bounds of your brand style guide. And if you don’t know exactly how to do that, get in touch with a brand designer and ask for guidance – they will most likely be happy to help with visuals, templates, or sound design advice.

Pompette CTA
Pompette, a Mediterranean-inspired beverage manufacturer, ensured that their CTAs mimic their brand’s breezy, relaxed allure with soft shading and plenty of white space.

Keep an Eye on Your CTAs

Once you’re happy with how your CTAs look and feel, it’s time to shift gears and focus your attention on performance monitoring and click-through rate (CTR) optimization. Understanding how visitors behave on your website will enable you to adapt to their browsing style, tweak your call to action game accordingly, and maximize CTR on your most important pages.

Heat maps are very useful in this regard. They (literally) paint a picture of how users navigate your website and offer insights into their clicking, scrolling, and moving behavior:

  • Scroll maps show how many users reach the bottom of your pages;
  • Click maps show where users click their mouse or tap their finger on your website;
  • Move maps show where visitors move their cursors when browsing a page.

Using these heat maps to inform website content strategy and CTA placement, and monitoring performance in Google Analytics using event tags (more on this in a future post) will allow you to effectively A/B test CTAs and make data-driven decisions that will ultimately nail your bottom line.

Turn Action into Awesomeness

We told you CTAs are not as simple as you may have been tempted to believe. Now that you know what goes into putting together clear and compelling calls to action, you’ve mapped out another important piece of the puzzle and are on your way toward creating the ultimate lead generation website.

Next stop, lead generation forms, but until then, have fun experimenting with bold colors, catchy words, and striking lead magnets!

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