Calls to action are commonly used in all forms of marketing, and web marketing is no exception. Their purpose is to prompt a user to do something. Much like a good conclusion of a college paper, they answer the question “So what?” for the user.
Great websites include at least one clear call to action on each page. They help ensure that, no matter which page on your website a user finds, they are directed to where you want them to go. Whether you want users to fill out a form, make a donation, or join your email list, your calls to action are meant to compel users to complete those actions.
A term that’s closely related to calls to action is conversion rates. When you hear people talking about conversion rates on their website, they are usually talking about the percent of website visitors who clicked on a call to action. CTAs play an integral role in the sales pipeline, helping visitors become leads, leads become customers, and customers become loyal patrons of your brand. Here are the key elements of CTAs and what you need to do to make them as compelling as possible.
Calls to action need to be strategic based on your marketing goals but, above all, they need to make sense to the user. Before you can even consider where to place them on a page, you need to first consider which call to action belongs on each page.
Your entire website should provide a great user experience with a clear path of action. A confusing or vague call to action will not only deter your customers from completing the action — it may build a sense of distrust with your brand and send users backing out of your site.
HubSpot is the master of purposeful calls to action. You won’t visit a page or read a blog without being prompted to take a next step that’s natural and helpful. Take a look at their main blog page:
They offer two blogs: one about marketing and one about sales. As you preview the posts, you see three main calls to action, all prompting you to subscribe:
So, just as your interest in their blog is piqued, they make it easy for you to become a subscriber. And they make it clear in the calls to action what you can expect when you complete the action.
HubSpot is also notorious for offering compelling calls to action at the bottom of each of their blog posts. Take, for example, the end of their blog post titled “63 Stats & Tips to Help You Become a Better Twitter User [Infographic]”:
Just after you’ve read their helpful infographic about market your business on Twitter, HubSpot tells you about their social media software and provides a link to try a free trial. This is the kind of intentionality your users are hoping for when they visit your website.
There are endless possibilities for placing your calls to action. They can be forms, buttons, or text and be placed in a sidebar, in the navigation, as a pop-up, at the end of posts, and more. Brafton, a content marketing company, found that strategic placement of calls to action led to these results:
Consider what actions you want your users to complete, and then develop a strategy for placing them on pages where they are clear and relevant to the user at that point in time. They should make sense on the page they’re on, make sense with the content around them, and provide clear information about what will happen when the user follows them. This will give you a solid foundation for optimizing their design and content.
Purpose and placement will play a huge role in the success of your calls to action but, without a great design, they may never be noticed. Web design’s purpose is to draw users’ eyes to what you want them to see. This is why web designers put a ton of thought into the fonts they use, the spacing between lines of text, the height and width of each section — all to provide an attractive, cohesive, and simple experience for the user.
Consider these statistics found by protocol 80 about how design can affect the success of calls to action:
Elements like size, color, placement, style, and page design all produced tangible results on the effectiveness of these company’s calls to action. And, while many blogs will make claims like one color is always most effective or buttons always work better than forms, there is no one-size-fits-all solution. The most effectively designed CTAs look completely different based on the context and layout of the entire page.
For example, check out the differences between the successful CTAs on each of these four landing pages:
Work with your web designer to consider each of the design elements that impact the effectiveness of your calls to action. And, as with all of your marketing efforts, test out different options to compare what works best for you and your users.
Once you’ve strategically considered the purpose, placement, and design of a call to action, you have one important piece left: copy. It’s fairly straightforward to understand, but it can be difficult to master.
The content of a call to action functions similarly to that of an advertisement: it’s a short piece of copy that’s meant to grab attention, raise interest, provide information, and compel action. Copy allows you to tell the user exactly what it is they can expect when they follow the call to action. The copy also allows you to speak directly to the user before they either decide to click through or move on.
Whether you’re writing your website content or your web design team is handling that for you, ensure that the call to action copy prompts a sense of urgency, describes the offer, and uses words to entice a user (like these examples found by IMPACT):
Finally, remember that, if a user has filled out a form or followed the prompt in a call to action, this is the point when they are most interested in your brand. Use copy to thank them, reiterate what they can expect (How frequently will you be emailing them from the email list? When will you follow up with their contact form inquiry?), and drive them to other pieces of content they may be interested in.
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