Like the term implies, a call to action (CTA) is a crucial component of any website design because it provides the opportunity for a visitor to engage your company (and hopefully do business). Put another way, it’s where your site prompts a visitor to reach out and get involved with your business. Without calls to action, a website is just a virtual reference book, rather than the conversion- and income-generator it can be.
This makes them very important.
Some common examples of calls to action include:
- Form submission
- Lead generation
- Social sharing buttons
- “Contact Sales”/”Request a Quote”
- Event promotion
How does your site prompt visitors to action? Next time you browse your site, ask yourself these three questions:
#1: What’s the Call to Action?
It should come as no surprise that the primary focus of every Call to Action should be the action itself. The content surrounding your CTA’s — i.e. a vivid description of services, a new, informative blog post, or a portfolio of past work, for example — engages your visitors and brings them to your site. The CTA then guides them to take action on this new information you’ve provided them.
Notice how this box actually has two calls to action, both of which put the action front and center. The second of the two, “Download quotes,” is more direct, instructing the visitor precisely where to click to access this content.
The first, on the other hand, “Get inspired by these quotes from 100 different inbound marketing experts,” connects the action explained in the second Call to Action (download quotes) with the benefit, which is also an action — in this case, getting inspired.
It doesn’t hurt to add a small sense of urgency (not too overbearing, though) to the action, as well. Even simply adding the word “now” can prevent a visitor from thinking, “I’ll come back and do this later…”
Tips for keeping the action at the forefront:
- Use actionable, language (DO: “Download Quotes”; DON’T DO: “100 Inspirational Quotes Here”)
- Use descriptive language (DO: “Get inspired by these inspirational quotes…”; DON’T DO: “Click here”)
- Compel visitor to seize the moment (DO: “Get daily inspirational quotes to your inbox in just 2 clicks”)
#2: What’s the Point?
Like we saw in the last example, simply being direct is good but not all you can do to maximize the effectiveness of your CTAs. You should also explain why this action will benefit whomever takes it.
This PayPal Call to Action has four different action statements (In fact, of the 21 words that appear in this box, only two are not directly contributing to a call to action.):
- Shop at millions of online stores without risking your identity. (non-linked text)
- Check out with PayPal (yellow button)
- Show with confidence. (non-linked text)
- Learn how… (linked text)
Two of these four are links that take the visitor to a sign-up form or another page with more information. The other two, though, do not direct visitors to another page, but they do very clearly identify the benefit to be gained by clicking one of the other links (shopping without risk of identity theft). All four of these action statements work together, some identifying benefit while others describe what the visitor must do to reap that benefit.
Also notice how the PayPal Call to Action does not call attention to whatever steps might be involved in the sign-up process. This minimizes the visitor’s sense of commitment, which can impact a decision to follow through or not. If a call to action button is preceded by, say, a laundry list of requirements or stipulations, or even just an overbearing list of benefits, this might overwhelm the visitor and cause her to pass.
Sometimes, however, you want your visitors to take an action that requires little effort or commitment on their end. Emphasize that!
Tips for connecting action to value:
- Describe benefit in two or three descriptive words (DO: “Shop with confidence.” DON’T: “Don’t worry about identity theft any longer.”)
- When possible, keep your actions simple (DO: “Just Click to Start your Free Trial”; DON’T: “Provide payment information to start your free trial”)
- If not, minimize or segment the steps involved (DO: “Learn how you can shop with confidence”; DON’T: “Get started on your way to worry-free shopping”)
#3: How does it look?
Beyond making sure your message is actionable and value-driven, what else makes a Call to Action effective? As superficial as it might sound, in the CTA game, looks and size do matter.
Most experts recommend that CTA boxes or buttons be large and in charge of their page. Specifically, the successful CTA’s are sometimes as wide as 2/3 of the page. Because bigger is (usually) better when it comes to CTA’s, a well-designed landing page is often appropriate.
Litmus has a really great infographic on how to design an effective CTA.