How To Build An Effective Call To Action

The conventions of modern content marketing place a lot of value on the call to action (CTA). 

But, that shouldn’t come as a surprise. 

A well written CTA holds a magnificent amount of potential when paired with eye-catching button design and proper placement on the page.

Let’s get down to brass tacks as I show you how to build an engaging call to action for your website, marketing emails, and other uses.

What is a Call To Action?

At the core, a CTA is a button, graphic, or short bit of copy that prompts users to take a specific action. 

A call to action is the path connecting content the user is already reading to a more enticing offer. At peak effectiveness, the CTA encourages visitors to convert into leads and customers.

For example, say a person is reading a blog post and at the bottom of the post they are presented with a CTA button calling for them to download a piece of premium content. 

They click on the CTA button and are transported to a landing page with a form to fill out in order to access the premium content.

In cases like this, the user is opting-in to being added to your email list in exchange for the premium content. 

Call to actions entice readers to:

  • make a purchase
  • share a blog post on social media
  • subscribe to a newsletter
  • download a whitepaper
  • sign up for a free trial
  • and, well, just about any other action you want to ask readers to take.

For example: “Click Here” or “Subscribe Now

Calls to action are commonly found in blog posts and newsletters, but they can be used in many places both in digital and print. 

call to action button and copy example
In this call-to-action example on our website, we used persuasive copy with a high contrast CTA button.

As you scroll through websites, you’ll see CTA’s on homepages, sidebars, near the navigation menus, in pop-up screens, and beyond.

RELATED READING: CTA 101: 5 Great Calls to Action and How To Use Them

Good CTA Are Built With Good Design & Copywriting

Sounds exciting, right?

Just add a button to the bottom of your blog post telling readers to sign up for a free trial and just like that your conversion rates start skyrocketing.

As magical as that all sounds, it’s not quite that simple…

Penning the perfect call to action takes skill. 

It’s easy to ask a user to perform an action, but it sometimes takes a bit of finesse to get them to actually do it.

That’s where effective copywriting and smart design comes into play. 

Don’t worry, it’s not as hard as it sounds, just read the best practices I’m about to share below and you’ll be well on your way to building effective CTA’s.

Make Smart Design Choices To Make Your CTA Stand Out

Here’s the deal…

If people don’t see your CTA, guess what they’re not going to do? 

Click on it.

A CTA should be highly visible if not impossible to miss. 

It’s worth experimenting with the design of your CTA to maximize its visibility. 

For starters, pay attention to the following CTA design choices:

Make Sure Your CTA Doesn’t Require A Search Party To Find

If you put your CTA in the wrong place on your site, your readers might need a search party to find it. That, of course, is not optimal. 

Call to action buttons need to be placed in a prominent position on the page. In order to attract the eyes of visitors, some CTA location placements are better than others. 

The Case For Putting a CTA Above the Fold

There are not too many places on a webpage that is more prominent than the very top of the page, above the other elements on the page. This is called above the fold.

Not only is it one of the first things a visitor to the page will see, but a CTA at the top of the page, near or in the navigation menu, will also be a more memorable location. 

example of a cta above the fold
On the LuminUltra website, we’ve added CTA above the fold so it’s the first thing a user sees when they open the page.

RELATED READING: How 3MW Helped LuminUltra Redesign an Outdated Website & Rank Higher in SERPs

Why does that matter?

Let’s look at it from the user’s perspective for a moment and think about how people browse websites. 

If the user were to open a page and see the CTA but decide to browse the site a bit more, it will be easier for them to find the CTA again when they are ready to click it.

In some situations this makes more sense than others. For example, if your CTA is asking users to apply to a job opening, that user may wish to browse your site a bit more to see if they’d be a good fit for your company before immediately clicking the CTA.

The same can be said for CTA’s asking users to perform actions like “Sign Up”, “Schedule A Consultation”, or, “Download The Software”. 

call to action in navigation menu example
In the site we built for Jaco, we’ve nested important, high-priority CTA in the navigation menu.

RELATED READING: Superior Product Design Deserves Superior Web Design – 3 Media Web Gives Jaco Inc. A Website Overhaul

On the other hand, CTA’s asking users to download an eBook or whitepaper may be better suited as an inline CTA…

When To Use Inline CTA Placement

Putting your CTA somewhere in the body of your webpage, below the fold, you are able to prime visitors (so to speak) with content that’s related to your CTA. Inline CTA can be in blog posts or dispersed throughout some of the main pages of your site. 

Commonly, CTA features big, bold, and in-your-face designs. 

Inline CTA are a bit different. They are less distracting and obtrusive–although that’s not to say they are necessarily subtle either. 

When you put your call to action in the middle of the page in an area with fewer distractions, it can work perfectly to grab the attention of readers. It is also likely to catch the eye of users who tend to “scan” the page.

So, when trying to find out the best place to put your call to action, consider what the CTA is about and whether or not it’s something a user is more likely to want to come back to or engage with immediately.

You can even try some A/B testing to find out which is the most effective.

Color vs. Contrast For Button Design

Familiarizing yourself with color theory as it relates to marketing and understanding contrast as it applies to web design is a great starting point that’s worth the effort if you want to build more effective calls-to-action.

Lead Nurturing Offers
The red CTA button stands out nicely from the background. Source: solidworks.com

That being said, there’s some debate over which color converts best. 

Is it red? Blue? Green? Orange?

Now, before we go down the which-CTA-button-color-is-the-best-rabbit-hole, let’s consider CXL Institute’s take on it:

“No single color is better than another. Ultimately, what matters is how much a button color contrasts with the area around it.”

You see, while there is no shortage of tests being done on conversion rates for specific colors, the bigger picture of all those tests reveals the biggest difference isn’t the color itself, but how much the CTA button stands out from the rest of the page. 

For example, if the main color of your website is green and you decide to make your CTA’s green, they will blend into the page design instead of popping off the page and grabbing the reader’s attention.

From this, we can conclude that the best color to use for your CTA button is one that contrasts with the other elements of the webpage, making it impossible for the reader to miss.

Make your CTA bigger (or smaller)

Make sure your CTA button is highly visible on the page. A larger button will make it easy for your CTA to be seen. 

A properly sized CTA should be large enough to be easily spotted, but not so large that it throws off the design of the page or triggers a banner blindness response from the user.

Since most web traffic now occurs on mobile, it’s ever-important to optimize for mobile readiness. 

For mobile optimization, the Web Content Accessibility Guidelines (WCAG 2.0) suggest using a minimum of 44 x 44 pixels for touchpoints (in this case, the touchpoint is the CTA button). In fact, it is a piece of success criterion to achieve a WCAG “AAA” levels of conformance—the highest rating available.

RELATED READING: How to Ensure Your Website Offers a Great UX

But Most of All, Make Your CTA Button Obvious

Another common issue is over-designing a CTA button. It may be tempting to have unique, creative icons made for your CTA, but it still needs to be obvious that the button is actually a clickable button!

salmon health job cta
On the Salmon Health and Retirement website, we used high contrast yellow CTA buttons that pop off of the page and very clearly look like a clickable button.

Don’t accidentally disguise your CTA button with unusual designs!

RELATED READING: 4 Visual Elements Your Website UX Needs To Get Right

How To Write CTA That Actually Convert

Outside of the design and placement of a CTA, it’s equally important to fully consider the copy of a call to action. 

The design, of course, is what catches the eye and draws the user into the CTA. The copy is what encourages them to complete whatever it is the CTA is asking them to do.

So, let’s take a look at some best practices for writing CTA.

Keep Your CTA Succinct & Choose Your Words Wisely

Remember, you’re writing a CTA, not an epic novel. Try to keep it to three or four words max.

The copy for a CTA button needs to be short and to the point. If the CTA is too wordy, they begin to lose their effectiveness.

Conversely, CTA button text that is too short also loses some of its oomph. Combine it with a few other words to make it catchy and interesting.

In other words, don’t just use the word “Submit” or “Go” for the sake of brevity. Instead, try filling it out a bit more. 

Use phrases like:

  • Download My Free Guide
  • Schedule A Consultation Now
  • Reserve A Space
  • Find Out How
website open on ipad showing cta
Even just glancing at the tablet on the table, it’s clear where the CTA buttons are located.

First Person vs Second Person

Notice how in the above examples, we’ve used the first person by using words like “My” instead of “Your”? 

There’s a really good reason you should do the same when writing your CTA and the proof is in the testing…

Michael Aagaard from Unbounce ran some A/B tests comparing calls to action written in the first person versus calls to action written in the second person. 

His testing resulted in an important discovery:

It turned out that using first person language resulted in an astonishing 90% increase in CTA clicks.

Convey A Sense of Urgency

Fear of missing out, or FOMO if you will, is a real thing. 

When writing your CTA creating a sense of urgency in the messaging encourages people to engage with your CTA.

You’ve probably seen a CTA before with a countdown timer letting the user know exactly how long they have before a deal or offering will expire. This tactic plays on people’s concern that they may miss out on something if they don’t act now.

Use wording to create a sense of urgency in your CTA.

However, a countdown timer isn’t the only way to convey urgency.

Using time-sensitive phrasing such as “Order Now Before It’s Gone” or “Only two spots left–Reserve Now!” can garner the same response. 

Give Users A Good Reason To Click Your CTA

“What’s in it for me?”

That’s what’s going through most people’s minds when they come across a CTA. 

If the reward for following the CTA isn’t useful to them, they won’t engage with it. 

In addition to providing them with something useful, make sure the value proposition of your CTA is very clearly stated upfront.

conversion funnel for ctas
Want to build better CTA? Grab your reader’s Attention, spark their Interest, offer them something they Desire, and they will take Action.

Use words that create enthusiasm and get the user excited about what they will get in return for following the call to action. 

Don’t just talk about your business, explain to people precisely how your business is going to help them.

Rather than saying something like:

“Learn how to grow your email list”

Try getting more specific using phrasing such as:

“Sign up now to grow your email list by 10,000 subscribers in 10 days”

Don’t Let Bad Site Design Destroy Your Conversion Rates

Remember, a CTA is only part of the digital marketing equation! There are many other elements that need to go into the web page design in order to motivate the user to click the CTA—even if the CTA itself is really great.

If your website’s user experience is lacking, visitors to your site won’t feel very motivated to engage with your CTA. 

Reach out to us for a free consultation and let our expert team of designers and digital marketers turn your website into your company’s highest performing salesman. 

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