Posted by ziamd19
A call to action (CTA) can essentially make or break a potential lead.
Don’t trust my word?
Take a look at the example below: All the viewer needs to do is click on that blue button, and voila! A lead is born.
Sounds easy enough, right? Not exactly. There are several elements that are critical to get right in order to make that click happen. I’ll be discussing the most important ones in this post.
- Shape and size
“Some people have a way with words, and other people… oh, uh, not have way.” ― Steve Martin
The wording of your CTA is one of the most important, if not the most important, element of a CTA.
You cannot use something generic such as “submit” or ”read more” and expect readers to be impressed.
In a study carried out by Adchemy, a few words commonly used on CTAs were tested.
The hypothesis was that the higher the click-through rates (CTR) for these words, the higher the conversion rate.
As you can see, the hypothesis was proven to be false. The word “Buy” has the highest CTR, but “Order” has a higher conversion rate. The word “Shop” has the second highest conversion rate.
Why the variance for two seemingly similar words like “Buy” and “Shop”?
It has to do with what the words imply.
Most people are commitment averse in real life, and even more so when surfing the net. The word “Buy” implies you have to commit right now to buying the product. On the other hand, “Shop” sounds less final, and more fun.
My point is this: Words matter. A lot.
Say yes to verbs and no to adverbs: According to Hubspot’s social media scientist Dan Zarella, adverbs get the least number of shares on Twitter and verbs get the most.
Using verbs such as “start” or “discover” is definitely encouraged. It not only tells the reader what will happen when they click on the link, but it also makes them feel like they will get what they are looking for right away.
Consider the following example:
You would think starting a campaign would be more difficult than simply clicking a button. But the CTA above convinces you otherwise.
All you need to do is click that blue button to get started on starting your very own campaign right away.
It’s that easy.
Furthermore, the background picture connects to you on a personal level and the color combination also works really well. All in all, this is a great CTA for a homepage.
Give them what they want or tell them why they need it: An effective CTA should tell readers that clicking on it will get you them what they want or need. Visitors will not click on a link unless they think it is worth their time. Phrases such as “we have what you need” and “want to get more conversions?” communicate value to readers.
There are visitors who are not looking for anything in particular. In that case, you must create value for them. Give them a good enough reason to click on that button. You can do that by telling them “why” they are clicking on this link or what exactly they are getting (perhaps a free trial).
Gregory Ciotti, a marketing strategist at Help Scout, wrote an interesting article listing the five most persuasive words, with the word “free” being #2.
He outlined a study conducted by Dan Ariely, who gave customers two chocolates to choose from: 1) a Hershey Kiss costing 1 cent; or a Lindt truffle reduced to 15 cents (almost half of its actual value). The majority couldn’t pass up on such a sweet deal and chose the Lindt:
But then Dan tweaked the prices by reducing the Lindt to 14 cents and offering the Hershey’s for free. This changed the results dramatically:
So you see, as much as we like a good deal, we can never pass up free goodies.
But is that always true?
While reading the comments on Gregory’s article I came across an interesting exchange:
So you see it is important to know in what context to use these words. What purpose will the CTA be serving? Is it a long-term investment or a short-term investment?
You cannot just stamp a persuasive word on your CTA and expect sales to shoot up. Understanding the situation is crucial.
The use of a number is very convincing. For example, mentioning the number of users currently using the product or service gives the CTA more credibility. Following is a good example of this method:
Basecamp is clearly telling you what you will get if you click on the button, creating value that is built on by including the number of users they currently have.
It’s not just business, it’s personal: Try to design your CTAs in such a way that it makes the readers feel it’s all about them. You can do this by using words such as “you,” “yours,” and “my.”
In Ciotti’s study “you” took the #1 spot. But what works even better than that is using a person’s name. Nothing relates better to people than seeing their own name in print.
Let’s go back to the Basecamp example.
Notice how they write “It’s on us”? This makes readers feel like the company really cares. Let’s look at another example:
Here they made a great use of the verb “claim” and the use of “my spot.” It gives the reader a sense of entitlement and makes them think the spot is reserved just for them. It connects to them on a deeper level.
Now or never: A lot of CTAs use words and phrases such as “now” and “right away” to convey a sense of urgency. This makes the reader think they might miss out on a great deal they’ll later regret passing up later if they don’t take action.
“Instantly” occupies the fourth spot of the five most persuasive words in Ciotti’s article.
Two methods to incite urgency include highlighting a limited supply and making clear a time constraint.
The following page uses both of these tactics:
The page above was designed by Marcus Taylor. He was offering a package deal worth 1,000 pounds for only 47 pounds.
This amazing deal, combined with the sense of urgency he created, helped increase his conversion rates from 2.5% to 10.8%.
It increased his sales by 332%.
Need I say more?
Shape and size
John Hopkins conducted a study in 2010 highlighting how people are more attracted to gentle curves as opposed to sharp edges.
The study concluded that the possible reason for this as our brains are accustomed to relating curved surfaces to living organisms such as the human body itself. On the other hand, sharp or jagged edges reminds us off non-living objects such as rocks. One might argue that this is only true for men, as they relate to the female body to curved shapes. However, twice as many woman as men took part in the study.
So instead of using triangles or shapes with sharp edges, you might try using circles or other spherical shapes. Or you could just make the edges blunt, as in the example below:
Colors are important when it comes to CTAs. But it is not simply the color of the CTA that matters. In fact, there is no one universal color that will guarantee conversions. Hubspot tested the colors green and red to see which color was more successful in CTAs.
Here are the two pages tested:
Which one do you think did better? The red one beat the green one by a landslide.
So does this mean red is the color to go with?
Another joint study conducted by University of Rochester and University of Munich explored the effects of colors red, green, and grey on an IQ test. The test papers were identical except for the color of the cover. The results were as follows:
Red does significantly worse. Why? Perhaps because people relate red with “danger” or to “stop” according to traffic lights.
At this point, you must be thinking just tell me which one color will make my conversion rates go sky-high?
The answer is: none.
If we go back to the Hubspot survey and notice both the pages more closely, you will see that the first page has a constant color: green. The second page, however, has more contrast that causes the CTA to stand out. If we had used any other bright color apart from green, it’s likely we’d get similar results.
So the key is a good color combination or contrast that will make the CTA stand out as opposed to one single color.
The page above is an example of what you should not do. The color of the CTA “shop now” is the same as the color of the text. There are essentially three CTAs with the same message on the page.
Using a more contrasting color, increasing the size and, perhaps keeping only one CTA, would certainly improve the conversion rates on this page.
Putting it where it matters
The location of your CTA is critically important. It must be in a spot where it can be easily noticed. Let us take this Macy’s page for example:
This page puts the button “shop now” in the bottom left corner where you can barely see it. The viewer is also distracted by the sea of text.
Here is another bad example that I came across:
This was a really good article that I was very interested in reading, but it was too confusing to get across a cohesive message.
This is a prime example of how a badly placed CTA can completely ruin good content.
There are a few more things you need to account for before we make those conversion rates shoot up.
Know your audience: Marcus Taylor spent a significant amount of time finding out who his customers were. He found out guitarists are more likely to buy his products than drummers, and his conversion rates are highest in Australia and UK (which is why he put pounds instead of dollars on his page).
You can also create two CTAs and see which one performs best. This is known as A/B Testing.
Make sure it does what it says: A CTA that has “sign up” written on it, but if it takes you to a different page, your conversion rates will suffer.
Keep it simple: A lot of pages try to employ every single strategy they come across and end up going overboard. Take this page for example:
Here we have too many links and distractions that can leave the viewer dazed and confused. It is best to have not more than two CTAs per page.
In the end, it’s about finding the right combination of wording, size and shape, color, and position for your brand’s CTAs. And even when your conversions begin to climb, continue tweaking various elements of each CTA, one at a time, to attain the best results.
I wrote this piece to share what I’ve learned about writing CTAs with the YouMoz audience. I’m no expert, so I’d love to hear what others are doing with CTAs to enhance conversion rates. Please share in the comments below.
Sign up for The Moz Top 10, a semimonthly mailer updating you on the top ten hottest pieces of SEO news, tips, and rad links uncovered by the Moz team. Think of it as your exclusive digest of stuff you don’t have time to hunt down but want to read!