A Call-to-Action (CtA) is a visual item or element placed in a web page that encourages a website visitor to do something specific, preferably right at the moment it is seen.
Common examples of CtAs include:
- A phone number
- An email addresses
- A contact form with Submit button
- A subscription form with Subscribe Now button
- A Play Video button
- A Get a Free Quote button
- A Buy Now or Pay Now button
- An Add to Cart button
- An Enrol or Register button
- And many, many more
Ultimately, everything that has been planned, designed, implemented and connected together to create an Online Sales Funnel has a single, overarching purpose, and that is to get as many prospects as possible to a designated CtA and have them act upon it, i.e. click it.
When designing and creating the Calls-to-Action you will place on your website, do your best to implement the following 5 key principles.
1. Make you CTAs verb driven in the form of a clear command
Be clear and concise with the wording used on the CTA. The goal is to be very specific and non-ambiguous about what action you want the visitor to take, and in the minimum number of words possible. This is achieved by giving them a verb-driven command they will understand and which they will instinctively want obey.
This requires that the text on the CTA being used always commence with the most appropriate verb possible, thus maximising the likelihood of triggering the required action on the part of the visitor. Common examples that are familiar for most website users include:
- Buy, shop or order for eCommerce websites
- Subscribe, sign-up or register for subscription-based offerings such as newsletters and memberships
- Complete, learn more or fill out for forms requesting visitors to provide their details
As an example, if you were using a free eBook as a device to build up a mailing list, the offering website visitors with a CTA labelled Free eBook would not be nearly as effective from a conversion point of view as Download my free eBook now!
As you can see, that word used in the latter CTA example commences with a strong, command-oriented verb that also stresses a clear benefit in doing so by stating that downloading the eBook will incur no cost of the website visitor.
The important thing to note here is that simply predicating the CTA with a verb-driven command increases its likelihood of being clicked enormously.
2. Use words and phrases that naturally provoke emotion and engagement
Website visitors are far more likely to click a CTA if the wording it uses elicits a strong emotional response. This is because people are more likely to take action based on an emotional trigger of some kind rather than one that only attempts to appeal to their intellect and logic. In other words when it comes to selling anything, be it online of off-line, emotion always trumps logic.
For example, if we examine the CTA in the image above, we can see in the helper text the statement It’ll cost you nothing, but may well save you thousands of $$$ a tear in website services fees!
This statement is designed to trigger an emotional response in the website visitor and motivate them to click the CTA in three (3) ways:
- It states that doing so will cost nothing, which is good because everybody likes getting something of value for nothing
- It employs a bolded $$$, a symbol that, especially when emphasised and repeated, creates a strong suggestion of financial gain
- It states that thousands of dollars in savings may be achieved which is great, because the next best thing to making money is saving money
However, whether a CTA employs a single emotional trigger or several, the key point here is that all CTAs must use them if they are to get website visitors to take the desired action.
3. Increase likelihood of action by offering a sweetener
As I’m an often quoted as saying “all interest is self-interest”. This means that when you ask a website visitor to do anything that involves them giving you their contact information, leaving you a comment, sharing to their social media pages or parting with their cash, they will almost always ask themselves “what’s in it for me?” Now, unless you have a good answer to that very fair question, then you’re unlikely to convert at any worthwhile level at all.
So always ask yourself the question “what can I offer a website visitor that they would actually see as valuable in return for their information, comments, social media shares or cash?” If multiple things come to mind, make and list and consider each option in turn. The idea is to determine which item will be easiest for you to put together and which would also be highly desirable to a visitor.
Common examples of tangible inducements that you can offer website visitors in return for them taking the desired course of action using the CTA you provide them include a free:
- Monthly newsletter
- Report or white paper
- Tip sheet or cheat sheet of some kind
- eBook or eGuide
- Access to a useful utility such as a cost calculator
- Trial period of a paid product
- Evaluation, audit or review of some kind
By way of an example, if you were a tax accountant, then offering an eBook or eGuide that presents the reader with 50 easy-to-implement and totally legal ways to minimise their tax, then that would indeed be seen as valuable by just about anyone. The compelling aspects of this sweetener are fourfold:
- Firstly, the eBook or eGuide is free
- Secondly, there are a lot of tips on offer; 502 in fact
- Thirdly, the tips are going to be easy to implement
- Lastly, the reader is going to minimise their tax and save money
In fact, even if you were charging a small fee for this eBook or eGuide to cover costs, these four compelling reasons would still get people to click your CTA at a high rate.
4. Associate a sense of urgency or limitation with the CTA
In marketing circles, the tactic of implying that a person will not benefit from whatever’s on offer if they don’t hurry and click right now is known as FOMO, which stands for Fear of Missing Out. This tactic has been employed for centuries and still works as well now when trying to motivate people to act as it did in the ancient stalls of Babylon.
FOMO works by creating a sense of anxiety in a prospect that if they fail to act right now, will result in them forfeiting and opportunity that may not or will not be available again. Of course, this is a pile of rubbish, and you will be providing the opportunity again and again if it is a key marketing strategy that’s been working at bringing in customers. If fact, most people know at the conscious level that the FOMO technique is being applied to them, however, when applied well, it is the sub-conscious mind that responds to it powerfully and reliably.
Hotels use this technique very well when they show that they have only one or two rooms left and that these too will be gone in a matter of minutes if the prospect doesn’t make the booking right know.
For added impact, I’ve seen the use of a countdown timer on accommodation sites like these that make it clear to the prospect that if they don’t book before the countdown gets to zero, then the room will be made openly available to anyone and everyone again, in which case, you’ll most likely lose it.
This technique is an excellent illustration of the FOMO technique in action, as it combines scarcity with a severe time limitation. If you really wanted a room, this strategy would almost certainly have you clicking the Book Now button in a matter of moments and with an utter sense of desperation.
All you need to do is think of how you can apply the powerful principles of scarcity and limitation to your own CTAs.
5. Tailor your CTAs to the device they will most commonly be seen on
According to a research study conducted by The Digital Industry Association of Australia (AIMIA) entitled Australian Mobile Phone Lifestyle Index: 10th Edition – Special Topic: Mobile Phone Use Compared To The Tablet And Personal Computer:
- In October 2014, 89% of Australians own a smartphone
- That by October 2015, this level of ownership would likely rise to 92%.
- Of all smartphones owned in Australia, 49% were Apple iPhones and 25% Samsung models
- 86% of Australians used their smartphones to visit websites and/or browse or search the Internet
- 70% of Australians used their smartphones for banking including transfers and bill payments
- 59% of Australians used their smartphones to buy and pay for things online
Source: AIMIA – The Digital Industry Association of Australia. (2014). AUSTRALIAN MOBILE PHONE LIFESTYLE INDEX: 10th Edition – Special Topic: Mobile Phone Use Compared To The Tablet And Personal Computer. Source: http://www.aimia.com.au/ampli2014
With the above statistics in mind, it is clear that all of your online business activities be geared towards smartphone users, because it is with this device that they will be accessing you Online Sales Funnel. This of course includes all of your Calls-to-Action, and the absolute necessity that they present and operate perfectly on all smartphone devices.
With this in mind, here are the top five considerations you need to make when designing and positioning CTAs on web pages that are likely to be viewed predominantly in smartphones:
6. Keep CTAs above the fold
The fold is the point at which web page content can no longer be seen unless the web page visitor scrolls the page. On a PC or even an iPad, you can fit a great deal of content on the page above the fold. However, this is not the case with smartphones where there is no a great deal of vertical space for you within which to persuade people to do what you want them to do. Although it would seem logical that people would in fact keep scrolling until they find what it is that they want to know or until they reach your CTAs, this is often not the case. This is because smart phone users are often in a hurry to find what they want as quickly as they can and then perform the transaction required to get what they need. In many cases, if they don’t see what they want straight away, they tend to leave and try a competitor’s website instead.
To avoid this issue therefore, do everything you can to keep everything that is vital to a conversion taking place above the fold. This includes the most persuasive text, images, video and of course CTAs. This of course sounds easier than it actually. Try fitting a combination of these essential persuasive elements above the fold on an iPhone 5. The vertical real estate on this device is almost non-existent it’s so small. Nonetheless, you’ve got to find ways to do just that if you’re ideal customers tend to use smart phones to find you and interact with the information or offers you have for them.
7. Make CTAs thumb friendly
Most of the time when someone is browsing your website, they will be standing and doing everything on their smart phone with just one hand. More often than not they’ll also be on the move; walking from one place to another while trying to check out your offerings and deciding if they can get what they want from you.
Therefore, if you’re going to maximise your chances of having smartphone visitors converting into paying customers, then you’re are going to have to support this one-handed, on the move behaviour.
As I’ve always said to my clients and students, if you’re going to do this, then make sure all the most important elements of your web pages can be perused and activated with just one thumb.
To this end, you need to make your CTAs as big as they need to be so that a smart phone user can easily click on them with just one thumb, even if they’re on the move as will be the case if they are walking or riding on a train or bus.
The other important thing is to make sure that CTAs cause the device being used to respond appropriately when ‘thumbed’. The most important example of this is when a Call Now button is thumbed; it automatically dials the relevant number, and does not require the user to do this manually.
This is a common oversight that I see on a great many websites. A phone number present in the form of text, but when clicked it does nothing. This is because the required HTML code required to make the phone number ‘active’ has not been added. This is a major mistake, because when phone numbers don’t result in auto-dialling when thumbed, a smart phone user, i.e. your potential customer, becomes very annoyed, and is likely to abandon your site without making a purchase as a result.
The image above shows the HTML code that needs to be attached to a phone number, be it text or an image, so that auto-dialling will be triggered.
8. Make smart use of space
It’s also a very good idea to ensure that there is enough vertical and horizontal space surrounding a CTA so that it does not end up blending in with other content on the page. Once again, the major mistake people make in this regard is viewing their CTAs only on PCs and then judging the amount of spacing around a CTA to be sufficient.
However, it’s the spacing as it appears on smart phones that are going to be the real test, as this is how the majority of website visitors are going to find you and interact with you in the new mobile economy.
The image above shows the spacing I’ve set around a CTA as displayed on an iPhone 6+. As you can see, there is a very generous separation between the CTA itself and the content that surrounds it.
This ensures that website visitors can easily perceive that this object is in fact something that pertains to the body text, but stands out as a clickable item that will allow them to take a specific course of action if they so wish.
9. Ensure CTA text is easy to read
When it comes to the text you assign to you various CTAs, the biggest mistake you can make is to view them solely on a PC and then judge it to be sufficiently big based on this environment alone. To the contrary, the only way to really know if CTA text is big enough is to check it on a smart phone, and preferably a smart phone with the smallest amount of screen area. This of course is the iPhone 5 series. If you can clearly read a CTA’s text on this device, then you can rest assured it can be read easily on any other device out there.
For example, above is an example of a CTA I used for a mobile website upgrade campaign in April of 2015. The CTA is displayed here with a width of 5.8cm, which is what it would be approximately scaled to when displayed on an iPhone 5S. As you can see in this case, the text, although not ideal in terms of size, is still more than acceptable in terms of readability. This CTA when displayed on any other Apple or Samsung smart phone or tablet would be perfectly readable. The key point here is always test your CTAs on mobile devices, preferably the small smart phone you can get your hands on.
10. Use logical interaction clues that help people recognise items as CTAs
When a person is viewing your website using a PC, if they are unsure as to whether a piece of text, image or other object is in fact ‘clickable’, then all they need to do is hover their mouse over it, and this will be confirmed either way by the appearance of the iconic web hand.
However, when someone is using a smart phone or tablet device, this functionality is not available. Now this introduces quite a significant problem, because it can result in CTAs being present on your website that visitors may not recognise as such. When this is the case, then the only thing they can do to confirm this one way or another is to click on the item and see. However, many visitors will avoid doing this for fear that they are committing to some form of action they do not wish to take. Or alternatively, they will simply not recognise the CTA at all, and as such, fail to take action even if it is their desire to do so.
One very easy and effective technique you can use to get around this issue is to add logical interaction cues to your CTAs; so that smart phone and tablet using visitors are left in no doubt that they are clickable.
For example, the image above shows a CTA that I use frequently on various landing pages on my WordPress Warrior website. Even though some website visitors would recognise it as a CTA, and click on it if they wished to call me, my user testing shows that many in fact don’t. however, the simple addition of a thumb pressing down on the button changes that, with a far greater percentage of users recognising the object as clickable simply by its presence.
Keep this in mind when designing the CTAs you will use on your own landing pages. Look at what you have created on a smart phone, and ask yourself honestly “does this object authentically come across as clickable to me?” If the answer is either possibly or no, then think of what you can add to the object to make it much clearer that it is a clickable CTA. Don’t be afraid to be creative with this, because the increase in conversion rate that can be achieved with a little bit of ‘out of the box’ thinking can be dramatic.