Developing high quality calls to action is the single most important element of a website.
Visitors that don’t click, don’t convert.
You could have the best PPC campaign in the world and be ranking number 1 for all your top keywords on Google.
But without calls to action that evoke certain emotions and encourage users to take desired actions, you are limiting your success.
We often make simple mistakes with calls to action.
One of the most common reasons landing pages and sales pages don’t convert as much as you’d like is because of weak calls to action.
They don’t create a sense of urgency and encourage the user to buy now, download that free guide or sign up to the online course you spent months developing.
To be honest with you, creating compelling calls to action that encourage the right action is no easy task. If it were, everyone would be doing it.
Developing a sense of urgency verses being pushy and intrusive is a fine line.
The 8 tactics below will simplify it and provide you a clearer direction.
1. Focus on the value your call to action provides
Before a user is willing to complete a call to action they have to be 100% clear on the benefit of doing so.
If the user isn’t certain what they will receive from completing your call to action they simply won’t click it.
You don’t want to leave any doubt in their mind. You need to communicate the benefits of completing your call to action.
Take the example of Skype.
Above their bold blue “Download Skype” button they make the benefits of doing so clear.
The headline evokes a positive emotion about spending time with your family and the subtext clearly tells you what Skype is.
I’m happy about being able to speak with my cousins in Canada and I know I can do it through free HD video calls.
Now I’m much more likely to download Skype.
That being said…
Sometimes in a rush to create compelling call to action copy we can easily lose clarity. Take this second example from Skype.
Just like with the previous example, they do a good job of evoking a positive emotion with their main headline.
But the subtext doesn’t make it obvious how they can help me celebrate the season with someone… there is an element of uncertainty about downloading Skype – especially if it’s the first time I have engaged with them.
The copy is emotional, but it doesn’t do a good enough job of being obvious.
We need both.
Remember to write benefit-orientated copy and make those benefits as clear as possible. Here a few more good examples:
2. Position your call to action correctly
So we have got our copy covered. Now it’s time to think about placement.
The position of your call to action on a page is extremely important.
You want to place your main call to action high and in the central column, just like in the example below.
Watch out though. You can’t take this as gospel. Other elements can come into play, especially when using images.
Faces are gravitational and you can use this to work for or against you.
You can either use a face to point users in the right direction or send their eyes to the complete opposite part of the page that you intended.
Take this example from Dolce & Gabbana. All the attention is drawn immediately to the face, whereas you really want the focus to be on the product in the bottom right.
Fortunately we can use this to our advantage by associating the face with the call to action.
A good trick is to get the person in the photo to look in the direction you want users to go.
This is why heat mapping tools, like Crazy Egg, are an invaluable use of your marketing budget.
3. Consider using an alternative colour on your call to action
If you make your call to action buttons a similar colour to the rest of your site, there is a high chance they’ll get lost.
We want our primary call to action to stand out and be noticed.
An effective way of doing this is through using an alternate colour.
Take this example from Shopify. While the site is predominantly white, they have a fresh green for the call to action button that invites you to “get started.”
This extreme contrast in colour leaves you in no doubt about what to do next.
Alternate colours don’t just work well on buttons. Apple use alternative colour effectively on their iPhone 7 page with text links.
The bright blue pops from the black background.
Of course, you need to be careful with colours too. The psychology of colour is something that every marketer needs to be aware of.
Whilst a red button may stand out from the page, it might just evoke the wrong emotions in your users.
Finally, don’t forget that colour blindness affects 8% of men and 0.5% of women in the world – so don’t rely solely on colour to improve the quality of your calls to action.
4. Keep it simple by removing overwhelming choice
Having a wide variety of choice isn’t always a good thing.
If you have ever watched Gordon Ramsey’s Kitchen Nightmares, you’ll see that he often reduces choice by condensing those never ending menus that he always seems to encounter.
Too much choice can lead to indecision and lower sales.
In a study, consumers were more likely to buy when offered 6 jams instead of 24 jams.
Reducing choice also increases satisfaction and minimises regret. Iyengar found that participants who selected one from six chocolates were more satisfied with their choice than those who selected one from thirty possibilities.
This same principle translates to websites and calls to action.
Too many calls to action on a page means less clarity and greater uncertainty for users.
Think about your homepage, how many options do you give your users?
Take this homepage from SJD Accountancy, there is so much content on there, largely because they have vast amounts of technical information to display.
Many companies, especially big eCommerce sites, experience the same issue. They can’t figure out what should go on the homepage so they end up chucking everything on there like SJD Accountancy does.
The page is filled with graphics, text and a variety of colours. It’s not clear where I need to start my journey and what I should do next.
As a digital marketer I’d advise SJD to reduce the clutter on their page and think about presenting their content to users at relevant parts of their journey.
Reducing clutter around calls to action could increase conversion rates by 232%.
However, a quick win is to fix the calls to action in the centre of the page.
Changing these 6 buttons to 3 would be far more effective.
- Button 1:Thinking about contracting?
- Button 2: Already contracting?
- Button 3: Book a free meeting (arguably you could place this in the header)
Anyone who lands on SJD Accountancy’s website will immediately relate to one of those 3 options.
By focusing visitors on these 3 clear, unmistakable calls to action we simplify their decisions.
- Decision 1: Identify yourself as already contracting or new to contracting?
- Decision 2: Decide if you want to instantly book a free meeting with them or simply find out more.
5. Bigger is sometimes better
It’s true that size isn’t everything. We have already established that colour, placement and reducing choice are also important.
But when we’re talking about clearly driving attention to calls to action we have to mention size.
Sometimes bigger is better… in a design sense 😉
The bigger your call to action, the greater chance users will notice it. Not to mention that a bigger call to action gives us greater space to add compelling copy.
6. Take away the risk with a free trial
Apart from a few adrenaline junkies out there, most of us like to minimise risk where possible.
It’s the same for your users.
You want to reassure them and remove risk, so they have no doubts about performing your call to action.
Prospects will have a lot of questions and they are looking to you to provide a solution.
If your business lends itself to it, what better way to remove risk than to let users give your service a test drive with a free trial?
It could lead to something amazing like increasing conversions by 328%.
Ultimately you’ll want these people to turn into paying customers and there are at least 8 ways of doing this through email alone.
The biggest challenge with a free trial is being careful not to lose those trial users at the end of their free period.
There’s a reason they signed up to the trial in the first place.
We just need to keep them stimulated during the trial period and present them with enough benefits to nudge them to get their credit card out.
We want the trial user to get enough value out of the period that they almost have to upgrade to continue to get the same or ideally even more value.
Don’t drag on too long either.
This could lead to the user completing their end goal for free or simply not being as stimulated as they were when they signed up because so much time has passed.
Through A/B testing we’ll need to figure out the right amount of time to offer a free trial for.
Some companies offer 30 day trials; others opt for 14 whilst some think 7 is enough for them.
So many top brands offer free trials to their users and it’s certainly something you should experiment with too.
7. Use scarcity to encourage action
If there was just one piece of advice I could give to every marketer I meet, it would be to develop an understanding of psychology.
A basic understanding of psychology will make a big difference to the effectiveness of your calls to action.
One thing I have learnt from my brief studies of psychology is that creating a sense of urgency by limiting supply will encourage people to act.
Nobody likes to miss out!
You can use scarcity to encourage action in a variety of ways. Here are a few to get you thinking:
- Limited time only discounts
- Limiting supply
- Demonstrate how quickly you are selling out.
H&M do a good job of creating scarcity through limited time only discounts.
They show you on their homepage that for today only you’ll get 20% off and free delivery.
You fear that there might be a better deal coming around any time soon, so if you don’t buy that new top now you’ll pay a lot more for it later.
Booking.com are also masters of scarcity.
Just take a look at this example. They are showing how many people are looking at this page right now and how many rooms are left.
This spurs you into action right away because you fear that if you don’t act now the room will be gone.
I go from thinking…
“Ok, I like this hotel I’ll check with the wife tonight and then consider a few options from other websites.”
“Man I like this hotel! But oh wait there are only 5 rooms left and 15 people are looking at it right now. I am pretty sure the wife will love it and looks like a good deal so I’m going to book it now before we miss out!”
This is the power of scarcity!
8. Have a call to action on every page
We never want to leave a user thinking “OK. What do I do next?”
Every page on your website needs to have a call to action leading the user on.
Would you invite someone into your home and just leave them waiting on the door step?
No. You invite them in, you offer them a drink, you engage in conversation and so on.
Whether it’s a blog post, email subscription page or even a contact form thank you page – you need a call to action.
Your PPC campaigns, promotional banners and other marketing activity will drive traffic to your website.
If you’re not seeing the sales numbers you’d like, it’s rarely a matter of just driving more traffic to your website.
You haven’t got a traffic problem. You have a problem with converting more people to add a product to the cart or register to become clients.
If you can persuade a handful more of the people currently visiting your website to convert you’ll see more consistent sales.
Improving the quality of your calls to action will provide a far greater ROI than simply increasing PPC budgets to drive more traffic to your website and still convert at dismal rates.
Finally, be careful not to be one of those annoying people.
A good call to action will make a big difference to conversion. However, if implemented incorrectly, the tactics in this post can lead to you becoming an annoyance.
We want to nudge users in the right direction and demonstrate the value of them converting.
In a desperate attempt to increase sales we often shove calls to action down a user’s throat. We annoy and ultimately have the complete opposite effect than we hoped to have.
There is no single rule to developing quality calls to action.
Only through testing variations of your approaches can you truly define what works best.
What is your best strategy for developing high quality calls to action?