What is a call to action?

What is a Call To Action?

A call to action (CTA) is a fundamental part of a successful website. CTA’s let visitors know what to do next and drive them into the action you want them to take, from the obvious ‘buy now’ to more subtle ‘subscribe’.

The effectiveness of these calls to action will determine how successful your website is at converting visitors, improving how effective they are will directly affect the success of your website.

What is ‘call to action’ in digital marketing?

In digital marketing CTA’s get a lot of focus, it’s because of how important they are and the impact they can have. A lot of digital marketing work involves tweaking the design and copy of these CTA’s monitoring the statistics and making changes based on these statistics to improve them.

CTA’s need to stand out to the user, grab their attention and let them know where to look next. You can do this by tweaking the design, changes to the size and colour of the element can have a massive impact on how visible the element is on the page.

Call to action colour

For an example of colour, look at: https://blog.hubspot.com/marketing/call-to-action-examples (conveniently with some call to action examples on!) they have a clear button in the top right with ‘Get Hubspot free’. As they have a clean website design, they have been able to use their brand colour (orange) to draw attention to the CTA. They take it a step further by introducing additional buttons in the orange as you scroll down the page. This tactic helps to reinforce to the visitor that orange equals action.

If your website has already used its brand colours throughout the design, you can still implement the same strategy by selecting an additional complementary colour. Using ‘colour theory’ https://99designs.co.uk/blog/tips/the-7-step-guide-to-understanding-color-theory/ you can find a set of secondary colours that pair well with your existing brand.

Call to action Size

The size of the CTA element also affects its visibility. You can see examples of this all over the internet when they use large pop-up banners to fill the screen. The element does not always have to be a pop-up, simply making it larger than surrounding elements will draw attention to it.

It’s important with the size not to go overboard with it however, as you can alienate the visitor if you impede their task. Therefore pop-ups should be used with care!

Call to action position

Where you put the call to action will also have an impact, traditionally people read webpages left to right and top to bottom or in an ‘F’ pattern as they skim the content (https://cxl.com/blog/10-useful-findings-about-how-people-view-websites/ ). This means that important bits of information need to be at the top left, this is why the logo is traditionally placed here & the navigation tends to follow.

We should clearly position the primary CTA at the top of the website, with secondary links placed sparingly throughout.

How many calls to action per page?

The more elements you have on the page the less importance each of these has, this means the more CTA’s you place the less likely they are to grab the users’ attention. You can tackle this by reviewing which ones are really important and removing those that only distract. It’s not to say you can only have one, but it should be perfectly clear which is the main one.

You can include secondary CTA’s and avoid them competing with the primary one by placing them at the bottom of articles or towards the bottom right of the page, as this is where visitors focus will end up. These additional CTA’s could also be repeats of the main one to help reinforce it, but could also be directions into other areas. For example, if you’re on a product page and the current product is not exactly what you want? Here is a CTA to another related product that could be!

The danger with this is you may end up distracting visitors who would have otherwise acted on the CTA on the current page. This is where testing and reviewing the statistics will help you fine tune the balance between the two.

I would suggest limiting each page to one clear and possibly two secondary depending on the content.

Call to action text

The copy/text of the call to action will also have a large impact, it’s important to be direct and to the point clearly showing what you expect the visitors to do. Short and sweet copy like ‘Buy Now’, ‘Click Here’ or ‘Download Now’ stand out to users and direct them onto the next step.

It’s important however that the rest of the page content gives them context, you need to build up the narrative to visitors so they know what it is they are buying etc.

This is another area that should be reviewed with testing and changes made to see the impact, fine tuning the CTA’s will help get better results.

CTA and Landing Pages

You will have CTA’s throughout your website, but Landing Pages push a single aim and may have their own CTA’s in place. Your primary sites CTA may be ‘contact us’ for example, encouraging visitors throughout their visit to your website to make contact, but your landing page on your new product/service may be ‘buy now’ as your focus has shifted to be about converting visitors to customers for this specific product.

You can highlight this shift in focus by how the CTA’s are presented, you could make the landing page CTA larger and place it more prominently on the page, for example. The other tactic some websites use is to remove the site wide CTA and sometimes remove other distractions such as the navigation! They aim this tactic at focusing the visitor solely on the landing page content and limit the ways off of the page. A good example of this in action is Amazon, once you start the ‘check out’ process you lose access to the main navigation!

This will help visitors focus down on what they are supposed to be doing, completing the checkout process, but will also limit to options to explore the rest of the site. Amazon has obviously tested this process and concluded that the percentage of users who now successfully complete the checkout process instead of getting distracted outweighs the lost sales form people who may have spotted something else to add to their basket.

Testing Calls to action

We all make assumptions, its part of daily life, but with CTAs it’s important that we test these assumptions because they can have a big impact on how successful they are at converting visitors. For example, if the action you want users to take is to sign up to your newsletter, you could have ‘Newsletter sign up here’ as your button. But how do you know this is more effective than ‘Subscribe’ or ‘Sign up’? – without testing you won’t!

You can skip testing every eventuality by being clever with your CTA’s in the first place. ‘Newsletter sign up here’ is a poor choice as its long and not very direct, ‘Subscribe’ or ‘Sign up’ are much snappier and give visitors more of a direct action to take. But which is best, and how do you test it?

This is where you need to look at your goals and website statistics, in this case the goal is clear – we want more people to sign up! But how to we test this? With A|B testing, this is the process of putting one option up, monitoring the results and then repeating it for the second option. With both options being tested, you will then look at the results and say option A or B was better and have the figures to back it up!

Sometimes the results could show your original CTA was better! But at least now you know. Reviewing your CTA and making these tweaks to copy, design or even the rest of the pages content, will help you incrementally improve it. Overtime these will add up and the CTA you have at the end of the process will be much more effective than the one you started with!

This is time consuming, but lessons learnt from one can be rolled out to others. If you learn that on your website a red CTA attracts more attention, you know to start with this with your next CTA! We can take some of these lessons over to other sites, but it’s important to review them as what works on one site may not work on others.

Blog post by Alex Wells

Blog post by: Alex Wells

Based in Saffron Walden, Essex, I have over 10 years experience in crafting bespoke websites for a wide range of clients, I love helping businesses and individuals achieve their digital goals through smart deployment of modern web technologies.

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