6 Best Practices for Creating Effective Call-to-Actions

6 Best Practices for Creating Effective Call-to-Actions

Alex was walking down the street, consumed by thoughts about the meeting he was going to have in the morning with an unsatisfied advertiser. As a campaign manager, he had to find a way to keep them happy and returning each quarter with more budget. The numbers didn’t tell a good story. Not a lot of users clicked on the advertiser’s ads, and the ones that did didn’t proceed to convert. He had no idea how to solve this issue, but he had to try!

As Alex was passing by one of the clothing stores in his neighborhood, he suddenly stopped. In front of the store stood a man wearing a penguin mask, a top hat, and a tux. The tux was very well made and suited the man perfectly. He smiled at the penguin, and the penguin replied by deliberately taking out a handkerchief from his front pocket. It was a nicely embroidered handkerchief, but in the middle, there stood an offer: 20% off. The penguin handed over the handkerchief to Alex, took off his top hat, and pointed to the store door with a gloved hand. Having the tomorrow’s meeting in mind, Alex concluded that a new suit couldn't hurt. He walked into the store, giving the penguin an amused nod.

Alex exited the store some thirty minutes later, carrying a suit with him. All the while he thought that the penguin and the handkerchief are precisely what his client needs if he wants to get more conversions. They need a call-to-action that the users will click on gladly. But how do they get there?

Use What You Already Know About Your Audience

As a publisher, you know your audience better than anyone else. Whenever you’re working on creative, offer, or CTA recommendations, you should use the data you already collected about your users. Do they like serious language or are they clicking more on humoristic content? The optimal tone of the advertiser’s message and CTA that is featured, as well as the creative design of the banner/email creative that targets your users, will of course greatly depend on the type of content they’re used to. For example, if the advertiser is targeting the business section of a news portal, their creative and CTA should be serious, and they should speak in terms that align with the business section language.

While this alignment is essential, there are some design and copy best practices that are true for all CTAs, whether we’re talking about the ones used in banner/email creative or the ones that greet users on the landing page.

Where Should You Place It

When it comes to the CTA placement, it should follow the natural reading flow (top to down, left to right). On a banner, the CTA should be placed after the copy and other elements, at the bottom or to the right, depending on the layout.

When it comes to the CTAs on the landing page or any website, the natural reading flow should again be followed. However, you should also consider user experience. While it is important to have the CTA above the fold/within the first screen on mobile, it’s crucial to give the user information about the product/service you’re offering before asking them to convert. Also, the users should never be made to backtrack the CTA button. For example, let’s say you’re asking your users to sign up for a service. You’d first need to give them all the details about the service you’re offering and place the button below that explanation. That said, you should never make the users scroll for ages until they get to CTA.

Additionally, if you want to find out what elements your users are paying attention to, you can always try out the eye-tracking heatmaps that visualize the users’ mouse movement.

Cut the Small Talk and Get to the Point Already

That CTA should consider your users’ emotions, behavior, and preferences. They will love a CTA button that “reads their mind”. Make sure it communicates a certain action they should take (buy, sign up, try). You should also keep it short and to the point, highlighting the clear value proposition. Studies show that using first person CTAs (“Start my trial”, “Download my Copy”) usually produce better results. You should also add a time variable as well so it’s something like “Start My Trial Now”. If there’s an offer included (“20% off”), creating urgency usually gets a conversion (for example, adding a date limitation for the deal).

However, just because the best practices usually include simple and straightforward CTAs, that doesn’t mean that you shouldn’t try being creative, especially if your users value creativity. Huemor, development agency and design company, used a brilliant CTA for their website – a giant “Launch” button accompanied by “Do Not Press”. Needless to say, users most often want to do precisely the opposite. The playful and harmless use of reverse psychology is entirely in line with Hoemor’s brand identity. If you’re looking for inspiration you should check out Hubspot’s list of Call-to-Action Examples You Can't Help But Click.

Button it, Color it, Make it POP

Your CTA should always be placed on a button. The reason is that users come to your website with expectations, they recognize buttons as a standard and know what to do. While they may seem very simple and straightforward, CTA buttons design is of significance as well. The color and size of the button should make the CTA highly visible and in contrast with the background. You can adjust the size and shape to different ad sizes and positions on the website, but it should always remain prominent and eye-catching. The shape of the button also leaves the place for creativity.

All of the CTA visuals should be aligned with the rest of the ad as well as your brand identity. You want users to recognize your brand just by looking at the colors. The Huffington Post wrote about the importance of brand identity and especially choosing the right colors to which the users are likely to react positively.

While the offer and the way it’s presented matters a lot, you should never underestimate the visuals. After all, readers can miss even the best messaging if it's not made visible and positioned correctly!

Don’t Play Around with Users’ Trust

Back to Alex’s experience – after he was so successfully lured into the store, he found out that the 20% off was indeed offered on all articles. He also found professional, knowledgeable, and polite staff. After seeing such a fantastic bait at the doors (I mean a penguin in a suit, come on!), his expectations were matched after entering.

To maintain a continuous flow, the CTA on your landing page should be in line with the CTA on your ads. You don’t want to confuse your visitors with different messages on ads and landing pages. After all, their time is precious, and they don’t want to waste it trying to figure out what they need to do. Each step that makes it more challenging to convert lessens the possibility of conversion. However, when talking about CTAs, it’s imperative that they lead to a specific landing page that offers the action fulfilment upon arrival. If we asked the user to register for a newsletter and he clicked on a “Register Now” CTA, he should be brought directly to the registration form. You can place a secondary CTA on the same landing page but when it comes to offering choices less is more.

The design and tone of the message should also match between different elements so that when the user comes to the landing page, he doesn’t feel cheated, and the same user experience is maintained. That’s especially true when it comes to custom newsletters that offer a lot of space to communicate with users before they arrive at the website.

One Option is Never Enough – Test, Test, Test!

Now that you know the best practices, you should create a series of A/B testing for each and every CTA characteristic. You can try placing your buttons on different places, choosing different color, shape, font, using multiple wording options, etc. Getting to that perfect bait takes a lot of tries and misses, but it will definitely be worth it!

Back to Alex – his clients were highly impressed with his CTA best practices presentation. Who knew something so small as a button had such a tremendous impact! They’d need to work on improvements, but they didn’t worry at all – they had a CTA expert on their side!

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