Call-to-Action: 7 Best Practices That Convert (Today)

By David Hoos
8 minute read | Last Updated: November 29, 2018

Understanding how to use CTAs effectively is a skill essential to conversion rate optimization. Start with these best practices.

Without a call to action (CTA), your marketing messages are like shovels without handles. They may be pretty and well-designed, but they’re nearly unusable.

Visitors come to your ecommerce website looking for answers to their questions and solutions to their problems. Unfortunately, many marketers—even those in management positions—love to help people, but they don’t want to “sell them.”

Those afflicted with the idea that selling is somehow evil are prone to see the CTA button or message as a pushy sales tool—one they’re reluctant to use.

If this sounds like you, it’s time to change your tune.

Make sure everyone on your team knows and believes this:

“My company’s products and services solve problems for people. When those people purchase our solutions, they are being helped, not ‘sold.’”

Knowing how to use CTAs effectively is a skill essential to conversion rate optimization. Whether you’re not using CTAs enough or your CTAs aren’t as effective as they could be, this article will serve as an excellent primer you can review and discuss with your marketing staff.

We’ll begin by talking a little more about the importance of the CTA, and then we’ll get right into the seven actionable principles you can use to make your CTAs work better.

Many marketers—even those in management positions—love to help people, but they don’t want to “sell them.” That attitude hurts sales. Click To Tweet

So, what is a call to action?

The call-to-action button (or other CTA link) on an ecommerce website is a prompt to take the next step toward becoming a new customer or repeat buyer. The CTA typically takes the form of succinct ad copy coupled with a graphic that’s designed to get visitors to click a link (take an action) to move forward on the sales path.

Examples of CTAs are everywhere online, including Google Ads, free trial offers of SaaS products, landing page Buy Now buttons, email campaigns with Find Out More click-throughs, and various prompts aimed at getting visitors to add products to a shopping cart.

LL Bean (see the screenshot above) makes the next step plain and simple. You can get it now or get it later, and here’s how.

How important is the call to action to sales?

Helping visitors understand why to take the next step can have a huge impact on your conversions—and making the wisdom of that action clear is exactly what great CTAs do.

At the Unbounce Boston Road Trip (2018), the Toast VP of Marketing cited a study where adding a single, focused CTA to an email campaign boosted clicks by 371 percent and increased sales by a staggering 1,617 percent.

A CTA acts as a concentrated decision point, a focused moment that everything has been building toward. Executed at the right time, the CTA is the next logical step in the process—a no-brainer that helps shoppers get what they want and get it with a minimum dose of friction.

Let’s explore CTA best practices.

Helping visitors understand why to take the next step can have a huge impact on your conversions—and providing that rationale is exactly what great CTAs do. Click To Tweet

7 CTA best practices for maximum conversions

No single CTA formula works best for everyone or in every situation, but there is one foundational process that will simplify the process dramatically:

Test, observe the results, and then test again.

Experiment with all facets of your CTAs. Use these seven best practices to design your CTA tests and optimize your conversion rate:

  1. Use context to set the stage and prepare your visitor to click: The most effective CTAs are aided by strong context. Set the stage for the action you’re asking shoppers to perform. Make that next step so obvious your prospects are eager to take it. Your path to sales should be a seamless and fun process.
  2. Make the CTA stand out plainly so visitors aren’t confused about what to do next: For best results, use just one CTA per page. Clutter and multiple calls to action can send visitors into cognitive overload. When they aren’t sure what to do next, chances are high they won’t do anything. Provide extra whitespace and breathing room around CTA buttons. Make sure everything on the page—both your copy and your design elements—points to the CTA and encourages your best prospects to follow the trail.
  3. Convince yourself the CTA is a good idea and your prospects will catch your enthusiasm: When you are sure the products or services you’re selling will provide genuine benefits to the right prospects, your visitors will be more confident about buying from you. Be direct—don’t try to hide the fact that you want them to buy something. If you don’t believe in the value of your offers, you’ll transfer that fear to shoppers. Believe in what you’re asking them to do, and they’ll be much more likely to believe in you too.

    The Star Rewards card saves people money (and keeps them coming back to the store). Macy’s doesn’t hesitate to brag about the offer.

  4. Make it easy for shoppers to buy from you, and they’ll love you for it: Visitors to your ecommerce website come there to find solutions, not problems. Help them out all you can. Give them the information they need to make the right choice, then make it super simple for them to load up the shopping cart, arrange delivery, and check out. When you put barriers between shoppers and the purchase, your visitors are apt to get discouraged and leave before placing an order. Don’t just make it sound easy…make it easy.
  5. Keep it personal to build trust and affinity: Shoppers don’t want to feel manipulated or bamboozled. They want the truth, and they want the facts of the offer clearly presented. Speak to them in plain language. Be kind to them. Use copy on your CTA buttons that clearly conveys the benefit of taking the action and tells visitors what to expect next. Build relationships by remembering the Golden Rule and treating your customers the way you want to be treated.
  6. Give shoppers a reason to act NOW: If supplies are limited (and they always are), don’t hesitate to say so. If the price will soon be increasing, tell visitors. Each visit presents an opportunity. Your conversion rate will reflect how much respect you’re showing your visitors and how well you can convey the idea that following the call to action is a really good idea—for the right people. You’re not trying to sell to everyone, remember; you’re identifying your best prospects and making it clear that your offer is in their best interests.

    If you want the deal on Amazon Fire Sticks (see the screenshot above), you’d better act NOW. This is a “limited-time offer.”

  7. Experiment with your CTA buttons or links to find out what works best for your particular audience: Most marketers know that “Submit” is a poor choice for the CTA button. Use copy that reflects the benefit of responding to the CTA. Make sure prospects know exactly what to expect next. Depending on the context and where the CTA is placed on the path to sales, CTAs like “Find Out More” or “Show Me How” may be appropriate. Near the end of the journey, “Move to Cart” and “Buy Now” could be the best choices. You’ll only know for sure by experimenting with the variables. Change the copy on the CTA, or change its color, shape, or placement; there are many tests you can run to find out which combination creates the most conversions. For advice on how to proceed with testing, contact The Good.

The best results will come when you experiment with your unique audience and the particular products and services you provide, and then tailor your CTAs to speak directly to your best prospects.

There are no real shortcuts to conversion rate optimization. Experience certainly helps the process move more quickly, but the only way you can determine what will work best for your ecommerce site is to design the appropriate tests and watch what happens when visitors interact with the variations.

How does your #ecommerce site measure up to these 7 CTA best practice principles? Click To Tweet

How to optimize your call-to-action strategy

We promised to give you seven call-to-action best practices to kickstart a discussion with your conversion rate optimization team. Don’t run through this information quickly and assume your ecommerce site is already observing the principles.

Most ecommerce websites are not.

Here’s a suggestion:

Have the team responsible for your ecommerce site walk through each of the seven CTA best practices together while they (point-by-point) compare the idea presented in each with what’s actually happening on your site.

It’s rare to find a website that could pass the test 100 percent.

If you want to get a deeper look at the conversion rate optimization process, ask The Good for a complimentary landing page assessment.

The results could be surprising.

Resources:

About the author: David Hoos is Marketing Manager at The Good, conversion rate experts who deliver more revenues, customers, and leads. David and the team at The Good have made a practice of advising brands on how to see online revenue double through their conversion rate optimization services.

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