Editor’s Note: This piece is an update of a post written in 2014 by Sean Bestor. You can find the original post, filled with time-tested call-to-action best practices, here.
* * *
You found the right template for your page, and added imagery that supports your message. You wrote compelling copy to get readers interested in what you have to offer. Now comes one of the most important ingredients in your landing page recipe: the call to action, or CTA.
This is where everything comes together. It’s where your landing page either converts … or flops. It’s no wonder that it’s one of the most scrutinized parts of the page.
Some marketers swear by a certain button color. Others have perfected their personal formulas for the copy on that button. Or they fine-tune the placement of their CTA down to the last pixel.
But what’s really working to get landing page conversions right now?
I reached out to a panel of smart marketers at companies including Edgar and Influitive to discover their best call-to-action tips.
I’ve assembled all of the tips below, but if you want an easy reminder of all the ways you can optimize your calls to action on each and every page you make from here out, you’ll want to download my CTA checklist. Click here to download it now:
1. Set Expectations
If you visit the homepage of social media scheduling app Edgar, their call to action is the first thing you see:
What led to this bold choice? Edgar copywriter Jen Carney explained:“Before we get started, we do some UX ‘soul searching’, asking the potential CTA questions,” she said. “Why am I even doing this? What happens when you click the button? Where do I think I should end up? What am I assuming about the flow?”
In this case, the “why” is very clear: people will respond because they want to double their traffic, and what will happen is that they’ll receive an email invitation.
“Every CTA must both set expectations and meet them,” Jen said.
Apply this tip to your own landing pages by putting yourself in the position of your potential lead. Ask yourself, “What would I expect to happen when I submit my email address?” and then make sure that you follow through on the promise of your CTA.
Bonus call-to-action tip: Check out how Edgar builds exclusivity into their call-to-action experience. Where the average software company might simply ask visitors to start a free trial, Edgar entices them by offering an invitation.
2. Use Social Proof
Jillian Woods serves as Content Marketing Manager at advocate marketing platform Influitive. She said that one of the best conversion tactics they use to create enticing calls to action is borrow authority.
“Instead of saying how awesome your content is yourself, why not include your customer advocates’ words in your CTAs?” she said.
Influitive makes use of social proof in multiple places on their website, from the homepage to blog posts with case studies. “People trust people–not brands–and are more likely to click on something if a real person has endorsed it,” Jillian said.
Personal trainer Jennifer Dene uses social proof in the landing page for her free workout calendar download, by quoting a client right under that big, yellow button.
Try reaching out to happy customers or encouraging feedback on social media to collect social proof from your customers that you can use on your pages.
Bonus call-to-action tip: Jennifer Dene’s choice of testimonial is especially compelling because it covers very specific benefits, and so does the subhead right above the button. Use your call-to-action area to make very specific promises, and your audience is likely to find it nearly irresistible.
3. Visibility Is Key
Looking back at the first few examples I shared above, you might notice something in common. On each page, there’s one element in a different color, designed to stand out from the background and jump out at the reader. Can you guess what it is? The call-to-action button, of course.
Danyal Effendi, a marketer at PureVPN, pointed out this very practical tip: make your CTA stand out.
“The CTA should stand out and should be visible clearly. The best thing to make it stand out is to use certain colors such as green, red, or orange with a contrast from the background,” he said.
They take their own advice by making their CTA buttons bright green, which is not only on-brand for the company, but has the added benefit of standing out on both light and dark backgrounds.
While this step is pretty straightforward to implement right away on your own landing pages, Danyal takes another step to make CTAs stand out: breathing room. “Leave plenty of space to make it easy for reader to identify it immediately without hindrance and take required action,” he said.
Before you publish your landing page, try taking a step back and squinting. Does your call to action stand out clearly from the background? If not, try to rework the page to make it pop.
Bonus call-to-action tip: Don’t forget about leaving enough space on smaller screens, too. Be sure to double check how your button looks both on a desktop screen and on mobile, Danyal advised.
4. Don’t Be Afraid to Repeat Yourself
Kenneth Burke, a marketer at Text Request, isn’t shy about keeping his CTA simple and straightforward. He reminds site visitors what to expect multiple times, so there’s no confusion.
“For instance, if you want people to schedule a demo, your copy might be “Click below to schedule your free demo today,” and your button would be ‘Schedule my demo,’” Kenneth said. How does this help you? Kenneth pointed out that people are much more likely to take action if they know exactly what to expect.
In this simple landing page, branding strategist and photographer Jasmine Star keeps the call to action simple and focused, repeating the language she used in the headline. In the short copy, she outlines the problem her workbook will solve and the benefits of the guide. Then, her button copy is simply the answer to the question any reader would have: “How do I get it?”
Bonus call-to-action tip: Marketers often see improved results when they use their button copy to “speak for” the visitor. With Jasmine’s cheery call to action above, all visitors really have to do is nod and click.
5. Focus on One Goal
Sean Martin works with all kinds of marketing clients at Directive Consulting. His advice for their CTAs: choose one goal for the entire campaign. It “really helps focus your landing pages’ user experience,” he said.
The Directive Consulting homepage has two buttons but just one CTA: get a free proposal.
It can be tempting to include small asks, like encouraging social media shares, in addition to your main conversion goal on a landing page. Avoid that temptation and ask yourself, for each page, what your singular goal is.
Then, your ads or email links should be in line with that goal, your page should expand on that goal, and your button should include that exact goal. Don’t confuse your leads out of a purchase.
As Sean said, “Make the choice clear. Don’t overload your users with too many offers or distractions, keep them focused on what matters to you—converting!”
Bonus call-to-action tip: Don’t forget the power of “free.” Even if you think it’s obvious that your offer is free already, remove any trace of doubt by adding the word to your call-to-action button.
6. Make It Urgent
William Gadea, founder and creative director of animated video company, Idea Rocket Animation, emphasized the importance of urgency. “The most important element of a call to action is immediacy,” he said. “This action you want them to take—it is not something to be done tomorrow or next week, it is something to be done now.”
Obviously, this is easiest to do if your offer expires at midnight or the webinar is tomorrow. But even if your CTA doesn’t seem particularly urgent, you can make it feel a bit more immediate.
William recommends using words like “today” or “now” in your button copy.
Another option is to add a countdown to your landing page. Sometimes just seeing those numbers tick away can be enough to encourage signups.
Leah McDermott uses a countdown timer on the page for her course. It’s live, but even if you don’t need to cut off signups before your class starts, you can build urgency into your page by creating a time when a special offer will expire.
Bonus call-to-action tip:If you use Leadpages, you can even set a deadline to act for each prospect who visits your page, no matter when they click with an evergreen countdown timer.
7. Optimize for Mobile and Desktop
Marketing agency Tinderpoint’s SEO Manager, Luke Bastin, recommends considering where your prospects will be encountering your call to action. “Interested prospects are likely to be searching for and through your content on a variety of mobile and desktop devices,” he said. “A fantastic looking sign-up form when viewed on desktop, for example, might not appear above the fold when viewed from a tablet or mobile device,” Luke said.
In Leadpages, you can easily preview your page on mobile before hitting “publish.”
Check that your call to action appears above the fold and that your button still has that “breathing room” that makes it stand out. Try the squint test again to be sure it still works.
8. Make It About Them, Not You
SaferVPN transformed its CTAs with a crucial shift, reported inbound marketing manager Shira Siegel: they made their CTAs less about them and more about the lead.
“Our experience shows that using the word ‘you’ better engages the customer and makes them feel like we are connecting directly to them, appealing to their individuality and personal choice,” she said.
In their buttons, in email subject lines and on their blog, they try to use the words “you” and “your” to make the user feel more invested in the call to action.
The strategy is working for them. “Using phrases like ‘get yours now’ or ‘secure your internet’ have helped us to garner an increase of 10% in leads,” she said.
Bonus call-to-action tip: Try creating a button that emphasizes the benefits your product or download will have for users. If you have a photography business, you might say “Take your best pictures ever.” If you have a running blog, try giving away a free download with a button that says “Get your best time yet.”
What Will Your Highest-Converting CTA Look Like?
With all of these CTA tips, you have an entire toolkit for conversion optimization on any page, from concept to design and copy decisions. The next time you create a winning CTA, you’ll be sure to:
- Use your CTA to set expectations, and then meet them.
- Support your claim to authority with social proof.
- Make the CTA stand out with a contrasting color.
- Use copy that reiterates the CTA.
- Focus on a single goal for each page.
- Create a sense of urgency.
- Check that your CTA is optimized for mobile and desktop.
- Make it about the lead, not about you.
I cover these tips and 4 more in my CTA checklist. Get your free copy here, then pull it up to take the pressure off when you’re creating your next high-stakes CTA:
Is there a call-to-action tactic that’s gotten great results for you? Share it in the comments!