Call-to-action buttons (CTAs) serve a critical function in your marketing strategy. After all, every piece of content you create should be designed with a specific purpose in mind—an action you’d like your readers to take after engaging with you. You might want to drive them to a specific website page, invite them to sign up for a newsletter, or direct them to book a call with a salesperson.
Whatever the desired outcome is, a well-crafted CTA is more likely to deliver results, but it can be difficult to make decisions about what will entice your audience and how to best grab their attention. Plus, CTAs often have very few limitations. While you might be used to short, generic CTAs like “Read More” or “Request a Quote,” longer phrases and sentences work too. You could often come up with hundreds of potential copy combinations for a given CTA.
So, how do you narrow down your options? This list of five recommendations for CTA-building will help with just that. We’ll share the considerations that should factor into your decision, which will often leave just a few of your strongest contenders on the table.
Before we dive in, one quick note about optimizing CTAs: When you search for tips online, you’ll find tons of articles with specific advice about CTA best practices and word choices. For example, some brands will say that using first-person language is better than second-person language (e.g., “Download My Copy” vs. “Download Your Copy”); others will say that more descriptive phrases lead to better results than generic phrases (e.g., “Request a Free Creative Consultation Today” vs. “Schedule a Call”). These tiny tweaks often promise to drastically improve your click-through and conversion rates as soon as you implement them.
The problem with these generalizations is that they just don’t apply to all audiences. While the teams giving this advice typically have data to back up their findings, it’s their audience’s data they’re optimizing for, not your audience’s data. In your quest to optimize CTAs, take these hyper-specific recommendations with a grain of salt. We’d suggest viewing “best practices” as viable options to test in your own context, not proven strategies that will definitely work for you.
With that in mind, here are five characteristics of successful CTAs. Given our stance on specific CTA “best practices,” we’re focusing instead on overarching themes that you can apply to your own use case. So, regardless of your preference on first-person vs. second-person language or specific vs. general phrases, you’ll find that these tips apply.
#1: Make sure your copy aligns with the action
First, and more importantly, make sure your CTA copy aligns with the action you’re directing users to take. It should be abundantly clear to viewers what will happen when they click your CTA button.
Why? Well, you’re setting different expectations with a button that says something like “Download Report” versus another button that says “Schedule a Call.” The more your experience actually aligns with the expectations you’re setting, the more satisfied your audience will be.
So, if your CTA copy is vague or doesn’t reflect what users will see after they click, rethink the word choice (or the action) so that they match.
#2: Choose the right placement on-screen
Second, choose the right placement on-screen. Your CTA needs to be in a place where it will grab viewer attention. After all, the perfect phrase and button design won’t mean anything if your audience never notices the button in the first place.
For example, putting a single CTA at the very bottom of a 10-minute read is probably not a good idea. While you may have some devoted users who will get to the end and take the desired action, you’re undoubtedly going to miss out on other, potentially interested users who just didn’t get to the end of the article.
On a longer page like that, you may even want to have two CTAs—one near the top of the page to catch attention early, and another one at the bottom for anyone who reads the whole thing.
#3: Make the action itself enticing
Third, make sure the action itself is enticing. If your copy and CTA placement are perfect but the action you’re pushing users to take just isn’t appealing, you’ll lose out on those clicks.
It’s a good idea to put yourself in your audience’s shoes for this one. If you had just landed on your own content, would you want to take the action you’re pushing? If not, consider whether it makes sense to adjust the intended action, and if it doesn’t, you may need to rethink the bigger picture surrounding the piece of content.
#4: Speak your audience’s language
Fourth, speak your audience’s language. The tone you’d use to communicate with your audience in real life should match your CTA tone (which should also match the tone of the rest of your marketing messaging). If you’ve just been winging it and you’re not quite sure what tone to use, your organization’s brand guidelines (if you have them) should include a section about brand voice or tone. If that’s the case, match what you find there.
Another great trick here is to read language from members of your audience themselves. Take a look at your brand reviews, sales conversations, and other logs where you’ll find words and phrases that came directly from the mouths of your users. Then, if it’s possible to work that language into your CTAs, you may see better results because your CTA will sound natural to your audience.
#5: Test your CTAs relentlessly
And finally, test your CTAs relentlessly. CTAs are easy to test and they really make a difference in your overall marketing success, making them the perfect subject for internal research.
You can test pretty much everything, including the hyper-specific “best practices” we touched on above. Just be sure not to assume that what worked for another organization will work for yours without testing. Everyone’s audience is a little different, and yours might have unique preferences that lead to different results.
Use these five tips next time you’re crafting a CTA, and watch as your click-through and conversion rates soar.
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