What makes a good call to action (CTA), where they should be used and how to track their effectiveness in Google Analytics.
If you want to turn website visitors into paying customers, you need calls to action that compel them to take that final step. You invest a lot of time, money and other resources into bringing traffic to your website, so it makes sense to convert as many of those visitors as possible into leads and customers.
Sadly, if your CTAs aren’t working hard enough, you’re letting potential customers slip through your hands. In this article, we look at the key aspects of effective CTAs and how you can make them work harder for your brand.
What is a call to action?
A call to action is an instructional message aimed at persuading people to take immediate action. This sales and marketing device has been used for decades to literally call upon audiences to take profitable actions; buy something, call for more info, sign up to an email list etc.
Before the age of the internet, we had CTAs at the end of radio ads, in print magazine ads and at the bottom of posters.
Now, when we talk about calls to action, we’re generally referring to sections of a web page or email that look a little more like this:
One of the CTAs on the Vertical Leap website.
Here, we have the classic anatomy of a website’s call to action:
- CTA copy
- CTA button
You’ll see this pattern repeated across the web where brands use these three elements to create a concise, compelling message, urging users to take action. They then provide the means of completing this action by clicking on the CTA button.
So the calls to action on your website need to do two things. First, your CTA copy has to create enough incentive that visitors are compelled to take action. Then your CTA buttons pave the way for them to satisfy this urge with a single click.
Why should I use a call to action?
People who visit your website and don’t take action aren’t much good to you. Your marketing strategy depends on people buying, downloading, clicking and completing actions that contribute, in some way, to sales and profit. But people generally don’t take these kinds of action without motivation or an indication that the reward is worth the effort.
Your ad campaigns, content strategy and other marketing efforts build up the necessary motivation to engage with your brand and it’s up to your CTAs to turn this motivation into action.
Purchases are the most obvious use case for CTAs. But the most important calls to action are often the ones that keep leads engaged with your brand before they’ve decided to make the purchase – e.g. email signups, content downloads, free trials, webinar signups etc.
Without CTAs targeting these secondary conversion goals, you’re letting the vast majority of leads – those who aren’t ready to buy yet – slip away.
Where should they be used?
Every page on your website should have at least one CTA calling upon users to complete one of your conversion goals. Even pages that aren’t primarily designed to sell – for example, your blog posts – should have a CTA for a secondary conversion goal, like signing up to your newsletter or getting in touch with your business.
The Vertical Leap CTA we looked at earlier appears at the bottom of every page on the Vertical Leap website.
On every blog post, we also have the following CTA appear directly after the article itself:
Now, these CTAs demand very little from users so it makes sense to have these at the bottom of blog posts where purchase intent is generally low. But what about the CTAs for your primary conversion goals, like purchases, bookings, quotes etc?
Of all places, your homepage should summarise what your brand is about and, ideally, you want to achieve this above the fold. This isn’t always easy but your aim is to communicate what makes your business unique and why people should be excited about buying from you.
If you’re selling a single product/service or have a clear brand position (like Mailchimp, above), there’s no reason you shouldn’t be able to do this. However, businesses selling much larger product ranges and competing in saturated markets will always find it more difficult to justify primary CTAs on their homepage.
Landing pages are the place for your primary CTAs. This is where you should see the best performance because your ad campaigns have targeted consumer interest and brought them here to do business.
The key things with landing page CTAs is to match the search intent of users as closely as possible. The simplest way to do this is to do your keyword research, create individual campaigns for all the queries that matter and then create unique landing pages for each one of them with CTAs that hammer home the message.
Relevance is everything here.
In the search query above, the user clearly states that they’re looking for software to help remote teams work together, not just generic team management software. Monday’s software essentially works the same for in-house and remote teams but the company understands its target audiences.
Not only does it bag the top position for this query but it puts the key phrase “remote team” at the centre of its campaign.
More importantly, though, the company matches that same key selling point on its landing page and makes it clear to visitors that this software caters to their needs.
What does a successful CTA look like?
In terms of visual design, we’ve already looked at the typical formula for a successful call to action – the heading, copy and button trio.
What we’ve got here is a heading that communicates the key selling point in a few brief words, using large text and a bold font-weight to grab attention. Next, we have a section text in smaller font size and weighting that expands upon the heading and provides more detail about the key selling point. And, finally, we have a large, bold CTA button literally telling users what they’re going to get by clicking through to the next page.
The most important design principle here is contrast:
- Colour contrast: Black text on light backgrounds, white text on a coloured CTA button.
- Size contrast: The use of different font sizes to separate text and emphasise importance.
- Form contrast: Bold vs regular font weights.
- Shape contrast: The CTA button being the only defined geometric shape in view.
These forms of contrast make an effective CTA jump out from the page and give users visual feedback about which individual elements of the CTA are most important. This makes the individual elements easier to distinguish and gives their individual messages more impact.
When it comes to CTA button colour, you should have a highlight colour that repeats for the most important elements on your site and those you want to highlight for any reason. HubSpot uses its branded orange as its highlight colour for all of its call-to-action buttons and to highlight other important elements, as you can see above.
To emphasise the CTAs on its homepage even further, the company uses a lot of greens in its hero image, which is almost opposite to orange on the colour spectrum, thus increasing contrast even further.
How effective are your CTAs?
The effectiveness of a CTA is normally measured by its conversion rate. In Google Analytics, the most accurate way to measure the performance of individual CTAs is to use Event Measurement to track the actual click of buttons.
One benefit of this is that you don’t need to create unique page redirects for each conversion goal and track them based on URLs. Another is that you can compare the total number of button clicks vs completed conversions to identify problems users might be having after they click through.
An effective call to action successfully convinces people to take action, but your CTAs can’t do this alone.
We’ve looked at some of the design principles of a successful CTA, but it’s ultimately the copy/content that convinces people to buy into your message (or not). So the wording of your CTAs is actually the most important factor – the key selling point in your heading, the additional text you provide and the wording in your CTA button.
So, if you’re looking to optimise your calls to action, start by testing different variations of CTA copy before you get bogged down in button colours and details that may have less impact on a user’s decision.
Also, keep in mind that the messages you deliver before a user sees your CTA are equally as important, if not more. So make sure your ads, landing pages, hero sections, emails and everything else are increasing incentive so that when users do see your call to action, they’re already tempted to take action.