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Content Marketing | 9 min read

How to Maximise Your Conversion Rates with Calls-to-Action

24 August 2018 Written by Alexander Costello


Wondering why you’re not getting the leads you want? Why visitors aren’t downloading that eBook offer? Or subscribing to your newsletter?

It all comes down to your calls-to-action (CTAs).

To increase your conversion rates, that is, the number of visitors on your website who take a desired action, you must first optimise your CTAs. There are many elements that go into this, but luckily for you, we’ve compiled a handy little guide to help you improve the CTAs across your site to spur your visitors into action.


What is a Call-to-Action (CTA)?

A CTA is simply a request for your visitor to perform a certain action. This could be anything—to download an eBook, connect on social media, make a purchase or subscribe to your newsletter.

Here’s a simple example from Netflix’s homepage:

What is a Call-to-Action (CTA)

Their CTA is the button that asks visitors to ‘Join Free For A Month’.

The focus of any CTA is to be as clear and visible as possible, and to catch your visitors’ attention so that they’re more likely to perform your desired action. There’s no real template for creating effective CTAs. You’ll see a huge range of CTAs out there, each with their own colour scheme, copy, font and design. As long as they stand out and clearly communicate the action you want your visitor to take, they’ll be optimised to convert them into leads, or whatever else you’d like your visitor to do.

Which Industries Benefit from CTA Optimisation?

All businesses, regardless of industry, can benefit from CTAs. Here are several examples where CTAs could be used:

  • A software company wanting their visitors to sign up to a free trial of their program.
  • A clothes company wanting their visitors to buy products which are on sale.
  • A marketing company wanting their visitors to download a free eBook.
  • A blogger wanting their visitors to subscribe to their blog.

So without further ado, here are 5 techniques you can use to optimise your CTAs and get those visitors clicking.

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1. Always Use Buttons

CTAs are always buttons. You can be creative and test out different elements within your CTA, but CTAs have always been buttons, and your visitors will be accustomed to this.

Your CTA button should look something like this:

Always Use Buttons

As you can see from above, buttons have a few basic characteristics:

  1. A defined shape or border.
  2. They are a different colour from their surroundings.
  3. They have text in them.

Buttons are generally in a rectangular shape, but as with the button from above, they can have rounded edges, shadow effects, or other such tweaks in the design to make them unique.

So why is it so important that CTAs are buttons?

Well, because humans don’t like change. We crave what we already know.

We’re wired to look for systems that we’re comfortable with, and the same idea applies to CTA buttons. When we see a button, we know that we can click on it to take the action that it promotes. If you use something else besides a button, say an image or a piece of text, your visitors will be confused and discouraged by this new format. They may even look for that familiar button on your page and bounce when they don’t find it, even though you have a different CTA on your page.

Here’s another example of a CTA from Under Armour:

Here’s another example of a CTA from Under Armour

And another from Ray-Ban:

Another CTA from Ray-Ban

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2. Compelling Copy is Key

One of the most important aspects of your CTA is the copy within it. You have a very limited amount of space to convey to your visitor why they should click your button. You need to use that space effectively to persuade them to do so, and to also tell them what they can expect if they take that action.

But you shouldn’t overthink it! The most effective words you can use in a CTA are also the most simple. That’s the reason why you keep seeing the same few verbs in a lot of CTAs. According to Wishpond, some of the most effective verbs to use are:

  • Start
  • Stop
  • Build
  • Join
  • Learn
  • Discover

The reason why these verbs are so effective is because they encourage action, and also provide a clear benefit to the reader.

You can also pair these verbs with persuasive words to further encourage action. Here’s are some of the most persuasive words in the English language:

  • Guarantee
  • Save
  • New
  • Results
  • Free
  • You
  • Easy

Pair the two together, and you’ll get CTAs like this:

This is a CTA example from Treehouse

This is an example from Treehouse. A lot of companies offer visitors the opportunity to ‘Start A Free Trial’, but the CTA on Treehouse’s website is a little more clever, and instead asks visitors to ‘Claim Your Free Trial’.

The difference in wording is subtle, but effective. Using ‘your’ directly engages the audience, which immediately grabs their attention. Using the word ‘claim’ suggests that their trial may not be available for long. This gives visitors a sense of urgency to ‘claim’ that free trial while they can, increasing the chance that they’ll click on the button.

This sense of urgency is a tactic used in many sites, and sends a clear message to visitors: if you don’t act quickly, you’ll miss out. This encourages users to click on your CTAs and convert as quickly as possible.

Here’s a few good examples of those phrases:

  • Limited Supply
  • Today Only
  • Last Chance
  • Hurry Now
  • Offer Ends on...

Although the copy isn’t within the CTA itself, here’s a good example of that sense of urgency being used on ASOS’ site:

A good example of that sense of urgency being used on ASOS site

Another good tip: try to make the text in your CTAs as short as possible. The shorter your statement, the quicker it takes for your visitor to make a snap decision and decide what action they want to take. The longer your CTA copy, the more a user has to read and ponder before clicking.

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3. Contrasting Colours will Convert

If you want visitors to click on your CTAs, then your buttons need to attract their attention. One way of doing this is to use contrasting colours in your CTA so that they stand out against the background of your webpage and catch your visitor’s eye.

Here’s a good example from Deliveroo:

Contrasting Colours will Convert

Each of these CTAs are green, which is the official colour of Deliveroo. The company has purposely chosen each of the background colours to contrast against this green so that the buttons pop, and your eyes are naturally drawn to them.

Here’s another example from H&M:

Another example from H&M

And another from Audi:

Another example from Audi

You may notice that red is quite a popular choice for CTA button colours. This is because most sites don’t incorporate red into the rest of their design, so it naturally stands out against a more typical white or lighter coloured background.

But that doesn't mean it’s the best option! As you can see from above, you can make your CTAs any colour, as long as they are strongly contrasted against the background colours on your page to draw your visitor’s eye and encourage them to click on that button!

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4. Focus on Placement

When you create your CTA, you’ve got to ask yourself: where will it reside?

Typically, CTAs will reside at the top of the page, ‘above the fold’. This refers to the upper half of a webpage you’re immediately faced with when you click into a website. Many sites place their CTAs above the fold so that it is the very first thing users see, and will thus be very hard to miss.

Here’s an example of what Adidas’ website looks like above the fold:

Focus on Placement

You can also put your CTAs in pop-ups, and activate them when your users have just entered your page. You’ll probably have experienced the same, where a pop-up has appeared on a site a few moments after you’ve just entered it. This might be an email subscription, or a promotion discount code.

Here’s a simple example from Hubspot:

A simple CTA example from Hubspot

Pop-up are great to utilise, as it puts your CTA directly in front of your visitor so that they can’t miss it. It also eliminates the risk that they leave your website before seeing your CTA, which can happen if you place your CTA below the fold.

However, you must be careful with pop-ups. Overuse them on all the pages on your site, and your users will get sick of the constant disruption to their browsing and might exit as a result. Additionally, if a user visits a website for the first time, and a pop-up appears asking for their email address in return for a discount, then this may also cause them to bounce. This is because they haven’t had a chance to know the brand yet, so the coupon won’t be beneficial to them.

So, use your pop-ups wisely, and make sure they’re relevant to your users. Instead of programming a pop-up to appear to a visitor one minute after they enter your website, program it to appear 3 minutes later after some serious browsing has occurred. That way, you’ll know they’ll be more invested in your website, and will thus be more likely to take the action desired of them.

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5. A/B Test To See What’s Best!

AB Test To See Which is Best

The brilliance of having your own website is that you can test all the elements on it to see which ones are the most effective at, say, increasing dwell time or converting visitors into leads.

The same applies to your CTAs! Once you’ve created your CTA campaign, test out different elements within them to see which ones are the best at converting your visitors into leads, and which ones you should change.

This is where A/B testing comes in. A/B testing allows you to isolate individual elements in your CTA design—the text size, the colours, the font, the placement, and so on—to see which ones are the best at spurring your visitors to action.

It’s crucial that you only test one variable at a time, so that you can properly determine which element is improving your CTA performance. For example, you may have an existing red CTA that you want to test alongside a new purple CTA to see which one will generate more clicks. When you A/B test this CTA, you should change the colours but keep all of the other elements the same—the font style, the copy, and so on—so that you know the colour change is the reason for your improved CTA performance. If the purple CTA had more clicks than the red CTA over a period of time, then you can change all your future CTAs to purple to maximise your conversion rates.

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And there you go! 5 neat tips you can use to optimise all your CTAs, spur your visitors into clicking those eye-catching buttons and maximise your conversion rates.

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