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How to get users to take action: the Call to Action (CTA)

Last updated November 15, 2019

What is a Call to Action?

These are typically messages, usually in button format, that are designed to get someone respond to them (in most cases, clicking/tapping).

Calls to Action should be simple and specific. Don't overcomplicate them.

If someone is sending in a contact form, use "Send Message." If it's a quote form, "Get Quote".

You can't go wrong with the format of Verb Noun.

One of these things is not like the others

Call to Action buttons are usually colored differently than other elements on the page so they immediately stand out.

Try this experiment: grab a piece of paper with a lot of text on it, grab a red marker, and place a dot somewhere on the page. It doesn't matter where.

In fact, if you place it out of the center, that will be an even a better test. (You'll see why in just a moment.)

Now, look away from the page for a couple seconds or so. (Now look back at me.) Now, look back at the page.

What just happened? If you're like most users, notice how your eye immediately goes to the red dot.Magic!

Actually, science! Humans are attracted to new and novel ideas, as well as things that break the traditional mold.

So, a best practice is to make your call to action buttons a different color than other things on the page.

The ideal call to action color itself is highly debated (green, orange, and red are popular) but any color that contrasts with the rest of the page usually does the trick.

Don't Make Me Think

Taking a page out of the seminal "Don't Make Me Think" book by Steve Krug, he advocates for keeping things simple. There's even an acronym dedicated to this philosophy: KISS (keep it stupidly simple).

Your call to action button should reinforce what someone is about to do. If you can impart the user's "voice" into the button, make sure it's not generic such as "Let's Do This!" or "Yes, Please".

If someone has to reference the body copy or the headline to make the connection of what the button actually does, it's a microfail in usability.

The dreaded CLICK HERE link fails the same test. Again, don't make me think.

The reason? Users scan web pages. They don't read every word on a page, so having calls to actions that also hint at the content can encourage users to read the content. Or they can immediately take the action without reading.

If the action text could apply to any action, it's not a call to action.

Different Calls to Actions / Same End Result

We've seen different schools of thought regarding different calls to action on a long sales page.

If a CTA didn't resonate with someone the first time, maybe you try a different one later on down the page.

On the flip side, for example, ClickFunnels has the same 2 CTAs on their (long) homepage. They talk about different use cases, for example, for using their software, but the same (two) buttons are present throughout.

Both can work.

Using analytics software like HotJar or Crazy Egg can tell you exactly which buttons are clicked most often.

But in general, the more actions you give someone, the more they have to think. And when users have to think, it's easier not to choose (which ironically, is also a choice).

Curiosity Buttons

As always, context is always important in page design and psychology.

On a VSL (video sales letter) page, if a CTA is the only other element on the page, you could probably get away with something being more generic.

A less "specific" call to action on a VSL might also entice someone to consume the content before they click it, so that could be a potential benefit.

Some marketers have even experimented with hiding their CTA button on a VSL until a specific time in the video where they want users to take action.

However, as always, when in doubt, split test to find out.

User Intent & Retargeting

One of the main ingredients of success in marketing is creating the return path.

When someone didn't take the action you wanted them to take on a certain landing page, it's time to retarget them (by showing them an ad offer, send them an e-mail, etc.)

The goal of retargeting is to follow up on the next logical action a user should have taken but didn't. If you try to do that with multiple buttons and different actions, it gets harder to tell which action a user should have taken.

Now it's your turn...

What parts of your website are confusing visitors?

Want us to grade your call to action buttons? Just let us know...

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