Have you struggled to get visitors to your website and then take the action you want them to take? Maybe you want them to take an online quiz, sign up for your newsletter or fill out an inquiry form but you’re not getting many takers. If this is the case, it may be time to revisit your calls-to-action (CTAs).
What is a Call to Action?
If you’ve been in marketing for any length of time most likely you are aware of calls-to-action.
In marketing, a call-to-action (CTA) refers to a message designed to prompt an immediate response. It really is as simple as it sounds: a CTA is a request asking someone to do something.
The most common types of CTAs are a combination of words that are intended to inspire someone to take an action. A typical call to action might say “Sign Up for Free” or “Download for Free” or something along those lines.
Call to Action Testing
One of the most popular types of A/B testing involves CTA testing. According to VWO, 30% of marketers conduct A/B tests on their CTAs. Following that, 20% test headlines, 10% test the layout of their sites and 8% test website copy.
This makes sense because even small tweaks can lead to major shifts in conversion rates. It is very common for a CTA to not be optimized and, since a good CTA relies heavily on the context of the copy on the page, when you optimize other elements your CTA may need tweaking as well.
Call to Action Functions
A call to action provides four importation functions on your website or landing page.
- Focus and context
- Help visitors quickly understand the benefits of the action you want them to take
- A way to measure performance
- Direction for your users on how to engage or interact with your page
Call to Action Tips
Here are 23 tips you can use to create effective calls-to-action.
Start with a CTA button
A CTA button vary in style and size depending on your layout, design and goal conversion. People who use the internet are used to seeing CTA buttons – and clicking on them! If a potential enrollee visits your site and sees a button, they will know what to do without much prompting.
2. Add a strong command
You want to be clear and concise when crafting your call-to-action. Use a simple, short verb that lets your audience know what you want them to do. Examples of this include:
- Act now
- Fill out
- Find out
- Add to your
- Book now
- Buy and save
- Buy now
- Choose your
- Click for more
- Click here
- Contact us today
- Don’t miss
- Don’t wait
- Give a gift
- Join today
- Learn more
- Look at
- Order now
- Respond by
- Save today
- Search now
- See more
- Sign up
- Take a tour
- View features
- Visit us at
- Watch for
- You might also try
Use words that elicit an emotion
You want people to have a strong emotional response to your website and especially your CTA. If your CTA is enthusiastic, your audience will be enthusiastic too! Using an exclamation point will help to provoke enthusiasm because it will make your CTA pop. While a thesaurus is always a great tool for finding emotion-laden words, I like to use CoSchedule’s “500+ Power Words for Writing Emotional Headlines” list to play with different power words that will evoke an emotional response.
Use a contrasting color that will stand out
The color you use for your CTA button matters, and it matters a lot. You should give careful consideration to the color of your CTA buttons. Research has shown that green and orange colored buttons perform the best, but generally speaking, you want to use a contrasting color that will stand out on your site or landing page. Avoid whites or grays as they aren’t very striking.
If you don’t already have a contrasting color scheme, there are various tools out there you can use to determine contrasting colors. One I like to use is Paletton. Grab the primary color (usually the background color) by using a free multi-purpose color picker like Color Cop, and enter it in to the Base RGB field. From there, you can use the color scheme generator at the top of the page to determine adjacent colors, triad colors or tetrad colors. Opposite colors in the tetrad color generator will give you contrasting colors, which can be very helpful.
Give your audience a reason to take action
Try to answer the question your audience has in their minds “What’s in it for me?” For example, instead of saying “Call today” try to be more specific like “Call today to schedule a free consultation with our head football coach”. Not only have you stated the action you want your visitor to take (call today) but also a reason why they should take that action (to talk to the head football coach.)
Keep the button copy simple
You want the copy of your button to be readable at first glance. The words you place on your CTA button should stop your visitors and make them want to take action. They should only have to glance at the button to understand how they will benefit and commit to clicking on it. Use action words but don’t just stick with a single word. Add something unique about your offer after the action word (i.e. Download Your Free Copy to Create Better Calls-to-Action).
Keep it personal
Use first-person speech patterns. For example, a research study by unbounce found that changing button text from second person (get your free download) to the first person (get my free download) resulted in a 90 percent increase in clicks!
Take advantage of FOMO
FOMO is the acronym for Fear Of Missing Out and it’s a powerful marketing tactic because it is an extremely effective motivator. When people think they might lose out on an opportunity, they will be more likely to click on your CTA button and take the desired action. Mentioning an event or enrollment period deadline helps to create FOMO. It’s hard to resist a prompt like that, especially if it’s a time-sensitive situation.
Know your user devices
To have the most impact, your CTA buttons should be customized based on the device being used by your audience. You can determine this by analyzing your Google Analytics.
Mobile devices (smartphones) have different user behavior than laptops or tablets (Google considers laptops and tablets to be the same type of device.) Users searching for something on their mobile phone are more likely to take an action, especially making a phone call.
If you know your parents are primarily using a mobile device, create more call-centric CTAs like “call now to get started” or “call us today for more information.”
It’s important that you keep your CTAs fresh – just like you should with your copy in general. However, the only way you will ever know how well a CTA is performing is to run an A/B test on it. If your CTA isn’t performing as well as you would like it to, try getting creative. For example:
- Show off testimonials (Read the rave reviews we’ve gotten)
- Be specific about savings (Scholarship sign ups end June 30th)
- Make them use their imagination (Imagine how much your child will learn in our new, cutting-edge science lab)
- Show off your alumni (Greg McElroy started in our football program)
- Appeal to their sentimental side (Give your child memories that will last a lifetime – sign up for summer camp today!)
- Make a bonus offer (Register today and get a free school backpack!)
- Provide instant gratification (Chat with a teacher to get your questions answered now!)
- Use snazzy button shapes (You might want to test different button shapes to see what works best on your site)
Use text that is large and legible – but not super-sized
You want your button text to be easy to read, but not obnoxious or intimidating. While it may seem strange that people would find too-large text distasteful, research shows there’s a medium ground when it comes to text size. You want text that draws attention but it shouldn’t be so big that it completely overwhelms the rest of the content.
Keep text short and sweet
CTA button text shouldn’t go on and on. Ideally, you want to keep your CTA button text to three to seven words.
Keep it above the fold
You always want to keep your CTA button above the fold (the view of the visitor before they start scrolling down the page) so users never miss it. Vital information should be kept above the fold.
Follow a natural hierarchy
Sometimes you will have other buttons on your website that are not your main CTA button, such as a member sign-in button. These buttons should be less attention-grabbing than the main CTA button. For example, you might use a gray or monochromatic color scheme for secondary CTA buttons. Clarify your main CTA button by making it the biggest and brightest button.
State the value proposition
You might notice that many CTA buttons use the word “free.” This is because “free” is an enticing value proposition. Consider your offer’s value proposition and how it might be included in your CTA button.
Consider using a graphic
Sometimes using a graphic – like an arrow – will help affect your click-through rate. If you’re going to use a graphic, make sure it isn’t confusing to the viewer.
Bonus button text
Sometimes it is helpful to the viewer for you to include a smaller, extra line of information in your button text. This is a common practice with a free trial button. For example, you might say “30-day membership site trial, no credit card” on the top line and then add “Start your free trial today” as the secondary line. This is valuable information that will encourage users to click through to start their trial.
Alternatively, you can put that extra line beneath or next to the button. These are known as “click triggers.” Some examples of click triggers include:
- Anxiety reducers (i.e. no credit card required)
- Key benefits
- Data points
Give fewer choices
Research has shown that people are happier with decisions when given fewer choices. Give your users the least amount of options to choose from on a page and you will have a better conversion rate. If you do want more than one choice, make sure you help funnel people towards a specific path. People like to be guided and to have fewer choices.
Follow the natural flow of vision
In Western culture, people read top to down and left to right. Keep this natural reading flow in mind. Place CTA buttons toward the bottom or middle of the content. Also, never force users to backtrack in order to click a button – because they just won’t.
Use lots of white space
White space is the space on a page that is not occupied by any text or graphics. CTA buttons should always have a generous amount of white space around them. White space helps call the users’ attention to the button and helps it stand out. Newbies tend to be afraid of white space but professionals know how valuable white space is when it comes to design.
Use numbers when relevant
People respond better to numbers. Appeal to your audience by using a number. For example, you could say “Register by Friday and receive $100 off your first month’s tuition”.
Try experimenting with your pricing CTAs. You could use a dollar amount or a percentage off discount, for example.
Use a guarantee
If your school offers a trial period, state it. This helps convince the visitor that there is little risk in completing the transaction.
Have a CTA on every page
Each page of your website should include a call to action that lead the visitor to take the next action. For example, if you want visitors to sign up for your newsletter, make sure that sign up page is visible from every page.
The best calls to action are phrases that are clear, specific and create urgency. Think about what makes your school unique and use that to create a truly irresistible offer. Once you have your offer, your call to action will sell its value.
I hope these tips will help you with your own CTAs.
What CTA tactics have worked well for your school? Do you conduct A/B tests on your CTA buttons? Please share with the rest of the school marketing community in the comments below.