A call-to-action (often referenced to as CTA) is essentially a marketing tool to instruct your audience what their next step should be, usually using an imperative command that might read something like “Buy now”, “Find out more” or “Visit us today”. These words are usually bolded or otherwise made to stand out from the rest of copy.

In web design, a call-to-action requires more visual treatment and usually comes in the form of a button, a banner, or another type of graphic or text that prompts a user to do something in order to enter a conversion funnel (the journey a consumer takes to navigate an internet ad, a search engine, or an e-commerce website in order to convert this journey to a sale). These call-to-actions actively aim to convert a visitor into a lead and then, definitely, into a customer/consumer. All the clicks generated by those call-to-actions are then compiled to measure the success of its click-through rate (CTR).

Basically, if you are selling your services, you have a duty to your customers: tell them what they should be doing when they’re done reading your copy!

What can be included in a call-to-action?

call-to-action

Literally almost anything that’s marketable. A call-to-action can be:

  • A special offer (e.g. “Check out this deal now!”)
  • An email newsletter signup form (e.g. “Sign up for this newsletter to win a trip to Jamaica”)
  • A how-to ebook download (e.g. “Click here to download the greatest book on earth”)
  • A hands-on demo (e.g. “Click here to find out how to get killer eyelashes”)
  • An interactive tool (e.g. “Register for this online photo editing tool”)
  • A contact information form (e.g. “Submit your request”)
  • A download link for a software upgrade (e.g. “Download now to upgrade”)

This said, a call-to-action isn’t always meant to convert a visitor into a customer. Sometimes, products are so expensive that you wouldn’t want to push them straight to your leads right away with a big fat “BUY NOW” call-to-action; you’ll scare away potential customers with what they consider an exorbitant price. It’s like meeting a girl at a bar (not that I would know anything about that aspect, haha): would you really go right up to this stranger and ask for her number? As a member of the female sex, I can assure you that you won’t impress her. Trust me, it’s happened to me, in a foreign country to boot!

So there. “BUY NOW” shouldn’t be your go-to call-to-action for everything. You should interest your visitor, and lead them to learn more, first. You can also invite them to join your newsletter to get weekly information related to the industry or product they’re interested in, or invite them to contact you for more specific information about the characteristics of the product they’ve been looking at.

Is a call-to-action difficult to set up?

Event the simplest directive to “click here to learn more” is often more than enough to entice. Simply said, it’s simple. There are some rules of thumb that you might want to keep in mind, but otherwise it doesn’t have to be complicated like some would have you believe.

call-to-action

Here are the basic tenets to creating a call-to-action that works very simply.

  • Size: A call-to-action will, most of the time, get a larger type treatment than linked text, which will, of course, grab the reader’s eye much more efficiently. It will, however, use short text: five words should be enough.
  • Design: A call-to-action button will contain design elements that aren’t present in linked text, such as a shape to make it stand out, gradients, shadows, etc. This way, they’re allowed to pop off the page and command the eye of the readers more efficiently.
  • Colour: Buttons will contain a background colour that makes it stand out from the actual background image or the rest of the copy.
  • Whitespace: A button call-to-action is usually positioned far away from other elements so that the reader’s eye is free of distractions. This way, it pops out right away and directs the eye to it.
  • Tell them what to do: It needs to be very obvious what you want potential customers to be able to get out of your website. If not, nothing will hold their attention for very long.

Some extra guidelines for your call-to-action

Make it specific: Using exact language, including keywords or benefits of using your product or service, will make your visitor invest the time to engage. (e.g. “Click here to begin earning 2.08% interest on your money transfers”)

Make it user-friendly: When your visitor clicks your CTA, they want to easily navigate the whole process from start to finish without a mishap or confusion.

Sell value with your copy: Tell your users why they should take action. Using a button that reads “Complete to get your free ebook download” will ensure more clicks and conversion than a button that reads “Next”. The former copy clearly identifies what value your visitors will get when they click the link.

Position your CTA properly: A CTA is typically positioned at the top right or left corner of navigation (or of a sidebar). However, some other places you can insert a CTA are at the end of an article, in a top banner, or in the middle of an article.

In conclusion

Most pages on your site should include a call-to-action of some sort. My website, for example, has the “Hire me” button in almost every main internal page of the site (e.g. Homepage, WorkServices, etc.), and then “Subscribe” on at the end of all posts/articles.

What can be included in your call-to-action? Almost anything. It can be an ebook download link, a special offer, a hands-on demo, etc. And it’s not hard to set up either. You just need to keep in mind that size, design, colour, whitespace and direction are important to keep in mind when crafting your call-to-action.

What are you doing to improve your call-to-action?