How to Create a Call to Action that Won’t Be Ignored

An effective CTA can increase click-throughs dramatically — but ignore the “best practices” you’ve read about.
CTA
Most importantly, create a successful call to action by testing different approaches to find out what works best for your website. (Photo: chattanongzen/Shutterstock)

In the world of digital marketing, getting a user to click — whether it’s on a Facebook ad or a link to or from your blog or newsletter — is often half the battle. And your success depends in part on your call to action, or CTA.

An effective CTA can increase click-throughs dramatically. A weak CTA is a missed opportunity to drive awareness, generate new leads or sell your products or services.

NCR Silver asked Pamela Vaughan, principal marketing manager of web strategy for HubSpot, for her advice on creating CTAs that work. Vaughan, who has managed the HubSpot Marketing Blog for many years, is an expert in blog optimization, including testing and experimenting with CTA tactics.

What exactly is a call-to-action?

Vaughan says a CTA can be anything that encourages a visitor to take a specific action. “It’s a tool to get people to where you want to get them to go. It could be something as simple as, ‘Check out our blog,’ but not necessarily trying to get them to do anything other than read your blog once they get there.”

A CTA could ask users to sign up to receive emails or click on an offer you’re promoting.

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A call to action on your site will drive awareness and increase click-throughs. (Photo: OfficeVibe)

“It can be a button, or it can just be a link. It doesn’t have to be one or the other, so calling it a gateway is a neat way of thinking about it,” said Vaughan.

If the CTA is the gateway, “then your landing page is the gate that you want your visitors to walk through.”

What CTA best practices do you suggest?

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Clarity is more important than design when it comes to CTAs on your site, says Pamela Vaughan, principal marketing manager of web strategy for HubSpot. (Photo: Pamela Vaughan)

“Actually,” said Vaughan, “one of my big things lately is encouraging businesses to be a little bit wary of ‘best practices’ that they read about for calls to action.”

She shared an example of recommendations to use a particular color for CTA buttons. “There are tons of articles out there where people have published data like this,” she said. “The point I like to make is that, while those practices may true for one business and their audience, it can be completely different for your own.”

Testing different approaches yourself is essential, Vaughan said. “Don’t just accept what’s published as ‘best practice’ as the best practice for you. Often, simply following ‘best practices’ in terms of calls-to-action — and anything else — can lead to mediocrity.”

What are some characteristics of successful CTAs?

Vaughan said great messaging is more critical than a slick design. “Just in terms of landing pages, for example,” she said, “I’ve seen [more basic] pages perform better than nicely designed pages, and it all boiled down to the copy that was used.”

The offer’s appropriateness for your target audience and how well it’s articulated will have the greatest impact on the CTA’s success.

“One thing that we have seen ourselves at HubSpot is that a lot of what makes a successful call-to-action is relevancy. Don’t go overboard focusing on just designing a beautiful button. Think moreso about what the most relevant call-to-action is going to be and focus on the messaging and positioning the most.”

Vaughan said she was testing out a new landing page design and was getting some unexpected results. “Then I realized I had changed the copy in the new design pretty drastically from the original old page,” she said. She re-tested the page again with the same copy in both designs, and the new design performed better with the old copy. “It just goes to show that copy is a very influential thing.”

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No matter the design, make sure your call to action contains a clear button or link. (Photo: Spotify)

Clarity is another key component of a successful CTA. “If you are designing an actual call-to-action button or some kind of visual,” said Vaughan, “make sure there is a clear button or link within it.”

Experiment with different button copy. “There’s a lot of information out there about what button copy is best,” she continued, “but again, that’s something I would encourage people to try out for themselves and to test different options.”

Also make it clear what you want users to do after they click.“We’ve seen a lot of people directing their call-to-action to their homepage,” she said, but this leaves your visitor wondering what they are supposed to do next.”

Whatever tactics you use for your CTAs, Vaughan said, “The lesson is to keep track of what is working, take lessons from those learnings and apply them to your marketing strategy.”

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