If your business has been online for even a short amount of time, you've likely heard about call to actions (CTAs) and what they can do to improve your conversion rate on your website. We've covered a number of topics on this site related to using CTAs successfully, including a complete guide to A/B testing and taking a look at case studies of blog conversion rates and what those sites did right.
According to Jacob Gube for Smashing Magazine:
Designing call to action buttons into web interfaces requires some forethought and planning; it has to be part of your prototyping and information architecture processes in order for them to work well.
In this article, we're going to look at a couple of successful website owners and how they have used A/B testing or CTAs successfully. We'll then discuss how you can nail that heirarchy for your own site's CTAs.
Example #1 – Restless Chipotle
Blogger Marye Audet-White, owner of Restless Chipotle, uses call to actions occasionally and has had some success with them and other methods to grab her visitors' attention.
Audet-White shared this sage advice:
“I think that in order to run a successful blog you must be available to your readers, you must be honest, ethical, and transparent. Your readers need to know who you you are, who you really are — they need to feel you are a real person.”
One call to action that she uses that is a must for most successful blogs is to encourage readers to sign up for a newsletter. This allows her to stay in contact with readers even after they've left her site. However, she tries to let visitors decide on their own.
“There is a signup for the news letter in the side bar and a link to my book in the side bar but I don’t push visitors there.”
The technique of offering a sign up box in the sidebar is one that many successful bloggers use. The key is offering them something to entice them to sign up.
In Audet-White's case, she offers them notification of new recipes and extra recipes and tips that are only in the newsletter.
You can send out a weekly or monthly newsletter, but the key is to be consistent with it. Some other things you could offer to entice readers to sign up for your own newsletter:
Free ebook with subscription
Popular recipe that isn't on the site
Access to conference call where you offer insider advice
Example #2 – Seven Oaks Consulting
Jeanne Grunert, owner of Seven Oaks Consulting, runs a successful marketing business with a variety of client types.
One of the things that has worked well for her when it comes to getting visitors engaged is frequency.
“Mentioning my newsletter frequently on my blog and on my social media accounts has actually been the best way to add subscribers. I use a very low key, soft-sell kind of message, and it works well for my blog.”
Grunert is also a master gardener and runs a home and garden blog titled Home Garden Joy. She uses a similar approach to call her readers to action.
“My ‘call to action’ is usually to invite readers to leave a comment, share a tip, etc. I’ve found that a very soft, low key approach works best for my home and garden blog. It might be the audience or it might be the whole tone of my blog, but I think if I ratchet up the CTA it might scare people off rather than help convert more visitors.”
Do you want to apply some of Grunert's successful tactics to your blog? The first step is to decide what type of approach your readers will most appreciate. Are your readers low-key like Grunert's? Perhaps they'd appreciate a bolder approach.
Once you've decided what will work best with your readers, it will help you decide not only where to place your CTA on your page but how strongly worded, the size and even the color of that CTA.
Example #3 – WHSR
Another way to make your CTAs effective is to offer something of real value to the reader.
One of the CTAs used right here on Web Hosting Secret Revealed is intended to put information in the hands of our readers that will allow them to become successful website owners.
The CTA takes up the width of the page and is located under other information. This gives the reader a chance to see what WHSR has to offer and then offers her a bit more value.
The eBook stands out with a cover that contrasts nicely with the plain black background. Some text rounds out the CTA, explaining exactly what the reader will gain from downloading this free book. The final element is a CTA button that simply says “Download eBook”.
The button color harmonizes with the colors in the book cover, creating a visually pleasing circle that the reader will notice.
You can use this style on your own site if you plan to offer a guide. Place it under other information and figure out how to get the reader interested with both graphics and text.
While you might assume the CTA should be placed “above the fold”, which simply means that the site visitor can see it first thing without scrolling, the results of the case studies in this article discovered something different.
As the author, Oli Gardner, states, the web has changed a lot in recent years. While “above the fold” was a rule of thumb in the past, it may no longer pertain and a lot depends on the overall design and function of your website. Gardner compares throwing your CTA in the reader's face first thing to hitting the ball and running straight across the pitcher's mound to second base without ever crossing first.
You don't give the reader a chance to get to know you or your site before you ask for something from him/her. This may or may not go over well. Some readers will appreciate the ability to find the link easily while others will question your motives from the minute they see that brightly colored call to action.
One thing you can do is to utilize heat maps to figure out where people are spending the most time on your landing page. If you do choose to stick with the tried and true method of placing your CTA above the fold, make sure you use a strong headline, offer some information and write a very specific CTA that shows the reader what he'll gain from clicking on the CTA.
That Smashing Magazine article I mentioned above took a look at the size of your CTA.
One of the case studies they looked at was Lifetree Creative. Lifetree uses a CTA on their page that is wider than their logo. This signals to the reader that the CTA is important and to pay attention. The effect is subtle enough that it is almost subliminal in nature.
On the other hand, you could make your CTA stand out by creating a large graphic, some text and a headline as Jeanne Grunert does on her successful marketing site Seven Oaks Consulting. By using text, Grunert makes it clear to the reader what the benefit is to him.
Fast Pivot took a look at which colors work best for call to action buttons on websites. The articles points to four successful companies and how they all use different CTA button colors. However, the author then digs into the research a bit further and comes up with some tips from different researchers that states:
Red is better than green
Blue is preferable to orange
Yellow is better than green
The consensus? There is no consensus. Different research indicates different results for various colors. The key here is that you truly must do some A/B testing on your own landing pages to figure out which colors resonate best with your unique site visitors.
On the other hand, a contrast of colors is vitally important. Paul Olyslager talks a bit about psychology of colors and presents the typical art color wheel to show which colors contrast with one another. You will also want to be sure to include white space on your page to draw the reader's eye to your bolder call to action.
Applying Our Findings to Your Site
The conclusion? While it is beneficial to study what other successful site owners are doing, there is no one thing that works for every site.
Apply some of the findings from these case studies and then do thorough A/B testing, making adjustments as necessary.
We'd love to hear about your experiences with CTAs. If you've been successful in adding CTAs to your site, share what has worked for you.
Let us know where you placed your CTA, what your goal was, how successful the CTA was in attaining that goal, and any other details such as color changes you made or moving the CTA around to attract more action.
About Lori Soard
Lori Soard has been working as a freelance writer and editor since 1996. She has a bachelor's in English Education and a PhD in Journalism. Her articles have appeared in newspapers, magazines, online and she's had several books published. Since 1997, she has worked as a web designer and promoter for authors and small businesses. She even worked for a short time ranking websites for a popular search engine and studying in-depth SEO tactics for a number of clients. She enjoys hearing from her readers.