The 8 Minute Beginner’s Guide to Creating a Call to Action

by | December 28, 2016 | Marketing

What is a Call To Action (CTA)?

In it’s most basic form, a “Call to Action” (often abbreviated as CTA) is when you prompt a user to perform a specific action, such as clicking on a button or a link. The action can be anything, such as subscribing to an email list, downloading a PDF, registering for an event, etc.

Just so we’re on the same page, here’s an example of a CTA on Evernote.com:

When implemented correctly, CTA’s are extremely powerful and effective tools when it comes to things such as:

  • growing a customer base
  • qualifying leads
  • segmenting an audience
  • increasing conversions or signups

Generally speaking, each email, blog post or website page should have one main CTA. While it’s perfectly acceptable to present users with multiple CTA’s, you should consider organizing them according to importance. This order will help determine where you place each CTA and how you present them to the user.

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Important features of an Effective CTA

From a 30,000 foot view, an effective CTA possesses a few important features to entice users to complete the desired action, rather than to continue scrolling past. They include:

Eye-Catching Design

An effective CTA should catch people’s attention and contrast the rest of your page’s design. No one will click your CTA if they don’t notice it. Images and video are a great way to make CTA’s stand out from the rest of the content around it.

Use Actionable Copy

Keep your copy short, sweet and to the point. It’s also a good idea to avoid using jargon – follow the KISS rule (Keep It Super Simple).

Also, please, please, please do NOT use the word “Submit” or “Subscribe” on your button. Make it more actionable and exciting. If you’re offering an ebook or free report, write something like “Gimme the report!“, “Download the PDF” or “I want the ebook!

Be Clear About the Offer

People should know exactly what will happen when they click on a CTA. If they’re expecting a download, send them the download immediately. Autoresponders that send files to users are easily accomplished with most email marketing platforms.

One final note on CTA elements: CTAs should be created with a specific stage of your sales funnel in mind. If you’re writing a blog post aimed at brand new visitors, a CTA that talks about pricing or product demos would likely not do well at all. You want to introduce them to your brand and build trust and authority first.

Where to Place Your CTA

There are a handful of options and different schools of thought when it comes to placing CTA’s. The most common places for a CTA include:

  • Above the fold
  • Below the fold
  • Bottom of the page

Above the Fold

The “fold” refers to the bottom of the screen when a page first loads. Everything “above the fold” is what you can see without having to scroll down the page and above the fold has become a popular slogan for a lot of digital marketers.

I use an above the fold CTA on my homepage to direct users one of two places depending on whether they already have a website (they are directed to the blog) or they need a website (they are directed to my website design and development services).

A great example of an above the fold CTA is one I’ve mentioned before over at Pat Flynn’s smartpassiveincome.com.

smart passive income cta

You’ll notice a few important features of his CTA to make it actionable and enticing:

  • A bold headline: …the crash test dummy of online business.
  • Complimentary subheadline: My experiments will show you how to build an ethical business fueled by passive income. Let’s see what works!
  • Actionable button text: Get started here

Below the Fold

There are times when it’s not possible to fit your entire CTA above the fold. You may be presenting users with a long signup or quote request form and the button falls below the fold. Remember, the text of the button is important so we want to make sure the visitor sees it.

In an effort to get visitors where you need them to be, you can use a directional cue above the fold. This tells the user there is additional important information below the fold.

An example of a subconscious cue looks like this:

cta below the fold with cue

You get the idea

Bottom of the Page

While I used to agree with above the fold, (and sometimes it is the right place) I believe the internet and its users have evolved quite a bit over the years. We’ve become very accustomed to scrolling, thanks to social media websites like Facebook and Pinterest, as long as we know there is something further down the page worth scrolling.

I know from personal experience that I tend to scroll immediately when a page loads in an effort to skim the page to find the piece of information I’m looking for and if the content draws me in, I’ll go back through and read it.

I recently read an article on unbounce.com that featured the following interesting heat map image:

It was taken from this study, in which they found that having less content above the fold can actually encourage users to scroll farther down.

The bottom of the page strategy works because, unlike the above the fold strategy where you hit them right away with your offer, you follow what’s called AIDA (Attention, Interest, Desire, Action).

AIDA revolves around the goal of purposely moving a user through a series of steps that ultimately end in the user making a decision to act.

An example of using AIDA looks something like the following image:

AIDA example

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A few more CTA examples

Examples of effective CTA’s can be found all over the web but here are a few more to illustrate what we’ve covered:

Zapier.com

Stripe.com

Verizon.com

Notice the use of big headlines followed by subheadings that provide a brief reason why you should click on the button.

Also, each of the CTA’s listed above use imagery to catch you attention. Zapier’s is a bit more subtle in the background but it definitely fits with the mission of Zapier (connecting hundreds of seemingly separate apps and platforms).

Conclusion

Now that you have a basic understanding of what a CTA is, how to structure one and where to place it, start thinking about how you can incorporate your own CTA’s into your website to boost conversions.

As long as it’s clear, eye-catching and enticing, the sky is really the limit for what you can use CTA’s for!

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