It can be as simple as a click, an opt-in, login, registering for a trial or even a purchase. Here’s an example:
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Calls to action are the connectors between the different stages of a sales or conversion funnel, and thus carry huge importance in the process of conversion rate optimization (CRO). In order to be able to improve conversions via CTAs, it is crucial to understand the different call to action types and some best practices around their visual representation.
What types of CTAs exist?
When navigating through the web, users are flooded with all kinds of calls to action. Before exposing a list of the most used calls to actions, it makes sense to divide them into three different groups, depending on the level of commitment:
Group 1: Read more CTAs
This CTA represents the smallest commitment, indicating that with a click the user can read more content – normally, no further commitment or opt-in is necessary, a simple click shows more information to the user.
- read more
- click here
- find out more
Group 2: Opt-In CTAs
On Opt-In CTAs, the users are required to provide – at least – their e-mail address to get ahead in the process. This is very often the case for lead magnets, where users get a free PDF, video series or online course in exchange for their e-mail address.
In this group of CTAs, also software trials should be mentioned, where users often have to provide more information and sometimes their credit card to verify their authenticity.
- join now
- sign up
- claim your free trial
Group 3: Purchase CTAs
The third group requires the biggest commitment, which is that a user actually purchases something. This CTA is usually seen on the last page in a checkout process, along with the key data about the transaction.
- Purchase now
- Buy now
- Click here to purchase now
When choosing which call to action to use, it’s important to take one concept into account: What is the next step in the process?
The next step
Every user goes through various steps in the sales or conversion funnel before taking the final desired action. Before purchasing a car, for instance, a user might spend quite some time researching, watching videos, reading pdf catalogs, and checking forum posts about their possible new vehicle. Imagine they first search in Google the term Mercedes SLA, and the search result would be something like the following – how would they react?
Probably there would be a tiny, (micro-)moment of a shock – people are not ready to buy at that stage yet.
At the time of writing this, the real result looked like this:
When reading this, you can probably spot the difference: The one single purpose of this description is to convince the user that the CLA 4-Door Coupe is a great car, so users want to know more. Mercedes is selling not the car, but the click. There is even no explicit call to action, as search users are used to clicking on the title to get to the page, the CTA, in this case, would be implied by the type of content a SERP (search engine results page) represents.
In SERPs, don’t sell the car. Sell the click.
The call to action is what the marketer really wants the user to do. Inorganic + paid search, we want the user to click on the search result to get to the website and consume more information – and find the next call to action there, which for cars very often might be a catalog download, a test drive request, or something similar.
The call to action must indicate the next logical step.
In search, it is the click. On the website, it is an opt-in or feedback form. In an ecommerce solution, very often it is the sign-up, an opt-in or a purchase. For SaaS tools it is usually a trial or a demo sign-up.
When it comes to calls to action, there are a various best practices that should be taken into account, in order to achieve the best possible outcome:
When on a hiking trip, you might have seen that some hiking routes are marked on trees with a certain color, so you could, for instance, follow the BLUE route and watch out for blue paintings on trees to know where the tour continues.
The same holds true for calls to action – users need to be guided by a special color code through the whole path – starting from the call to action in a banner, maybe on Facebook, to the call to action to sign up, download the trial, purchase the premium version, etc. All those calls to action should be presented in the same style and/or color so that users immediately know how to continue their journey through the funnel.
People are lazy, so when trying to figure out where to continue, they will first look at the position of the website where the last call to action was. Just like in an ecommerce store where you might have a “continue” button on the top right or bottom right, you want your calls to action always be on the same side of the page, ideally around the same location, so users do not have to scan the whole page to find them. Sometimes even multiple CTA buttons might make sense, as some users might take action at the beginning of an article they are reading, and others at the end.
It would be wrong to assume that users read everything. They rather scan quickly through a page, read some bullet points and try to figure out what to do next. It is important to make sure the call to action is big enough to easily find and click it (also consider mobile or tablet users here, text links are harder to click than buttons). A call to action within a text that is only a hyperlink will never get the same attention as a big orange button, for example.
Helping users through consistency
A call to action must help users to find their way through your funnel, indicating not more not less than the next step that should be taken. Being consistent in presenting the call to action in the same style, color, and in the same place will greatly be appreciated by users and lead to higher conversions.
About the Author: Gert Mellak is the founder of EcomTuning.com, where he and his team help e-commerce businesses to get more sales with SEO and funnel based strategies. In his free time, he enjoys spending time with his wife and his two daughters. You can also reach him on Twitter.