Calls to Action: What Are They and Why Do They Matter?

Posted by Rich McElaney

If you regularly spend time online you're highly subject to what I call "web drift". In an acute example of this phenomenon, I recall starting out on a search for small business' social media usage statistics and ending up looking at declassified satellite photos of Russian missile silos. I'm sure your web drifting patterns are uniquely personal, but we're all subject to drifting.

If you pay closer attention to your drifting habits, you'll most likely find a common denominator in the equation - calls to action (CTAs). CTAs are like little traffic (attention) diverters that, with a click of a button, move us from one topic of interest to another on the web.

A call to action (CTA) is an image or text (usually both) that causes a person to take action and the action can take many forms:

  • Subscribe to a newsletter
  • Download a whitepaper
  • Initiate a free trial
  • Attend a webinar
  • Take advantage of a special offer

The CTA is linked to a specific landing page that details the benefits associated to the action taken. This is a core mechanism in lead generation for businesses of all types.

Now that you're aware of the mechanism that impacts many of your online travels, let's take a look at the keys to making CTAs work for your business.

Key #1 - Develop your CTAs with a very specific purpose in mind

The general purpose of a CTA is offer something of value to your site visitors. Depending on where your visitors are in their decision making process, that value can take on many forms. Just as we looked at the impact of mapping content to a specific stage in your sales process in this post, there is value in mapping CTAs in the same way. The number one mindset to have in developing your CTAs is to understand the WIIFM (what's in it for me) viewpoint of your customer.

Key #2 - Design your CTAs to be eye-catching

CTAs have to grab attention and quickly convey the WIIFM benefit. For HubSpot users, the ability to design basic and custom CTAs is provided through the CTA builder. Users of WordPress and other content management systems have a wide variety of plug-ins and widgets to choose from to build CTAs. Do-it-yourselfers can create them in Word and Powerpoint. CTA design can also be outsourced to graphic designers. CTAs are everywhere - review them on sites you frequent and utilize components from the ones you feel are effective in your own designs.

Key #3 - Keep your copy short and action-oriented

Current research shows that shorter headlines, between 90 and 150 characters, are best to get higher click activity. Make sure your offer is clear and your copy is action oriented. It's also good practice to use numbers in your headlines - in the same way that tactic works for blog post titles.

Key #4 - Put your CTAs everywhere

If your CTAs are meant to attact attention and direct traffic to your offers, it stands to reason that the wider they're distributed, the better the results. To get your thinking going, here's a short list of areas in which you can place your CTAs:

  • Every page of your website
  • Each one of your blog posts
  • On your email signature
  • On your LinkedIn company page
  • On your Facebook page
  • On your Twitter background
  • In your downloadable content assets
  • In your videos

Key #5 - Test, test and test

The beauty of CTAs is that they're easy to test. You can test copy variations, design styles, color changes, placement and combinations of CTAs. From my testing of various CTAs on this site, I've found a simple color change can lift the clickthrough rate. As for combining CTAs, you could have a primary CTA for an eBook on a page and a secondary CTA to subscribe to your blog - even within the primary CTA. 

I'll leave you with a couple of CTAs I came across just this morning, so you can get a feel for the variety available. If you want to take a deeper dive on CTAs, you can click on the CTA just below!

Get the Guide to Creating CTAs

Here are two other examples:

Pinterest call to action resized 600

Twitter ebook call to action 

Your Turn

Have you seen really good examples of CTAs? Are you using CTAs as an integral part of your lead generation process? As always, your feedback is most appreciated!

Tags: lead generation, CTA, CTAs, calls to action