All websites are built to serve a purpose, and the overall success of a website depends on how and to what extent it has fulfilled this purpose. A blog is successful if it captures a large audience through its content. A charity website is successful if it impels lots of users to donate. A corporate or e-commerce site is successful if it attracts, persuades, and converts a certain number of users. But what can we do to ensure the success of such websites? In other words, what is it that makes users take a specific action?

We live in a visual culture. The design and layout of a company’s website is absolutely key, acting as a crucial means of conveying a message, displaying certain products or services, building trust and loyalty, or making people purchase a product. The visual aspects of a site – from the imagery, the layout, and the branding, to elements of its interface and user experience – should assist users in taking your desired course of action. A crucial part of this process is understanding how to effectively create and deploy a CTA.

CT-what?

CTA… it stands for ‘Call to Action’ and its an essential concept in digital marketing and SEO. CTAs are the buttons or links on your website that help turn prospective customers into leads by imploring them to perform a certain action. This could be filling in a form on your contact page, or requesting a company brochure. Often, the purpose of a CTA is to make users click a button and navigate to a different page, usually one that contains a high value offer (such as a product or service page). In these cases, the relevant CTA could be something as simple as ‘buy now’.

Given their role in subtly guiding users from awareness through consideration to conversion, CTAs are intrinsically linked with the inbound sales funnel at the heart of any inbound marketing efforts. They indicate which actions a user should take in order to progress from one stage of the buying process to the next. If a user clicks a CTA button that expands the content of an article, this can demonstrates their progression through their buyer journey.

What makes a good CTA?

There’s a lot that goes into a good CTA, spanning matters of design, wording, presentation, clarity, and placement. But ultimately, a good CTA is one which drives conversions by persuading and satisfying a high portion of users who encounter the button or link in question. Although it may seem easy to just plaster some attention-grabbing buttons all over your website, the reality is something much more nuanced.

In particular, you need to be thinking of user intent. Why are users visiting that particular page? How did users discover or reach your page? What are users looking to get out of the page? Where will users be clicking to after? How can you inspire users to take the desired action? Usually, if a user is visiting your website and they have not immediately gotten bored and left, they are there for a specific reason. There is intent behind their use of your website.

Perhaps the user is looking to learn about something, or consider the benefits of, or indeed purchase something through your website. It’s your job to figure out exactly what their intent is and provide the appropriate incentives to match through your CTAs. Racking up sales, capturing traffic, driving conversions – whatever the aims of your website there will be some way to forward those aims with the use of great CTAs.

Here are some of our best practices for the creation of functional CTAs:

  • Keep it snappy. We’re talking no more than five words.
  • Inspire action. Use verbs, and picture the phrase “I want to…” before the text.
  • Be clear. Let the user know exactly what to expect when they click.
  • Avoid ambiguity. Casting a wide net with vague text causes confusion.
  • Don’t overdo it. Make sure there is only one primary CTA per page.
  • Bigger is better. At least within reason. Make sure the button stands out.
  • Add contrast. Use a unique colour that is not seen elsewhere on the page.
  • Place it well. Make it easy to find and even easier to click.
  • Compel. Give users a simple and unarguable reason to click through.

The most important rule to keep in mind when creating CTAs cannot be summed up in a pithy bullet point. You need to consider them in a wider context and think about where they stand in relation to the inbound sales funnel. Your CTAs will be more effective when they are relevant and appropriate. They should be structured according to their position within the user’s journey, inciting an action that falls in line with the user’s needs and intentions at that particular stage. It would be inappropriate to place sales-based CTAs on a piece of content positioned at the top of the sales funnel (content designed to attract users and build awareness). Instead, your CTAs should gently guide users through the sales funnel, with CTAs intended to make sales saved for the later stages. Only once you’ve crafted a coherent user journey will your CTA buttons begin to drive results for your website.