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Discovering a Better Call To Action

Posted on 3.12.2009

Web professionals must always be concerned with achieving multiple objectives - that will never change. Drawing people towards a website and keeping them coming back are often what dominates the headlines, but driving consumers through a website and down the conversion funnel is where many should be spending their time instead. Effective calls to actions are of paramount importance in this process, so let’s look at how to discover and develop “better” calls to action. 

A call to action is defined as any action which visitors can take to complete your selling process. In a perfect marketing world, calls to action would be so perfectly crafted that users have no choice but to do exactly what you tell them. The problem is most never reach that marketing nirvana. They remain mired in tradition ("buy now," "add to cart") or are not specific enough ("click here to order") to motivate a user to do anything out of the ordinary. When consumers are provided with information, they're able to make better buying decisions. So, why not give them the information they need to make better buying decisions, and buying from you ... right now!

So how does a Web professional accomplish that? The calls to action that consumers encounter online should couple an imperative verb with an implied benefit. For example, “buy now” contains no reference to the benefit consumers will receive by doing so, and neither does "add to cart." A better call to action alternative might be one of the following:

  • Buy Now & Save on Shipping
  • Add to Cart – Save 10% Today

The question to ask when looking at your existing calls to action include:

  • whether the call to action is present at all; 
  • if it is placed within the active window; 
  • whether text calls are used along with image calls 

There are some basic ways to review the effectiveness of the calls to action currently deployed on your website. While there is no substitute for testing different variations of landing pages and the specific calls to action for your own offers, taking even a cursory look could reveal where improvements are possible. 

Here are a few different items to test with your calls to action:

  • Test the wording of both the button image and the text link, and ask what or where the implied benefit works best – in the image or the text?
    • Also test the combination of words and phrasing (verbs and benefits) to determine what works best for your specific business niche.
  • If not using an image, or not using text, test the addition of one of these elements and measure the response. 
    • Also test the size, shape and font of the images and text. 
  • Analyze how placement of the call to action and the actual prominence of the call to action affects conversion rate. While above the fold is better for the life insurance industry, perhaps it’s not for home and garden websites. The only way to know for sure is to test out various combinations.
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