Don’t let the simplicity of the humble call-to-action (CTA) button on your blog or website fool you. It has great power. When used to its best advantage, a CTA can initiate, strengthen and foster customer relationships — and, really, isn’t that the point of marketing?
Given its marketing mojo, you may be wondering what makes for an effective CTA. If you search online, you'll find lots of examples of great CTAs that you can't help but click. Sure, they look great, but what makes them work? Let's take a look.
More Than Meets The Eye
As the name suggests, a CTA delivers concise, actionable direction to an audience — like “Download Now” or “Find Out More.” Essentially, it’s a vehicle to get visitors from one piece of content to the next for mutual benefit: they are better informed and marketers have a better opportunity for conversion.
It seems pretty cut and dried, but the value of CTA functionality runs deeper. Marketers have a real opportunity to orchestrate relationship-building and conversion strategies based on the content and offers set before visitors. CTAs are great tools for guiding visitors along a path the marketer gets to wholly determine.
Inbound marketing has really opened marketers’ eyes to CTA dynamics by attaching analytics capabilities. HubSpot has a CTA tool within their inbound marketing platform that embeds code to measure individual CTA performance metrics, and also improves marketing efficiencies. There’s always the challenge of keeping content fresh and searchable, and HubSpot's CTA tool allows you to change literally hundreds of CTA visuals in a couple of clicks instead of having to touch each piece individually. The pathways to conversion — your content — are perpetually under control with minimal time investment. Win-win.
The Big Four
CTA functionality is increasingly sophisticated, but it’s only part of the effectiveness equation. After all, visitors can’t see all the magic happening behind the curtain. But they can see and react to what a CTA looks like, where it’s placed and what it says.
There are basically four key components to a successful CTA.
Blogs and websites present different design opportunities, but size is the commonality. Designing the CTA to the space — often across the entire width of a blog and to the columnar width of a web page — provides visitors with the best opportunity to effortlessly find it. Simple, relevant visuals further attract the eye and a short, clickable headline or button spur action.
CTA button space naturally limits message length, so strategically choose a few clear and compelling words to inform visitors of exactly what they need to do or what to expect. Messages that include words identified as among the most persuasive in the English language — you, guarantee, results, free, new, etc. — suggest value and encourage clicks, but they should never be forceful or misleading regardless of buyer journey stage.
In terms of conversion, the content offer contributes to CTA messaging success. If the asset is particularly interesting to visitors, they'll likely click through without needing much of a CTA nudge, making your asset mix critical. Content-rich assets like eBooks and whitepapers have their place within many industries, but current trends are pointing toward shorter and more visually rich content such as video and infographics. Interactive content is also gaining traction with the inclusion of user-friendly tools like templates, calculators and choose-your-own adventures.
According to a HubSpot CTA study, it’s estimated that only about 6% of leads come in through blog post CTAs, attributable mainly to visitors not reading the entire blog to reach the CTA and their increasing willingness to ignore CTAs, much like they do banner ads. Changing the CTA to text-only and relocating it to the middle of a post, known as an anchor text CTA, saw lead conversions jump to 90%! That’s a strong case for placement.
Relegating CTAs to the bottom of the page is risky, but there are options beyond anchor text CTAs. For example, providing more than one chance to click the CTA throughout a post or web page encourages clicks. Strategically placed hyperlinks — like this one about CTA copywriting tips — that occur in the natural flow of text provides additional opportunities to increase awareness, and popups and popovers appearing midway through a blog post attract eyes.
We've also found great success in prominently featuring a CTA on the home page above the fold. In addition, including multiple CTAs elsewhere on a website’s home page or other prominent areas give visitors a wealth of options and confidence in your thought leadership.
Believing you have the right design, message and placement is one thing. Knowing it is another. A/B testing compares two versions of a CTA to see which one performs better based on real-time data and statistics. This straightforward process then informs your marketing choices in promoting high-performing CTAs and/or optimizing less successful versions. When creating your A/B test versions, it's important to only change one detail so you can accurately determine what influenced the results. For example, change only the background color or the text, but not both.
While CTA metrics were once lumped in with landing pages, tools are now available that separate the two, meaning you have a true picture of CTA performance upon which to base decisions.
When developed with these elements in mind, CTAs are a small but highly impactful tool in optimizing inbound marketing search and conversion rates. And, speaking of CTAs, check out this one if you've been having a hard time convincing your boss that inbound marketing brings results. You know what to do. (Click. That's what you do.)