Boost your conversion rate: best practices for creating an effective call-to-action

If a web page isn’t converting, maybe it’s because you haven’t told visitors what you want them to do. After all, like the rest of us, visitors aren’t very good mind readers. This is where the call-to-action (CTA) comes in.

In our previous blog “The Best In Ad Copy – How to Write Winning Ad Copy That Sells”, we touched on the importance of having a clear call to action and in this post we will give you more tips on how to turn visitors into paying customers.

The role of the Call-to-Action

Every person who visits your site will do one of two things: leave or convert. Your call-to-action is one very important deciding factor. The CTA tells visitors what to do next, but does much more than just give direction.

A visitor’s attention is divided among a number of elements on a web page, including navigation, content and buttons. A quality call-to-action sums up the page to give it focus and purpose, while telling visitors what to do next.

The importance of an effective Call-to-Action: what happens when it is missing the point?

A web page without a clear CTA is like driving on a road without any proper signage. You can take any number of roads and side roads, but you need to guess which one will take you where you need to go.

Source: Dawn Huczek
Source: Dawn Huczek

Not having a clear CTA presents visitors with the dilemma of where to go next. They get distracted by other available action options (such as navigation elements) and wander off. As a result, fewer people will make it to next steps, leaving you with fewer conversions.

An effective Call-to-Action. Make it stand out

So, there is a clear need for having a good and clear call-to-action on your page. But how do you go about creating one?

First of all, the Call-to-Action needs to grab attention. As with road signs, if they are hidden from view, they won’t be of any use. An effective CTA, as such, needs to stand out on the page.

Prominent position

The Call-to-Action should be placed in a prominent position, for example at the top of the page. A CTA in a prominent spot on the page leaves less chance for being overlooked, and thus, can lead to higher conversions.

Offset with whitespace

As mentioned, an effective CTA stands out. One way to achieve this is to avoid cluttering it up with other elements on your page. Leaving adequate whitespace around the CTA helps visitors draw their attention to it, without being distracted by surrounding elements.

Size matters

On the web the relative size of an element, such as the call-to-action, is in proportion to its importance. Therefore, a CTA should be large in size, highlighting it as the preferred action on the page.

High contrast colours

Picking a colour for your CTA may seem like an arbitrary decision, but don’t be fooled by the power colour has on the effectiveness of the CTA. Choosing a colour of relative high contrast to surrounding elements on the page ensures the CTA draws in the desired attention.

An effective Call-To-Action: choosing words that will covert

Grabbing attention alone is not enough. Visitors also need to know what will happen when they action the Call-to-Action, and need to be motivated to do so. An effective CTA will need to express value and relevance to the reader. The words you choose to convey that message are important. Some guidelines:


First of all, the message in your call-to-action should be relevant to the action you are trying to convey. Don’t mislead the visitor by sending them the wrong message, and be as specific as you can be. For example, do not use “Continue” when the relevant action is “Proceed to checkout”.

Use active verbs

Effective call-to-action phrases use active verbs. This not only makes your directions clear to the user, but active language is also stronger and more encouraging. Try starting the phrase with verbs like “call”, “register” or “buy”.

Convey a sense of urgency

To sweeten the deal and further motivate visitors to convert, you may also want to create a sense of urgency in the call-to-action. Examples are offering limited time only incentives or additional reasons to sign up, buy or otherwise convert. This could include promotions or free gifts as well as limited stock counts (“only 10 left”) or short term offers (“valid for only 24 hours”).

Multiple call-to-actions: what to do?

Sometimes, multiple actions can be taken on page. For instance, visitors presented with a summary of a product may already wish to purchase, or perhaps would like to know more about it first. Visitors should be presented with both options, to avoid any drop-off. But how do you deal with multiple call-to-actions such as these?

Instead of having a large, complex call-to-action, try split them up in multiple CTAs and prioritise them in accordance with your business needs. In the example above, “buy now” takes preference over “Learn more” as the ultimate goal is to get a sale (conversion).

Ensure the main Call-to-Action receives the most prominence both in design and copy. Secondary call-to-action still need to remain visible, but should attract less attention both in design (e.g. less prominent location on the page, smaller size button, less contrasting colour, etc.) and phrasing (e.g. action that is perceived as less committal).

This way, you cater for various visitor groups; the ones that are ready to convert, and the ones that may take a bit convincing, without one of the two leave your page as their needs are not met.

The importance of testing your Call-to-Actions

Of course, we have to start somewhere, and the guidelines above will certainly point you in the right direction when it comes to creating CTAs. But designing your call-to-actions based on educated guesses alone, won’t cut it. Testing various versions of your CTAs is important. Not only will testing highlight any pain points, optimising call-to-actions based on test results can lead to significantly higher conversion rates.

Take a look at Obama’s 2008 campaign below. Multivariate testing was performed on both Call-to-Action button text as well as supporting media, but let’s focus on the CTA text. The original page showed the CTA button text ‘Sign up’. Having left all other CTA elements (such as button size, colour and relative page position) the same in the winning version, and merely changing the copy to ‘Learn more’, resulted in a 40.6% increase in sign-up (conversion) on this landing page (combined with the optimised media).

Source: Webpage FX Blog

An important note to take-away from the Obama example, is that even though the copy on both CTAs is relevant, and all other CTA elements equal, visitors took major preference over one version to the other, proving the importance of testing not only on CTA but on different elements of the page!

An effective call-to-action is the tipping point between page abandonment and a conversion. But, like anything else, it doesn’t work on its own. Each CTA needs to be supported by a strong, effective traffic funnel that is continuously refined through testing and tracking.

For further reading on conversion rates check out our free CRO white paper:

CRO Whitepaper

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