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Lights, Camera, Call to Action! Getting the Most From Your CTA

Ineffective CTAs can be frustrating. Scratch that: from a numbers standpoint, it’s straight-up infuriating when calls to action aren’t working. When your end goal is to capture leads and convert users into loyal customers, something as seemingly insignificant as a low click-through rate can feel like a huge downer. What could you be doing wrong?! If only there was a perfect formula for driving engagement and increasing revenue.

Unfortunately, even the most well-designed, strategically sound, and perfectly placed CTA isn’t a silver bullet solution. But don’t give up so fast! Moving your user through the sales funnel is a process; it’s about building relationships and trust over time. The right call to action can make a big difference in your conversion rates—and therefore, your company’s profits. They tell your user what to do next by providing a path to travel through your website and down the sales funnel. It’s no wonder Michael Aagard of Unbounce says the right call to action can be “the tipping point between bounce and conversion.”

Your CTA Strategy Solution

So your calls to action aren’t working? Fear not—it doesn’t have to stay that way. With the right mix of creativity, strategy, and hard work, you can make the next step toward your goals. To move you in the right direction, we got the rundown from some digital marketing experts with helpful insights into common CTA problems—and, of course, solutions you can implement to make your conversion rates soar.

Problem: Your CTA is too broad

Calls to action aren’t working? Maybe you haven’t created an obvious next step for your user. If your CTA simply says “learn more” or “contact us,” it doesn’t provide a clear path through your business’ website. “Learn more” isn’t enough to encourage your reader to read more because it doesn’t meet a specific need he or she is likely to have.

Expert Advice: To encourage your audience to click, think ahead. Make things easy for them by providing a clear and specific CTA that both anticipates a need and also shows how your organization can meet it.

“Think about what you really want the user to do. Why should they click? That should be the CTA,” says Lynn Woll, chief executive officer and founder of Create Whimsy. For example, if your tea manufacturing company has a page dedicated to English Breakfast tea, your CTA should prompt your reader to look at the black teas you offer.

When you offer your users a crystal clear stepping stone, they are more likely to move in the direction you want them to—and you’re one step closer to making the sale.

Problem: The language of your CTA isn’t strong enough

“Learn more” isn’t just too broad of a CTA—it’s too boring. Your CTA should make your audience want to take action, and the language in your CTA is one of the most important ways you can do it. Without strong, enticing language, your audience won’t click.

If you’re asking your reader to do something, they should absolutely get something in return. In a society so fueled by instant gratification, your readers won’t click your CTA if it’s not clear they’re getting something out of it, too.

Expert Advice: Give your readers a reason—an incentive!—to follow your CTA through strong, colorful language. “Your message is the bait, and your CTA should be the pull on the fishing rod to hook the fish,” says Nate Burlando, owner of Distinct HVAC. “Having a simple ‘learn more here’ doesn’t have that ‘reel it in’ draw your messaging needs.”

If your calls to action aren’t working because the language is weak, consider motivating your users with powerful verbs and specific language. For example, words like “save” and “compare” are stronger, more enticing verbs than “contact” or “learn.” You can also try something different, like putting a little wit in your call to action. A clever CTA—as long as it isn’t confusing—will increase your engagement, says Akiva Leyton of Falcon Marketing. “One of my favorite CTAs was a launch button that said ‘Do Not Press.’”

As long as it’s on brand, feel free to get creative with your language and voice. Remember, your goal is to hook your users so you can pull them through the sales funnel.

Problem: The CTA isn’t relevant to the page the reader is on

Put yourself in the shoes of your reader. If you’re on a blog post about rock climbing, and the CTA is a link to a secret fly fishing spots blog, how likely are you, a diehard rock climbing enthusiast, to click that? Our guess is, highly unlikely. Your CTA must be relevant to the page the user is on.

Expert Advice: If your CTAs aren’t working, make sure you’re customizing the CTA to the content. If your CTA is closely related to the page visitors are already reading, it’s much more likely they will click, says Mark Rogers, marketing director at Carney. The key to getting your customers down the sales funnel is making that path easy for users to travel.

Again, think of your CTA as a stepping stone. If a CTA is relevant, customers will find taking the next step is easy. If the CTA is off topic, it will be harder for customers to take that leap. You’re more likely to move your user down the funnel step by step rather than leap by leap.

Problem: You use too many CTAs

“The more, the merrier” doesn’t apply in all situations. Asking your reader to do too many things at once can confuse them. Which action should they take? What should they do first? With so many requests for action, your reader will be more likely to not take any action at all.

Expert Advice: Use one CTA to avoid confusion. “Too many calls to action can be worse than none since an overwhelming list of directives can leave consumers unwilling to remain engaged,” says Rich Harris, founder of Insomnia Graphix. Put simply, come up with one thing you want your reader to do with that piece of content, and tell them to do just that. Instead of overwhelming your users and potentially turning them off, use just one CTA with each piece of content.

Problem: The CTA is poorly designed

It may come down to something as simple as design. If your CTA isn’t clearly clickable, for example, your users won’t even understand that they have an opportunity to click through and continue interacting with your company.

Expert Advice: Partner with your design team to make sure your CTA is clearly clickable. Kristine Neil, founder of Markon Brands, says it’s important to make sure your CTA stands out from the rest of your website. “Buttons, of course, are the tried and true answer,” she says. “However, if you feel inspired, and it’s on brand for your company, try a creative way to call out text.”

Being more intentional with color so it grabs your reader’s attention immediately is a simple way to improve design and make your CTA easier to find, according Leyton. “This is more than just choosing two random colors that look ‘good’ together—there are perfect matches for each color on the color wheel, and choosing the right one makes a world of difference.” A design team can help with color choice, but tools like Adobe’s color wheel tool can work in a pinch.

Changing the design elements of your CTA takes the guessing game out of interacting with your brand for the user. Maximizing the likelihood of click-through with a few simple tweaks in the design brings your user one step closer to a purchase.

Problem: The CTA doesn’t have enough context

Placement of your CTA is key. Your CTA shouldn’t be jarring for your reader. If your CTA is too high on the page, or it comes up before enough context is given, it can be too abrupt, and feel unnatural to the reader, turning them off to your products and services.

Expert Advice: Look for organic ways to embed your CTA in the text so it feels like a natural transition from the content with which the user is already engaged. Neil recommends including the CTA within a broader context, like a narrative or visual elements. “Cutting to the chase without context can feel abrasive, but wrapping the CTA within context can play a big role in engendering trust,” she says.

If your calls to action aren’t working, check on their placement on the page. If they’re in the middle of an irrelevant paragraph, consider bookending it with content that pertains to the action you want them to take. Put yourself in the shoes of your user and read through the content out loud, CTAs and all. If at any point it feels like a CTA is too abrasive or jumping out at you, placement might be what’s keeping your readers from clicking and converting.

Problem: The CTA doesn’t add value

If you’re asking your reader to do something, they should absolutely get something in return. In a society so fueled by instant gratification, your readers won’t click your CTA if it’s not clear they’re getting something out of it, too.

Expert Advice: Know what your customer needs or wants, and then meet them there. “Since most marketers request contact information in exchange for their offering, it’s important for users to be absolutely convinced they are making an even trade,” says Eric Johnson, content specialist at Feedback Wrench Web Design. It’s important to offer a reward to your users, thanking them for clicking through.

Before you can offer a meaningful reward for your user, however, you need to know what they actually value. Tools like Google Analytics, Google Search Console, and SEMrush are helpful to optimize your pages, but they can also help you get into the minds of consumers and understand what they want. “Once you understand the range of queries that were used to arrive at your given sales pages, you will better understand how to provide answers through your CTAs,” says Zachary Paruch, product manager at Termly.

Another way to home in on what your user values is targeting your audience through personas. Survey your audience about their top priorities and biggest problems, and then segment them into personas with specific needs and preferences. When you direct your content toward a certain persona, you can create CTAs that appeal to their interests and solve their problems, which makes them much more likely to engage and, hopefully, take action.

Problem: The CTA is too forward

There’s nothing worse than a CTA that reads like a stereotypical used car salesman. If the reader is just kicking tires and looking for more information, but isn’t ready to purchase, a CTA asking the customer to make a purchase is pushing too hard to convert the reader to a customer.

Expert Advice: Meet the buyer where they are in their journey. For example, if your user just wants to get more information on a certain subject area, they won’t be looking to buy your services yet. Jumping the gun could be a turn off.

Trying to convert your reader into a paying customer immediately is a common pitfall of poorly converting CTAs, says Richard Howe, owner of ColourRich. “Content marketing is about providing useful information and building brand awareness to feed the top of your conversion funnel.”

Rather than hopping right into a sales pitch in every CTA, shape and categorize your content according to the customer journey and create your calls to action accordingly. By meeting your customers where they are, your customers will be more likely to click your CTAs and trust your business enough to want to work with you in the future.

Problem: You haven’t tested your CTAs

This is the root of all of your CTA problems. It’s likely that CTAs won’t work for you somewhere down the line. It’s a problem when a CTA doesn’t work, but it’s a bigger problem when you make changes without testing how those changes affect your click-through rate.

Expert Advice: Track the performance of your CTAs from the get-go, but especially as you make changes—and be patient along the way, as the right tweak could be the solution you need.

When you understand which CTAs aren’t working, you can make changes accordingly, whether you change design, placement on the page, or copy. Roman Daneghyan, chief marketing officer of Renderforest, once generated 7 percent more conversions just by merely changing CTA placement on his company’s homepage. “A good result sometimes requires testing and testing again. Start by comparing the traffic and conversions from different CTAs to understand which one works best,” according to Daneghyan.

When you discover that your calls to action aren’t working, it can be tempting to change everything and hope for the best, but, be patient! Making several changes at once means you won’t know what’s actually impacting your site traffic or click-through rates, making it harder to refine your CTA creation process, and therefore harder to encourage them to take action.

Revolutionizing Your CTAs by Connecting With Your Audience

Being more intentional about your CTAs can pack a big punch in driving engagement and, ultimately, increasing revenue. But more than just a well-designed button to click on and ‘learn more,’ CTAs show your audience that you know what they need and have just the thing to meet that need—somehow, you can make their lives easier.

If your calls to action aren’t working, start by doing whatever it takes to understand your target audience so you know exactly what it takes to meet their needs and wants, make some changes, and track them! You’ll not only come across as more authentic, but you’ll also be more likely to increase engagement and, over time, revenue.

Still struggling with connecting to your audience with your CTAs? Learn about how to segment your audience and breathe life into your marketing with the help of personas.

Ashley Abramson
Ashley Abramson
Ashley Abramson is a freelance writer in Minneapolis. When she's not writing for clients, she's working on her online magazine or spending time with her husband and two young sons.