In the latest of our ‘what is’ series, we discuss the marketing world’s most revered digital tool – the Call to Action.
CTA – now what could this little acronym mean? Let’s have a quick Google (or Ecosia search) and see what comes up for CTA:
Nope. None of those. In this article we’re looking at what a CTA is in the digital world and in this context, it stands for ‘call to action’. Despite being elusive to AcronymFinder, the call to action is one of the most common marketing tools. It is, in essence, a highly-visible link directing people to take an action on a website, app, newsletter, or other digital platforms.
While most links passively assist the user to take whichever journey they want to take, CTAs are push mechanisms used to drive customers in the direction that the business wants them to go, usually down the sales funnel.
CTAs provide fast routes to perform a defined action. For example, CTAs can be used to:
- Buy a product
- Subscribe to a newsletter
- Download a document
- Book an event
- Contact the company
All of the above actions lead to a sale or the acquisition of data that could lead to a sale. But that doesn’t mean that they don’t benefit the customer. CTAs are designed to make it as easy as possible for the customer to make a transaction, and that’s in their interest too. No-one wants to fumble around a website looking for how to buy, especially if they’re already sold on the product or service.
Best practices in CTA use
CTAs can be used differently and there is no real standard for how to use them. The best look and feel of the CTAs that you use will depend on your audience. You might want to test out colour, wording, style and placement on your website before committing to a standard. If you have access to A/B testing software, CTAs are a great way to use it. But while no two CTAs will have the same effect on two different platforms, there are some best practices that can make them more efficient.
What does a CTA look like?
We have all seen the old war-time ‘Your country needs you!’ posters. These were call to arms – bold directives playing on your psychology to get you to join the armed forces. They stood out and spoke directly. Modern-day call to actions are designed with the same logic. CTAs are bold and hard to ignore. They’re usually in larger lettering, capitalised text, stand-out fonts, banner or button format. They might be in different colours, or dynamic – incorporating some form of movement as you hover over them – to make them highly visible and enticing to click.
What language is effective in a CTA?
CTAs are used to drive people into an action, so they should be written in active voice, encouraging someone to ‘do something’. They should be compelling and clear so that the customer can understand completely what they are being asked to do, and understand what doing that action will mean. Take a look at these examples:
Where should you place a CTA on the page?
CTAs are typically at the top of the page, because it’s the first thing that a customer will see, it’s easy to find and it potentially speeds up the journey to buy or contact. For this reason, some brands opt to use them in the menu bar, in headers or as ‘sticky headers’ which cling to the top of the website while you scroll.
For some businesses it can be more effective to use a CTA further down a page after the customer has consumed some vital information. This is particularly the case for considered purchases, where customers typically need to feel confident in spending a lot of money or trusting the service before they purchase. That’s not to say you can’t have both…
Single CTA or multiple CTAs?
Single CTAs are common, giving the customer just one main choice on any given page. But it’s become more common to include a hard CTA and a soft CTA. The hard CTA is bold and decisive – ‘BUY’ or ‘CONTACT’ – while the soft CTA provides a route to find out more information – ‘Learn more’ – before making a decision. Having two CTAs is a good way to capture both the decisive and the indecisive customers, nurturing those who are less sure rather than pushing them, or losing them in the journey. See how Apple implement it here:
Many websites also have multiple CTAs on any given page. This can be useful to capture customers at different stages of consideration. The further down the page the more likely they are to make a decision, so having CTAs further down prevents them from having to scroll back up to take the action. You might want to have a CTA at top of the page, halfway down and at the end. I’d recommend spacing out your CTAs so the customer isn’t overwhelmed or confused, while ensuring they have enough opportunity to take action.
Does every page need a CTA?
The common thread in the marketing world is that every page should have a CTA in order to provide a clear path to buy or contact, but the reality is that this doesn’t work for all websites. Take Wikipedia as an example. As an encyclopedia, it doesn’t want to lead people in their explorations. Instead, it gives inline links within the text to support enquiring minds without prejudicing their behaviours too much. But even they will use a CTA when they want to get people to donate (typically once a year). And when they use a CTA, they really use a CTA. Take a look at what they put on every page:
So, as you can see, there’s no single way to use a call to action. If you’re looking for further advice on how to implement a CTA on your website get in touch.
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