Every landing page offers a choice: read the call to action copy and act, or to leave it alone.
If a person clicks, they begin the conversion process.
If they don’t click, nothing happens. They eventually leave your page, possibly never to return.
This makes your call-to-action button one of the most important components of your landing page. Possibly the most important component.
With that in mind, we’ve got a step-by-step guide to help you optimize every aspect of your call-to-action button: copy, color, shape, size, and location. We’ve also included some testing tips to help ensure your button gets the clicks it deserves.
After all, if users don’t follow the call, they don’t convert. So let’s learn how to make that call to action copy as strong as possible.
Optimizing Your Call To Action Copy
Let’s start with copy, because it’s one of the most crucial elements of your CTA button strategy. As ContentVerve explains:
The copy you use in your buttons has major impact on your prospects’ decisions. Button color and design are important visual cues that tell the prospect where to click.
But in the last critical moment, the copy itself is what impacts the prospect’s final decision. In other words your CTA copy answers the question, “Why should I click this button?”
1) As we just quoted above, here’s the most important part of call-to-action button copy: your users need to know why they should click the button.
2) There are many different ways to tweak this: your users need to know what benefit they’ll receive if they click the button,
3) Your users need to know what problem you’ll solve if they click the button, and so on.
But the reason to click has to be absolutely clear.
4) Your call-to-action button also needs to include actionable language. It is a call to action, after all!
This means verbs. Try now, get your free proposal, learn more, and so on.
Of course, some verbs work better than others.
Feldman recommends starting with an actionable word such as “get,” “learn,” “discover” or “enjoy.” And once you’ve set yourself up to speak to the value of the offer, he recommends following up your action-packed verbs with “the value the clicker shall receive.”
Button copy like “click here” or “download now” doesn’t communicate what you
stand to gain by clicking. “Enjoy a free week—on us!” on the other hand, does.
So tweak those action and value words until they are perfect.
Remember: If your call-to-action button does not effectively communicate what your users will gain, your users will not click. I mean, some of them will probably still click. But you’ll be leaving potential conversions behind.
Here’s what I mean by “effective communication:” take a look at that WordPress landing page screenshot above.
What do you think you’ll get if you click that CTA button? It looks pretty obvious; you’ll get WordPress 4.4.1. But here’s the question: is the download free? Or are you going to be taken to a new page where they’ll ask you to input your credit card information?
If your users don’t know, they might not click. This builds up friction, and that’s not good.
5) This means you might want to add a few more words to your CTA button copy. ContentVerve has a case study showing that adding a few clarifying words can significantly increase conversion:
Changing the CTA copy from, “Get Membership” to, “Find Your Gym & Get Membership”
increased click through to the payment page by 213.16%.
6) How many words are too many? CrazyEgg writes that “anything that goes over ten or fifteen words is probably too long.” You’re not composing a Tweet, after all; you’re inspiring people to take action. HubSpot, on the other hand, says “no more than five [words] is ideal.”
7) If you want to add a few extra words to your CTA button, consider adding additional copy underneath or next to the button to communicate that extra information.
Copyblogger calls this type of text a “click trigger,” and cites a case study showing that click triggers can increase conversions:
Simply by adding two click triggers—one an anxiety-reducer about credit cards, the other a key benefit of the solution—FriendBuy now sees 134 signups for every 100 it used to see.
8) It’s also important to know which possessive determiner (my, your(s), his, her) to use. Should you write “Get my free proposal” or “Get your free proposal?” Here’s another case study from ContentVerve:
The only thing we did was to tweak one word in the copy – we changed the possessive determiner “You” to “My”. After running the test for three weeks, the treatment button copy,
“Start my free 30 day trial” had increased the click through rate to the payment page by 90%.
I listed “incorrect possessive determiner” as one of the 49 Reasons Users Aren’t Clicking Your Call to Action, but before you start changing all of your determiners from “your” to “my”, take a look at this other post from ContentVerve:
In tests I’ve run, the second person “Your” has consistently outperformed “My”. My hypothesis is that the first person perspective confuses users and produces friction, as the rest of the communication on a website is usually in the second person form.
It gets even better.
In the post, Michael Aagaard (currently Senior Conversion Optimizer at Unbounce) tests “Create My Account” vs. “Create Account and Get Started.” The second option had a 31.03% sales boost.
9) Sometimes the best possessive determiner is no determiner at all.
What does all of this mean? You have to test your copy. No matter what you read about best practices, it all comes down to testing and optimizing until you know that you’ve found the highest-converting CTA button copy possible.
So Many Colors To Choose From…
A lot of people wonder what call-to-action button color converts best, and there has been a lot of internet ink spilled on the numerous possibilities.
The answer? It depends.
Here’s what you need to know:
10) First, use the psychology of color to choose what you think will be the best CTA button color for your audience. Kissmetrics has a great guide to the psychology of color, so start there.
11) Keep in mind that different groups of people respond best to different colors. Kissmetrics’ data indicates that red-orange attracts impulse shoppers and teal attracts people working from a budget. What are your buyer personas searching for, and what colors attract those types of people? Do your research before you build your CTA button.
12) You also want to think about the color of your brand. As Kissmetrics writes:
Color increases brand recognition by 80%.
Brand recognition directly relates to consumer confidence.
13) Once you think you have the perfect color for your CTA button, adjust the rest of your landing page colors to make your CTA stand out. I wrote about this before when I listed 41 Hero Shot Secrets From High Converting Landing Pages:
Should your call to action match the colors in your hero shot?
You don’t want your CTA to clash, but you do want it to contrast.
14) Unbounce uses complementary colors to make its CTA button stand out. If you don’t remember your elementary school art class very well, complementary colors are opposite each other on the color wheel, and that means they provide a harmonious contrast. If you aren’t up on basic color theory, give the color wheel a look and see if it inspires you.
Of course, you can’t just choose the most psychologically appropriate color for your audience, match it to your branding colors, and then construct a complementary background. (If only it were that simple!) As with all other aspects of CTA button optimization, you have to test it.
15) We’ll look more at testing later in the post, but while I’m on the subject: don’t just test the call-to-action button color. Test the text color too. Before you try every color of the rainbow, however, I’ll give you this caveat, courtesy of Michael Aagaard at Unbounce:
I hypothesized that I could make the button stand out more and increase CTR by changing the font color of a green button from black to yellow.
What a backfire! Changing the font color actually decreased click through by 18.01%.
16) You’ll notice that every screenshot I’ve used in this piece has white CTA button text—except one. Keep that in mind as you design your own CTA.
Giving Your CTA Button Some Shape
17) What shape should your call-to-action button be? A lot of you are probably thinking of a rectangular button with rounded edges, so let’s start there: Search Engine Journal states that most CTA buttons have rounded edges for a number of reasons, including:
- Rounded edges point inward towards the button copy, while straight edges point outward towards the rest of the landing page.
- Rounded shapes take less cognitive effort to process.
- Humans instinctively prefer rounded shapes to sharp-edged ones.
There’s one more reason why most CTA buttons are rectangles with rounded edges: people have been taught, over the years, to read that specific online shape as a “button” that can be “pressed.” For better or for worse, the rounded rectangle shape stands for “click here”.
18) You certainly have the freedom to break tradition here, but no matter what shape you choose, you need to make your call-to-action button look like a button. UX Movement explains why:
Using gradients, drop shadows and rounded corners on your button will make it look like a three-dimensional button that users can press.
Users press buttons all the time throughout their daily life.
So when they see a realistic looking button on your website, they’ll instantly know what to do with it.
Take a look at that Basecamp screenshot, and notice how “See what’s new in 3” is tilted and designed to look like a speech balloon. Do you think everyone who visits that site will know to click the speech balloon? If your button does not look clickable, people won’t click it.
19) If you want to experiment with your CTA button, consider adding an extra design element inside the button, next to your text. Aagaard’s Unbounce post has a case study illustrating that adding a green arrow inside a CTA button improved conversion by 12.29%.
If the entire button were arrow-shaped, the user might not realize it was a button. Adding the arrow inside the button called attention to the call to action copy while still allowing it to retain its traditional shape—and letting the user know exactly where to click.
While we’re on the subject of arrows, be aware that adding two greater-than signs at the end of your CTA copy can also boost conversion. As Johnathan Dane explains in Unbounce:
I ran this super simple and quick button test with and without the “>>” and conversion rate jumped up 23% at a 99% confidence level with a client of ours who’s in the educational space.
And it wasn’t just with the one client; I saw improvements in conversion rates 100% of the time across other verticals like tech support, real estate and auto buyers.
Does Size Matter? We Think So
Now that we’ve looked at shape, what about size? How big should your call-to-action button be? Canva offers guidance:
20) Making the button large enough to attract attention (in proportion to other elements on the page), yet not so large that it makes the page layout look unbalanced, is key.
HowAboutWe’s CTA button is perfectly balanced with all of the other rectangular elements on the page.
CrazyEgg’s CTA button is also perfectly balanced; notice how it uses the same color and takes up the same visual space as the words “Crazy Egg” at the top left of the page. These two similar visual elements give the landing page a clear beginning and ending point, and draw the eye towards the CTA.
21) The two call-to-action examples above show how different button sizes make sense on different landing pages. As an experiment, I’m going to photo-edit CrazyEgg’s CTA button onto HowAboutWe’s landing page:
Doesn’t look so balanced anymore, right?
You want to create a call-to-action button that feels like the last puzzle piece in your landing page—no matter what size it is, it fits perfectly into its surrounding elements.
Keep in mind that your background elements directly affect the “size” of your CTA button. Here are two examples from Cubicle Ninjas that show how changing the background can make an identically-sized button look bigger or smaller:
In this example, Cubicle Ninjas’ CTA button appears small because it appears underneath large text and a large visual element.
In this example, the CTA button appears larger because it is presented next to a person who takes up a similar visual width.
22) In other words: if your call to action button doesn’t feel like a perfect fit, you may need to adjust everything else—copy, hero shot, etc.—on your landing page.
What else do you need to know about call-to-action button size? A ContentVerve case study showed that, in one example, making a CTA button bigger reduced sales by 10.56%. That might be the case for you as well—but you won’t know until you test a few button sizes and find out.
23) I would recommend talking about having a button being as wide as your form fields in a vertical form can hurt conversion rates compared to a call to action button that isn’t as wide, making the form look more like a visual funnel.
Location, Location, Location
24) Your call-to-action button’s location on the page is just as important as its size. If you place your CTA button in a spot where your users don’t naturally look, you’re going to lose conversions.
25) UX Movement suggests putting your CTA button at the bottom right, which they call the “terminal area:”
The primary optical area is at the top left, the strong fallow area at the top right, the weak fallow area at the bottom left, and the terminal area at the bottom right.
The user’s eyes naturally begin at the primary optical area and move across and down the display in a series of sweeps to the terminal area.
A button in the terminal area is a compelling call to action because it’s placed at the end of the user’s viewing pattern.
26) Smashing Magazine suggests putting a call-to-action button at the top of the page because we are trained to look at the top of our screens if we want to take action.
You’ll notice that the Slack screenshot includes a large CTA button at the bottom right of the page and a smaller one at the top, in order to capture both the users that read to the end of the content and the ones that scan the top of the page for actionable buttons.
27) Some companies use scrolling headers, which remain at the top of the page as the user scrolls down, to ensure that at least one CTA button is always visible.
28) No matter where you position your CTA, make sure you give it room to breathe. A case study from VWO showed that one company “saw a 232% increase from their homepage by reducing clutter around their CTA and placing it over whitespace in the center of the page.”
29) You can also draw attention to your CTA button by having the person in your hero shot look directly at it. We follow other people’s eyes, so if you have a person on your landing page, make sure that person is looking in the direction of your CTA.
30) Should you put your CTA above or below the fold? All of the screenshots I’ve shown you so far have included above-the-fold CTAs, but ContentVerve has a study showing that, in one case, moving a call-to-action button below the fold increased conversion by 304%.
Of course, ContentVerve’s study might be a little outdated now, because all of those longform landing pages with the CTAs at the bottom are quickly shifting into mobile-optimized websites.
As I wrote for The Content Strategist, we’re in a mobile e-commerce boom. SmartInsights shows that we are past the “mobile tipping point,” and people now spend more time on mobile devices than on desktop computers:
Mobile digital media time in the US is now significantly higher at 51% compared to desktop (42%).
31) What does that mean for your CTA button? You need to be mobile-optimized or you are going to lose conversions, no matter what. Every decision you make about your landing page, hero shot, and CTA has to be done with mobile in mind.
If you take anything away from this discussion on CTA button position, let it be this quote from UX Movement:
When it’s at the end of their viewing pattern, users don’t have to look around to find your call to action button.
The viewing pattern on this landing page draws the eye to the far right, especially because the man in the image is also looking towards the right. Does that make Level’s CTA button harder to find?
Test and Test Again
Let’s talk testing. Every tip I’ve just listed is invalid unless you test it. Don’t assume that white text always works best, that complementary colors always work best, that rounded edges always work best. Test everything.
32) Start with the squint test. This one is easy, because you can do it yourself without having to hire any user testers. Take a squint at your landing page and see if the CTA button is still clearly visible. Does it still pop out even after you squint your eyes to a blur? If not, consider adjusting its color, size, shape, or location.
You can also use the squint test if you are trying to decide between different CTA buttons. Put the buttons side-by-side and squint at them. Which one stands out? Try that button first.
33) Of course, if you’re trying to decide between different CTA buttons, you might as well give them the good old A/B test. This works best if you’ve narrowed your options down to a few strong choices, or if you want to compare how a CTA button at the bottom right of your landing page performs vs. a CTA button in the middle.
34) In terms of CTA button position, consider running an eyetracking or heatmap test to see how your users look at your landing page. You want to know whether their eyes are landing on your CTA button, or skipping it entirely. Companies like CrazyEgg, TobiiPro, and Eyetracking.com provide these types of services, so consider adding them to your next round of website tests. You can also run regular user tests at UserTesting.
35) Running user tests on your landing page is another essential way of knowing whether your users are able to find your CTA button—and if they understand the benefits it offers. Read our User Testing Guide to learn why a good user test can knock an A/B test out of the water.
36) Surveying your current customers is a good way to find out why they chose to sign up with your service. Use what you learn to improve your CTA copy.
37) You can also test the benefit you offer. Maybe a different benefit would convert better than the one you are currently using.
Lastly, remember that one of the best ways to improve your CTA button is to improve your product. If you’re not selling something that people want and distinguishing yourself from your competitors, the best call-to-action button in the world won’t help you.
At this point you probably have plenty of ideas for how to improve and test your call-to-action button. Before you start trying all of the tips at once, remember: you want to focus on the value the user will receive as well as putting the CTA in a place where people will easily find it.
Make sure your button looks clickable, and avoid any confusing CTA copy. Then test and retest until you have a fully optimized call to action.
Which of these tips are you going to apply to your call-to-action button? Sound off in the comments below please 🙂