Editor’s Note: This post has been updated with new tips, links, and content.
Original Publication Date: February 23, 2016
Every landing page offers a choice.
Act on the call to action copy, or 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.
Part One: 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 Michael Aagaard explains:
“The copy you use in your buttons has a 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) The Most Important Part Of Call To Action Copy
As we just quoted above, here’s the most important part of call-to-action button copy in a nutshell.
Your users need to know why they should click the button.
2) Include The Main Benefit
There are many different ways to tweak this, but your users need to know what benefit they’ll receive.
3) Solve A Problem
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) Actionable Language
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 definitely leave potential conversions behind.
Here’s what I mean by “effective communication” — take a look at that WordPress landing page design 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) Add Clarifying Words
So when should you add a few more words to your CTA button copy?
ContentVerve’s case study shows 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?
Well, let’s start with the fact that you’re not writing a novel, or even composing a Tweet, for that matter. You’re inspiring people to take action.
So if you can write a CTA that lands between those two goalposts, you’ll be in good shape to improve engagement.
7) Provide Supporting Text Adjacent to Your Call To Action Copy
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) Choose Your Possessive Determiner
It’s also important to know which possessive determiner (my, your(s), his, her) to use.
For example, should you write “Get my free proposal” or “Get your free proposal?” Here’s another case study from Michael Aagaard:
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 also listed “incorrect possessive determiner” as one of the 49 Reasons Users Aren’t Clicking Your Call to Action. But before you rush off to change 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.
And it gets even better.
In the post, Michael Aagaard (former 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) Remove Possessive Determiners
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.
Part Two: 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 possibilities.
Here’s what you need to know:
10) Examine The Psychology of Color
Before you choose a color for your call to action copy, check out the psychology of color to consider what shade might engage your audience.
Kissmetrics has a great infographic on the psychology of color, so start there.
11) Choose A Color That Matches Your Audience Segment
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) Place Your CTA Color In The Context Of Your Brand
You also want to think about the color of your brand.
As Kissmetrics wrote, “Color increases brand recognition by 80% … [and] brand recognition directly relates to consumer confidence.”
13) Make Your Landing Page Colors Support Your CTA (Not The Other Way Around)
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.
When I wrote about this in 41 Hero Shot Secrets From High Converting Landing Pages, I mentioned that your call to action shouldn’t match or clash with your hero shot colors — but it should create enough contrast that it stands out.
14) Consider Complementary Colors
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.
Unbounce uses complementary colors to make its CTA button stand out:
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) Test Text Colors…
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: “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) …But Start With White Call To Action Copy
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.
Part Three: Shaping Up Your CTA Button
What shape should your call-to-action button be? A lot of you are probably picturing a rectangular button with rounded edges, so let’s start there.
17) Round Those Edges
Search Engine Journal says 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) Make Your Button Look Like A Button
You certainly have the option 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’s explanation is the clearest we’ve found: “Gradients, drop shadows and rounded corners on your button will make it look like a three-dimensional button that users can press.”
Online and in real life, people press buttons all the time. 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) Test Experiential Design Elements
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. But adding the arrow inside the button called attention to the call to action copy while allowing it to retain its traditional shape—and letting the user know exactly where to click.
While we’re on the subject of arrows, adding two greater-than signs at the end of your CTA copy can also boost conversion. As KlientBoost’s own Johnathan Dane explained for 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 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.”
Part Four: 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?
20) Attract Attention, But Maintain Balance
Canva’s guidance on button size is as follows:
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 above give the landing page a clear beginning and ending point and draw the eye towards the CTA.
21) An Experiment In Mismatching Call To Action Copy
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 should fit perfectly into its surrounding elements.
Also, 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) Work For A Perfect Fit
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) Don’t Go Too Wide
Finally, I would recommend against button as wide as your form fields. In a vertical form, this visual conformity can actually hurt conversion rates. A call to action button that isn’t as wide, however, can draw user interest by “funneling” the user’s eye down the form.
Part Five: Location, Location, Location
Your call-to-action button’s location on the page is just as important as its size.
24) Don’t Overthink Your Button Placement
If you place your CTA button in a spot where your users don’t naturally look, you’re going to lose conversions. Keep it simple and obvious.
25) Use The “Terminal Area”
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) Place Call To Action Copy Where Users Are Trained To Look
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.
In the Slack screenshot above, you can see a large CTA button at the bottom right of the page and a smaller one at the top, capturing the users that read to the end of the content and the ones that scan the top of the page for actionable buttons.
27) Scrolling Headers
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) Room To Breathe
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 white space in the center of the page.”
29) The Eyes Of Your Hero
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) Above Or Below The Fold?
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 long-form landing pages with the CTAs at the bottom are quickly shifting into mobile-optimized websites.
31) Optimize For Mobile
You need to be mobile-optimized or you are going to lose conversions, no matter what.
According to SmartInsights, we passed the “mobile tipping point” a few years ago, and people are spending more time on mobile devices than desktop computers. And I’ve written about previously, this has created a corresponding boom in mobile e-commerce.
Every decision you make about your landing page, hero shot, and CTA should be made with mobile in mind.
If you take anything away from this section 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 the CTA button easier or harder to spot?
Part Six: Test, Test, and Test Again
Let’s talk about testing.
Every single tip we’ve discussed here 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) A/B Test
Of course, if you’re trying to decide between different CTA buttons, you might as well give them the good ol’ 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) Eye-Tracking and Heatmap Tests
In terms of CTA button position, consider running an eye-tracking 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.
35) User Tests
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.
You can also run regular user tests at UserTesting.
36) Customer Surveys
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) Test Your Stated Benefit
You can also test the benefit you offer. Maybe a different benefit would convert better than the one you are currently using.
38) Improve Your Product
Finally, 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.
Final Thoughts On Call To Action Copy
At this point, you probably have plenty of ideas for how to improve and test your call-to-action button.
But before you start trying all of the tips at once, remember: you want to stay focused on the value the user will receive as well as putting the CTA in a place where people will easily find it.
Also, 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! 🙂