7 Characteristics of Compelling Calls to Action

by Wayne Barker April 24th, 2012 

(CTA): relates to conversion CTA is a specific message/graphic urging the user act. CTA Design is the art of moving visitors from one page to the next, and finally persuading them to take an expected, predetermined action.

www.acromediainc.com/glossary_interactive_web_development

Creating compelling and successful calls to action is part art and part science. The overwhelming tsunami of information on the web around this subject can leave the humble website owner unsure where to begin.

To remedy this I have put together a list of the 7 most common characteristics that can be found in calls to action that guide the user towards your designated business goal. The characteristics listed below can be applied to any site in any vertical; you just have to know what your goal is.

1. Benefits

You need to let your users know what they will get if the click your button. Telling them that they need to download or sign up is fine but what are they going to get out of it?

Benefits in your call to action

 

See it in action: http://www.playintraffik.com/

 

choosing benefits for calls to action

See it in action: http://www.donortools.com/

 

Sprout social using benefits

See it in action: http://sproutsocial.com/

 

Benefits aiding the visitor to take the course of action you require

See it in action: http://www.tearoundapp.com/

2. Urgency

Ideally you want them to click on your call to action now rather than later – who knows who else they may come across who provide the same service or sell the same product. Including a sense of urgency will encourage the user to take action now.

Create urgency via pricing

See it in action: http://www.appstemplates.com/

 

Groupon use a lot of urgency in their calls to action

See it in action: http://www.groupon.co.uk/

3. Size

There is this cliche floating round that size isn't everything (allegedly) and whilst it isn't always best practice to have a page that is over dominated by a massive call to action you need to make sure that it is clearly visible on the page and bigger than less important information.

Bigger can be better with your calls to action

See it in action: http://econsultancy.com/uk

 

Firefox have always used oversized CTAs

See it in action: http://www.mozilla.org/en-US/firefox/new/

4. Colour

Use colour wisely to make sure that your call to action stands out from the other information on the page. Use a colour wheel to help you decide on contrasting colours or refer to this post by Ann Smarty.

CTA - use colour wisely

See it in action: http://www.maxcdn.com/

 

Mailchimps classic use of colour

See it in action: http://mailchimp.com/

 

Using bright pink to draw the user in

See it in action: https://www.crunch.co.uk/

5. Placement

Make sure that your call to action is placed well above the fold in order to capture as many users' clicks as possible. A call to action that is left floundering, lonely, at the bottom of page is not likely to garner as much attention.

Place your CTA wisely

See it in action: http://yourwebjob.com/

 

Place a call to action near the top of the page

See it in action: http://vimeo.com/

6. Brevity

Say what you need to in as few words as possible.

Few words - great call to action from dropbox

See it in action: www.dropbox.com

 

Multiple uses of brevity

See it in action: http://www.costa.co.uk/

7. Secondary Options

Not all of your users are going to be ready to purchase/sign up/download straight away. Maybe your benefits and compelling sense of urgency haven't convinced everyone. Enter the unsung hero of calls to action – the secondary call to action. Offer a tour or a free trial, a white paper or testimonials to help convince the less sure.

Secondary options for the CTA

See it in action: http://www.xero.com

 

A second choice for the unsure

See it in action: http://www.conversion-rate-experts.com/

Hopefully this gives you a primer on what you need to include when you are crafting calls to action that will guide your users towards the actions that you need them to take to make your business more successful online.

Learn More About Conversion Optimization:

Wayne Barker

I work for Boom Online - an Online Marketing and SEO company based in Nottingham, England.

Boom Online

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4 Responses to “7 Characteristics of Compelling Calls to Action”

  1. [...] Wayne Barker discusses “7 Characteristics of Compelling Calls to Action” at Search Engine People. [...]

  2. Dan says:

    Nice, these calls to action are very well analyzed. I too have used some of these models, I think I like the "Find Out More Buttons". Unsure? yes, Find Out More.

  3. Darlene Hull says:

    Great article with excellent examples. Love the use of graphics to make this even more clear.

    Loved the "secondary options" idea – hadn't heard that one before.

    Thanks for sharing these very helpful ideas in such a clear and practical way!

    • Wayne Barker says:

      Hi Darlene,

      Thanks for leaving a comment, I am glad you enjoyed it – making things as easy to understand and as actionable as possible is something I strive for!!