Everyone is talking online ROI these days. Thats Return on Investment for those of you unfamiliar with the acronym. One sure way to increase your online ROI is to focus on what calls to action you are using on your website. (Also known as CTAs.)

It is true. Some sites take that prime piece of real estate (front and center on the homepage) and put a pretty picture up there. With no direction to the visitor whatsoever. Shocking. I know.

If your site visitor has to figure out what to do next on your site there is a good chance that they will leave. It might be easier to check out the next site found in the search engine results.

Never assume that your site visitor knows what they are looking for.

What Did I Want Again?

People generally use sites to gather information to make some type of decision. They know they want to buy something, they're just not sure what yet. It's our job as marketers to help nudge them in the right direction.

What do you want your customers to do? Buy something? Then point them to your online catalog. Do you want people to call you? Display your 1-800-# front and centre. Looking for sales leads? Add a free whitepaper to download.

Here are 10 tips for helping you develop calls to action that convert.

1. Set Goals

First things first.

Decide what your primary business goal is and how you want your website to support it. It could be sales you're after. It might be leads. Whatever it is you need to figure it out and make this your primary call to action.

The goal of Mint.com is to register new users. You don't need a degree in marketing to figure that one out. A site that manages my budgets, helps me to save money AND it's free. Where do I sign up? I don't need a lot of time to decide what to do next.

2. Target the Buying Cycle

The internet has changed the face of the traditional buying cycle. This means you need to do a little work to figure how your customers buy stuff.

Depending on your business goals your site has a unique buying cycle specific to your product or service. For example, a low risk item like toothpaste will have fewer steps in the buying cycle then someone searching for a new home.

In case its been a while since your marketing 101 class in college, the four traditional stages of the buying cycle are:


It isn't necessary to target every stage on the homepage. But it does make sense to highlight the most important ones.

Raven Internet Marketing Tools targets potential customers at the consideration phase of the buying cycle. The offer for a free trial on the homepage is large and in charge. It tells you who Raven is targeting, what the product is and what you use it for.

I bet you their conversion rate is pretty high.

3. Streamline Your Choices

Too many choices can lead to indecision. Consider limiting the number of calls to action you feature on your homepage.

If you have other great calls to action you'd like to use, don't worry. You can use calls to action on other pages as well. They are not limited to the homepage. In fact, side wide calls to action are encouraged.

Reduce the mental strain people feel when bombarded with too many options. Keep it simple!

TheLadders' primary calls to action provide clear direction. Join the site or search for jobs starting at $100K. If youre looking for a job top paying executive job you'll most likely click on one of the two options.

4. Keep It Simple

We live in an age of distractions; dont make your visitor think too hard about what youre trying to offer.

There's a good chance you don't have your viewer's full attention. Maybe he's deciding what to make for dinner. Or how to tactfully ask for a raise. At any given moment, there are a number of things a mind can be distracted by.

Be straightforward about what you want to offer. Xero tells you what services they offer alongside a View Pricing Plan call to action. Offering to show your prices up front is a great call to action that delivers information potential customers want (with minimal thought required).

5. Use Active Phrases

A call to action invites your visitor to complete an action. Active language motivates people to complete actions. Therefore active language used in calls to action increases completed actions (aka conversions).

Some motivating examples:

  • Register now
  • Order now.
  • Contact us now.
  • Subscribe to our newsletter.
  • View pricing plans.
  • Choose a product.

Lending Club invites visitors to Apply Now or to Learn More. Adding the rates right up front makes these calls to action assertive and effective.

6. Take Advantage of Prime Real Estate

Ideally you want the most important call to action to be pretty obvious upon first scan. This means above the fold and centered on the page.

Its true that it is okay to have longer pages these days that extend beyond the fold. People know how to scroll. Its still makes sense to put your call to action where people won't miss it.

Grab your visitors attention with what little time you might have.

There is no mistaking that receiving new entries for 2010 is a top priority for The Webby Awards right now.

7. Use Seasonality

Take advantage of seasons and holidays if it aligns with your business and online strategy.

Updating calls to action is a great way to keep your homepage looking fresh without having to embark on a drastic site makeover.

Patagonia updates their calls to action based on the season. This keeps them relevant and (most likely) coverting well.

8. Use Good Anchor Text

Dont write Click Here if you can help it. Internet users have evolved enough (for the most part) to understand that when the pointer turns into a hand you can click that space. (And most people keep their hand on the mouse whilst surfing.)

Nowhere does it say to Click Here on Volvos website, but you can be certain that people will figure out what they can click on next.

9. Make It Easy to Find

Make sure your visitor can easily spot the call to action. This may sound obvious, but youd be surprised.

A call to action might be hard to read or challenging to distinguish from other items on the page. Particularly ad space you may have rented out. Be wary of having too much clutter on your page that may distract from your main message.

There is a lot of information provided on the homepage for the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation, however, the use of white space and good design principles makes the calls to action easy to read. Easy to find doesn't mean you should only put one or two calls to action on your homepage.

10. Test Your Creative

Do A/B and multivariate testing to see what creative works best.

Change a headline. Change the positioning of the call to action. Change the colors you use. Most importantly, remember to track conversions to see which version converts best!

Even Porsche uses calls to action. And you thought the car could sell itself!


Stephanie Woods is an internet marketer living in Kelowna, BC. You can find her at her new internet marketing blog . She has also been known to frequent Twitter if youre into that sort of thing.