in Conversion Rate Optimization

Lesson 6: How to Create Calls-to-Action That Get a Reaction

Digital Marketing Superstars

CEO at Squirrly
A Program From Squirrly Limited. See more on:
Digital Marketing Superstars

Hello, everybody! Take a seat because class is in session.

In our previous lessons, we discussed how to create good-looking landing pages and how to get people to visit them. Now we’re going to look into the bottom line, the decisive factor: the call-to-action.

Once you know how to make effective calls-to-action, you’ll be ready to start raking in leads.

The Definition

A call-to-action(CTA) is simply an instruction you give to your audience. It usually has an imperative verb (“Register now”, “Get in touch with us”) and we’ll get to the reason behind that shortly. The request could be anything.

According to the definition, the world has a lot more calls-to-action than we’d imagine. By simply sharing a funny video on Twitter and telling people to watch it, you’re creating a CTA.

We don’t want funny Twitter videos, though, we want lead generation. The types of CTAs we are interested in are the ones that get people to register on your website or subscribe to the newsletter.

Here’s what one of our CTAs looks like:


In this lesson, we will talk about creating calls-to-action in landing pages but also in articles and websites. To be honest, every web page should have at least one call-to-action. They may not always be relevant, but it’s about the reader’s convenience.

The Placement of Your Calls-to-Action

While we’re on the subject, let’s discuss the proper placement of CTAs. There has been a lot of debate on this subject and the closest people have come to a resolution is agreeing to disagree.

In Blog Posts

It’s not that much about different opinions as it is about different industries and readers. Some companies have found above the fold( immediately visible part of the page) CTAs to work well. Other businesses get much better results when they let the viewer read for a bit before introducing a CTA.

In the past, above the fold CTAs ruled because people rarely scrolled down the page. That’s not necessarily the case anymore. Visitors are pickier now. They want to see value before opting in. We’re not saying that above the fold doesn’t work anymore. It’s just that it doesn’t work for everybody.

Squirrly, for example, offers content (as in content writing services). We place our CTAs under the fold because we want potential leads to see the quality of our articles. Asking them to give out their email or become a client before they sample our content wouldn’t work.

ContentVerve experienced the same thing:

[Credits: ContentVerve]

[Credits: ContentVerve]

The IT or beauty product industries, however, get great results by showing the CTA early. Many of their customers already know what they want, they’re just looking for the landing page.

Do your own testing and see which side of the fence you are on. Firsthand experience is more valuable here than the advice of any thought leader.

In Landing Pages

We covered landing pages in the last lesson, but it’s crucial that you understand CTA placement. The lander is designed to attract attention, but the CTA is the “crown jewel.”

You don’t have to place the CTA right in the middle of the page, but you have to make it impossible to miss. One popular method is to make the button colorful and big. Unless you have a specific design in mind, don’t use the CTA’s color for any other button.

Here’s an example of colors (or lack thereof) used right:

[Credits: CavasOnDemand]

[Credits: CavasOnDemand]

Lander calls-to-action should be short and sweet. The rest of the page explains why you should opt in.

On the Website in General

Your homepage should have a special box with a CTA. It’s the most visited page on the website, so it has great lead generation potential.

Put a CTA in the website sidebar as well. It will appear on every page, so readers are always a click away from opting in.

Don’t think that you have to cram everything above the fold. A study by CXpartners concluded that if you move content under the fold, the audience will follow. Here is a heat map to prove it:

[Credits: cxpartners]

[Credits: cxpartners]

Finding the Perfect Placement for You

Understanding the human mind isn’t easy. With thousands of readers, it’s next to impossible. Come up with a hypothesis and see if it’s true. The key to finding out is simple: lots of tests.

It’s not just about the CTA placement and page layout, though, it’s much more. We’ll talk more about testing at the end of the article.

The Wording in Your Calls-to-Action

Placement isn’t everything. Even perfect positioning won’t get you email addresses if the copy is bad.

First of all, don’t make something generic like “sign up here” or “subscribe to the newsletter.” These messages may be clear enough, but most people associate bland CTAs like these with spam. The least you should do is make the CTAs specific to your brand or offer.

Here’s an example of blandness:

[Credits: Pressbook]

[Credits: Pressbook]

Come on Pressbook. You can do better than this.

In general, your blog and social media accounts are great at building trust between you and the audience. With awesome content, you may be able to get away with a bland call-to-action.. but why risk it?

Make the opt-in button something different like “I’m in!” or “Let’s get this show on the road.” These are good examples because, not only are they different, they bring a lot more energy than just “ok.”

Get people excited. When it comes to CTAs, boredom is one of your enemies. Take the words “get” and “acquire” as an example. I don’t even have to tell you that “get” brings better results than “acquire.”

For a CTA button, some words simply work better than others; they’re more actionable. Here are a few more examples:

  • Featured
  • Exclusive
  • Advanced
  • Access
  • Secrets
  • Special
  • Better

Don’t assume that these words are magical and if they’re crammed together, they’ll make the ultimate CTA. They’re just useful.

You call-to-action should be short (less than fifteen words). Otherwise, people will lose interest. With such limited space, don’t try to add unnecessary words just because they’re actionable. Make sure it sounds natural.

Here are a few examples of what we mean:

[Credits: LessAccounting]

[Credits: LessAccounting]

Take note of how much information there is on this landing page. Still, it’s well structured, clear, and the simple CTA draws you in. Let’s do it!


[Credits: GiftRocket]

You can bet that no other company has the CTA “Send a GiftRocket.” The business embraces its quirkiness and so should yours.

[Credits: Grey Goose]

[Credits: Grey Goose]

Grey Goose use a beautiful and simplistic design to draw attention to the CTA. Take this as an example of “less is more.”

The Feeling Your Calls-to-Action Evoke

Using actionable words is dandy but let’s not stop here. The emotions you create through your CTA are just as important as the words themselves.

When it comes to feelings, there are two sides of the same coin and you have to think about both:

Accepting Brings Pozitivity

Earlier, I told you to get people excited about your offer. By doing that, you already add a positive spin to the opt-in. You can add another sentence after the “yes” answer to make it even more appealing.

Let’s make up an example: You want to send people emails with tips about home redecoration. Don’t let the opt-in button be just “send me the tips.” Make it more upbeat, like “Send me the tips. I want to have a beautiful home.”

Note how the message was written in the first person. That’s not accidental. The most effective call-to-action take this route because it makes it more personal for the reader.

The idea isn’t to simply create a positive message. Craft a message that will make the reader feel positive.

Powerhabits gets it. The whole landing page is designed to get you smiling:

[Credits: PowerHabits]

[Credits: PowerHabits]

After making a “happy” CTA button, it’s time to create contrast.

Declining Brings Negativity

When adding a “no” button, you have to create the opposite effect. Make this option sound boring and unpleasant. Again, accentuate negativity through a secondary sentence.

Watch out, though. There’s a fine line between making a negative message and a hurtful one. You don’t have to put people down for refusing to give out their email addresses.

One of the simplest ways to achieve a “negative” effect is to make the button gray. It will look sad and unappealing, especially compared to the colorful “yes” button.

Men’s Health CTA is a good example here:

[Credits: Menshealth]

[Credits: Menshealth]

Compare the two buttons for a second. Which one seems more appealing to you?

Talking about Value

You are offering people valuable information or other goodies in exchange for their email address. The problem is that not everyone will know how to appreciate the value of your offer. As a result, they may opt out.

Show just how good a deal you are offering by using a unit of measurement everyone understands: dollars. By offering exact figures, you make your call-to-action easy to understand.

Here are two examples of CTAs that know how to leverage their value:

[Credits: Crazyegg]

[Credits: Crazyegg]

You might have also seen the use of the word “secret.” It a nice touch that adds excitement and exclusivity to the whole deal.

[Credits: the musician's guide]

[Credits: the musician’s guide]

Besides the great price, I want you to notice the timer on top. That’s another big thing about successful calls-to-action.

Creating a Sense of Urgency

By this point, you know how to make pretty awesome CTAs, but there’s still one problem. The reader may like the deal but decide to sleep on it and “come back later.” Most people won’t come back after this thought. They either forget or decide it’s not worth it.

Your CTA should create incentive to act right now. The way you do this is by showing the limited time window or stock.

Instead of making an offer indefinitely, it might be better to put a timer on it. Sure, the time will run out and some people will miss it, but the conversion rate boost can more than make up for that.

Authority Nutrition’s call-to-action knows how to light a fire under their audience:

Experiment with this little psychological trick. It can bring in a lot more leads. Just check out the results ConversionXL got:

[Credits: ConversionXL]

[Credits: ConversionXL]

They tried out several different styles and found the “sweet spot” for lead generation.

A/B Testing

There are a lot of different styles and directions you can choose for your calls-to-action. Finding the best fit for your audience can be quite difficult. You need to conduct some tests, A/B tests to be specific.

A/B testing is when you create two similar pages that have one key difference. You launch them and measure their conversion rate. After a set period, you see which one did the best. Easy, right?

In essence, it’s easy, but the amount of experiments you’ll want to do will leave your head spinning. For the sake of clarity, we’ll split the points of interest into three categories:

The Layout

We just talked about different CTA placements so I won’t go into detail again. What I should mention, though, is that the layout is more that the fold. Each element on your page interacts with the other. Keep an open mind while testing.

For example, Unbounce discovered that placing the CTAs before the prices increased the conversion rate:

[Credits: Unbounce]

[Credits: Unbounce]

The change in the “treatment page” brought a 41% lift. A word of warning: their conversion rate increased dramatically, but that doesn’t mean it will work the same for you.

The Design Elements

The sizes, fonts, and colors on your landing page (and website in general) are crucial to the conversion rate. Relatively small changes, like the shade of a button, can have a huge impact.

Hubspot tried two different colors for their CTA button. Here are the “contestants”:

[Credits: Hubspot]

[Credits: Hubspot]

What they found is that the red button beat the green one by 21%.

A big point of interest is the image you use (if any). The feeling you evoke have to be positive, but there are tons of ways to do that. Will a photo do the trick or would a drawing work better? Consider adding a video instead.

VidYard added a video to their landing page and got a 100% conversion rate lift.

[Credits: Unbounce]

[Credits: Unbounce]

The Copy

When you consider how important every little detail is, it’s easy to see the role the text itself plays. Luckily, there’s no real need to try out a thousand versions that are almost identical.

When testing the copy, there are a few areas where you will want to focus:

  • The calls-to-action
  • The Headlines
  • The Secondary Headlines
  • The Descriptions

Now that you know which words are more “actionable” than others, see if you can’t improve your conversion rate. Don’t shy away from weird ideas. Timothy Sykes took a different approach and got a 39% better conversion rate:

[Credits: quicksprout]

[Credits: quicksprout]

You’ll need some A/B testing software if you want to get results fast. We recommend you try UnbounceVisual Website Optimizer or OptimizelyThey’re not free, but they’re worth the money.


Knowing how to make awesome CTAs will be very useful for you. They’re not just used to get email addresses but to make sales as well.

Calls-to-action are a crucial part of any marketing strategy. Now that you understand them plus the topics we discussed in the other lessons, you’re ready to get more leads.

Have a good one!

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