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Building Effective Calls to Action into Your Site

« Go Back | Posted in: - on December 30, 2013

No matter what type of website you’re building, you likely have some type of goal in mind for the visitors who arrive on your pages.  Maybe you want your readers to purchase your products or maybe you simply want them to share the information they find on your site with others who are interested in the same topics.


Whatever the case, if you want your visitors to take a certain type of action, you’ve got to make your intentions clear to them by building effective calls to action into your site! A “call to action” is just what it sounds like – using the text and design elements on your site, you’re asking your visitors to take the specific action you desire.



Type #1 – The Sales-Oriented Call to Action

Sales-oriented calls to action – as you might expect – include the text and design elements you use to convince website readers to purchase your items

Consider the example below from Amazon, a leading web retailer:

How many specific calls to action can you see on this sales page?  Just a few include:

  • “Try Prime”
  • “Shop by Department”
  • “Sell your iPad”
  • “Shop Now”
  • “Try Amazon Prime FREE for 30 days”
  • “Get 20% or more Off Select Llaptops”
  • “Shop Women’s Coats”
  • “See all movies included with Prime membership”

Visitors arriving on this website should have no doubt as to the specific actions Amazon wants them to take.  At this point, the only decision left is which particular action to take – not whether or not to engage with the company in the first place!

So what goes into an effective sales-oriented call to action, and where can you incorporate them into your site?  Consider any of the following elements when determining how and where to add these useful features into your website:

  • Good calls to action should be noticeable. Don’t bury your calls to action at the bottom of your website and expect them to still be effective!  Make them large and prominent, using bold graphics and eye-catching fonts in prime locations on your website to make your calls to action as effective as possible.
  • Good calls to action should be direct. When adding calls to action to your website, be specific about what you want your visitors to do and use direct language that makes your requests as compelling as possible.  For example, “If you have a second, consider checking out our range of women’s coats” simply doesn’t have the same punch as, “Find the best women’s coats now!”
  • Good calls to action should be used sparingly.  The more calls to action you add to your ecommerce website, the more you’ll dilute the strength of each individual element.  When adding these tools to your website, think carefully about which one or two actions you most want visitors to take, then use your calls to action to encourage these activities over lesser priorities.

Type #2 – The Opt-In Call to Action

Depending on your unique business model and the type of website you run, you may not be asking readers to buy anything at all!  Plenty of offline service professionals (including real estate agents, insurance agents and many other employees) use their websites to generate qualified leads to contact in the real world.  In addition, many websites use email marketing newsletters to pitch their prospects – a process that begins with an info-gathering opt-in form.

In these cases, the goal isn’t to get visitors to fork over their credit card information – instead, you’re after their personal contact information.  Because you’re appealing to different personal motivations in these readers, the calls to action you’ll want to use on your site are different as well.

Here’s what to consider when adding opt-in calls to action to your website:

  • Pitch benefits in your opt-in calls to action.  When asking visitors to submit their personal contact information through your opt-in form, be sure you’re basing your call to action on the benefits of subscribing, not the features.  Use your call to action to show visitors how they’ll benefit by completing your form, not just what they’ll receive for doing so.
  • Every element of your opt-in form should be tested. Test the location of your form, the color you use for your opt-in button, the specific wording featured on your button and the text you use when introducing your form and its benefits to your readers.  The more elements you test successfully, the more effective your form will be.
  • The fewer pieces of information you ask for, the higher your opt-in rates will be. When developing your opt-in call to action, keep in mind that requesting fewer pieces of personal information will improve your subscription rates.  Consider testing the benefits of a shorter opt-in form as a part of your call to action.

Type #3 – The Social Sharing Call to Action

Finally, suppose you aren’t trying to engage with individual users on a further level – whether through product sales or follow-up information – at all.  Suppose all you want them to do is to share your website content with others, either through “Click to email” buttons or on popular social networking sites.

Even in this case, you still need to make use of calls to action to increase the likelihood that your visitors will follow through and share your content.  Although the practice of social sharing is becoming more commonplace, it’s still unwise to assume that your readers will take any action on their own without your explicit reminders.

To encourage readers to share your content with other users, you need to make the process as simple as possible.

  • Build social sharing tools into your content. If you want people to share your business blog articles on Facebook or Twitter, don’t assume that your readers will take the time to copy your link, navigate to their favorite social networking site and then paste your URL into their profiles.  Unless your content is truly tremendous, website engagement isn’t usually high enough for readers to go to these lengths to share your articles.  Instead, make the process as easy as possible by integrating social sharing features directly into your website.
  • Use sharing tools in multiple locations.  There are plenty of different social sharing tools out there that can be added to your website, but be aware that one style may not be enough.  For example, suppose you use the popular TweetMeme button, which adds a small “Share on Twitter” button to the upper right-hand corner of your articles.  But what happens if a reader doesn’t decide that he wants to share your article until he gets to the end of the page?  Again, don’t assume that he’ll take the time to scroll back to the top of the article to find your social sharing button.  Add a second set of sharing features to the ends of your articles to capture as many potential “sharers” as possible.
  • Ask your readers to share your content directly.  As long as you’ve written good content, most readers will respond well to text that’s written into your articles asking, “If you enjoyed this article, please share it on Twitter so that others can benefit as well.”  Using variations of this request in your content makes your call to action more personal – and, therefore, much harder to ignore than a simple social sharing tool.

Although the process of integrating calls to action into your website may seem overwhelming, try to start small.  Over time and with continued improvements, you could see big changes in your overall conversion rates as a result of these simple additions!

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