During the infancy of the World Wide Web, when people had more time and email was a genuine novelty, "Click here" was a darned good call-to-action (CTA). It was simple, direct and easily understood by the greenest newbie online.
Fast forward 15 years or so. Using a conversion mechanism that is approaching middle age in internet years is like using a 14K dial-up modem: not exactly highest tech. If your conversion rates are stuck at single digits, try these tips to bring your CTAs up to 21st century speed.
1. Understand the anatomy of a call to action
Every CTA is made up of three parts: 1) The actual action you want your customers or prospects to take; 2) The words you use to encourage them to take that action; and 3) The physical appearance of the CTA (typography, color selection, placement on the page, etc.). You want your CTA to be outstanding on all three counts.
2. Do "this"
Sounds obvious, but it's surprising how fuzzy some folks are about what exactly it is they want their email reader or website visitor to do. The lack of focus is usually caused by trying to cram too many CTA eggs into one hyperlink basket. The poor customer follows a link to an all-things-to-everyone page where he must search for the relevant content. Many conversions are lost to frustrating hunting expeditions. Be clear, concise and single-minded with your CTA hyperlinks.
3. Drive action with words
Self-interest is the motivating lubricant that drives most human behavior. Responding to a CTA is no exception.
Don't just tell your prospect what to do. Tell her what's in it for her when she does it. This isn't the time for guessing games or cleverness. Define the benefit or set the expectation right there in the CTA in plain, unvarnished English. Focus on verbs (action words) and eliminate all fluff. "Learn More About This Product." "Finish Reading This Article." "Find Your Home." "Buy the Shoes." "Look at the Floor Plans." "Read the Recipe." "Compare This Product to Others." "Join the Interest List for Monthly Updates." All of those CTAs will yield results far superior to the generic, shopworn "Click Here."
4. Design for visibility
Your CTA isn't a design element interfering with the aesthetics of the webpage or email. It's the heart and soul of your marketing effort. You don't want CTAs that blend tastefully into the background. You want buttons and graphics that pop off the page and call attention to themselves.
Bigger is better. Brighter is better. High contrast between text and graphic is better. Larger fonts are better.
Don't crowd your CTA, either. Surround it with enough white space to make it stand apart from the other graphic elements on the page.
5. Put it in the spotlight
Don't make your prospect work. Put your primary CTA above the fold of your email or webpage. Test the placement in several browsers to be sure the CTA is in a prominent position with no scrolling required. If the reader does have to scroll below the fold to read all of the text on the page, there's no rule that says you can't repeat the CTA at the end of the message, too. A 2007 survey of email marketers conducted by the Email Experience Council revealed that 59 percent of the respondents said a CTA above the fold was more important to conversion than branding.
6. Provide options
Include text links in the body of your message to give your prospects optional paths to conversion. This will provide insurance should your graphic CTA fall victim to an email image-blocking filter. You can also explore other conversion avenues: a toll-free number, Click to Call function or even a mailing address for people who aren't comfortable placing orders over the internet.
7. Test and refine
Tinker with the process. Test different CTA configurations against a control to see which performs better. Imagine yourself achieving 100 percent conversion rates and keep striving for improvement.
Conversion is an ongoing effort to persuade a prospect to take an action that fulfills his need and your business goal. When the action is taken, you've made a convert. The next step is a customer for life.
Jack Abbott is CEO of Interactivate, Inc.