The Most Important Element Missing From Your Website (The Call to Action)

by | Copywriting, Website

I don’t know about you, but I hate not knowing the expected protocol in a cafe I’ve never been to before.

Do you seat yourself? Do you order at the counter?

Think about how much easier it is if there’s a sign just inside the cafe entrance asking you to wait to be seated. Or there’s instruction to order and pay at the counter, either on the menu or an easy-to-spot sign near the counter.

 

You know why that’s so much easier? Because you’re told what to do – clearly and quickly.

That’s because our brains are always on the lookout for instruction; we’re instinctively looking to be told what to do next.

 

And it’s the same for visitors to your website. Whether they realise it or not, your site visitors are looking for instruction on their next step. Should they buy your product or sign-up to your newsletter? If you don’t ask them to do something, most will do nothing.

So what’s this instruction I refer to? Why it’s a call to action of course!
The Call to Action is the most important element on your website (and you probably don't have it, or don't have effective CTAs). In this post, I cover why the Call to Action is so important for your website AND how you can write a powerful CTA. I also show you which words to avoid in your call to action. PLUS there's a free cheat sheet to help you write great CTAs.

 

WHAT’S A CALL TO ACTION?

A call to action (CTA) asks your reader to take the next step. It’s the final, critical piece in your copy (or on your web page). When you have a CTA, you’re giving your reader an action to take.

A CTA on a web page is typically in the form of a button. And you better believe we’re conditioned to look out for those clickable buttons.

Not only that but, like I said up top, we’re always expecting a request to take the next step. We might choose not take the action that’s asked of us, but we expect to be asked to do something.

Here are some examples of common CTAs

Buy now, download a book, subscribe to newsletter, request a quote. Note: these are not particularly good CTAs, but I bet they sound familiar to you!

WHY DO YOU NEED A CALL TO ACTION?

We’ve established that a CTA asks your reader to take the next step. In essence, you’re telling your visitor what to do next. You’re guiding them through the process you want them to follow.

Imagine a sales or a landing page with an attention-grabbing headline, super persuasive copy and a compelling offer. But there’s no CTA… so what should the visitor do? With no CTA, they’re probably going to leave the page without taking up your offer.

You have to ask your visitors to take up the offer or take the next step. If you don’t ask, most people won’t take action (because the action is probably not as obvious as you think it is).

No CTA means you’re not closing the deal; you’re not converting. You’re “leaving money on the table” (and who wants to do that?)

What’s more, you need a CTA on every page of your website. That’s right – every page. Your CTA on some pages might simply be to direct your visitors to read your FAQs or read your latest blog posts.

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If there’s no clear action to take, that is, if there’s no offer to take up (buy, contact you, download a report), then it’s good to try to funnel your visitors deeper into your site instead. Keep them on your site for as long as possible so you can wow them with your brilliance and convert them into a customer!

WHAT MAKES A GOOD CALL TO ACTION?

There’s a tonne of marketing and consumer psychology that influences high converting CTAs. Even colour psychology can play a big part, too!

This post won’t get too deep into the psychology side of things. But it’s worth keeping in mind that there’s a lot more to the humble CTA. Especially if yours aren’t doing the trick!

 

Here are seven simple guidelines you should follow when crafting CTAs for your website

 

1. Grab attention and let visitors know what they’ll get

  • “Yes! Give me my free SEO report” (instead of “download report”)
  • “Become a marketing hero” (instead of “Join the community”)
  • “Grab my headline checklist” (instead of “Subscribe to newsletter”)

 

2. Keep it short, focussed and relevant

Keep it short and sweet, my friend. No one wants long button copy – that just looks stupid.

 

3. Use specific action verbs, not generic words

  • Grab or get, not download Send
  • Send message, not submit

Don’t try to get fancy with your words. And don’t copy what everyone else is doing (especially if it’s generic). Keep it simple and focus on action.

 

4. Use the language of your customers

True for all your copy, but especially so for the CTA. Because the CTA is the final piece to resonate and motivate your reader to take action, it needs to be in the language they would use.

Don’t try to be too cute or clever. “Become a marketing hero” may work wonders with some audiences and perform abysmally for others.

Always consider YOUR audience.

 

5. Write in the first person

I, my, me.

Write your CTAs in the first person, even though the rest of your copy is in second or third person.

You want your CTA to focus on the reader in a personal sense so they connect with the action you’re asking them to take. They have to personalise the action. After all, your reader is the one to take the action.

What’s more compelling to you?

1. Download your free report
2. Get my free report

Or:
1. Enter competition
2. I want to win!

 

6. Create some urgency

Use words like now, today, instant.

You want to inspire fast action or show how quick something will be.

 

7. Make it sound easy, not hard.

  • Don’t start or sign-up. Start and sign-up sound like I have some work to do. Try become or join.
  • Discover how, instead of learn how. Learn implies there could be hard work involved. Discover sounds fun and adventurous, like light research rather than intense study.

Think about what imagery your words convey. When I think of ‘discover’, I picture some sort of adventure – which is incredibly enticing.

Joanna Weibe from Copyhackers talks about the use of friction words in your web copy. Think about how hard or easy a word makes the action sound? You want to aim for low (or medium) friction words. Think easy, easy, easy!

WHAT MAKES A BAD CTA?

Remember those examples I gave up top? Buy now, request a quote, subscribe to a newsletter. Those are all boring. But you see them everywhere!

  • Buy now sounds so final. What if I change my mind? Add to cart implies I still have the option to change my mind. I’m not buying now; I’m adding the item to my cart to buy at a time when I’m ready.
  • Request a quote sounds like I’ve got a lot of work to do. I have to make a request and probably have to give a lot of information to get the quote. It all sounds very formal. Try Grab my pricing or Get my quote. The strong action verbs grab and get focus on an easy action or the outcome, rather than what I must do.
  • Subscribe – I may subscribe to a school of thought, but I don’t want to subscribe to your newsletter. I want to get my free checklist and exclusive benefits! (Just because people are subscribing to your newsletter if you have that particular copy doesn’t mean it’s working well. It could just mean people like the rest of your content and really want to subscribe. You might be missing out on a heap of other subscribers!)
  • Submit has to be the worst call to action, by a country mile. Who wants to submit to anything? Plus, submit is not specific enough. It gives no indication as to what happens after the ‘submit’.

 

ONE FINAL TIP

You should aim to stick to one CTA per webpage.

If it’s a long page, like a landing page, you could have your CTA a couple of times. But make sure you keep the wording the same or very similar. You’re asking them to do the same thing multiple times on the same webpage (e.g. buy your course).

Why? Because of the paradox of choice. Too much choice and we humans become paralysed and make no decisions at all. We’re complicated that way.

 

NOW IT’S YOUR TURN

Have a look at your website. Do you have CTAs? If not, add some! (and don’t forget to grab your free cheat sheet to help)

If you already have CTAs, are they converting? Use the above tips to see where you might make some improvements. And if you can, you should A/B test your CTAs to see which works best with your audience (so you’re not just blindly guessing).

 

ABOUT

Hey there! I’m Mel Ellis. I’m a website copywriter. I work with entrepreneurs & small businesses that want to attract + convert their dream clients.  

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