doors with no calls to action

One of the most common mistakes I see from clients is that their page does not clearly tell the visitor what to do next. Let me paint a little picture for you…

You’re driving into town for a conference and have an extra day or two to kick back and see the sights. You see a big building with a glowing sign that reads “Visitor Information Centre” and figure that’s a good place to find some hotspots and local attractions. You pull off the road and into what looks like it could be a parking lot, but there aren’t any lines or signs to guide you. Ah well, just park your car willy-nilly and hope you don’t get a ticket.

You approach the building, but you can’t figure out how the doors open. There are no visible handles, no buttons or door knobs, no push/pull signs. Your back and forth motion in search of instructions has triggered something to open the door, although you’re not sure if it was a motion sensor, or someone inside watching your struggle… no matter, you’re inside.

You instinctively scan the area looking for signs to tell you where to go and what to do. But there’s nothing — no arrows on the ground pointing you toward a desk or another door. No signs above pointing to a reception area, elevators or stairs. You can’t even locate the restrooms.

So what do you do? If it were me, I’d think, “To hell with it,” and leave.

Calls to Action (CTAs) are everywhere

Every day we are guided by calls to action without even realizing it. We follow street signs, walk/don’t walk signals, push/pull/slide on entrances. We’re carefully guided through stores like Ikea and roped off lines at the airport. We read the hanging signs in supermarkets and big box stores to find what we want. We hear calls to action on the radio and we see them on TV. They’re in weekly flyers and local newspapers, they’re in magazines and on billboards.

Again, you get the idea.

A website is no different. You can’t expect people to know where to go and what to do unless you tell them. So when they land on your web page, they’ll subconsciously ask, “What am I supposed to do now? Where’s the information I’m trying to find?” If there is no clear direction on the page by way of navigation and calls to action, you’ll lose your visitor.

Don’t send your viewers away! Tell them what you want them to do, whether it’s to sign up for a program, get a service quote, download a white paper, watch a video, comment on a blog post, pick up the phone, etc.

3 Steps to Sexy CTAs

Writing CTAs seems like a simple enough task. When you think about it, how many words are we really talking about? One or two? Maybe three or four? How hard can it be to write a short string of words? Technically, not that hard–if you’re ok with lame CTAs that no one clicks.

So what the hell is it that makes a CTA scream “Click me!”? That’s the million-dollar question — and I’m about to reveal the answer.

The purpose of a call to action is simple–to tell your visitors exactly what you want them to do. Don’t be shy — ask for what you want and instruct users to take action. Here are three of the best ways to craft sexy, clickable calls to action:

  1. Use mesmerizing words in your copy. Here are some that I’ve been known to use:
    • Instant — people don’t like to wait. This feeds the human need for immediate gratification.
    • Powerful — people don’t want second-best. This word gives off a feeling of strength, the best of the best, something that truly can’t be beat.
    • Because — people naturally want to know why and how. Why does this matter? How does it affect me? Because…
    • You/your — people are self-absorbed. It’s not a flaw, it just is what it is. Using you and your feeds the human ego and speaks directly to them, so rather than saying “here’s what I do, here’s what I have, look at me, it’s all about me…” you can say, “I hear your challenge and I can help you.
    • Reveal — people want to know secrets. Use unveil, unleashed, divulged, they’re all great to show your readers that you know something they don’t … and you’re willing to reveal it!
  2. Keep it short and to the point. Finding information online is (or should be) super quick. Don’t slow down your viewers with long-winded CTAs:
    • “If you want to learn more about what you’ve just read on this page, then we would like to invite you to speak with one of our helpful customer service representatives by calling 1-800-TOO-LONG.”  This could be tightly wrapped up with a quick “Call now!” followed by a phone number.
  3. Use language that suits your audience.
    1. If your brand is geared toward a young, hip crowd, use their language: “I want this!”
    2. If your brand has a more corporate feel, be direct, keep it simple: “Start my free trial”

Transform CTAs from Drab to Fab

Now let’s do some actual call to action writing so we can put these words to work. Let’s start with a bland call to action and improve it as we go.

Sign up

Yawn. Why should I sign up? What’s in it for me?

Instant access

A little more intriguing … I like getting things quickly. Still, it’s not a sexy CTA.

Gain instant access to insider secrets!

OK, I like being let in on the secret! I want to know the insiders’ carefully guarded secrets. And I want it now! Done, click.

Let’s try another one:

Learn more

Ack, overused.

Free demo

Better, at least I know what I’m asking for.

Get your free demo now

There we go, I’m going to get my very own demo for free, right now. I’d click that CTA.

Avoid these money-sucking mistakes:

Without a doubt, it can take some time to learn how to write sizzling CTAs that boost conversions. One thing’s for sure, if you do nothing else, try to avoid these boring, overused, lackluster calls to action:

  • Send
  • Sign up
  • Learn more
  • More
  • Subscribe
  • Buy
  • Order
  • Submit

And last, but certainly not least, don’t scream at your audience with “JOIN NOW!” or “BUY IT!” It’s pushy and frankly it’s just plain rude 😉

Now I’d like to open up the discussion to you. What are some of your favourite CTA dos and don’ts? Share them with us in the comments below. Oh, and if you found this post useful, don’t forget to like and share it with others!