CTAs, or calls to action, are ubiquitous on the web. Every banner ad, blog post and knowledge base article will finish off with a directive about where to click. When writing in the online realm, we not only want to inform and delight our users, we also want to show them what their next step should be – in the clearest way possible.
Through tests, trial and error, and more than a decade of experience, we’ve honed in on some best practices when it comes to CTAs, and learned the hard way what doesn’t work. Following these guidelines – and steering clear of these pitfalls – has helped us create a consistent style when it comes to writing CTAs. It helps us streamline what we do, provide clarity to our audience, and – best of all – it helps us get clicks.
Here’s an inside look at some of our rules of thumb when it comes to writing CTAs:
01. Don’t say, “click here”
Though this call-to-action example is about as clear and concise as you can get, we’ve found it falls short because it tells users that they should click, but not why. Rather than go for this classic (and boring) CTA, we opt for benefit-driven CTAs that show our users where they’re going, why they should go there and what they’ll get from doing so.
02. The problem with, “Do this, this and this”
A common error we’ve come across is too many ideas in one CTA. Not only does this make the CTA long and unwieldy, but it also confuses users. If you ask visitors to do 2 or even 3 things in a CTA, they won’t know which action to take, or why they should click at all.
Write CTAs with just one directive. And if you need to provide more information, do it in your body text. This is not just great for the users; it will also help you when the time comes to measure the effectiveness of your CTA.
03. Embrace action words
Convincing users to take action depends on many factors, from how attractive your offer or product is to the appeal of your design and text. But a good, action-oriented CTA can go a long way to giving your visitors the extra little push they need to click, call, or send you an email. Start your CTAs with a verb – an action word that helps to sell users on the benefit of clicking.
04. Match the tone and voice of your text
It’s easy to write a CTA that’s cute, funny, or simply looks right in the space that the designer has given you. But your CTA should tell the same story as the rest of your text – and use the same language to do it. Otherwise, your users can get confused or annoyed, and they may simply give up and click away from the page without taking action. So while it may be tempting to make every CTA, “Click here for world domination,” stick to the story you’re telling.
05. Don’t try too hard to sell
We’ve all experienced the moment when someone tried a bit too hard to sell us something. This makes most of us pretty uncomfortable, and oftentimes leaves us with a lasting, negative view of the brand. Moreover, it smacks of desperation and probably decreases the chances we’ll ever purchase from that business.
At Wix, one of our core values is “tell, don’t sell,” and we carry this through to the way we write our CTAs. We want our users to make choices based on our products, their merit, and how we describe them. And we’ve found that trying too hard to sell them on a product can quickly backfire, giving them instead a feeling of suspicion or mistrust.
While you may find that the CTA, “Buy It Right Now,” works for you, don’t overuse it. Instead, focus on what users have to gain. You can keep words that create a sense of urgency, however, particularly if what you’re promoting comes with an expiration date. Including “today” and “now” in your CTA makes a lot of sense when you’re running a sale.
Let’s wrap it up
The way you use CTAs depends on what type of material you’re creating and what you want to achieve. That being said, it’s vital that you measure your CTAs. Determine what’s getting your users to click and what they’re not interacting with. This will give you a really good idea of what works – and what doesn’t – for your brand.
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