Author: Lazarina Stoy
Visitors generally come to your site looking to learn something or perform an action. The more intuitively they’re able to get what they came for, the more likely your business will also benefit.
However, locating a resource or a piece of information on a site can be frustrating if the right signposts aren’t in place. CTAs present one way to guide those visitors, turn them into leads, followers, or even nudge them towards the final step of buying your product or service. It can also help them become brand ambassadors post-purchase.
In this guide, we’ll discuss what you need to know to begin creating compelling CTAs that benefit both the business and its strategic growth objectives, as well as the visitors of your site, including:
What is a call-to-action (CTA)?
The CTA acronym stands for call-to-action, which is a signal or prompt to a user to perform a desired action. The action the user is encouraged to take typically aligns with the business or strategic goals of the brand or website and often is considered the next logical step of the user journey.
Some might say that CTAs should always encourage an immediate sale or other type of conversion (e.g., sign-up). This is a misunderstanding, as most sophisticated conversion rate optimization (CRO) strategies use various combinations of different CTAs according to the stage of the funnel that the user is in.
This enables a smoother approach to nurturing leads—one that is mindful of the different needs of users with different intents and fosters a trust-based relationship between the user and the business.
What are the benefits of a good CTA?
Having a good call-to-action can benefit every online space (not just websites) as it helps alleviate decision fatigue for users by broadcasting the next step in the journey (for those interested in taking it). At the same time, well-crafted CTAs also encourage users to take actions that are beneficial to the business, such as signing up for a newsletter or buying a product, for example.
Here are some of the benefits of creating good calls-to-action for your users:
Better understanding of potential avenues to take as a visitor
Quicker access to important content
Improved user experience and quicker navigation
Less stress and frustration from decision-making and self-navigation, in turn promoting better website and content usability
Creating strong CTAs is also beneficial for your business as well. They can help you:
Increase engagement, which can help you improve website metrics such as bounce rate, time on page, session duration, and pages per session. If you’re working with videos as a medium, they can help bolster metrics such as watch time and click-through rate, all of which are associated with improved organic performance.
Improve your understanding of users’ online behavior
Improve performance of targeted goal completions
CTAs can be applied to almost any content or online space, including in different places within a website, throughout social media pages, or even in videos, such as on YouTube or TikTok.
So, at this stage, you might be wondering what a good call-to-action looks like. Let’s go through some examples from different domains and for different use cases, but first, let’s break down all the different CTA types.
What are the different CTA types?
One way we can break down CTA types is based on the business goal. In other words, what is the call to action trying to achieve and how does it help the business strategy?
Here, we have summarized a number of different CTA types, but will go into further detail in the sections that follow.
Turn a visitor into a user
Any business that allows users to sign up to a service using the website or allows users to purchase a product through the website
Turn a visitor into a lead
Any business that can save customer service costs by allowing users to become better informed about a product or service through the website, submit a purchase order form through the site, or get their main questions answered through the site
Turn a lead into a qualified lead
Any business that has a multi-step funnel (purchase process) and/or can offer something to the user (such as a downloadable resource or discount, for example)
Generate awareness about something, such as a product launch, services, your brand, or its unique competitive advantages
Any business, regardless of size or structure
CTA types based on business goals
A user acquisition CTA aims to attract users directly by turning a visitor into a paying customer. This can be achieved via a complex CTA setup (which may be more appropriate for mature brands with greater resources), but can also be achieved via a simple button, a compelling, consistent business proposition, and a good user experience.
What user acquisition CTAs can achieve
User acquisition CTAs aim to attract users or paying customers.
For an eCommerce website, that would be someone purchasing a product via the website. For a service website, that might mean someone booking a consultation and purchasing via the site. And, for SaaS companies, this could be someone subscribing to a service (with or without a trial period).
What businesses user acquisition CTAs are best suited for
This CTA type is suited for businesses and organizations that have a self-service product, service, and/or payment process (for example, a SaaS company with a self-sign-up product, like Asana or Monday.com, or an eCommerce organization like Amazon or PrettyLittleThing.)
Examples of user acquisition CTAs
Retail giant Amazon’s instant purchase tactics are one of the most recognizable examples of this type of CTA. The site’s buy now and one-click checkout buttons make it as easy as possible for visitors to become users.
In other niches, user acquisition CTAs would typically include “sign up”, “get started,” or “create an account” buttons, but can also be CTAs based on the proposition of a free trial.
Where to place user acquisition CTAs
User acquisition CTAs are the money makers, so they should always be placed in prominent locations throughout the website. One common placement is in the top navigation menu, but these CTAs can appear in multiple different ways throughout a blog or resource section, as well as in service (or equivalent) pages.
A lead generation CTA is a broad CTA group encompassing elements that enable visitors to fill in their contact information, whether it’s through a form, signing up for a newsletter or something similar, effectively turning a visitor into a lead.
What lead generation CTAs can achieve
Lead generation CTAs can help you achieve just that—generating leads. This sounds simple enough, however, a crucial component of any worthwhile CRO strategy will ensure that lead generation has a purpose and the data that users provide will be utilized by the business in some form of value exchange—not for the purposes of irrelevant communications, solicitations, or for selling to third-parties.
What businesses lead generation CTAs are best suited for
Lead generation CTAs are used by small and large businesses alike, as each business (regardless of size and function) can benefit from having a self-service lead generation model via their website or other channel that enables user data collection.
Examples of lead generation CTAs
One of the most popular examples present on almost every website is a subscription pop-up or nudge. These can include direct email entry boxes, as shown below.
Alternatively, they can also be a lot more creative, yet achieve the same purpose.
Where to place lead generation CTAs
These types of CTAs are most often placed within the content of a page. You can also choose to make this CTA type ever-present by adding it to a side menu or the footer menu, however, bear in mind this may hinder its effectiveness, as some visitors might not make it to the footer of the page. Nevertheless, that can be a good place to get user information via a simple email subscription form, or your last chance to make a good value proposition in return for lead information.
One way to calculate the potential effectiveness of the email sign-up form (or any other CTA placed in the footer) is to reference historical page-scroll data across your website and make an evaluation based on the percentage of visitors that make it down to the end of your pages.
To summarize, lead generation CTAs can be placed throughout the website, in the content body, in a side menu, or in the footer. Some brands have also experimented with placing their lead gen CTA in their expandable menus (as shown in the example below).
Lead nurturing is the process of lead cultivation for audiences that are not ready to commit to a purchase straight away. To put it otherwise, lead nurturing targets top-of-funnel users or users with an informational intent, and anticipates that not every visitor of the website or platform will be immediately ready to buy.
A winning lead nurturing strategy accounts for needs of the visitor based on who they are (using profile characteristics, such as title, role, industry, search patterns, interests, and so on) and where they are in their buying journey, adapting the strategy as needed.
What lead nurturing CTAs can achieve
Through lead nurturing, a business can ensure that it steadily grows its lead portfolio, despite being aware that a percentage of this portfolio might not make a purchase immediately (or even ever).
What this strategy achieves is, in part, investment in the future potential of the collected leads as well as building brand awareness and positive brand associations with target consumers.
What businesses lead nurturing CTAs are best suited for
Lead nurturing CTAs are typically used by organizations that require a degree of education about their product or service or would benefit from getting potential customers more familiar with their brand to make those prospects more likely to commit to a demo or purchase later on.
Examples of lead nurturing CTAs
Here is an example of lead generation using a downloadable resource, which targets a niche audience.
Where to place lead nurturing CTAs
Similar to lead generation CTAs, there is no limitation to where you can place these, but each placement will likely have a different impact on the CTA’s effectiveness. What matters more than the placement is the copy and incentive used to entice the lead. Ideally, this should be something relevant to the visitor’s interest, search patterns, and persona.
This information can typically be gathered via a combination of your first-party data from Google Analytics and Google Search Console. For larger organizations, collecting data about which landing page your leads were first introduced to and what enticed them to make a purchase can also inform this decision.
А promotional CTA is a call to action that does not aim to collect any type of information from the user or nurture them down the funnel. Instead, this type of CTA acts as a signpost to promote something else on the website or channel.
To give you an example, an info card within a YouTube video pointing to another YouTube video is a type of promotional CTA, and so is internal linking in the SEO world. Both essentially amount to you promoting something else that you believe would be useful to the user, based on their search intent and profile, without expecting anything else but the click in return.
Promotional CTAs can be both buttons and links, but they can also be static visuals (e.g., an image or banner), or an auditory message delivered through a video or podcast.
What promotional CTAs can achieve
Promotional CTA can facilitate cross-pollination of resources across your channel or website. They often help promote smaller website goals that are not directly tied to revenue, such as increasing page views or subscriber count.
What businesses promotional CTAs are best suited for
Whilst helpful and necessary, promotional CTAs alone do not form a cohesive conversion strategy. Yet, without them, a cohesive strategy could not exist. Both small and large businesses alike rely on them, though they are not generally enough for hitting revenue-related goals, such as product or service purchases.
Examples of promotional CTAs
“Read more” buttons are one common example of promotional CTAs, despite there being a lot of research that suggests these buttons are ineffective from both a CRO and SEO standpoint.
Specifically, such generic promotional buttons are not great for accessibility, nor do they clearly and cohesively communicate the link destination (thus, being misaligned with SEO best practices). And, they don’t typically provide a clear call to action. Despite this, they are still prominent, as you can see below.
Another, better example are buttons that are organized based on a clear aim the user might have, or a value proposition, such as “find a solution” or “start for free.”
Promotional CTAs are also very common in eCommerce. Below is a great example of such a CTA in action.