Calls-to-action are powerful little sentences. They’re often underestimated because they are so simple. Does it really matter if you have “click here” or “subscribe now” on your landing page? Is it really worth testing out different CTAs just to see which one converts more visitors? Can anyone tell the difference between a lackluster call-to-action and a not-so-lackluster one?

Yes. Yes. Yes.

Calls-to-action, while simple, are one of the most important inbound marketing tools that you have in your digital arsenal. They are responsible for motivating and directing visitors to take a desired action, whether it’s subscribing to a newsletter, downloading a white paper or signing up for a trial. Calls-to-action also take on many forms, including buttons, links, anchor text and images. See, it’s getting confusing already!

After working with many clients on successful landing pages and high-converting CTAs, it’s safe to say that we’ve learned a thing or two about what makes a CTA higher performing. And since we don’t believe in repeating the same mistakes twice, hopefully you can learn a few things from us.

Below are some critical do’s and don’ts for creating the perfect CTA for your audience.

Let’s start with the things that you should do.

DO make your CTAs noticeable.

This may sound obvious, but it’s important to point out. Take an objective look at your landing page and ask yourself if you would notice the CTA if you were a visitor. Your CTA should speak loud and clear, with no guessing for the user.

Here are a few questions to ask yourself.

  • Is the call-to-action in the eye’s path? It should be front and center.

  • Is the CTA written in bold, contrasting colors? It shouldn’t blend in with the background.

  • Is the CTA large enough? It should be one of the bigger, more prominent items on your page.

DO use valuable and actionable copy.

Even though the words are short, what you choose is highly important. Choose actionable words like “download now” or “get your free trial now.” Avoid using words like “submit” that indicate to users that they need to give you something. Instead, you want the words to convey that all the user has to do is click to get what they want: a free trial, an ebook or the opportunity to speak to an expert, for instance.

DO make your CTAs look clickable.

You know when you land on a page and you just feel compelled to click the button? This is what CTAs are designed to do. Make your call-to-action clickable by using shadows, bevels and hover effects. These elements entice visitors to click, and they feel familiar and comfortable.

DO choose CTAs that are simple, uncluttered and direct.

Attention spans are short, so get to the point quickly. Visitors shouldn’t have to think twice about what you are asking them to do. Just about every action can be summed up in 2-4 words. Some of the most popular CTAs include “click here,” “buy now” or “subscribe today.” But if you want to go a little further in your description, you can try something like “speak to an expert” or “start your free trial.”

DO select CTAs that align with the buyer’s interests or needs.

Think about your ideal buyer and what messaging they will be most likely to respond to. If you end up showing them the call-to-action at the wrong time, they may be turned off. Ditto if you use the wrong messaging. The CTA should match the stage that the customer is in. If they aren’t ready to buy your product, for example, it’s not time to ask them to do so. But, you may find that offering them a free sample is.

Now let’s cover some of the things that you should not do when crafting a CTA.

DON’T oversell on what you have to offer.

Be straightforward with users. Tell them exactly what they can expect to get by following through with the CTA. Some companies have made the mistake of overselling their offer, leaving people angry and untrusting of the brand in the future. For example, a simple blog post is not a whitepaper or ebook. A free sample or trial should be entirely free. Charging for shipping or activation isn’t cool.

DON’T link your CTAs to your homepage.

If you link your calls-to-action to your homepage, you’re going to lose customers. Why? Because a homepage is like a portal for miscellaneous visitors. The person you’re working with is a potential lead, and you want to keep them on the right track to converting.

Each CTA should go to a specific landing page that is closely tied to the action. If you’re asking a visitor to try a free sample of your product, bring them to a page that shows a picture of your product or lists a few facts about it. Not only does this make users more likely to convert, but also they know they’re on the right track.

DON’T be afraid to give yourself a little credit.

Sometimes the only way to set yourself apart from the competition is to give your company a little validation. Don’t be afraid to build trust by using testimonials or data on your landing page. You can highlight a few cool facts about your product, the awards it has won or why people love it. In other words, it’s okay to brag a little.

DON’T use the same CTAs repeatedly.

Even if you have a CTA that converts well, it’s still important to shake things up. Calls-to-action get stale after a while, and there may be something that works even better. However, you won’t know unless you do A/B testing. Also, use different CTAs for different audiences. Everyone is unique, and you’ll notice through testing that your different audiences respond to different messaging. Any way that you can personalize the call-to-action, do so.

DON’T forget to optimize your CTAs for SEO.

Did you know that a CTA is a great way to add more relevant keywords to your website so that it gets found in the search engines? Take advantage of this by optimizing your CTAs with the right keywords. Another thing you should optimize your calls-to-action for are mobile devices. Since many users will be accessing your landing page from mobile devices, you want to make sure that your CTA looks good.

If your CTAs could be better at converting users, it’s probably time to update them. By keeping the above do’s and don’ts in mind, you can craft a better call-to-action that speaks to your audience at the right time. Don’t forget that A/B testing is your friend. It’s an easy, efficient way to see which calls-to-action work best for your visitors. Good luck!