You could have the most beautiful, well-optimized website landing pages in the world. If so, good work! However, it would be a real shame if no-one ever saw them because your calls to action (CTAs) got lost in the mix. Small but powerful, the job of the CTA is to leap out at visitors and convince them that what you have to offer is worth clicking.

When you consider all the times you’ve signed up for something online – a newsletter, an online course, a piece of software – you will more than likely have followed a call to action. They are one of the most important features on your website. Yet many of us still get them wrong and miss valuable opportunities to convert leads. Here’s why people might be missing your articles’ calls to action, and how you can make sure it never happens again.

Related reading: 25 Most Important Features Your Online Business Must Have in 2017.

They use passive language

Your visitors aren’t stupid, but they’re probably busy. People generally spend so much time multi-tasking that they have little patience for vague demands. Your CTA needs to make the next step clear, telling the user what to do using simple, active terms. Our eyes are drawn to article headlines and featured images – after that, we’re looking down the hierarchy to subheadings, bullets, and CTAs.

Adding verbs to your CTAs ensure they don’t accidentally end up being passive. Examples might include:

  • Join
  • Get
  • Try
  • Start
  • Enter

It’s simple really – a good CTA tells users what to do next without beating around the bush. Want them to sign up for an app? Tell them. Effective CTAs are bossy – do this, now do this. But they also serve to convey a sense of value or urgency to lead the customer onwards.

They don’t stand out

Another reason your CTAs are being ignored? Your readers may simply be missing them because they blend right in with everything else on the page. If you want to start seeing higher conversions, it’s time to make sure they stand out. Color contrast is a simple and effective way to do this, but you can’t rely on it entirely, since many web users are colorblind. For this reason, it sometimes helps to create a full CTA section – an unmissable area of the screen sectioned off with color or striking royalty-free imagery

You don’t have enough of them

We know that every article and email should have a CTA. But that’s not the only place you can use them. There should be a call to action on every page of your website, in some form. They don’t all have to be the same, but the aim is to prevent the user from ever reaching a dead end. There must always be a logical next step.

It doesn’t have to be in the same position on every page. Think of your CTAs as a group of small steps leading up to a bigger step – your primary CTA. Your blog readers may not be ready to buy from you, but they might be willing to sign up to your newsletter for more content. Think about where they are in the journey and place appropriate CTAs along the way. They should always be close at hand, so if it’s a long piece, consider placing one at the start and another at the end.

They’re in the wrong place

Placing your CTA is a delicate balance between shoving it in your readers’ faces and having it so far down the page that they never see it at all. There are generally two approaches: above the fold and below the fold. The former is right there when you land on the page. The latter is lower down, meaning users need to scroll down to see it. Both have their place; it’s all about knowing how to present the offer at the right time.

The CTA should appear at the point in the process where the reader has been given some information already, alongside trust factors that will positively influence their decision, such as user reviews. Correct CTA placement can significantly improve conversion rate – read more about this here.

They don’t look like buttons

We’ve come to expect certain things from CTAs as UI elements. Namely, we expect them to look like buttons. When they don’t look like buttons, people won’t always understand that they’re supposed to click on them. Some might figure it out – but why not make it clear? A CTA acts as a signifier; its purpose is to be quickly identified and understood as part of the user journey. We’ve seen buttons, we know buttons, we understand that they’re clickable. We also associate colors like grey with elements being disabled, which is why grey makes for a terrible CTA color.

It’s simple really, just make sure your CTA buttons look like buttons!

CTAs are complex creatures – a lot goes into making them work. Luckily, it’s easy to make simple changes and test their effectiveness. The above suggestions are guidelines, not hard and fast rules, but they are the result of many business’ findings over the years. What have you found works for you when it comes to writing and designing effective CTAs? Let us know in the comments.