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Perhaps because it seems so self-evident, many websites do not put a lot of time or thought into their calls of action.  Instead, the focus goes into getting people onto the site.  This is, indeed, a major hurtle faced by businesses large and small –especially small.  But getting a visitor there is not going to translate directly into money or sales; you need for them to act.  A problem that many searchers run into, though, is that they are unclear what they are being asked to do.  Do you want them to sign up?  Buy something?  Email for more information?  Call?  Stop by?  “Like” or +1?  You got them there; now what?

Why is the call to action so important?  After all, if you are a site that sells auto parts, shouldn’t the call to action be fairly apparent?  Yes, but getting there is often a different story.  What sites often do is bury their calls to action in text, which is otherwise unremarkable, or in another not so obvious locale on the page.  A visitor to your page is going to make the decision to stay or go in only 3 to 5 seconds; you not only have to wow them with your fantastic content and layout in that time, you also have to direct them.

What are best practices when it comes to calls of action?

  • Make them noticeable.  Subtle is great – but you really need this to stand out and be like a beacon to visitors.  Bigger is better.
  • Put it above the fold.  Why?  Because it is what people see first when they land on a page.  You have to grab them fast.
  • Make it easy for mobile users to engage, especially those with touchscreen devices.
  • Think about color.  Carelogger switched from a light green call to action button to a more noticeable red.  Their conversion rate improved by 34 percent.  It doesn’t have to be red specifically, but do make sure to use noticeable, contrasting colors.
  • Be specific and tell visitors what is in it for them.  For instance, Firefox used “Try Firefox 3” as its call to action.  All right, better than nothing.  When they switched to “Download Now – Free,” conversions increased by 3.6 percent.  “Download Now,”  “Get Started Today,” “Free Download,”  “Free Trial” and really, most anything using the word “Free” are much stronger calls.

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