Calls to action can be an important part of a website design. Unless your page is purely informational (and sometimes even then) there is probably an action that you are hoping users will be prompted to take: usually one that involves contacting you somehow.
Focus Focus Focus!
If you want your site to have an effective call to action, the first thing you want to do is narrow down the specific action that you want them to take. Do you want them to fill out a form so that you can gather their contact information to follow up with them, or to sign up for a mailing list? While having calls to action is important, too many can be overwhelming and cause your users to ignore them all – focusing as best you can on one desired action will help you to direct your users’ attention rather than scattering it.
Actions and Rewards
Offering your users some sort of benefit or reward may help motivate them to engage with your site. Of course the tricky part is that you need to offer something that has value to them. This will vary greatly depending on your demographic, so it’s important that you determine what kind of offering would motivate your audience. If you’re not certain about this, it’s time to spend some time interacting with them – if you don’t know what they value, it’s going to be difficult to figure out what will get them to take action!
Again, directness is key – your call to action should be succinct and clear. If you’re offering some sort of reward, the call to action should let the user know right away what they are being asked to do and what they will receive in return: “Contact us today for a free estimate!”
Why the Vendetta Against ‘Click Here’?
In my post about anchor text, usability and SEO I talked some about why the words “click here” aren’t your best choice for anchor text. Why wouldn’t you want to use that phrase in a call to action, though? Isn’t “click here” an action statement?
It is, but it isn’t a particularly useful one. Even the most basic internet user knows how to click a link, so you aren’t telling them to do anything that they wouldn’t do already if the link’s content interested them. You wouldn’t start off your website with a headline that said “Read this page to learn more about our business!” If your users are there, and interested, that’s what they’re about to do anyway. Telling them “click here” on a link is equally redundant.
Instead of saying “click here for weekly savings,” consider instead saying something like “sign up now for weekly savings!” “Sign up” is a much clearer directive than “click here” – users will know that simply clicking to go to another page won’t get them on the list for weekly savings, so being up front that you’re asking them to sign up for a list will come across as more straightforward as well as more web savvy.
Follow Through: The Most Important Part
Once you’ve incited your customer to action, you need to be fully prepared to follow through on what you’ve promised – or simply to follow up if the call to action was simply a request for them to reach out. If your website includes a contact form for capturing leads, make absolutely certain that you know where those notifications are going and that they’re being responded to promptly. Failing to respond to a customer who has taken the first step in contacting you is a good way to lose business and generate negative word of mouth.
Effective calls to action can be a great method of generating user engagement and gaining more tangible leads from your site. Weak calls to action, however, can have the opposite effect, giving users a negative impression (too disorganized, too pushy – or worse, too slow to respond) – so if you choose to include them on your site, make sure that you’ve got (here it comes!) a plan! Knowing your goals, your users’ needs and having a follow-up procedure in place will go a long way towards helping you to craft a statement and process that will help your website work harder for you.