A strong call-to-action (CTA) is an essential component of any marketing email or landing page. Even the best content can go to waste without a compelling CTA that makes potential customers want to click through. Because CTAs are central to your strategy, there are several dos and don’ts recommended on the internet. Much of this advice is well-meaning and may work some of the time — but it isn’t always accurate and can result in CTAs that don’t work.
Below, we’ll break down six common myths about creating CTAs and demonstrate why they’re not always true.
1. You Don’t Need a CTA
This myth comes attached to a variety of different reasons. Some may say that your audience is smart enough to know you’re advertising and don’t need shuttling to the finish line. Others might say CTAs are old-fashioned, intrusive and will turn off most customers. Perhaps you don’t want your brand to come across as pushy or pressuring someone into a sale.
Even if it seems obvious what a customer should do next, a highly-visible CTA will be much more convenient. Making a visitor work too hard to figure out how to move forward will reduce the chance that you’ll succeed at your goal. For example, check out this CTA from Hubstaff. Even though it’s not selling anything, and the copy assumes the reader is familiar with the technology, the email still includes a link that allows the customer to test a specific feature.
This setup makes things extremely convenient for a user whose interest has been piqued and wants to try out that service. This email also shows off multiple features, and each has its own CTA. The result is content built around utility for the user by making it easy to try things out.
2. Customers Don’t Want CTAs
It’s not uncommon to hear that no one wants to feel like you’re selling or marketing to them. The average customer, after all, is increasingly using tools like ad blockers to cut down on the number of advertisements they see. However, while people are tired of intrusive and disruptive advertisements, they’re generally not opposed to marketing in general — especially if it makes it easier for them to get what they want.
Often, CTAs exist to secure customers who are actively investigating your brand or interested in what you’re selling. For example, see this CTA from Apple’s streaming service, Apple TV.
“Watch Now” — that’s it. The web designer can assume that most people who navigated to the site are here to use the service. More information about Apple TV is present on the page. It doesn’t undercut its own service by hiding a CTA, however, and makes it easy for customers to move on to the next stage in the sales funnel.
3. Always Make Your CTA a Button
Some marketers will say that a CTA should always be a button rather than a link or pierce of text that encourages a specific action, like a phone call. Typically, it’s easier to make buttons stand out from the rest of the content on the page. Links, however, may be the right choice in certain situations. If you want to include a CTA that leads to a free resource, for example, you may want to opt for a subtler option.
You still want to make the CTA obvious and follow good UX design practices that draw the eye, such as making content skimmable and utilizing video. However, a button may be too distracting or feel a sales-y in that context, even if you’re highlighting a feature or offering a free resource.
4. Never Use More Than One CTA at a Time
Some marketers say that you never want more than one CTA at a time because they can quickly overwhelm a consumer. While it’s true that cluttered pages and lots of CTAs can confuse a customer, it’s not uncommon for businesses to run into a situation where a landing page is targeting two different audiences. For example, check out this landing page from Thompson Tractor.
It features several CTAs but isn’t overwhelming or cluttered. Using multiple CTAs to target the different needs of your audience can be effective, depending on what you’re trying to advertise. In this case, the landing page is advertising equipment, individual parts and servicing. While a page with one CTA may have worked, it also wouldn’t have communicated the full range of offers available.
5. Never Put a CTA Below The Fold
If you’ve spent any time in internet marketing, you’ve heard some version of this myth — that you shouldn’t put your CTA beneath the fold, or where the bottom of the user’s screen cuts off content. This commonly-held belief makes some intuitive sense, but it doesn’t always hold true.
Many marketers work off the assumption that consumers have short attention spans and need an incentive to investigate. Most people don’t make it to the bottom of an email or article. A CTA that’s below the fold on a website won’t be visible to customers right away. Still, CTAs both above and below the fold can work well. Some research shows that below-the-fold CTAs are more effective at moving customers down the sales funnel and can boost conversion rates.
A below-the-fold approach is more old-school and may work alongside more traditional marketing techniques, like the AIDA model. Take advantage of the extra space by building value so that, by the time the reader hits your CTA, they will move on to the next step.
6. Only Use a CTA After Demonstrating Value
This myth is common in email marketing. Some sheepish marketers will tell you that it’s possible to insert the CTA too early and will recommend that you only include it after you’ve made an argument for your service, product or brand. Sometimes, they’ll even recommend that you don’t make the CTA before you’ve made multiple contacts with the same client.
This cautious approach isn’t necessary in many cases. You still want to give the reader a reason to click a link, but CTAs, when judiciously used, won’t put anyone off your brand. Focusing too much on demonstrating value can even lead to cluttered or overwhelming landing pages and emails.
Creating CTAs That Work
CTAs are essential to creating effective digital marketing materials. As a result, there is a lot of advice about CTAs on the internet that doesn’t always apply. When adding CTAs to your landing pages or emails, focus on providing utility to the customer, avoid clutter and stay flexible in your approach. Methods that “shouldn’t” work — like below-the-fold CTAs — can be useful in the right situation.
Lexie is a UX content strategist and web designer. She enjoys copious amounts of coffee (with a dash of milk) and walking her goldendoodle. Check out her design blog, Design Roast, and follow her on Twitter @lexieludesigner.