How to pick a great call-to-action for your website

When you're designing a website for your business, one of the most important things to get right is the "call to action" or CTA. The CTA is the main thing your website is trying to get visitors to do. Maybe you want them to fill out a contact form, but your product online, or just call your cell phone.

Every business is different, but we all have some sort of a goal we want our websites to achieve, and if you aren't crystal clear on what your goal is, your website isn't going to deliver results.

The two most common mistakes small businesses make are:

  1. Not having a CTA. You go to their website and there's just a bunch of random info without any clear purpose. There's no point in having a website without a CTA!
  1. Having more than one CTA. Visitors can be overwhelmed if they're given too many options. It's fine to have secondary actions, but they shouldn't compete for attention with the main action.

The key to a great website is having exactly one CTA. It should be clear, direct, and enticing. If you're not sure what your CTA should be, here are some ideas:

If website visitors are normally ready to buy right away

Figuring out a CTA is normally pretty straight-forward if there's a transaction you can complete on the spot. For example, if you run a restaurant, visitors to your website probably don't take that much convincing that they should eat your food (hungry people are normally pretty motivated). Your CTA might be to have them book a reservation, or go to an online ordering system.

Common CTAs for businesses with transactional sales:

  • Buy a product online
  • Call me
  • Come to our physical location
  • Start a free trail of our software
  • Download our app

If sales take longer to develop

As great as it is to have your website make money for you directly, not all businesses can realistically expect to close a deal online. For example, if you're a financial advisor, it's unlikely anyone will become your client directly from your website without ever speaking with you. In cases like that, you should probably think of your website as a place to generate leads rather than a place to complete transactions. That means the CTA should be something that allows you to take the next step in your sales process.

Common CTAs for businesses with multi-step sales processes:

  • Fill out a contact form
  • Subscribe to a newsletter
  • Download a whitepaper
  • Watch a video
  • Book a call using a scheduling app

Some examples of lead-gen CTAs are: Fill out a contact form, subscribe to a newsletter (which will nurture the lead until they're ready to move forward), or engage with a more substantial piece of content like a video or whitepaper.

Figure out what makes sense for you

I listed a bunch of ideas above, but every business is different. Take a few minutes to think through what outcome you want your website to achieve, and what action your website visitors should take to best achieve that outcome. Once you have that figured out, everything else about your website design becomes easier, because everything else just needs to support your main CTA.

Secondary actions

I've been pretty adamant about having exactly one CTA, but that doesn't mean your website can't serve multiple purposes. Maybe 80% of your website visitors are ready to buy on the spot, but 20% aren't ready yet. In that case, it's perfectly reasonable to have the main CTA be "buy now" and have some other options that are more appropriate for the other 20%.

What's important is that the different actions aren't fighting for attention. If a visitor to your site can't immediately tell what the main action is without even thinking about it, you probably need to make it more clear. But assuming you've done that, feel free to think through other things people might want to do.

For example, here's the home page for my business's website:

Less Annoying CRM's home page

As you can see, "Start your free trial" is the obvious CTA, but for people who aren't ready yet, there's also an option to "Try a live demo" plus there are links in the navigation bar at the top for people who want to learn more about our product before signing up.

I hope this article helps you figure how your website can achieve your #1 goal! If you want to talk more about this, you can find me on Twitter (@TylerMKing).

Have thoughts on this post? I'd love to hear from you! I'm @TylerMKing on Twitter.
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