A call-to-action (CTA) plays an important role in helping you convert website visitors into identified leads. CTAs are images, banners or text that should compel visitors to take a desired action: download an eBook, register for a webinar, request a quote or make a purchase.

Not all CTAs are created equal; many CTAs are not very persuasive, fail to create a sense of urgency or don’t convey value. But an effective CTA will help you get visitors to take action and move them from your blog, emails, social media posts and website to a landing page optimized to convert visitors into leads.

So what makes an effective CTA? Here are 7 tips that will help you make your CTAs more engaging and your lead generation efforts more productive.

1. Make your offer obvious

Your CTA should clearly describe your offer so that visitors understand exactly what they’re getting and have a reasonable expectation of what your landing page is going to contain. If you are offering something free, be sure to mention that in your CTA. If you’re offering a download like a report, eBook or software trial, be sure to show a graphic that represents what they’ll be downloading.

2. Make them jump off the page

What good is a CTA if it blends in with everything else on the page? Your CTAs should be consistent with your brand, but they should stand out from the rest of your page content as well. Make them contrast with their surroundings and be sure to use bold colors and a large and easy-to-read font.  You should also include a big button that pops so much that visitors are obliged to click on it.

3. Make them compelling and action-oriented

Once you’ve designed a CTA that jumps off the page, be sure to make it engaging with action-oriented and compelling text.  In other words, drop sterile language like “Contact Us” or “Submit” and create a sense of urgency.  Say something more benefit oriented, such as “Get Your Free eBook,” “Try it Free for 30 Days,” “Get Started in Seconds” or “Download Now.”  As pointed out in tip #1, your button should make it very clear what action your visitors are taking and what they should expect.

4. Place them in the right locations

Don’t be shy with your CTAs! Make sure your visitors can see them without too much effort. Your home page is a prime location for CTAs, especially the home page slider that is typically featured on most home pages.   It’s good to include CTAs for each stage of the buying cycle in order to appeal to a wide audience (see Tip #6).  Also, sidebars and within your page content can be great locations as well, just be sure that they fit the context of that page (see Tip #5).

A best practice to increase click-through rates suggests having your CTAs above the fold of your website, allowing your visitors to see the CTA without having to scroll down the page.  However, placing CTAs at the end of a blog post when it pertains to that particular post can be very effective. The point is, if you want people to take action, don’t have your CTA buried at the bottom of the page or hidden somewhere they aren’t going to be looking.

5. Use them in proper context

Context is critical to ensuring a high click-through rate for your CTAs. A CTA should be related to the content or information that is found on the page it’s on. For example, if your CTA is for an eBook download related to a particular service, make sure that the CTA is on that service page and not on another unrelated page. If you place CTAs at the end of your blog posts, make sure the offer relates to that particular blog post. Another good idea is to tweak the language of a broader appealing CTA to be more in context with it’s specific page.

6. Align them with the different stages of the buying cycle

Not every visitor is in the same stage of the buying cycle; some are just starting to do research, some are considering their options and others are ready to write a check but might just need a little push. An introductory eBook might appeal to someone at the beginning of the sales cycle, while an offer for a free quote or consultation would appeal to someone that is close to making a purchasing decision. So it’s important that you are creating content for each stage of the buying cycle and using various CTAs to appeal to the different segments of your audience.

7. Test, Track and Tweak

Sometimes the smallest change can have a big effect on your click-through and conversion rates. As an example, Firefox increased their conversion rate by 3.6% when they changed their CTA button from saying “Try Firefox 3” to “Download Now – Free.” Similar experiences have occurred with something as simple as changing the color of a button. A/B testing can be helpful in the process of determining which CTAs are converting and which ones aren’t.

Measure your CTA effectiveness by looking at click-through rates and your views-to-submission ratio. These analytics will give you the insight you need to make subtle (or sometimes major) tweaks to see what will make an impact.

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There’s no perfect science behind optimizing your CTAs so it’s important to experiment to see what works best in your situation. But these simple tips should give you a head start in helping to make your CTAs more effective and your lead generation efforts more successful.