6 Proven Ways to Boost the Conversion Rates of Your Call-to-Action Buttons
Visitors who don’t click don’t convert.
As marketers, we know this to be true.
Your visitors can’t get through your checkout process or signup form without clicking at least one button. And that one button — like all of your buttons — can be improved on.
But we fail to optimize calls to action for pretty simple reasons, all of which are complete BS.
We need to stop ignoring the so-called “small things,” especially when conversions depend on them.
Instead, apply a few of the following click-boosting techniques in this post, which A/B tests have proven can generate conversion boosts ranging from 20 to 95 percent.
No more excuses
See if you can relate to any of these excuses for failing to optimize calls to action:
- It’s hard to get creative when you’ve only got room for two or three words on a button
- Everything seems best summarized as “Learn More,” “Sign Up,” or “Buy Now”
- If people really want my stuff, the button isn’t going to make or break a conversion
- Buttons are small — we’ve got bigger fish to fry than that!
Those excuses are like a ceiling blocking your conversion rate from lifting. Your call to action isn’t supposed to summarize … it’s supposed to get people to act.
You shouldn’t limit your button copy to a three-word maximum. A button that fits the standards of every one-percent-converting site should not be the button you expose to your hard-won visitors.
You’re not writing copy for visitors who would walk over hot coals to get your stuff. You are most often writing for people who are on the fence and who can be pulled over to your patch of grass with great messages.
So let’s cut the excuses and start using techniques we know will work, like the six data-backed methods for improving conversions explained below.
1. Entertain the lizard brain
The old brain is a primitive organ, a direct result of the basic evolutionary process. It is our ‘fight or flight’ brain — our survival brain — and is also called the reptilian brain because it is still present in reptiles today.
Part of our survival instinct is the tendency to notice differences in our environment. We’re hard-wired to.
Valid reasoning and the written word haven’t had even a fraction of the time necessary to be part of an ‘instinctive’ response in us. For this reason, we need to rely on more than “If X, then Y” reasoning and written messages to make a sale or get a signup.
Of those three buttons, which one stands out the most?
The different one does — the third and final one in the row. It uses different copy than the first two, and it’s the only button supported by a second line of copy.
Because the third one here stands out, our lizard brain is most entertained by it. So we’re most likely to zero in on it and make a decision that considers it. For Acuity Scheduling, that meant the third button, which is for their $0 plan, was getting the most clicks.
Not great for paid conversions.
So we tested two different button treatments against it.
Variation B, shown below, incorporated a second line of copy below each button. It also used a different color on the button of the middle-of-the-road plan.
Variation C, shown below, repeats what we did in Variation B, but the new button color is orange.
Importantly, in both treatments the button copy for the two paid plans was identical and, at first glance, only the button color seemed different. This is by design.
It leverages the insights where subjects were first asked to choose who was more attractive, Tom or Jerry. Here’s what they saw:
Ariely also presented the following sets of options to groups of subjects:
Ariely found that, for those who saw Form A, attractive Jerry was most popular; for those who saw Form B, attractive Tom was most popular. This illustrates how people tend to compare the two most similar options in a set — eliminating the radically different option — and from the two similar options choose the more attractive one.
This Acuity Scheduling button test isn’t an identical duplication of Ariely’s test. But it does force similarities between the first two options and then make one of those two more attractive to the lizard brain by making it a standout color.
Let’s see the treatments again:
These very minor changes resulted in big improvements in account starts. Variation B (the green button) saw an 81 percent lift over the control, and Variation C (the orange button) saw a 95 percent lift over the control.
Beyond the Ugly Tom / Ugly Jerry effect, this test also highlights a reptilian tendency to look for color: the orange button was outside the green-grey-black color scheme of the page, drawing more eyes than the green.
It’s human nature to appreciate contrast. Bet you didn’t know that the greater the contrast between a flower and its background, the more likely a bee is to prefer it.
2. Focus visitors on simple calls to action
You’ve read about the paradox of choice and analysis paralysis. So you know that people generally have a hard time making a decision — and feeling good about that decision — when they are presented with a lot of options.
Can adding more buttons to a busy page help reduce the crippling effects of choice overload? And is choice overload a real thing?
Some patrons of a high-end grocery store with six jams to sample and other patrons of that same store with 24 jams to sample.
The 24-jam display attracted more people than the six-jam display, but it converted far fewer into paying customers.
The takeaway? People think they want a lot, but having fewer options makes it easier to arrive at a choice confidently.
Additionally, fewer choices can improve how satisfied we are with our decisions.
Participants who were given six chocolates from which to choose one were happier with their selection than those who selected one chocolate out of 30 possibilities.
Fewer choices may make your visitor feel happier. And happiness is an extraordinarily powerful emotion for converting people, getting them to talk about you, and keeping them loyal to your brand.
Think about your home page — how many options do you give your visitors?
Many ecommerce sites experience the same problem when trying to figure out what goes on the home page — they end up throwing everything on there, like TG did:
This is a page filled with visual stimuli: images of men, images of women, landscape shots, bicycles blurred in motion, runners running, water beading on fabric. And nearly every image on the page has copy overlaid on it or positioned just below it.
With so much info and so many distractions, could visitors be burdened by too much choice when landing here, and could that be negatively impacting clicks deeper into the site?
To find out, our treatment presented half of TG Store’s visitors with a home page that looked like this (above the fold):
Can you spot what we did? We added in four new calls to action. Yep, in a page filled with places to go and things to do, we gave people four more things to do.
So how might offering more choices help minimize choice overload? Answer: by focusing visitors on clear, unmistakable calls to action that simplify their decisions.
For the part we added in, we kept the background neutral to eliminate visual distractions and simplified options into manageable sets of decisions a visitor can painlessly make:
- Decision 1: Identify yourself as a man or woman
- Decision 2: Choose between cycling or running (the two most popular category pages on the site)
The buttons are the same on both the men’s and the women’s — same coloring, same copy — to avoid competition and distraction.
With these new calls to action, TG Store saw 96.6 percent more visitors go to Shop Cycling (Men) and 104.5 percent more go to Shop Running (Men), both with 100 percent confidence. The women’s buttons also trended above the control but didn’t reach confidence.
Now, this might feel like one of those tests where you think, “Well, that goes without saying. When you give people new options that weren’t there before, you’re going to get more clicks to those pages.” But that’s our job as online marketers.
We’re supposed to see where visitors most like to go on our sites — by using analytics and keywords — and help them get to those destinations without interruption.
3. Make buttons look like buttons
The subject of signifiers (sometimes called affordances) is a big one in the user experience (UX) world, and in conversion.
When we’re talking about signifiers in web design, we’re generally talking about making elements on a page look like what they’re meant to be used for.
In other words: A button needs to look like a button.
Users need to identify it quickly as an element to click in order to initiate an act.
So, would a first time visitor coming to your page absolutely know which elements are clickable? Or would they be like Ariel when she found a fork, naively guessing at what to do:
Buttons are easier to click when we know they’re clickable.
This is why grey buttons are generally poor for conversion — they look disabled, so a lot of visitors won’t know they’re even allowed to click them.
In fact, the largest blue ‘button’ isn’t a button at all. But it sure looks like one, doesn’t it? All those buttons weren’t helping visitors understand what they should click on.
We tested a single, obvious call to action – one that had all the signifiers of a button, including the image of a cursor on it — against the control.
The following treatment created a 45% boost in account starts:
While you may not have body copy in something that appears like a button, you may have the inverse on your site: buttons that do not signify “Click Me.”
Can people easily identify the primary call to action on each page of your site? Is that call to action easy to acquire (e.g., large enough)? Does it bear signs suggesting clickability?
Consider the following:
- A 3D effect
- A contrasting, non-grey color
- Feedback on hover (e.g., different color)
- Whitespace around it
- An arrow pointing to it with instructional copy
Your designer might really want a flat-design button. But before you hop on the flat-design trend … test.
4. Write button copy in the first person
A great rule of thumb when writing a call to action is to make your button copy complete this sentence:
I want to ________________