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The Four C’s of a Website Call to Action

Inspiring action (aka conversion) starts with your website's call to action. And well designed calls to action follow the Four C’s.

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by Eric Sharp

Generating qualified traffic to your website is hard work.

Are you taking advantage of it?

You’ve targeted your ideal customer and they’ve arrived on your website, ready to engage with your brand and learn more about how you can help them solve their problems.

Website Call to Action

Have you specifically planned on the types of actions you’re trying to inspire?

Maybe it’s a purchase, download, or filling out a form?

Inspiring action (aka conversion) starts with your website's call to action. And well designed calls to action follow the Four C’s:

  1. Clear
  2. Concise
  3. Contextual
  4. Compelling

What is a Website Call to Action?

Let's start with the basics.

A call to action, or CTA, is an element on a website (typically a button) that tries to encourage a specific action from a user.

You might like this quick video:

A well designed call to action will either:

  1. convert an anonymous user into a known contact (e.g. Name, Email)

  2. steer a user to a specific page that’s crucial in your sales cycle

Some popular website CTAs

  • SIGN UP FOR OUR (Newsletter, Blog Digest)

  • GET OUR (Guide, White Paper)

  • BUY (Today, Now)

  • DOWNLOAD (Webinar, Ebook)

  • FREE (Consultation, Demo)

  • CONTACT (Us, Our Team)

Following the “Four C’s”

A call to action's Four C's borrows from the more commonly known Four C's of the diamond industry (Img credit)

If you’re hunting for a practical guide to evaluate your website’s calls to action, borrow and improvise on a commonly know one from the diamond industry — the “Four C’s”.

Knowing the Cut, Clarity, Color and Carat Weight of a diamond helps consumers (and newly married men like myself) further their understanding and maximize their investment.

In similar fashion, applying these modified Four C’s to your website’s CTA will improve user understanding and help your company maximize its investment.

  1. Clear
  2. Concise
  3. Contextual
  4. Compelling

Defining the Four C’s

1. CLEAR

The average person visits about 10 different websites every day (~100 per month) with each visit lasting less than a minute. Though your website’s data could vary, the point here is that user attention and time are finite. Your website will immediately compete for both because digital overload and fatigue is a reality for all people.

Your CTA should be clear about the action you’re trying encourage. Don’t make them hunt for it, but don’t let it smother their experience.

A clear CTA says “Hey, I’m right here when you’re ready." Not, “LOOK AT ME WOOO-HOOO!”

2. CONCISE

Getting cute, wordy or overly creative with your call to action will disrupt what I call the “natural flow of conversion”. The copy needs to be concise and use specific language.

By overthinking, you risk disrupting a user’s decision-making process that should flow naturally.

This CTA’s copy will force a user to think twice before clicking This copy is concise & uses specific language

This copy is concise & uses specific language

3. CONTEXTUAL

Ensuring your website call to action has context is twofold.

First, they should use what Jared Spool calls trigger words (words or phrases that “trigger” the user into acting). Secondly, your website should have more than one CTA so it appeals to every stage of the sales cycle. What call to action goes on which page is the context you’ll want to map out.

This CTA shows rates for Shell Creek resort contextually to an adjacent blog post AND uses trigger words (“BEGIN RESERVATION”)

4. COMPELLING

Design is an exercise in creating or suggesting contrasts and a compelling call to action utilizes contrast to create focus, space and dominance — principles of visual design.

Before hiring us, our client MolluscumRx was a classic example of a website missing a compelling CTA.

Can you find their Call to Action?

Oh there it is — generically treated as “Order” in the navigation (concise, but certainly not compelling!)

Their new website, with redesigned CTA (also notice copy change from “Order” to an actionable “Buy Now!”)

By applying proper contrast (e.g. color, size, space) their new CTA is now compelling (and increased conversion rate by 150%)

Will it make a difference?

Applying “C” rules to calls to action is certainly not an unchartered topic. I’ve seen Three C’s here — insightful source that inspired my Four C’s.

I think our industry seeks to theorize best practices for calls to action because we can see firsthand how it impacts a company’s bottom line. The increasingly number of tools and services that offer A/B Testing and Conversion Optimization are proof that it deserves a substantial notch in the user experience design tool belt.

Ensuring your calls to action are Clear, Concise, Contextual and Compelling will not only make a difference, they could be a complete game changer for your business in the sales, leads and new contacts they could generate.

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We help mid-sized B2B Technology companies generate qualified leads and improve sales efficiency.

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