By Paul Parcellin, Staff Writer
December 1, 2014

What's one of the biggest hurdles that online marketers face? Getting visitors to convert, especially the kinds of visitors that you most want to turn into leads.

The all-important element of landing pages is your call to action. That's the item on your page that tells visitors what to do next. If you have a strong call to action you will probably convert more visitors. A weak call to action can hurt your conversion rate.

Studies indicate that sometimes minor changes to a call to action can result in a higher conversion rate. The studies examined the improvements realized when some elements on a landing page were changed or enhanced, including the color of a button, value added to the call-to-action copy and tweaks made to the font color.

Here are some tips on creating great calls to action:

The Need for Calls to Action

You may be thinking, do I really have to tell visitors what to do? The answer is, a resounding "Yes, you do!" Even though their next step after landing may seem painfully obvious, that does not mean that visitors will see it as clearly as you do. Yes, they landed on your site and may be interested in something you are offering. But that does not mean that they'll take the next step and move along in the conversion process. If you want to put your best foot forward and make all of the conversions you can, you've got to get their attention and spell it out for them in clear, readable terms.

Actions They Should Take

The next step you want visitors to take might be leaving their email address, clicking a button for more information or choosing a product and placing it in their shopping cart.

Your landing page is the place where you're either going to convert a lead or lose him, so it's critical that you have a clear idea of what you want the visitor to do. Secondly, you must tell the visitor in the most persuasive terms you can muster, exactly what steps to take.

Use Clear Wording

You might think that using creative writing techniques will get the job done better, but you are probably mistaken. Visitors to your site are usually not looking for poetic interludes, but rather they're often in search of something more tangible. You have to communicate with your visitors and explain in concrete terms exactly what they must do. To accomplish this you must avoid using complicated wording and instead rely on short, declarative sentences.

If you want the visitor to click on a button, you will want to keep your wording simple and direct:

Don't: "There is a plethora of in-depth information at this source for those who want it.

Do: "Click here to learn more!"

The Good and the Bad

Notice that in the first example, the writer uses a lot of words, and that's usually a mistake. Your visitors are busy people, much like yourself, and they want you to get to the point. Remember, there are a lot of distractions that vie for the visitor's attention. He or she might be reading email, watching a video or listening to music while visiting your page. To stand out among the visual and audio clutter you've got to be clear and direct. Otherwise, you risk losing a prospect to other media sources that crowd into our personal spaces.

The second example is short, direct and blunt. It tells the visitor exactly what is expected of him or her and does it with clear, easy-to-understand words. Use that model for your call to action and you'll most likely see your conversion rate increase.

Location is Key

It's important to present a clear and readable message to your visitors, but that won't help you boost your conversion rate or get leads if they can't see your call to action. Placing the call to action below the fold - the bottom half of the page - makes it less likely that visitors will see it and respond in the way that you'd like. If you bury the call to action beneath a lot of content, or you surround it with items that are more visually striking than your all-important message, you'll probably lose out on getting the response you want.

Instead, place your call to action near the top of the page, where visitors are most likely to see it. In addition, you should make the call to action easy to respond to. If you surround your call to action link with other links you run the risk of losing your prospect - he or she may accidently click the wrong link and end up on another page. The easier you make it for the visitor to respond to your call to action, the more likely it is that you'll get more clicks and more leads.

Visual Contrast Helps

You may have followed all of the tips mentioned above, such as writing a clear, short and direct call to action. Perhaps you've also placed your call to action in an obvious place near the top of the page and made sure that it is not surrounded by other unrelated links. Yet, your call to action can still be difficult to see if you do not make use of contrasting colors, shapes and sizes when you design your page. The elements on the page, such as text, color, graphics and layout, can determine how visible your call to action will be to visitors.

Usually, it's best to give your call to action a lot of space. That means you should avoid crowding it with content that will distract from or obscure the message that you want to communicate.

Wonderful World of Color

Use color to make your call to action stands out. If you are using black type, put it on a white background to make the text pop out. Even if it's not the biggest element on the page your call to action should be the most visible item. In other words, if visitors have to scan the page for more than a second or two before they can find your call to action, you're doing something wrong. Test it with others to see how quickly they can find it and make adjustments until it's a beacon that draws in visitors.

Make your call to action stand out and you've gone a long way toward moving the visitor along the path to conversion and getting more leads.

Post Script

One way to find out whether or not your tweaks are doing a better job is by A/B testing the elements on your pages. Just as it sounds, A/B testing allows you to see how visitors respond to two or more version of the same content. You'll get a more timely reading on how your revised content stacks up against the original version, and there's no limit to the number of variations you can test. In fact, some in the testing game recommend that you do lots of tests before drawing any conclusions. If you collect too little data you run the risk of getting false positives, says marketing blogger Dan Shewan. "Test early, test often," he says.

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