Are you letting your visitors wander around your website without any guidance? Do they have to decide for themselves what page to click on next? Do you have “dead-ends” that are sending valuable visitors away?

If you’re not using calls to action effectively, the answer is probably yes.

“Call to Action” (also referred to as CTA) is the marketing term for something so incredibly simple and equally effective: just asking someone to do something.

In fact, it seems so simple that a lot of people skip it altogether. But the next logical step to take while browsing through your website is not nearly as obvious to your visitors as it is to you.

If you skip out on calls to action, the majority of your website visitors may never take the steps you most want them to (like subscribing to your email list or sharing your content with friends).

So calls to action are incredibly useful and can up the effectiveness of your website right away. But it gets even better. Putting calls to action in place on your website is easy. That’s right: nothing techy or complicated or expensive. All you need is a few basic principles to guide your efforts and, viola, you’re ready to go.

Call to Action Rule #1: Value

The very first rule of effective calls to action happens to be the very first rule of getting anyone to do anything online: show the value in doing it.the very first rule of getting anyone to do anything online: show the value in doing it.CLICK TO TWEETPowered By CoSchedule

What will your visitor get out of following your call to action? On Copyblogger’s homepage, they tell people exactly what sort of value they’ll get from registering for their content library with three compelling bullet points. Then they make it really clear that people can get all that value for free.

Don’t just ask your visitors to do something – tell them why they should do it. What’s in it for them?

Call to Action Rule #2: Urgency

Procrastination, in my unverified opinion, effects roughly 99.8% of people. It’s in our nature. It’s in your prospect’s nature. We put things off, we go back and forth, we delay action taking.

This is a big problem for you (and me), because most visitors to your website won’t hang out for very long, so you need people to take action on your requests right away.

Urgency can give people the nudge they need to stop procrastinating and take immediate action. One great way to add urgency to a CTA is with a deadline.

For example, calls to action to sign up for a webinar or a live event, or to register for a limited time offer are great opportunities to cash in on the benefits of a deadline.

But not all calls to action have a deadline. You can still imply urgency for evergreen actions with the right language. In this example, the word “now” adds immediacy:

And here, the phrase “reserve my spot” encourages visitors to RSVP pronto:

Call to Action Rule #3: Action

Calls to action are obviously there to prompt action (the name totally gives it away, right?). But that isn’t always obvious to our visitors unless we use actionable language in our copy.

Get people moving by using enticing action verbs or specific task-related prompts. For example, you could replace the over-used and totally boring ‘click here’ call to action with something more specific or enticing like ‘download your free guide’ or ‘give me my eBook’.

Check out QuickSprout’s ultra-specific call to action in this sidebar opt-in:

Call to Action Rule #4: Simplicity

Loading your calls to action down with all sorts of value and actionability and urgency is important – but it won’t do you a lot of good if your visitors can’t spot it, process it, and make a decision on it within a few seconds.

Everyone’s in a hurry – so complicated websites and, naturally, complicated calls to action tend to get ignored. Your CTA absolutely must be simple to understand and act on.

Boil your copy down to the essential parts – how can you convey your message in fewer words? Simpler words? This isn’t about being poetic, it’s about getting your point across as quickly and painlessly as possible.

On, they use a check list and some snappy copy to convey their message quickly and easily:

Call to Action Rule #5: Attention

Your call to action is probably the most important element on your page. It’s the end game – the thing you most want someone to do after viewing the particular content on that page.

So that importance should be obvious in a visual way to your visitors. You can make your call to action stand out by using attention-grabbing design elements: a bright button, a box, an arrow or other image.

At the end of blog posts, we use this colorful box to pull reader’s attention to our opt-in call to action:

Call to Action Rule #6: Consistency

Consistency helps create a seamless experience for your visitors. People (including, I’m sure, you and me) are weary of getting duped online – of some slick marketing trick getting them to sign up for something they don’t really want.

Little things can trigger our suspicion or confusion. For example, if a call to action looks a certain way and talks about certain things and then leads me to a page that looks totally different and uses completely different copy, I’m going to feel like I ended up in the wrong place or that something fishy is going on.

To make sure your visitors don’t experience this, consistency is vital. This has a lot to do with design: colors, fonts, and the general look and feel of your CTA elements should line up with the elements on the page your visitors end up on. It also has to do with the words you use. Headlines, bullet points, and body copy should sound familiar to what they read in your call to action. Take a look at this example from HubSpot. The call to action in the side bar of the blog looks like this:

When you click on the “Yes I am!” button, it takes you to this page:

Notice how the colors and fonts are the same? The call to action in the side bar asked about ‘marketing software’ and the very first thing you see on the landing page is a headline that also mentions ‘marketing software’. These consistencies help people immediately recognize that they are in the right place.

Now take action!

Use the guidelines above to create brilliant CTAs on your own website. There’s no excuse for letting visitors wander around aimlessly or drop off your website without a so much as a clear offer on what they could do instead. If you have any hot tips on creating calls to action that drive results, share them with us in the comments below!