Think you can guess which of the following call-to-action buttons generated 13 times more clicks than the other?
And The Winner Is... (Drumroll, Please)
If you guessed the second set of calls-to-action (CTA), you're absolutely right...but it was probably a lucky guess. The truth is, the only real way to know which CTA is going to have a better click-through rate on your website is to A/B test it.
Here at HubSpot, we used the first call-to-action button on our product pages for years because it performed fairly well. But recently, we made a slight update to that section of our website, and we did some A/B testing to make sure that the new pages performed as well as the older ones. We were pretty shocked to discover that the new call-to-action buttons and page yielded a 1300% improvement in click-through rate (CTR).
The moral of this story is simple: Always be testing. If there's one thing you can count on, it's that there is always an opportunity to increase the visit-to-lead conversion rate on your website. As such, regular A/B testing is a must.
6 Important Factors to Consider When A/B Testing CTAs
1. The Design of Your Call-to-Action
Should your CTA be large or small? Should it contain an image or not? Should it to look like a button or maybe an physical object? What's going to resonate best with your audience? Any of these several things can make a difference. Whenever you're creating new CTAs, you should always come up with several variations, and test them. In addition, if you have some CTAs on your site that you haven't changed in a while, you should consider testing them against a newer, fresher design.
2. The Color of Your Call-to-Action
CTA color can make a big difference. As a best practice, you want to use a color that will stand out, but experimenting with colors can go a long way. Specific colors can resonate differently with particular audiences. Red is a color that tends to stand out, but it can also have a negative connotation (i.e. stop, cancel, fail, etc.). If you happen to be a website that sells hot sauce, then red might be exactly the right color for you. Still, the only sure-fire way to know is to test it!
3. The Placement of Your Call-to-Action
Ideally, your CTA should be above the fold (i.e. near the top of the page so visitors don't have to scroll down to see it) and on the right-hand side. I've seen some pretty good results from moving buttons up and to the right, but you never know. Maybe you have content on the left side of your page that's drawing your visitors' attention. Or maybe you have the type of audience who wants to read to the bottom of your page before they make a decision. Test it to find out.
4. The Copy of Your Call-to-Action
The best practice here is to make sure your copy is action-oriented, but you can still even see big differences between two sets of actionable text that reads "Download this free guide" and "Get a Free Copy Today!" We did an experiment at HubSpot where we changed the text in our demo CTA from "Get a Free Demo" to "Request a Demo" and saw that the CTR on the button went down, but the conversion rate on our demo landing page actually went up!
5. The Conversion Rate of the Associated Landing Page
To follow up on that last point using the same example, if the goal of your call-to-action is to drive people to a landing page where they will must out a conversion form to become a lead, make sure you're also testing the conversion rate on that individual landing page. Not only do you want to drive more traffic to your landing page, but you also want to make sure that you're attracting people who are interested in your offer, product, or service. If you're CTA A/B test effectively increased its click-through rate but people are abandoning the landing page before filling out the form more than ever, you might have inadvertently created a disconnect between the CTA and the landing page. Maybe the messaging of your CTA doesn't match the landing page. Whatever the reason, it's important to solve for both CTA click-through rates and landing page conversions.
6. The Pairing
It's usually a good idea to give your visitors a couple of different CTA options per page. Pairing an entry level offer like a free ebook with a late stage offer like a demo or consultation will give your visitors a chance to self select, but it also may drive traffic away from your late stage offer. Including two late-stage offers could decrease the overall CTR but also increase your lead quality. Again, the only way to know for sure is to test.
How to Set Up an Effective A/B Test
There are a number of really great A/B testing software solutions out there (including HubSpot) that will allow you create and track clicks and conversions on two or more versions of a CTA or landing page that is randomly displayed to your visitors. This is by far the easiest way to do A/B testing, because all the heavy-lifting is taken care of for you. There are also other, more do-it-yourself ways to generate similar results.
Create unique landing pages, and track the traffic on each: If you don't have a way of tracking the clicks on your CTA buttons, then you'll need to make sure you create unique landing pages to send your different CTA traffic to. As long as a particular CTA is the only source of traffic to a given landing page, each page view on that landing page will mean you had a click on your CTA.
Run two versions of a CTA on similar pages: If the design of your website if fairly consistent, you can try to put different versions of your CTAs on pages that get similar amounts of traffic and see if one shows better results to determine if one CTA version is more effective than another (just remember to also send traffic from each CTA to a unique landing page).
Run different CTAs for a set time period: In this case, you could pick a page on your site, and run CTA "A" for a week, then replace it with CTA "B" for another week. At the end of each time period, compare the page views on the page you're testing with the page views on the landing page to get your click-through rate (100 page views on the landing page divided by 1,000 page views on the CTA page = a 10% CTR).
No matter how savvy a marketer you are or how much experience you have with your audience, testing is the only way to know for sure which types of calls-to-action is going to yield the best results.
Originally published Dec 27, 2011 9:00:00 AM, updated July 28 2017