11 characteristics of persuasive call-to-action buttons

Posted on September 29, 2015
6 min read


What’s the main goal of your site?

What’s the main goal of your site?

To sell products? Generate leads? Get sign ups?

If you want to get users to take a specific action, then designing persuasive call-to-action buttons is critical.

Whether you’re using them on pricing pages, product pages, landing pages, or your blog, well-designed CTA buttons are going to help you get more people to do what you want them to do.

Why do some CTA’s compel you to click while others get ignored?

Unfortunately, there’s no universal template that works better than everything else. What works for one site might not work for yours.

But there are guiding principles you can follow to figure out what works best for your product, audience, and business model. In this article, I’m going to break down the 11 characteristics of persuasive call-to-action button. Let’s jump right in.

1. They’re compelling

The most important aspect of your CTA button is the copy.

It has to compel people to click on it, and the best way to do this is by appealing to their self-interest. So make sure you clearly state exactly what your visitor will get if they click your CTA.


2. They’re clear and concise

Your CTA button copy should be brief, and it should get right to the point. HubSpot recommends using no more than 5 words.

Examples of clear and concise CTAs


3. They’re action-oriented

Your CTA button should begin with an action verb like ‘Get’ or ‘Download.’ Jared Spool calls these “trigger words.” For example:

  • Get my free quote
  • Download now
  • Open my account
  • Go to checkout
  • Get exclusive access

Instead of barking orders at them, substitute words like “submit” or “sign up” with words like “get” or “try.” Give them a good reason to take the action you want them to take.

If you’re having a hard time figuring out what your button copy should say, try this thought experiment from UX Booth:

If you asked your user what she was trying to do, what would she say?

If you think she’d say, “I want to compare the price,” then your CTA button should be “Compare the price.”

4. They speak in the first person

In a test run by Michael Aagaard (Unbounce’s Senior Conversion Optimizer), he found that changing CTA button copy from the second person (i.e. Get your free template) to the first person (i.e. Get my free template) resulted in a 90% lift in click-through rate.


Why does the first person work so well? Because it presents the action from the point of view of the user. So if you plan on using the second person, try testing it against the first person to see which one works better for your audience.


5. They create a sense of urgency

People tend to want what they can’t have (like this study illustrates). We place a higher value on things that will soon be unavailable to us, and a lower value on what’s available in abundance.

It’s basic supply and demand: as availability decreases, demand increases. The less there is of something, the more valuable it becomes. And you can see some great results by implementing this principle into your CTAs.

Udemy does a great job of this in their email marketing by offering discounted courses for a limited time.


You might not be able to use this scarcity tactic all the time, but you can create a subtle sense of urgency even if you just add the word “now” to your CTAs (like the example above).

6. They include extra information (if necessary)

Sometimes you might need to add an extra bit of information in order to set the right expectations for your visitors, and to reduce their anxiety about taking the action. Examples might include:

  • Testimonials, reviews, or tweets
  • Money back guarantees
  • Objection-reducing info (i.e. no credit card needed to get started)
  • Important benefits (i.e. free 2-day shipping)

Copyblogger calls these “click triggers.” And while they’re not always necessary, sometimes they can really improve CTRs.


7. They’re impossible to miss

Even if you’ve crafted compelling CTA copy, it won’t matter if nobody sees your button. That’s why you need to make sure your button is impossible to miss. It should be large enough to see from a distance, but not so large that it looks obnoxious on the page.


If you’re not sure if your button’s big enough, put it through this test: Pull it up on your computer, then walk to the other side of the room (about 10-15 feet away). You should be able to easily see button from there. If you can’t, you need to make it bigger.

8. They use a contrasting color

Designers and marketers always seem to be looking for the highest converting color, but there’s no universal color that’s best for conversions. People are more likely to notice (and remember) something that stands out from everything else around it.

The CTA button color that really grabs people’s attention is the one that contrasts from the color scheme of the rest of the page (while still fitting in with the overall color palette).

Examples of contrasting CTA buttons




9. They’re easy to find

If your visitor is ready to take the next step, they shouldn’t have to hunt to find your CTA button. It should be placed where your users are going to look next—in the most obvious place, they would expect it to be.

Never make your users backtrack in order to find your CTA. Follow the natural user flow. If your visitor is filling out a form or reading product information, the CTA button should be right below the content they're interacting with.

This might seem obvious, but a lot of sites make this mistake. Even Apple places their CTA in a non-obvious location:


On longer pages where a lot of the information, you should add CTA buttons above the fold and at the bottom of the page. And depending on page length, you should also spread them throughout your content.

10. They don’t compete with other CTAs

People are less likely to take action when they’re presented with more choices. Psychologists call this choice overload.

The process of understanding all the information, evaluating the options, and comparing them against each other takes so much mental effort that it’s easier to just choose nothing and move on to something else.

The worst thing you can do is make your CTAs compete against each other for attention.


Ask yourself: what’s the #1 most important action I want people to take on this page?

The way you address the answer to this question will be different depending on the kind of page you’re designing for.

If you’re designing a landing page

Your motto should be “one page, one purpose.” Focus on getting users to take one specific action. basecamp-call-to-action-button

If you need to offer multiple CTAs

Sometimes you’ll have to include more than one CTA button on a webpage. For example, your homepage might have one button for signing up, and another button for signing in.

If you need to offer the user multiple things they can do, you should still guide them to the thing they should do—the most important task on the page.

Persuasive CTA buttons are prioritized. Use visual hierarchy to give weight to the most important conversion pathway. Your main CTA should always be the most visually striking while the others should be less attention-grabbing.


11. They get tested and optimized regularly

People always ask: what’s a good conversion rate? Here’s Peep Laja response:

A good conversion rate is better than what you had last month.

The only way to make sure your CTA buttons are as persuasive as possible is to test them regularly. Try changing the copy, size, color, placement, and style of your buttons. Even small changes can have a big impact.

A/B testing will tell you what works better, and user testing will tell you why.

Further reading

Making a CTA button is easy, but it takes skill to design a persuasive CTA that grabs people's attention and compels them to click. If you'd like to learn more about how to do it, check out the resources below:

In this Article

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