Context and Content Are Kings: 3 Ways to Focus Your Calls to Action

This morning I was reading a post on the Travel 2.0 Blog that hit home. Troy Thompson wrote:

“Recently, I was asked to critique changes to an advertising campaign from a well-known tourism destination. While the creative was fine…amazingly not touting anything and everything…the call to action seemed, cluttered.

Perhaps that was because it featured not only the traditional website address and phone number, but also icons for Facebook, Twitter, YouTube, a blog (disguised as an RSS icon that few will understand) plus a QR code.”

Seven calls to action in one print piece! Thompson points out that watering down a strong call to action with six “extras” doesn’t provide more choice, it muddies the water for the user and scrambles your metrics.

This lesson isn’t just for print. On websites, there’s a tendency to offer everything to everyone at all times. Take the typical higher education website, for example. There’s usually semi-permanent placement of calls to action for applying, visiting campus and requesting information. There may also be callouts to promote social networks. In some sections (or everywhere), the school wants you to “give now.” The alumni section wants you to update your info or join an online community. And let’s not forget the ubiquitous share buttons, begging you to Like, Tweet or +1 every page you visit.

What action do you want your visitors to take? You can make a case for everything, but like the Travel 2.0 post said, seven calls to action is probably too many. So how do manage your calls to action?

How to Create Focused Calls to Action

It’s simple: let the context and content of the page guide you. Here are three ways to get started.

#1: Target the context for your call to action
In our higher education example, apply, visit and request information callouts should be seen only in prospect sections. Admission tools shouldn’t bubble over into the alumni or current student-focused content. Likewise, you don’t want a prospective student to be asked to donate to your capital campaign. It’s easy to design permanent calls to action that cascade across every single page of your website, but if your calls to action aren’t targeted, they are visual clutter.

#2: Make the connection between information and action
The second trick to focusing your calls to action is to put them close to the body of your content to indicate a relationship between the copy and the action. If a user is on a page describing first-year housing options, a contextual link to schedule a campus visit or view a virtual tour is more in line with what the he or she might want to do next, while also fulfilling your own conversion goals. A “Visit Campus” button designed into the header of your website won’t have the same contextual relevance as a callout nestled in the copy.

#3 Think “Mobile First”
Finally, think about your mobile site. If you had a limited screen size, what calls to action would you devote space to? Which ones would you cut?

Ready to tackle your calls to action? It’ll be worth it for your visitors—and your conversions.