Koozai > Blog > Driving Conversions: A Guide to Call to Action Buttons

Driving Conversions: A Guide to Call to Action Buttons

| 7 minutes to read

It comes as no shock that earlier this year it was predicted $19.5bn would be spent on SEO and PPC in 2012 and that this investment would continue to increase further in the years to come.  But I ask myself whether this investment is really worth your time and money if your site doesn’t lead to conversions?

I believe the two go hand in hand; it’s all well and good having a site which converts well but without top ranking positions the users going to your site are minimal in comparison with the potential, but similarly there’s no point getting users to your site if you instantaneously lose them upon arrival.

There are many resources available on the internet offerings things you can implement in an attempt to increase the conversion rate of your site, but I’m going to look at why one of the most prominent methods is effective in the first place; the call to action (CTA) button.  A CTA button can often be the make or break point for conversion rates.  This is demonstrated by the story of the $300,000,000 Million Button, whereby a simple change to CTA button was able to save a company $300,000,000 they were previously losing on abandoned shopping carts.

Influencing Human Behaviour

Website users convert due to the following equation:

Behaviour = motivation x ability x trigger

This equation was coined by Dr B J Fogg.  In simple terms, the user has to want to convert, you need to make conversion easy to do and finally supply a prompt that will encourage your users to take action.

The easiest way to do this is present motivated people with a clear prompt; a CTA button.

90% of human activity is determined by our subconscious; therefore, I am going to look at what elements can be manipulated to stimulate our subconscious to result in a conversion through the use of a CTA button.


The placement of your CTA button is important.  It is a common the company logo in the top left-hand corner and your CTA button in the top right.  However, based on research, website users scan sites in an F shaped pattern. Therefore it would make sense to place your CTA button in the top left so it’s the first thing users sees, right?

The current common layout may serve purpose in the present, but it is likely this will need to change in the future due to the concept of Banner Blindness. Websites which placed their CTA buttons in the banner previously had high conversion rates.  This occurs because users have become aware where to expect to see CTAs so they now avoid viewing banners.  This decreases the Click through Rate (CTR) of websites with their CTA buttons placed in the banner.

Following this pattern, and making an educated guess, I would  suggest it won’t be long before users expect to see CTA buttons in the top right-hand corner.  Once users become aware of this, they will avoid viewing the top right-hand corner as much as they avoid viewing the banner.  As mentioned above, 90% of human behaviour is due to the subconscious stimulation; therefore, this influence is lost once they become aware. So, why wait until your CTRs drop before moving your CTA button? Break the mould, make the most of F shape viewer patterns and be ahead of the game!

Red and Yellow and Pink and Green…

The concept of colour is often talked about in terms of a small element contributing to a successful CTA button but I would argue that it is actually the most important factor. Whilst it is important in terms of making the button stand out on a page, it can also have other implications.  Our basic neurological needs for stimulation can be evoked by different colours due to the specific responses they cause in our brains.  For example, red is a common colour associated with danger, however, when the colour red is processed the brain causes adrenaline to be released which, as a response, raises our heart rates and blood pressure stimulating arousal.

As digital marketers we are able to use this neurological arousal to our advantage.  For example, consider using the colour red for a CTA to avoid users over thinking their decisions to convert. Instead the react more impulsively and urgently due to the rush of energy which is stimulated.

This can be demonstrated simply by viewing a colour spectrum, move your eyes from red to blue and notice how you’re your feelings change. This change may be minute, but that is because you are aware of the colour you are processing.  Subconsciously view it in context and the effects are far more vivid.

It is important to attribute the colour and it’s responses to the call to action you require, not your overall brand.  For example, if you want a ‘hard action’ (buy, subscribe etc.) to be carried out then red or orange will be more effective due to the increase in heart rate, sense of urgency and aggressiveness which needs to be stimulated; whereas as a ‘soft action’ (Contact for More Info etc.) the colour blue may be more appropriate as it stimulates the sensation of trust i.e. the information they will receive as a result will be truthful and transparent.

Taking this into account I would suggest using different colours for calls to action on different pages. For example, a car insurance company may benefit from using a blue CTA when encouraging users to ‘Get a Quote’ but a red CTA for ‘Buy Quote’.


The shape of your CTA button can also have implications on the way your users interpret the conversion you want them to undertake.  For example, humans view circles as enclosed shapes, therefore we interpret CTAs in circular buttons as one off transactions, i.e. ‘buy now’ – you only pay once. Rectangular shapes are seen as a fixed period transaction, i.e ’30 free trial’ and arrow call to actions are seen as ongoing transactions i.e. ‘subscribe now’.

Therefore it is important to consider the duration of your conversion and shape your CTA button accordingly.  A mismatched shape and duration can cause yours to experience cognitive discomfort, discouraging them to convert.

Clear Surrounding Space

As humans we cannot focus our attention on two things simultaneously.  Some people believe they are very good at multi-tasking and spreading their attention amongst two activities, but in actual fact what they are really good at is swapping their attention filters from one activity to another very quickly.  It is impossible for a human being to have two filters in place at one point.  This can be demonstrated by a number of studies including, Cherry (1953) who got participants to listen to different messages in each ear.  Only one message was able to be recalled.

The purpose of surrounding your call to action by blank space is to eliminate the necessity of your user switching attention filters.  You are unable to predict the environment in which a user is viewing your website, therefore, there may be other factors drawing upon their attention.  Avoid creating even more unnecessary competition for your CTA.

Too Much Choice.. Can Not Cope.. *Combusts*

Our attention is regulated by the Reticular Activating System (RAS) which filters out the important information from that which doesn’t matter to us.

When we feel things require equal amounts of attention, we must make a decision which of these we pay attention to.  All too often on websites we see pages with multiple contact methods (CTAs), some often repeated twice or more on the same page.  In order to make a decision, users seek clear contrasts – if this differentiation isn’t obvious (which function should I choose: phone number 1, Phone Number 2, Email 1, Email 2 or the contact form?) it creates confusion, leading to cognitive discomfort.

As human beings, we seek obvious choices to ensure certainty in the decisions we are making.  This reduces the discomfort caused by thinking we have made the incorrect decision.  When the choice isn’t definitive we tend to avoid making a decision at all.  This is why websites with multiple CTAs suffer from lower conversion rates.

Click Click and You’re Done

It is important to remember that a CTA button is simply one element which effects conversion rate and that it must be used alongside other elements to ensure high conversion rate.

However, I think it is often misconceived that as long as there is a CTA button present on each page of your website, then you’re sorted.  As this blog post proves that’s not the case.  For a successful conversion rate it is important to consider the following:

  • Placement
  • Shape
  • Colour
  • Surrounding
  • And finally, obviousness

I will be interested to know whether you think there are any other factors which need to be considered when designing a CTA button?

Image Credit:

Buy Now Icon from Bigstock

Colour Spectrum from Bigstock



  1. Daniel Waas avatar

    Hey Gemma, good advice, but I feel the post would be even better if you could show some sample CTAs for each aspect you describe!

    1. Gemma Holloway avatar

      Thank you for your comment Daniel – I will take this into account when writing my next post and be sure to use real life examples to emphasise my points.

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