How to Split Test Your CTAs for Great Conversion Rates
As a direct response marketer, you can do everything right in your copy but still not get the conversion if your call to action is off.
Why? Because that moment of decision is usually the most stressful part for your customer–especially if you’re asking them to buy something.
The rest of the copy in your sales letter, email, or whatever it might be can hold your prospects’ attention and make them feel connected to your brand.
But it’s lower stakes because you’re not asking them to take action. That all changes during the critical moment of a call to action. Get this wrong, and you’ll lose buyers who are hesitant to take that next step.
This is one of the reasons why it’s so important to always split test your CTAs. They may seem subtle compared to longer sections of your copy like the headline and lead, but split-testing your CTAs is almost always the best place to start.
The reason is because it tends to improve conversions more than other tests WITHOUT risking a huge loss for sales.
For example, completely altering your lead is a significant change. And by doing that, you risk losing many conversions right off the bat. However, making slight changes to your CTAs is much less risky.
In this post, we’ll discuss exactly how you can optimize your CTAs for the highest number of conversions.
How to Split Test Your Calls to Action
Whenever you’re split testing your CTAs in direct response, you want to decide on ONE factor to test at a time. Choosing to test multiple changes right away won’t let you determine which variable is giving you results.
What this means is that split testing your CTAs is a constant and iterative process. It requires patience to figure out which CTA combo works best. But it’s absolutely worth the effort to test every variable one at a time because it can yield huge conversion boosts.
Let’s go over 4 specific factors you can split test.
The copy for your CTA should convey what happens next for your customer when they click. You want it to be clear and concise, but it’s a fine line to walk between concise and aggressive.
For example, “Buy now” creates urgency but it can also scare some customers who feel that’s too pushy. The truth is that no one knows for sure whether the copy for your CTA will work until you test a bunch of different options.
For customers in certain industries, a CTA like “Buy now” might work really well-especially if they need an immediate fix. Make sure you try different types of language in order to figure out what works best for your specific audience.
The words aren’t all that counts with CTAs. Different colors convey different messages and stir up different emotions. For example, warmer colors like yellow and orange evoke happiness whereas red evokes aggression and passion.
On the other hand, cooler colors like blue, green, and purple create a feeling of calmness. A general rule is that you want your CTA button color to contrast with the color of the rest of your copy.
Your CTA should stand out on the page since it’s the most important part. At the same time, though, you don’t want to overdo the contrast where it’s too blinding or unprofessional. As you can imagine, choosing the “right” color takes time and testing.
The next variable you can choose to test is the size of your CTA. As a general rule, you want your CTA to pop and be the main part of your page.
This usually means that you want to test larger CTA buttons. However, like any of the other variables, it’s a fine line.
A CTA that’s too big can come off as aggressive and off putting. And, especially as mobile search overtakes computer search, you need to make sure that the size of the button also looks smooth on mobile.
And the final variable to test is the location of your CTAs. As a direct response marketer, you probably place your CTAs in multiple spots.
You might have one after the lead, one right under the testimonials, a third at the bottom of the page, etc. And you might not know when the biggest buying moment is for your customers. It might be at the end of an emotional story you tell or after an especially moving testimonial. That’s why it’s so important to test your CTAs at various locations throughout the page.
Just like location, testing timing is vital. Having a CTA pop up 10 minutes into a video should convert differently to one 5 minutes in, and testing those differences is crucial for conversion rate optimization.
Now that you know the 4 main variables you can split test in your CTAs, remember to choose only one at a time. For example, you might compare a red versus green color for your first CTA split test. And then for the next one, you can compare more urgent copy with more benefit-driven language. The list goes on and on.
From here, you want to measure the results of your various split tests. The best way to do this is to first pick a specific date range. Then, during that time period, keep an eye on KPIs like views, clicks, and conversions. Once you determine the winner of a specific split test, you can then move on to test another variable.
Split testing your CTAs takes time and the optimization process is never really over. But prioritizing these seemingly simple split tests can yield massive results in the long run.
7 CTA Best Practices
Now that you know the 4 key variables to split test for your CTAs, let’s discuss 7 best practices that you can use for inspiration.
Keep Them Brief
CTAs are NOT the time to be wordy in order to get your point across. While long copy is a great way to qualify your buyers, concision is the answer here. Make sure your CTA is short and to the point about the next step for your prospect.
Any good direct response marketer knows the importance of selling benefits not features. Your prospects ultimately want to know “what’s in it for me?” and the CTA is your last chance to answer that question. For example, if I owned a garden design company, I might consider making one of my CTAs: “Create My Dream Garden Today.” It immediately creates a visual in my prospect’s mind and paints a picture of the benefit they’ll receive by clicking.
Humans are born procrastinators. We won’t act unless there’s a really good reason to. If we don’t feel a sense of urgency, we’ll rationalize and say: “Oh I don’t know. Maybe I’ll get to it tomorrow.” You want your CTAs to give your viewers a critical reason that they must act right away. For example, “Sign up now to receive your limited-time free bonus.”
Make it Pop
Your CTA should be the most noticeable part of the page. You want your viewers to feel immediately drawn to the button because of its aesthetic appeal and copy. Too many marketers make the mistake of confusing their prospects. If the next step isn’t clear, we’ll simply close out and move on to the next opportunity. Our attention spans are wired that way. Because of this, make sure your CTA immediately captures your prospects’ eyes–on desktop AND mobile.
One recurring theme of direct response marketing in 2022 is personalization. Gone are the days of mass marketing and here to stay is targeted, personalized connection. Prospects want to feel like you’re speaking directly to them. There are a number of ways to do this. For example, you can include their first name in a specific CTA. Or you can even use first-person language in your CTA like “I want more leads” so your prospect can easily relate it to themselves.
On any elite sports team, there’s a supporting cast of role players around the superstar. The same is true for your CTAs. You can think of your CTA as the superstar on the page, but make sure you have a strong supporting cast around your offer to nudge your prospects toward the next step.
Some supporting cast members include emotional testimonials directly above the CTA, copy below that creates confidence like “No credit card needed” or “100% money-back guarantee.” Remember, taking that next action is the scariest moment for your customer. You want to do everything in your power to ease their concerns.
Test, test, test!
And of course, no CTA should remain static. One of the cardinal rules of direct response marketing is that we always optimize and grow. Make sure you constantly split test your CTAs to bring more customers into your universe.
Even though we often sell the genuine “magic pill” fix to our prospects, split-testing your CTAs is not a quick solution. It’s an iterative process that takes time.
Because you can only split test one variable at a time in your CTAs, there’s always room for improvement. Patience is key in this game, but consistently split-testing your CTAs will optimize your conversion rate in the long run.