3 Tests to Create Compelling Call To Action Buttons

Are you going to sign up for an email newsletter when the Call to Action button says “submit?”

Do you really want your visitors to "submit?"

Do you really want your visitors to “submit?”

If you think about the word literally, what’s your reaction?  It probably isn’t “YES I want to submit… I need to submit. Watch me grovel on the floor before you, and submit to your superior knowledge!!! “

And it’s not just the wording on your Call to Action button that may need work. How is the color, or the design? Could they be improved?  Here’s the quandary.  Do you just arbitrarily make a decision and change the button, or do you find out what your visitors think?

Go for a test.  Let your visitors show you the button that works the best for them.

Testing your Call to Action button, for your newsletter or email sign-up, doesn’t have to be complicated. 

 Here are three simple tests you can perform to maximize your sign-ups.

  1. Test the color of your button
  2. Test the shape of your button
  3. Test the wording on your button

Your button color needs to stand out on the page and draw visitor’s eyes. 

Some button colors blend in and are hard to distinguish.  Some are so bright that they become a distraction.  When you test your button color, you let your visitors show you which color is the most effective.  Even if you think you’ve got the perfect color, testing will confirm that for you.

If your current button is a red-orange, try an equally vivid green.  If it’s gold try a red-orange.  If it’s red try a bright blue or gold.  Adjust the color of the lettering according to the color.  In some cases black will stand out better than white. You want to be sure that there is enough contrast between the font color and the button color that people don’t have to strain to figure out the words.  Color is just one element that draws the eye; we quickly perceive unusual shapes as well.

Try an asymmetrical shape - or use circles and squares together.

Try an asymmetrical shape – or use circles and squares together.

When visitors scan a page, their eyes pick up anything that has an unusual shape.

Symmetry is everywhere in nature and we find it pleasing and comforting.  When something on the page is not symmetrical the eye notices and is drawn to it. Changing the shape of your button so that it is asymmetrical can help it get noticed.

If your current button is square, try rounding one end of it or adding an arrow image at the beginning or end of it. If your current button has rounded corners, shape one end into a point, square it off, or add a contrasting color image at one end.

Shape and color draw the eye, but it’s the words that engage people and cause them to act.

Words are powerful motivators.

Once you’ve attracted your visitor’s attention, you need to give them a reason to click. Your button is never neutral.  It either motivates people to move forward or causes them to pause, think it over and possibly not act.

Change the wording on your button - instead of "submit" try "sign-up"

Change the wording on your button – instead of “submit” try “sign-up”

See what happens if you change a word like “submit to “Sign me up” for a newsletter or email list or   “Call Me Soon” for a form where visitors expect a call back.  Think about what visitors hope to get by signing up and reinforce that message on the button.  Getting started is easy.

Try a completely new button for your first test. 

Test all 3 elements, color, shape and wording, at the same time vs. the original button, just to see if you’re on the right track. Then on subsequent tests, test just one element at a time; different wording or just a color change.

Testing opens up a conversation between you and your customers that’s based not on their opinions but on their behavior.  Learning what motivates your audience will help you improve your website in ways that would otherwise not be possible.  Things like:

  • What messages work?
  • Does your audience resonate to certain colors?
  • Do certain designs work better than others?

We need to introduce a reality check here: not all messages work, and not all new designs are a huge success.

What if you’re new button is a complete flop? 

We all hate being wrong. And worse, when you’re testing your Call to Action button, if you get it wrong, you’re losing potential customers that you probably will never get back.

Always remember, you’re not locked into a test for a set period of time. You have complete control and can stop any test at any time.  Getting disastrous results stop the test immediately. Figure out what went wrong and try again.

Most tests are not that dramatic though. At times what starts as the winning variation can quickly become the losing variation as more people test out the changes.  The key thing to remember is that unless the test is really harming your business; let it run until you have reached statistical significance.

Even if your ideas don’t pan out like you expect, you will have a much better idea, after the test, what your potential customers like and don’t like.

A test with results that don’t go the way you expect can sometimes leave you not wanting to test further. You can doubt your ability to gauge what’s important to your visitors or believe that one test confirms what you’ve thought all along – that your original version is the best there is.  That may prove ultimately to be true, but more tests are needed to confirm.

The biggest testing mistake occurs at both extremes.

If your first test is a complete bust, the tendency is to stop . The thinking goes like this, “This button represented my best new ideas. Clearly my visitors like my current button…why test anything else?”  At the other extreme, if your first test produced an unqualified win, you don’t’ test again because you’ve found the “winner.”

In both cases more tests are warranted.  Big wins can be the beginning of an even bigger win, while losing tests can be rejiggered to become winners.

Take a step back and analyze what you’ve learned about your visitors from the test.  Use that information to design your next test.  Build on your knowledge to keep improving not only the page your testing, but your entire website.

 Start testing and find out what really motivates your visitors to click on your Call to Action button.

 Create a new button incorporating a new design, color and wording. Test it against your current button and see what you learn.  I think you’ll be amazed.


  1. What a great post Marty!!! I love testing my buttons. Different ones on different pages. Or using a plugin to rotate the different versions and then having it show the top rated version after a while only. It really helps take the guess work out of the testing process.
    Clint Butler recently posted…How Often Should You Blog?My Profile

  2. Really great post, Marty!

    I’m curious if you’ve seen more success with certain types/formats/colors/layouts of buttons, and if you’ve seen the ‘actionability’ of certain buttons change in different sites/industries?

    • Thanks Eric – For colors we’ve seen green move ahead of orange or red-orange recently in the tests we’ve done – provided that you don’t have a clash of colors. After color, the button wording makes the most difference. If you can reinforce what it is they’re clicking to get to that’s going to be the best. So even for a newsletter something like “sign me up” is much better that “send” or “submit” Marty
      Marty Diamond recently posted…3 Tests to Create Compelling Call To Action ButtonsMy Profile

  3. Hi Marty,
    very helpful suggestions!
    I love the pictures of the buttons on this post. Did you create them?
    Which program did you use?
    The point you are making about the wording makes a lot of sense, especially in regards to ‘submit’.
    Thank you so much for sharing this!
    Yorinda recently posted…How coconut oil may benefit your healthMy Profile

    • HI Yorinda – I wish I had – no I got the buttoms from iStockphoto – a stock photo site I use a lot. We work with a designer who creates our buttons for us and our clients – that way you can get the color gradations that work with your site. If you’re good with Photoshop or a similar program – you certainly could get the basic design you like from one of the stock photo sites and just re-color it in photoshop to get to the colors that you want. Marty
      Marty Diamond recently posted…3 Tests to Create Compelling Call To Action ButtonsMy Profile

  4. What a great article, Marty, thank you. One of the first pieces of software I ever bought was a button creator, so I could change the wording on my buttons.

    I was ecstatic when my them I use now offered the ability to created custom buttons because I absolutely agree for those folks who are literalists, I have zero desire to click a button marked submit.

    There are lots of others I simply shake my head at when I see them, but they might very well be working for the people who use them. Something simple indicating why you are clicking a button, a nice contrasting color, and a decent thank you page (uncluttered with gobs of garbage) seem to be 3 really excellent things to test. 🙂
    Michael Shook recently posted…Boston Marathon BombingMy Profile

  5. Marty,

    Such a great idea! Try different call to Action buttons and then test which ones work and which ones do not! And the ideas and examples you have with different shapes and colors are really great! I plan on rebuilding my site in a month or so and I will definitely take not just the opt-in box, but the the call to action button into account.

    Thanks so much!

    ~ Jupiter Jim
    Jupiter Jim recently posted…WordPress Sites Hacked!My Profile

  6. I don’t know the first thing about call to action buttons… including where to get one. Maybe it doesn’t matter, since I am a network marketer, and not an internet marketer. But I do offer a free ebook, and would likely benefit from what you’ve said here.

    Willena Flewelling recently posted…Don’t Be the Reason Anyone QuitsMy Profile

    • Hi Willena – Your networking efforts are going to drive traffic to your website – when they come to your website you’d like for them to download your free e-book. You’ll want to make sure that each button they click to get to the download keeps encouraging them to move forward in the process – right up to the final one which could say “download your free ebook now!”
      Marty Diamond recently posted…Landing Page Love For Your Social Media Traffic My Profile

  7. Marty thank you for this post I have been pulling my hair for a long time trying to figure why my opt-in does not attract. One thing I have learned is to try a different shape and that my color should not blend in which I did on purpose not knowing better. I will change my call to action words to be more eye catching and test different ideas. Thank you so much
    Lydia Brown recently posted…The Value of Asking Prospects QuestionsMy Profile

  8. Great Post Marty! I have tested my opt in on my old blog. I started with submit and found that sign up now worked a lot better.. I do agree that testing is key. Great tips for those looking to attract people to sign up or in..
    Chery Schmidt recently posted…Should You Promote What You Do?My Profile

  9. I never thought of testing my call to action buttons although I know how important testing is Marty!
    I love the sign up button included in your post.
    Great suggestions and post thank you so much.
    Patricia Gozlan recently posted…Love: How to Break Out of Your Comfort Zone and Savor LifeMy Profile

  10. Hello Marty,
    Just come back from a short vacation from the B3 group and I must say, reading all your great suggestions made me feel right at home again.. Thanks so much.
    I do not use any of these lovely buttons (or any others for that matter since I do not use a landing page, not yet anyway:-) for certain when I need some support, this is the place to come back and you are the person to chat with…]
    Hope you will not mind and look forward to chat with you about them 🙂
    Thank you so much for sharing all what you have here.
    nick catricala recently posted…23 day meditation at the L.A. ashramMy Profile

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