The Simplest Way to Improve Your Call to Action Using A/B Testing

Which version of your web page or app converts better? Here are several ways to tell.

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By Zubin Mowlavi

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The reason entrepreneurs love testing so much is that reflects how the Digital Age makes it easier than ever to be an effective marketer: You no longer have to make your best guess at what will resonate with and convert customers; you can test your way to real-time, actionable results.

Related: How to Test Different Versions of Your Website in 6 Easy Steps (Infographic)

The tool? A/B testing, also known as split testing, compares the data from two versions of your webpage or app or -- the focus here -- your call to action (CTA) to learn which one performs better.

Yet, while it's possible to A/B test everything (and, for the best possible statistical and optimizational significance, you should), the reality is that most businesses don't have that kind of work/time investment available.

Add to that the proposition that you need to be able to test one changed element at a time -- or else you won't know what's making a difference -- and it's no wonder that proper A|B testing often gets shoved to the backburner -- despite the fact that it can boost conversions by as much as 25 percent.

The good news is, even the smallest things can make a big difference when it comes to A/B testing, and it's usually those little things that help bolster the rest of your testing and optimization endeavors. So, where's the simplest place to start? Look no further than your humble Calls to Action.

Here are three things to keep in mind when drafting new CTAs to test.

1. Inspire action.

Submit Now. Download Whitepaper. Visit Hogwarts. It isn't called a Call to ACTION for nothing. Remember: You're asking customers to do something; your copy should not only give direction, but should also hint at what they can expect to get out of this exchange. In fact, adding just one word after "Submit" on a button can boost conversion rates by as much as 320 percent!

When writing your CTA, lead with a verb, and don't be afraid to tailor it to your brand or target audience. While "Sign Up" is a perfectly acceptable and universally understood form of action, you should jazz it up, depending on the expectations of your industry or customers.

Try out more fun or specialized actions, like "Stay Connected," "Get the Scoop" or "Be More Awesome," and see what attracts the most interest. Also, experiment with adding copy that expresses a sense of urgency or highlights your unique value prop (Get A Free Quote Now); this might be the bit of subliminal encouragement that folks need to take that all-important next step.

2. Keep it simple.

When you've got a customer just one click away from conversion, the last thing you want to do is offend or confuse him (or her). So, while fun CTAs may stand out, keep in mind that there is such a thing as being too clever -- and that that goes for your copy, layout and button design.

In other words, make simplicity a priority, and test variations to find out exactly what that means to your target audience. Start with best practices (which usually tag effective CTA copy at two-to-five words, max), and then challenge yourself to present the simplest of directions in new ways: more/less descriptive copy, varying button sizes, difference color schemes, etc.

This exercise will require you to be especially mindful about the context you provide before you ask customers to act, and to focus on the most intuitive experience for your specific user (you can't expect people to "Sign Up Now" before they've had a chance to learn about whatever it is you want them to sign up for).

Related: The Case Against A/B Testing at Early-Stage Startups

3. Make it personal.

Writing CTA copy in the first person -- that is, changing "Make Your Profile" to "Make My Profile" -- also helps to frame the whole experience (including what you're asking users to do) as if it were designed especially for your customer's wants and needs. While personal pronouns don't seem like much, they can create a nuance that can make a big difference. In fact, Michael Aagard of Content Verve found that switching button copy from second person to first person resulted in a 90 percent increase in clicks!

Even if first-person copy seems like something that is out of place with your brand or vertical, it's one of the easiest copy tweaks you can test -- and, honestly, you have nothing to lose in testing it out. (a 90 percent increase in clicks, anybody?)

The truth with all testing -- but especially A/B testing -- is that you really never know what will resonate best until you test . . . and retest . . . and test some more. In fact, the more you test, the more you'll realize that you can almost never assume what will or will not work, no matter how well you think you know your brand or customers.

That's why in-depth A/B testing never ends; there's always a new style of layout, color scheme, banner or button size that might bridge the gap between abandonment and conversion. Luckily, strategically placing those hard-working CTAs, emails or ads around your website is one small, easy change that can potentially change a lot. So, get started!

Related: So, What's the 'X-Factor' in the A/B Testing Formula? (Infographic)

Need some extra help in covering all your A|B testing bases? Connect with us! (See what we did there?)

Zubin Mowlavi

Entrepreneur, Musician, Investor

Zubin Mowlavi is an entrepreneur, musician and innovator. He is the founder of Lucid Fusion, a full-service digital agency, co-founder of LFPR, a full-service public relations firm, co-founder of myStorey, a social commerce startup, and Departure, an electronic dance band. 

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