I’m not saying there’s nothing out there about CTAs and CTRs. There is tons of data. More numbers and percentages than I could shake a stick at are out there, but none of them was a direct answer to my question. I found stats on click-through rates for Google Ads and stats about CTAs in general. Like how placement on a page, personalizing the verbiage, improving the design, or making them simple and in-line with the copy has increased conversions by X percentages.
But nothing to answer my specific question: What’s a good click-through rate for a call-to-action?
I wanted to know the most basic data before any optimization actions take place. What should be your benchmark for performance? Ground zero. That’s what I wanted. BUT before we get into the numbers, let's first discuss what a CTA is and what they're supposed to do.
What does CTA mean?
CTA stands for Call-to-Action. At its core, a CTA should call users to action. That action should be to take the next most logical step down the funnel.CTAs can be used in a designed format, such as buttons or larger graphics, or in text format. They're usually placed on website pages, emails, and blogs.
Whether the user takes that next step is the difference between a killer call-to-action and a dud. It could be anything from small actions like subscribing to your blog or newsletter, to larger actions such as downloading a checklist, reading a case study, or taking a survey. It could even be as simple as "contact sales to request a quote." But, it has to be the most logical next step.
The Scientific Method
For my analysis, I looked at CTA data so far in 2019, about five months' worth. I looked at performance for each of our clients, and averaged the CTRs across the board, including CTAs with a zero percent click-through rate, to get the rawest data possible. I only included CTAs with at least 100 views in that time frame to exclude the hyper-niche, which always tends to have a good click rate.
I completed another calculation that removed the highest and lowest numbers for each client to eliminate any outliers that may skew the data up or down. When doing this, I did not include any zero percent numbers and started with the second-lowest actual number. For example, if a client had CTAs with 0.0, 0.1, and 0.2 percent, I started with 0.2 through the second-highest percentage.
I also calculated the median of each range, again excluding any CTA with a zero percent click rate. A median is another way to find a more reliable metric by looking at the number exactly in the middle of a range.
Into the Weeds
To get even more detailed, I also examined performance on three various types of CTAs:
Buttons: A simple background color with a short line of text, such as “Read More” or “Add to Cart.”
Text-Only: A simple text link of any length.
Designed: More complex designs that need to be either developed with CSS or uploaded as an image.
Then, I broke these types down into the following industries:
Automotive & Marine
Food & Beverage
My analysis revealed an exciting result. CTAs perform better than Google Ads. The average CTR for a call-to-action element is 4.23 percent across all industries. Here is a breakdown of average overall, average minus top & bottom (+/-), and average median click-through rates.
All Industries CTAs
Click any chart to open a larger version in a new window.
All Industries - CTR by Type
Breaking that down by CTA type, we see the following:
Button: 5.31 percent average click-through
Text: 2.06 percent average click-through
Designed: 3.53 percent average click-through
Clearly, simple button CTAs perform far better than the other types. However, that’s not to say button CTAs are the only way to go. Let’s break this down further by the highest and lowest click rates for each type.
All Industries - Highest Click Rate by CTA Type
While button CTAs have a higher average click-through rate, the highest across the board also belongs to a button CTA. Now let’s look at the lowest rates.
All Industries - Lowest Click Rate by CTA Type
Here, a text CTA had the lowest click-through rate across all industries, and a button CTA once again had the higher of the lowest click rates – or the best of the worst, for lack of a better term.
This tells us that text-based CTAs do not perform as well as other types. Perhaps they get lost in the page and users scroll by, thinking it's just another heading on the page. That said, these CTA types do perform consistently, but only when they lead to an offer that perfectly matches the page it's on. HubSpot does a great job at using these. In their post about professional bio templates, there's a text offer leading to example bio templates:
In comparison to buttons, a text-only link could be easily missed on the page, especially if it's not relevant. One possible reason for the stellar performance of buttons could be that they clearly stand out and users are forced to choose whether to click. A text-only link, on the other hand, could be missed on the page. When they are noticed, users tend to click more often.
Let's take a closer look at designed CTAs. One would presume that these would perform far better. They're larger and tend to stand out on the page. So, why are they in the middle of the pack when it comes to click-through rate? I reckon it’s due to a phenomenon called banner blindness. Users see a fancy image and assume it’s a banner advertisement, so they skip right over it. These also tend to be placed at the bottom of a page, where many sites place banner advertisements.
As you can see in the chart below, the financial, e-commerce, logistics, and real estate industries have the highest average CTRs while electrical, healthcare/medical, and technology are among the lowest.
Industry Breakdown - Average CTR
Here’s the same breakdown in a table format:
Automotive & Marine
Food & Beverage
Let’s take this a step further and see what the maximum and minimum click rates look like by industry. Looking at the extremes helps us draw conclusions about the nature of our calls-to-action and guide our decisions on where to focus optimization efforts. The range will almost always be closer to the max number. This is because maximum numbers tend to be one-off anomalies, and minimum numbers tend to be generic CTAs with lots of views.
Automotive & Marine
Food & Beverage
A smaller range means your max. and min. numbers are closer together, so try to get the range as close to zero as possible. Using the range as a benchmark metric is just one way to analyze performance over time.
Tips & Tricks for Creating Killer CTAs
Here are some tactics you can employ for CTAs with a lower-than-average CTR:
Remove generic CTAs from the homepage or footer (this isn’t always a good idea).
Add CTAs to more relevant pages.
Update the design or copy of CTAs.
Consider A/B testing with another variant.
For CTAs with a higher than average CTR, but lower submission rates, you need to look at the landing page they link to:
Look at the form and determine if it’s appropriate for the offer at hand
Consider A/B testing with another variant
Make sure it reinforces the message promised in the CTA
When it comes to clicking a CTA, keep users in mind.
Users have their shields up while perusing websites. Anxiety is especially strong around something they may purchase, so we need to put their minds at ease and give them a good reason to click anything, let alone a call-to-action button.
It's our job as marketers to figure out what makes customers anxious (hint: it's in your persona). Here's an example from HotJar's homepage.
Right away, it's clear what the call-to-action is. They want us to try their heatmap and user recording software. However, they chose these words carefully. It's not just Try It, Try it Now, or even Try it Today. It says Try it free.
Try it free.
If you look closer, you'll see a bit of reaffirming copy. "No credit card required".
Everyone loathes a free trial that requires credit card information. We just know they're banking on us forgetting to cancel so they can start charging for something. It just feels slimy. HotJar knew this about their persona, so to alleviate that anxiety they reassured the user that free really is free. No credit card required.
But notice the placement of the "no credit card" line. It's within direct proximity to the one thing they want users to do. Not hidden up in the corner or buried in the fine print at the bottom. I'm sure that extra value copy improved not only the CTR of the free trial button but also the conversion rate of free trial sign-ups.
Verbiage Choice Matters
Keep in mind that a call-to-action should guide the user to the next most logical step. That fact should guide your copy choices.
Pro Tip: If the action cannot happen upon click, say something else.
Consider this situation. You have an eCommerce website and want to send out an email about an upcoming product special. Which set of CTA copy makes the most sense to use in the email?
Add to Cart
See Special Pricing
Which one of those can be completed immediately upon click?
The user certainly can't Buy Now or Checkout directly from the email. That's several steps down the funnel. So, numbers 1 and 3 are out.
What about 2 and 4?
Depending on how the cart functionality is setup, if they can add something to their cart directly from an email click, then option two would be great.
Otherwise, option 4 is because that's the next most logical step to take: See Special Pricing.
I noticed in my research that the more views a call-to-action has, the lower the click-through rate becomes. This same correlation can be seen with email open rates and list size. For example, CTAs placed on a homepage or in the footer of every page won’t resonate with users the way a CTA placed strategically on a page with the purpose of converting users to leads via a related offer will.
This research doesn’t take into account button copy, design, or page placement – which are all huge factors to consider when optimizing for a better click rate. I hypothesize that CTAs placed on specific pages leading to related offers, and using the right verbiage, have a much higher than average CTR, and that’s exactly what CTAs are meant to do.
Caveats & Key Takeaways
The biggest caveat here is the sample size of my data. I only had access to CTA statistics for our clients, and among those, only a few industries are represented. Further, there are other industries not represented here at all, like insurance, government, and travel. So, this data is not meant to be the final word on the topic, but it is a good benchmark for your efforts – especially if you’re in one of the sampled industries.
That said, never settle for average. Just because your CTAs are performing above average doesn’t mean they’re at the top of their game. Test the design. Test the copy. Test the placement. Test the landing pages they lead to. Test the copy on those landing pages. Test the forms on those landing pages. Test everything and never settle. And here is the most important takeaway:
A call-to-action is more than just an element on a page.
Everything on a webpage should provide value and context to users about what you want them to do next, and all of it should lead to the most logical next step. The whole page is your call to action. Get out of the box of buttons, text, and basic images and think bigger. Where can you alleviate customer anxiety? How can you provide that extra bit of reassurance to nudge users to convert? Optimize everything and never stop testing.
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