This is an extremely common question, and tiny changes in copy can make huge differences in results. The more important a button is, the more you should consider the details. I have personally increased clicks on a buy button by 400% by changing from “Become a Member” to “Upgrade now!”
Verb + Benefit + Urgent time/place
The CTA Formula
You can follow this formula for text on anything you want people to click. If you don’t have enough space for all the words, start with the verb and add what you can.
The verb is the action word: Get, buy, see, try, upgrade, download, register, win, lose…. whatever. This should be first, because gets to the point immediately, and turns the button into a command.
Sometimes the verb and the benefit are the same thing, like the word “upgrade”: it is both the action and the benefit. But in a phrase like “Download Version 2 Now!” the new version is the benefit. In the phrase “Lose 5 kilograms today!” the benefit is the losing 5 kilograms. You get the idea. Just make sure the benefit is a benefit to the user, not the website. A phrase like “Become a Member” has no clear benefit for the user, but the person who owns the site thinks it sounds great. :)
Urgent Time or Place
Words like “now”, “today”, or “in 1 minute!” provide a time frame that is urgent and feels easy. Words like “here” or “this” tell the user that the button itself is what they are looking for. “Like This” or “Start Here” are common examples.
On a button that says “Start Here!” you get an action, a benefit, and a place. In my experience “Start Here” buttons work really well when the first question from a user will be “Where do I start?”. Seems obvious, but it’s not as obvious when you’re planning the site in real life. In this case “here” describes the button itself.
The word “free” can sometimes take the place of an urgent time or place. If the button provides something big for the user like software, the user might assume there is a cost involved. In that case the word “free” can help reduce anxiety and improve click-through-rates. But use it carefully, it can also make premium brands feel less premium and imply that the benefit isn’t worth much.
Things to Avoid
A CTA button/link should never begin with “Click here to…”. The fact that it is a button or a link has already told the user that they need to click it (if you designed it properly), you don’t have to tell them again. That type of copy loses clicks because the user doesn’t see the action or benefit that the button executes, so they don’t click. “Click here to win” is not as good as “Win today!”
Also, long or difficult words on a button lose people. “Start here” would work much better than “Commence Forthwith” or “If you would like to enter the site begin by clicking this button”. Silly examples, but important to remember.
And that’s how you write kick-ass CTA copy.
If you liked that ProTip, try ProTip Tuesday #2: Design Two Buttons, Then Stop.