Sure-Fire Way to Increase Click-Through-Rates, Downloads, Sales, Registrations, Sign-Ups, Etc

We all know that “click here” is perhaps the weakest of all calls-to-action, and should be banned from any good copywriter’s vocabulary.
However, coming in at a close second is “learn more”.

This generic phrase screams copywriting laziness and a lack of interest in understanding why a visitor to a page would actually be interested in learning more.

The use of “learn more” seems to be particularly prevalent in home page promo banners.

I see it used so regularly that when someone actually takes the time to write a more meaningful call-to-action, it really stands out.

Take a look at these home page promo examples from several technology-related sites.

Read more. Say those words over a few times and feel how lifeless they are; how they just sit there on the page, flat and insipid.

As far as calls-to-action are concerned, using “read more” is even worse than “learn more” as it doesn’t convey any potential benefit that the visitor might get from clicking through. You’ll get to read more — wow, hold me back!

VMWare and IBM have both obviously cottoned on to how ineffectual “learn more” is. However, “take your first step” and “take a look” are not much in the way of improvements.

This promo from Sun is a perfect example of how a good call-to-action stands out from a bad one.

Of the two links in the banner, is there any doubt that “Start Saving Now” is more compelling and is going to have a higher CTR than “Learn More”?

I would recommend taking this approach one-step further and removing the “learn more” link entirely. This makes the message being presented clearer and stronger. Never give someone two choices when one will do.

I like Oracle’s approach. This could have so easily been a “learn more” link. Instead they opted for descriptive link text which avoids marketingese but still has enough of a hook to draw you in.

Incidentally, Oracle’s bold, minimalist and link-heavy home page is worth checking out for a design that bucks the trend for corporate web sites.

To sum up, knowing how much time and expense it takes to develop banners and Flash promos (such as these) it surprises me that more thought isn’t given to the call-to-action copy.

Most of the time it seems to be more of an after thought.

Solutions to the “Learn More” Problem

So, let’s imagine you find yourself in a potential “learn more” situation. What options do you have?

The first course of action is simply to write a more descriptive link which summarizes what the visitor will do or see when they click through.

To do this effectively you need to know what the main value proposition is in the target content. Perhaps the key content is a PDF. Then why not say,

Download our free white paper on xyz

At least now you have a more descriptive (and therefore more useful) call-to-action.

The next step is to make it more compelling by moving from being simply descriptive to stating how the visitor will benefit from clicking through.

So, the above example might be developed to:

Read our free white paper on 4 ways to reduce xyz costs

You get the idea. The key is to edit. You’ll never get it right the first time, but after about 4 or 5 iterations you should be on to something pretty decent. If not, you should probably change tack and start over.

Space Permitting

Sometimes, thanks to the way that the design process can go (pick/create pretty image and fit copy around it), there simply isn’t space to write a longer, more descriptive call-to-action.

Even in these cases, you can still write something better than “learn more”. How about any of the following:

  • Find out more
  • Discover more
  • Solve your problems
  • Get the answers

I’m not going to argue that these are great calls-to-action, but they are at least more action-oriented and break up the monotony of seeing “learn more” yet again.

Going back to that earlier Sun example, “Start saving now” only uses 6 more characters than “learn more”, so even when space is tight, maybe you have more options for writing compelling copy than you think.

10 thoughts to “Sure-Fire Way to Increase Click-Through-Rates, Downloads, Sales, Registrations, Sign-Ups, Etc”

  1. I’m partially guilty of what you’re talking about on the home page of my own site, but only partially.
    I’ve got three calls to action but I didn’t want to make the call to action text itself a link so underneath each one I’ve got a ‘read on’ button. The text of the buttons themselves may be boring and unoriginal, but hopefully the text that precedes them is interesting enough to make people click through (I’ve also added a hidden span for screen reader users which expands a bit on what you’re reading on about).

  2. Great article and some things we’ve definitely been doing wrong. I like the idea of using an emotive word to guide people through to the next stage. We have been doing it with our Google Adwords for some time and our experimentation has found that using words that people have searched for as well as emotive (and positive) words has really helped to increase clickthrough.
    One thing that you can also do is to create multiple versions of your page and then set up a system to display these pages at random to visitors – thereby being able to measure the success of your changes.
    Thanks for the post – it has spurred me into action!

  3. Great use of examples, and descriptive links are also much better for SEO, as well as accessibility (screen readers). By using better anchor text, the search engine will have more of an idea about what’s behind that link, and so will people using screen readers. “Read more” doesn’t give any hint to what’s behind the link unless you read the preceding text and for a screen reader there may be a whole load of text to read to get to that link. Especially with some floated layouts needing divs ordered differently.

  4. I’m certainly guilty of the learn more/read more cop out. Sometimes, when time is against you or your focus is on other areas it’s easier just to use this text for the link.
    However, if you can take the time to make these calls-to-action more descriptive and useful, your pages will undoubtedly benefit.

  5. Completely agree with you Christian, and yet I haven’t practiced it. Thanks for the reminder!
    On a side not, I don’t agree about Oracle’s home page design. When I went to their home page, my eyes randomly roamed around the page looking for a place to land, but never finding one amongst all the chaos of way too many options. I finally left the page, having no real idea what any of the links were for. It was just too much.

  6. I agree that it’s all too easy to settle for the monotony of ‘read more’ or ‘click here for more’ etc.
    Incidentally did anyone notice Oracle’s second flash header? BPO Market Leadership – Learn More >> ;-).
    That said it doesn’t take away from the benefit of having a good call to action.

  7. Probably the first here to disagree. Although in terms of copywriting I probably agree that it’s pretty lame not being able to think outside the box on this, “Click here”‘s actually work in terms of click through rates.
    Take a look at a recent experiment carried out by Marketing Sherpa –
    In a nutshell, the results show that people are more likely to click a link if it says “click”!!

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