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6 Factors of Great Calls-to-Action for College Websites
Mia Major

A Call-to-Action (CTA) is an image or text that's sole purpose is to prompt your site visitor to take an action like click the button, download an application, or fill out a form. The goal is to create a journey — click by click and page by page.

We've defined six factors that go into crafting the perfect call-to-action button experience that will guide your prospective students and alumni down a specific path to conversion.

Factor 1: It needs to have a great design.

You only have about seven seconds —or less — to get the attention of a website visitor. So, when a prospective student lands on your website, where is the first place you want them to land?

A good call-to-action offers an obvious next step with a design that is eye-catching, obviously clickable, and interactive.

CU-KC CTA Example

For example, Cleveland University Kansas City's homepage is sprinkled with all kinds of interactive and colorful calls-to-action that garner lots of clicks. For example, when you hover on "Feel at Home in Vibrant Kansas City" the purple overlay is removed, and a new call-to-action button appears over a video of the fountain. While the call-to-action is visually engaging, it doesn't lose its effectiveness or purpose.

Factor 2: It's all about location.

Calls-to-action are all about creating a journey for the user. So, what's the use of a call-to-action if you've hidden it from the glancing eye? Today's users are scanners and scrollers. Place calls-to-action in plain sight to guide the user to their "next step" at any point during their journey — and that goes for all pages on your site.

Placing calls-to-action at the very bottom of a homepage is an extremely effective practice, and keeps users engaged and moving on to the next step, rather than forcing them to scroll back up and figure out where to go next.

Calls-to-actions are not limited to your homepage or landing pages. But rather, should be on every page of your website, especially top-hit pages like employment and admissions. Using Google Analytics, identify your top 25 pages for site visitors and be sure you have at least one good call-to-action on each page.

CU-KC CTA Example

It is important that calls-to-action are specific to the page on which they exist. For example, having an "Apply Now" button in the Athletics section won't make sense. Focus on asking yourself this question: If a website visitor came to this page, what would they want to do next?

CU-KC does an excellent job strategically placing different calls-to-action on each of their different landing pages.

Examples of Different CTA buttons

Website Redesign Playbook

Factor 3: It's well-written and uses actionable words.

Calls-to-action aren't your place to be vague or too creative. Well-written buttons that keep it simple with direct and active phrases get the most clicks. "Apply now," "Sign up for our open house," and "Learn more" are active phrases that let users know exactly where they are going next. Avoid using terms like "Submit" or "Click Here" for optimal conversion rates.

Lenior-Rhyne University gets creative with their calls-to-action, prompting the user to choose their journey by asking them to select what they would like to learn more about in an interactive dropdown menu.


Factor 4: It's not surrounded by noise.

Calls-to-action should be in plain sight and placed with relevant information, as mentioned earlier in this section. If you want to draw attention to a particular CTA, do not bury it beneath text or at the bottom of a page.

For example, LR's "Discover Hickory" panel in their Admissions section stands out to the website visitor, and is located about halfway down the page. This kind of strategy is effective when you want to steer the website visitor down a particular path or draw their attention to something that is extremely valuable or unique to your college or university.

No noise around LRU CTA

Factor 5: It offers a reward.

When a user takes the next step to fill out an inquiry or application form, remember that you also need to communicate what the user will get out of completing the call-to-action.

If they filled out a form, when will they hear from you next? Will it be via email or phone? Will you email any materials immediately? What can they do next?

College of Coastal Georgia's "Ask a Quick Question" form is genius. Its simplicity offers high conversions, and they are promised a quick response. It is a win-win here, because the school will receive the information of a prospective student and the student will get an answer they are looking for.

quick question - ccg

Factor 6: It attracts a particular audience.

In a perfect world, each prospective student that visits your website is ready to apply, but chances are at first they are just perusing — and comparing you to other schools. Therefore, it's important to offer calls-to-action for website visitors at every stage of the application process.

Adding buttons to inquire, apply, visit or learn more will make sure you hit the needs of every audience.

Great LRU CTA button example

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Mia Major

As Finalsite's Content Marketing Manager, Mia plans and executes a variety of inbound marketing and digital content strategies. As a former TV reporter, freelance cinematographer and certified inbound marketer, Mia specializes in helping schools find new ways to share their stories online through web design, social media, copywriting, photography and videography. She is the author of numerous blogs, and Finalsite's popular eBook, The Website Redesign Playbook.

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