Why do people click on CTA buttons?
This is one of the most rudimentary questions in all of web marketing and psychology. What makes people click on buttons?
I’m surprised that more people aren’t asking it. But then again, I’m a little weird like that. I have an insatiable curiosity about the psychological issues that motivate, define, and direct buyer behavior online.
My question is this: What are the deep reasons that people are compelled to click on your call-to-action buttons?
The answer to this question will lead to several cogent discoveries about online marketing. How can we leverage those issues to drive even more clicks?
This issue is, at its core, a conversion optimization issue. Why do people click? And its corollary question — How can we make it happen more?
1. People click because they’re invested in the process.
One of the reasons that people will convert is because they feel as if they’ve come this far and they might as well carry through with it.
These aren’t what you would call excited or curious people (see below), but they are converting. It’s almost as if they feel duty-bound or obligated to follow through with what they’ve done. This is the it’s-too-late-to-turn-around attitude.
There are several strategic ways that you can help people get invested and convert:
- Use a longform landing page. If someone spends a long time reading the content on your page, they will develop a sense of obligation to follow through and click on your CTA. The very fact that they’ve used up a whopping four minutes combing through content, watching a video, or doing whatever, makes them more likely to convert when they’re done.
- Have them fill out a form. While form filling is part of a conversion action, it’s not the whole thing. The consummation of the conversion is when the user clicks the button that actually sends their information to your system. If someone puts forth the effort to input their information, they are invested in the process to a degree. They are likely to convert.
- Have them do something interactive. Some sites have strategically implemented interactive elements in order to give people a sense of investment in the process. I’ll show you an example of this below.
Here’s what JaguarPC is doing on one of their product pages. A potential customer will slide the interactive bar to see what kind of deal he or she is getting. This simple action creates a sense of investment in the process, which makes the conversion more likely.
Optimizely helps drive up conversions by featuring the following capture form on their landing page. There’s nothing else to do on the page except input your information. Naturally, it’s going to drive up CTRs on the button.
One of the best ways to convert visitors is by having them watch a video. An Unbounce multivariate test gave Vidyard 100% higher conversions by using video. The best-conversion version of the video was a lightbox modal popup. Users who watched the video converted at 13%, compared with the 6.5% with no video.
A similar study of website StacksAndStacks saw a 144% jump in conversions after putting a product video on the homepage.
There are a lot of things going on during a video, each of which can affect conversion rates. One of those factors, however, is the level of “buy in” that the user has experienced up to that point, simply by watching the video.
Takeaway: Get people to buy in to your product or service. By taking up their time or by inviting their interaction, you are creating a subtle sense of obligation for them to follow through and click on your CTA button.
2. People click because they are insatiably curious.
Curiosity is a curious thing. Perhaps one of the most fascinating issues of curiosity is its pure psychological power.
That old hackneyed expression, “curiosity killed the cat” is Exhibit A of the power of curiosity. It actually has the power to draw us into life or death situations.
Curiosity is part of what psychologists call the Need for Cognition (NFC), which correlates with the Big Five personality trait model. Curiosity is lodged within the “open” trait, positioned at the top in the diagram below.
There is a cluster of other traits that open personalities express, including
- Unusual ideas
- Variety of experience
Curiosity is one of psychology’s “intrinsic motivations.” As psychologist David Beswick of the Melbourne Graduate School of Education explained in his monograph, “An Introduction to the Study of Curiosity” (May 2000):
Curiosity, and the related more general field of intrinsic motivation, has been recognized as playing a part in a wide range of human endeavor: it contributes fairly obviously to the development of science, and it has a role on the creative arts although creativity requires a more aggressive production element as well as curiosity which forms the front end, as it were, of the creative process in both the arts and the sciences. Understanding intrinsic motivation is an important element in management, in which the satisfaction that workers can gain from their work in itself is significant apart from the fact that they are paid to do it. The sense of wonder, which is at the heart of curiosity is central also to religious or spiritual strivings and worship. So any understanding we can develop of curiosity and related concepts can be expected to have some very broad applications in other fields, including science, scholarship, the arts, management, spiritual exploration and worship, as well as education.
One of those “other fields,” obviously, is conversion optimization.
Beswick summed up his research in this statement:
Curiosity is commonly regarded as the prime example of intrinsic motivation.
From a strictly psychological vantage, then, curiosity is a primary motivator of human behavior.
And that is why people click on your CTA button. They are curious. But what makes them curious? Why do they develop that sense of curiosity that compels the click?
Curiosity is wanting more information.
People become curious because they want information. When we look back at an understanding of the openness personality characteristics, this makes perfect sense. People who have an “open” personality desire information or experiences.
Here’s what it looks like:
Thus, an effective CTA that elicits curiosity will promise more information.
ConversionXL uses this technique with their homepage’s CTA:
The word “learn” is a knowledge signal. The reader understands that he or she will get some knowledge that will enable action. Their need for that specific knowledge is subservient to their need to satisfy that curiosity. In the diagram above, they are angling for “access to specific known information.” The “hurdle” they have to cross is inputting their email and getting the guide.
SFGlobe is agonizingly good at this. All of their headlines are pure clickbait, which is why the site is virally popular.
The site whips out a clickbaity headline, pops in a picture, and then curiosity takes over. Of course people want to find out what “THIS!” is, and why someone’s jaw dropped. It plays perfectly into the personality of the open/curious individual.
Quicksprout does the same thing, by stirring up a desire to uncover “the number 1 reason.”
The promise of information garners curiosity, and attracts conversions.
Curiosity fuels entire movements, even inspiring religious trends. In the Hellenistic-Roman age, the culture was awash with gnostic groups, promising a higher knowledge and hidden secrets. Societies today such as the Masons still promise secrets to a select few. Much of the pursuit through these labyrinthine and secretive organizations is fueled by that primal motivation of curiosity.
Curiosity affects all people.
I’ve been discussing the power of curiosity, especially as it affects “open” personality types. But I want to expand the idea to include people who may not be categorized as that type of personality. Curiosity affects all people, regardless of where they fall on the personality spectrum.
Personality stereotypes are never universally applicable. Individuals rarely fall strictly within one category of personality. A study in the Journal of Personality asserted:
There was no support for the view that the MBTI measures truly dichotomous preferences or qualitatively distinct types, instead, the instrument measures four relatively independent dimensions.
You can create curiosity in the minds of your users, regardless of their personality type.
Takeaway: As an online marketer, you need to make people curious. Create in them a compelling, ravenous, insatiable curiosity for something.
3. People click because they are excited.
Excitement is defined as a “state of great enthusiasm and eagerness.” As one scientific research piece expressed it, “a thirst for excitement is hidden in your genes.” Excitement is integrally connected to dopamine, the chemical transmitter that changes the brain’s feelings.
Excitement is a powerful psychological motivation.
Excitement is closely related to anxiety. In a research piece from the American Psychological Association, the author, Alison Wood Brooks, remarked, “both anxiety and excitement are emotional states characterized by high arousal.” That state of high arousal makes it easy for humans to engage in behavior that they would otherwise not be inclined to participate in.
In the viral video below, you’ll see a shirtless guy dancing. I love this video, not only for its powerful lesson on undaunted movement starters, but because it shows that when people get excited, they do crazy things.
Helpful information or solutions make people excited.
In her treatment of special education issues, Betty Garner explores the cognitive structures that are operative in learners.
She explains that when students find answers, get information and gain understanding, it puts them in a state of “experiencing the joy and excitement of deep understanding.” The power of information is that it pushes cognition to a breakthrough point where someone becomes excited by information that he or she has gained.
It’s the aha! moment of discovery and learning. Solutions — powerful, real solutions that work — cause excitement!
That’s why it’s important to have a strong content marketing strategy. Great content that answers your customers' questions or meets their needs generates excitement, which generates conversions.
Good deals make people excited.
Who doesn’t love to save money? Some people love to save money so much that they become extreme couponers. Bloomberg Businessweek describes their obsession as the pursuit of “the all-consuming pleasures of ‘extreme couponing.’”
What makes people clip coupons?
“It makes me happy,” said one extreme couponer, interviewed on TLC’s reality show.
It’s the pleasure of saving money. From yard sales to bargain stores, junkyards and screaming used car salesmen, everyone loves a deal.
The potential of a good deal causes people to become excited, which moves them to action, which causes them to convert. By offering great deals on your website, you can make people excited, and get them to click to convert.
Takeaway: You have the power to make people excited. If you can raise the excitement level of your website, you can raise conversions as well.
There are many reasons why people click on your CTA button, but they can be summed up in these three points:
- People click because they’re invested in the process.
- People click because they are insatiably curious.
- People click because they are excited.
The great thing about each of these is that you, as a marketer, can create structures, systems, copy and procedures that increase investment in the process, raise curiosity and provoke excitement.
You’re a marketer. But at a deeper level, you’re a social psychologist. By creating a landing page, blog article, home page, or product page that affects a visitor in these ways, you will be raising conversions. It’s a simple matter of understanding how people’s minds work, finding a way to appeal to that, and then watching your conversion rates rise.