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Episode 281: HubSpot Call to Action (CTAs) Best Practices

Episode 281: HubSpot Call to Action (CTAs) Best Practices

Welcome to HubShots Episode 281: HubSpot Call to Action (CTAs) Best Practices


This edition we dive into:

  • What HubSpot CTAs are
  • The 4 Main Benefits of HubSpot CTAs
  • Where to use them
  • The types of CTAs (Simple, Multivariate, Smart)
  • Examples of CTAs
  • Reporting on CTAs
  • Using CTAs in Lists, Reports, Workflows
  • Associating CTAs with HubSpot campaigns
  • Permissions for limiting access to CTAs
  • Plus, when not to use HubSpot CTAs

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Recorded: Wednesday 15 June 2022 | Published: Friday 24 June 2022

In this episode we discuss the best practices for using HubSpot CTAs so that you can easily test, measure and manage buttons & links on your pages and emails, in order to save you time and increase the effectiveness of your messaging.

This is the next in our series of best practices for building marketing campaigns in HubSpot. For the complete overview of how to implement a marketing campaign in HubSpot check out episode 278, including the YouTube video and the free 26 page ebook.

This episode is a big expansion of our popular episode 205 two years ago, when we discussed Smart CTAs in particular.

🌱 Shot 1: HubSpot CTAs are centrally managed buttons

OK, so that’s a bit confusing, but the reason I start with that is to highlight one of their main benefits - the ability to centrally manage what buttons say, where they link to and how many times they get clicked.

(Yes, CTAs can be images and straight links as well, but we’ll get to that. For now just think of them as buttons.)

What is a Call-to-Action (CTA)?

Before we dive into the details of what CTAs are specifically in HubSpot, let’s take a step back and first understand the concept of a call to action in digital marketing.

Here’s what Wikipedia has to say:

Call to action (CTA) is a marketing term for any design to prompt an immediate response or encourage an immediate sale. A CTA most often refers to the use of words or phrases that can be incorporated into sales scripts, advertising messages, or web pages, which compel an audience to act in a specific way.”

And further:

“In marketing, a call to action (CTA) is an instruction to the audience designed to provoke an immediate response, usually using an imperative verb such as "call now", "find out more" or "visit a store today".”

In other words, it is what it sounds like: a ‘call’ for you to take some kind of action. Ideally ending up in a sales transaction.

Now that we have the general definition, let’s see how HubSpot has implemented this idea.

In HubSpot terms:

A call-to-action (CTA) is a button (button/image/text link) you can use on your HubSpot content to drive prospective customers to your website, where they can then convert on a form and be added to your contacts database. CTAs should be visually attractive, action oriented, and easy to locate on your pages and emails.”

Essentially, once someone is consuming (reading/watching/listening) your content, what do you want them to do next?


X, X Everywhere Meme - Imgflip


You’re Doing Your Visitors a Favour

CTAs are guideposts for your readers/viewers/listeners to take the next step. You’re actually doing them a favour. (Since it’s really frustrating to land on a page, read a bit and then be left wondering what you’re supposed to next…)

But you can just do that with an image, link or button right? So what’s different about a HubSpot CTA?


Why Use HubSpot CTAs?

Consider this:

  • Have you ever added a button to multiple pages, and then changed your mind about the wording and wanted a quick way to update all of the buttons on all of the pages? Yes? Then CTAs are your friend.
  • What about an email sequence? Have you ever added a closing button on a whole series of emails and wished you could change the wording on all of them? Yes? Then CTAs are your friend.
  • Have you ever wanted to test two versions of a button to see which works better? Yes? Then CTAs are your friend.
  • What about having the button show something different to a customer that it does to a prospect? Yes? Then CTAs are your friend.
  • Have you ever wanted to get a report that shows how many times your button showed, and how many times it was clicked, and on which pages or emails? Yes? Then CTAs are your friend.

HubSpot CTAs enable all this and more.

We love them. But we also know they are one of those underused features in HubSpot (Pro and Enterprise) that more people could be using.

In this episode we’re going to dive deep into HubSpot CTAs and cover:

  • Why you should use them
  • All the main features
  • Where you can use them
  • And some pro tips for using them intelligently throughout your assets

✨ Shot 2: The 4 Main Benefits of HubSpot CTAs

As touched on above there’s four main areas that HubSpot CTAs provide value:


Benefit [1] Central Management

HubSpot CTAs are managed in a very simple interface. If your CTA is used in multiple locations (eg multiple pages and emails) then you can update the CTA once and have that automatically be reflected in all the locations.

A simple example might be a ‘Book a Demo’ button used on all the product pages throughout the site. Let’s say you want to change this to ‘Schedule a Meeting’. You can simply update this in the HubSpot CTA once and it will be updated throughout the site.

Pro tip: Naming conventions help enormously when you start managing hundreds of CTAs. Give them easy to understand internal names so you can easily find them.


Benefit [2] A/B Testing

HubSpot CTAs support A/B testing (actually multivariate testing - you can test upto 50 variations of a single CTA).

For example you could test 50 different sets of wording on a button to see which gets the best clickthrough rate.

Which brings us to…


Benefit [3] Tailoring content on the CTAs

HubSpot Smart CTAs allow you to tailor the content of the CTA (eg the words on a button) based on the viewer details (eg if they are customer versus a prospect)

For example you could have a button show an introductory offer to a new visitor, but switch that to a VIP offer if they are already a customer.


Benefit [4] CTA Reporting

HubSpot CTAs have simple reporting to show how many views and clicks they’ve had. And this can be further broken down based on the variations.

More details on these in Shot 7 below.

In a nutshell: use HubSpot CTAs to test ideas, and report on what’s working. And then easily update to test again.

✨ Shot 3: Where to use CTAs

HubSpot CTAs can be placed in a variety of locations:

  • Pages
  • Blog posts
  • Emails
  • And yes, you can use them on WordPress sites (or any other non-HubSpot sites)

Web Pages, Landing Pages

CTAs are ideally suited for use on web pages and landing pages in HubSpot.

They can also be added to the global headers and footers used on the site.

Adding them to a page is as simply as dragging them on from the Common modules:



They can also be added within Rich Text modules:



Blog Posts

HubSpot CTAs are fine to add to the blog post template layout, but be mindful when adding CTAs directly into the blog post content.

This is because if your blog posts content is syndicated out via RSS readers the CTA code doesn’t always render - and may appear incorrectly in blog readers.

We generally stick to using CTAs in the blog post sidebars, or below the syndicated content.



CTAs are also ideal for using in emails.

Similar to the page drag and drop builder, you can drop CTAs into email content as well.


Non-HubSpot websites (eg WordPress)

HubSpot CTAs can be embedded on other sites (ie not just on HubSpot sites).

To get the embed code, simply hover over the CTA and then select Embed:



You’ll then be able to copy the embed code (HTML) and use in your other systems such as WordPress or Shopify:



All the benefits of CTAs still remain (eg you can update the CTA in HubSpot, and the changes would be reflected in the CTAs that are embedded in other systems).

Note: when embedding CTAs on other sites you may experience some performance degradation when the page loads - as it takes time to load the CTA and its associate javascript.

🚀 Shot 4: Types of HubSpot CTAs

There are 3 main types of CTAs:

  • Simple
  • Smart
  • Multivariate

Simple CTAs

As the name suggests these are the default version of CTAs and include the basics.

Once you’ve created a simple CTA you can then expand it into either a Multivariate test version or a Smart content version:



Multivariate CTAs

It’s easy to test multiple versions of your CTA - simply choose to Add multivariate version from the Actions menu when hovering over a CTA in the CTA listing:



You can create up to 50 different versions.

Use the versions to test:

  • Different wording
  • Different styling
  • Different images

As a simple example, for our HubShots Coaching CTA we simply test different wording (everything else is the same):



(See later in the show for details on how to report on which is working best)


Smart CTAs

Smart CTAs show different versions based on criteria relating to the contact viewing them.

You can also convert a Simple CTA into a Smart CTA from the Actions menu:



Note: you can’t create Smart CTAs from Multivariate CTAs (ie you can’t create a Smart Multivariate CTA).

Smart CTAs are based on Smart rules. Smart rules are based on contact lists (which are based on contact properties). So, essentially you are creating rules based on contact properties.

This is extremely powerful - basically any segmentation you want to create as a smart list can be used for smart CTA rules.

For a deep dive into using HubSpot lists, check out our monster episode in episode 280 where we go through all the best practices around creating HubSpot lists.

A simple example of smart rule you could create is to show a CTA for an ebook, and then:

  • If they have already filled out the form take them straight to the download page
  • But if they haven’t yet filled out the form, take them to the landing page

You would simply create a list first, that was based on contacts who had filled out the form. And then use that list in the CTA smart rule.

🌱 Shot 5: CTA Examples

Real World CTA Use Cases

Example of how to use CTAs

  • Use it in a marketing email for a call back from a sales person.  Then when they click the CTA the sales person gets an internal SMS and email notification to call the person back (see the example earlier in our Workflow section)

  • Use it in a marketing email to get indication of people wanting to attend a particular event.  Then create a list to show who will attend the event.

  • Use a Smart CTA to only show to clients/prospects, with different offers
  • Use a simple CTA on the site to recommend next steps, like request a quote or book a service

  • Use a multivariate CTA in navigation to test wording variations that drive better click throughs

  • Use a smart CTA in a blog sidebar to show regular readers a different offer
  • Use a multivariate CTA in blog sidebar to test different wording:

  • Use a simple CTA as a download button on a page (handy for seeing how many people actually download the asset after signing up - you may be shocked at how few people actually download the ebooks they sign up for…)

  • Use a multivariate image CTA to test variations of an offer -  you can see that one of the variation is working a lot better at getting click throughs:

🚀 Shot 6: CTA Styling

There’s two main types of CTA styling:

  • Custom button (which can be anything supported by HTML)
  • Image

Within the first option (ie Custom Button) you can have any type of link, but usually a link styled as a button.

Since you can also have no styling on the link, we often suggest there are three types of styling:

  • Link
  • Button
  • Image

But strictly speaking the Link and Button type are the same, just with different styling applied.

BTW, just to confuse things, you can actually use an image in a custom button, so you might wonder what the point of having an Image Button as a separate option is. Me too. Probably just for ease. Possibly it's historical. Or perhaps there’s some amazing reason that I’ve totally missed…



If you don’t like any of the built-in Button styles (I rarely do) you can click the Advanced options and apply your own CSS styling (we usually do this).


Using Custom CSS in your CTA Styling

The beauty of this is that you can control all your styling in your global CSS stylesheets - and have them apply across all your CTAs. Is your head spinning a bit here? You centrally manage your buttons as CTAs, but then apply styling that you centrally manage in CSS. You’re welcome.



🚀 Shot 7: CTA Destinations

 The most common destination for a CTA is to a page on your website.

However, there’s a number of new options now available, including:

  • Meeting links (ie a link to book in time in your calendar with you)
  • File link (eg to a PDF file download)
  • Email address (eg if you have a generic email address you want to control across your site)
  • Phone number (eg if you want to test different numbers and track clicks)

We typically use:

  • External URL
  • HubSpot page or blog post options
  • File link

We are starting to use Meeting link in some cases, but since we usually embed our Meeting forms in a page, it comes back to pointing to the page itself, rather than the HubSpot branded meeting link.

We haven’t yet used Phone number as a CTA, but it’s something I’m interested in testing since a lot of advertising campaigns tend to convert based on phone calls. It’s something I feel we (XEN) are a little behind in, but I’m keen to catch up on.

💰 Shot 8: Reporting on CTAs

One of the main benefits of creating CTAs in HubSpot is how you can report on their effectiveness.


CTA Overview Listing

You can report on how many times they’ve been interacted with, either in terms or view, or clicks.

The highlevel results can be seen from the CTA listing page:



Your CTAs can be sorted by any of these columns as well, making it easy to see which CTAs are viewed the most, or are used in the most locations etc.


Individual CTA analysis

Drill into the details of a specific CTA right from the Actions menu:



The CTA details page shows:

  • View, click and submission trends
  • Variation stats/winner

Can you spot when we added variations to this CTA :-)



And here’s the click results:



Based on the results, HubSpot has found a winning variation - and offers to limit the variations to just the winner. In this case I’ve kept all variations going because I suspect the winning selection was based on an unnatural spike in clicks (possibly when we were doing some testing):



Submission refers to if the click resulted in a contact filling in a form after clicking the CTA. In the above CTA example, the CTA is mostly a navigation item further into the site so a form submission isn’t as likely.

However, if the CTA was pointing to a landing page, then the submission rate would be more relevant to the discussion.

There’s also some revenue attribution related to the CTA, but I honestly don’t know how actionable this number is.

👨‍🔧 Shot 9: Using CTAs in Lists

List Criteria based on CTA actions

Building lists based on CTA interactions is available from the Marketing Interactions section:



Criteria can be based on:

  • A contact viewing or not viewing a CTA
  • A contact clicking or not clicking a CTA


If the criteria is based on a multivariate CTA, the list can even be based on which version of the CTA is clicked (or viewed):



The CTA interaction can be further refined by date range or the number of interactions.

As a simple example you could create a list of contacts who:

  • Have seen Variation A of a CTA, but not Variation B, and
  • Have clicked on it
  • In the last 7 days
  • At least 3 times

This allows you to be very selective in your segmentation.

However, a situation like this is uncommon. We usually build lists based on a contact having clicked a CTA (ie we very rarely filter down to variations or date ranges).

In the example below the list simply includes contacts who have clicked a button to download a PDF:


We use the list to understand more about reporting:


👨‍🔧 Shot 10: Using CTAs in Reports

Use Lists based on CTAs Interactions

HubSpot’s Report builder doesn’t explicitly support CTAs as filter criteria.

Instead you need to build a list based on the CTA interactions (see earlier Shot), and then use the Contact List membership filter:


👨‍🔧 Shot 11: Using CTAs in Workflows

Workflows Triggers

HubSpot CTAs can be used as triggers in workflow.

In the example below we use a CTA in a list to trigger the workflow that then sends a notification SMS and email to the relevant sales person:



Workflow Goals

You can also use CTAs in Workflow Goals:



The criteria can be quite flexible based on the CTA being viewed (or not) or clicked (or not):


And can be further refined by number of times or date of it being clicked.

(Nerdy aside: I prefer the criteria UX of the Workflow goal screen compared to the experience in the List builder. I really like the goal screen because I can easily see all the options available. OK, nerd aside over.)

Workflow Suppression Lists can be based on CTAs

If you’ve used a CTA in a HubSpot list, you can use the list as an Exclusion criteria to bump people out of a workflow


Workflow Branching

One advanced tip for using CTAs and Workflows is the ability to branch based on CTA interaction:



How to create a CTA in HubSpot that goes to another workflow

As an example: let’s say you’ve used a CTA in an email you send.

You could trigger a workflow on every contact who has opened the email.

And then using a branch, check if they’ve clicked on the CTA. If so, proceed down a separate path.

Advanced: You could even enrol them in another workflow (eg an engaged contact nurture workflow).

By the way, full disclosure, the only reason I added that example above is because we were doing some keyword research and discovered that there’s a number of people searching Google with the phrase “how to create a cta in hubspot that goes to another workflow”. So there you go. Some content created just for Google. Let’s see how it goes.


✍️ Shot 12: Associating a CTA with a HubSpot Campaign

Associate from the CTA

The simplest way to associate a CTA with a HubSpot campaign is when you are editing the CTA itself:


Associate from the HubSpot Campaign

You can also associate a CTA from the Campaign screen:



And add:

Note that CTAs can only be associated with a single campaign, so if you associate a CTA that is already associated with a separate campaign it will be removed from that separate campaign and added to your current campaign.

✍️  Shot 13: Permissions and providing access to CTAs

What is HubSpot Partitioning?

HubSpot uses the term ‘partitioning’ to describe the process of assigning access to various assets (such as CTAs).

The ability to partition access to HubSpot CTAs is available in Marketing Enterprise and CMS Enterprise.

To assign the access, you need to click on the CTAs in the CTA listing, and then click the Assign Users and Teams link that appears at the top of the list:



From there you can assign to users and teams:



We usually control access via Teams (ie we very rarely assign to individual users) since this is much easier to manage.

Note that assigning to a Child team will automatically select the Parent team (since Parent teams inherit all Child team access settings)

Important: note that if a CTA isn’t assigned to any team, then by default it is available to everyone.

🏋️ Shot 14: When Not to Use HubSpot CTAs

HubSpot Doesn't Seem to Use Them?

One thing I’ve noticed is that HubSpot doesn’t seem to use CTAs on their main website. Or have I just missed them?



I raised a ticket with HubSpot Support to get their thoughts on why. HubSpot Support replied and said they didn’t know and to ask the HubSpot developers. So we’ve asked on the HubSpot forums here. There’s been some comments that it could be related to performance, but I’ll need to quantify this.

It’s interesting to me that they aren’t used more on their main site - I’m keen to know more about their decision process…


Don’t Use CTAs when you want to use personalisation

CTA don’t support personalisation tokens, so if you’re wanting to include personalisation (Eg on a button) you can’t use CTAs (instead use a standard link on the page styled as a button)


Be careful using CTAs that link to Staging pages

On Staging pages - CTAs need to be updated when pushing live - they won’t automatically update Staging URLs to Production URLs.

Note that the staging URLs should redirect to the Product URL - so they won’t result in a 404, but it is still work updating the CTAs to point directly to the Production URLs.

🏋️ Shot 15: Training Recommendation

HubSpot Academy course on CTAs

HubSpot has a full set of lessons on how to create a CTA in HubSpot.

✍️ Shot 16: Quote of the Show

“I never lose. I either win or learn.” - Nelson Mandela

“In God we trust, all others must bring data.” - W. E. Deming

🧲 Shot 17: Follow Us on the Socials

Connect with HubShots here:

Connect with Ian Jacob on LinkedIn and Craig Bailey on LinkedIn 

HubShots, the podcast for marketing managers and sales professionals who use HubSpot, hosted by Ian Jacob from Search & Be Found and Craig Bailey from XEN Systems and XEN Solar.

HubShots is produced by Christopher Mottram from Podcastily.

Please share this with colleagues - it helps us improve and reach more marketers.

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