Why “Start Your Free Trial” is an asinine headline that pushes people away (and what to say instead to get them to opt in without a fight)

Supercharging the anticipation with your call to action

Drill this into your brain:

Right up until the moment someone enters their email address and clicks “submit”, you should still be working your butt off to make it as easy for them as possible.

So. Many. Landing. Pages. Fail. At. This.

They do all this hard work convincing a prospect to give them a chance, and then the RUIN it with a terrible call to action. And in one click of the X on the browser tab their warm lead is flushed down the toilet and lost in the cold sea forever.

What is it about your CTA that can cause your prospect to flip 180 degrees from “dang, this sounds sweet, where do I sign up?” to “eh… maybe not” in just a few seconds?

The answer is this:

Uncertainty about what’s going to happen after they opt in.

It’s bad enough when a landing page asks for an email address when they’ve hardly explained what a prospect will be getting in return.

But it’s asinine to have a landing page that’s firing on all cylinders and then drops the ball with a CTA that makes your prospect nervous.

I’m referring to the headlines, descriptions, and buttons in your CTA that give vague instructions or that obscure the user’s experience after they opt in.

In other words, you need to tell people exactly what they’re going to find on the other side of that “sign up” button.

Get as granular as you can. Leave nothing up to question.

The last step people take before opting in—clicking the button—should be descriptive of the very next step in the process.

“Sign Up” or “Start Your Free Trial” or (my personal least favorite) “Get Started” are all terrible buttons (and terribly common) that give people zero indication of what’s going to happen after they click. 

So what’s the better way? I’ll give you an example and you can decide. 

Here are 2 calls to action for the fictional “EasyPage” landing page builder. Which would you feel more confident clicking on?

Call to action A

Call to Action B

I’m guessing that before you saw call to action B, you probably thought A was decent, or at least pretty standard (after all, I took it straight from a real landing page builder website and just replaced the company name). 

But I’m also guessing that after you read call to action B, you realized just how plain and uninformative (and not to mention nearly identical to every other website) A was, right?

Which one made you more excited to start your free trial? 

This is how you finish strong and keep prospects’ momentum up enough to opt in. 

When you set expectations with your CTA, not only do you alleviate people’s uncertainty, but you actually get them even more excited to take you up on your offer. 

If you haven’t noticed by now, I’m a huge proponent of being extremely literal, crystal clear, and no-nonsense in my approach to landing pages. 

In general I stay away from witty humor and flowery metaphors in landing pages.

Why? Because they entertain, but they do not convert

Yet over and over again I see landing pages (even from big, well known companies) that try to entertain more than inform, thinking that somehow people will sign up because the headline was a clever play on words. 

I’m not saying you should never use humor or fun, especially if that’s part of your brand image. 

What I am saying is that you should never ever sacrifice clarity and precision for entertainment value. 

But what if entertainment is part of your marketing strategy? 

What if you get a portion of your traffic from content that isn’t directly involved in converting customers?


Your content strategy and your landing page are at different stages of the sales funnel.

In general, landing pages are part of the consideration stage. Their purpose is to generate leads and push people further towards the sale. 

Ideally the visitors going to your landing page is problem-aware, meaning they’re investigating potential solutions to their needs. 

At this point, your visitors are considering your business. 

So it’s your landing page’s job to give them all the important information about how you can solve their problem. 

This is a pitch. Treat it like one. 

That means prioritizing clarity over entertainment. And that applies throughout your entire landing page from top to bottom.

From headline to call to action. 

Remember, at your landing page now you’re asking for payment (in the form of an email address) in return for a lead magnet. So treat it like money.

But hold on.

There’s still one major piece of the pie that we’re missing. 

Even if you are offering incredible value…

And you’ve made that value clear and what you get out of it…

And you’ve set precise expectations that people can count on…

There’s still another question your visitors have that’s holding them back from pulling the trigger:

“But does it work??”

People want to be sure that the value you’re promising will work for them

And despite your best efforts to be sincere, they’re still skeptical of your claims about your own offer. Even if you know you’re being 100% honest.

What they’re looking for is proof. Validation from other people who have gone before them and confirmed the validity of your claims as a third party.

This is called social proof. 

But it’s not as simple as slapping on a testimonial or some logos of your clients’ businesses.

Social proof is easy to fake. So people want proof of your social proof.

Let’s talk about that next.


Your call to action is the final push to get people to opt in, so it has to keep up the momentum created by your offer and your copy.
The best CTA’s set clear expectations about what your prospect can expect to experience once they sign up.

Tom Burns Internet Marketing