Smart Calls-To-Action (CTAs) and A/B Testing with HubSpot


HubSpot provides powerful tools you can use to optimize the performance of your CTAs. In particular, there are Smart CTAs which can help you convert more visitors by getting the right message to the right people. In addition, HubSpot enables you to run A/B tests with multiple variants of your CTA to help measure the effectiveness of different designs and text. A/B testing is also referred to as multivariate testing and applies to both standard CTAs and smart CTAs. In this post, we illustrate how to create smart CTAs and conduct A/B testing with an illustrated example that details how HubSpot implements these features.

In our previous post, we discussed how to create and analyze CTAs in HubSpot. To refresh your memory, a CTA, or Call-to-Action, is a lead generating mechanism that leverages the traffic generated by high-quality content to produce leads for your business. Once traffic arrives at your site, landing page, or other content, the immediate goal is to convert that traffic into leads which can eventually become customers. Like we mentioned in our last post, you will need to develop a strategy for your CTAs before you begin designing the look and feel or writing text. Your strategy may include multiple types of CTAs, as well as variations in design and text. You can apply A/B testing to each type and variation. To get started, let’s look at smart CTAs.

Smart CTAs

A smart CTA is a customized button or image CTA tailored specifically to each of your visitors based on their contact records (as stored in HubSpot CRM) or based on “information known about their device type, country, referral source or preferred language.” Therefore, HubSpot allows you to create different CTAs based on what you know about a visitor. Smart CTAs are an easy way to get the right message or offer in front of the right website visitor. In this post, we will use a fictional company called Danny’s Doghouses, that sells custom doghouses, to demonstrate the smart CTA and A/B testing tools within HubSpot.

Danny’s goal is to build up the subscriber list for his blog and decides to create a CTA offering 20% off a doghouse purchase, to encourage the reader to subscribe. Danny will insert this CTA within his top five most read blog posts. The graphic reads “Sign up for our blog + receive 20% off your purchase of a doghouse. ACT NOW! Offer ends 4/15/19” with a button that says “GET MY OFFER.”

Some of the visitors to Danny’s blog are already subscribers, and therefore Danny decides to create a smart version of his CTA for the contacts in his database that are already members of the subscriber's list. These contacts have already signed up for the blog, so the CTA above wouldn’t be applicable. Danny has to create an additional CTA specifically for existing subscribers. Using the smart CTA HubSpot tool, Danny can change which graphic is shown to his visitors based on their subscription status. Readers who are already blog subscribers will see a CTA optimized for them that offers free customization (a $50 value) with their pet’s name if they purchase a doghouse.

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Now that Danny has his additional CTA ready, we’ll walk you through how to create a smart CTA using these two examples. Navigate to Marketing > Lead Capture > CTAs. Click Create CTA and then choose Image Button and upload your first CTA. For the purpose of this post, we will be using Image CTAs, you can also do smart and multivariate versions of button CTAs, as well.

Fill in an Internal name, URL Redirect Type (External, HubSpot page or Blog Post, Meeting link or File link). In this case, the CTAs will redirect to a HubSpot Landing Page. More detail on creating your CTA here. After you fill in this information, click Save and you will be directed to this page:

Choose Create smart version. This is where you will configure your alternate CTA.

As we mentioned, Danny wants to place a different CTA on his blog post for those visitors who are already subscribers. To do this, Danny would select “Contact’s list membership” and then select the blog subscribers list.

Once he selects the list membership to be blog subscribers, Danny clicks Next.

Danny will upload his alternate CTA here:

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After he’s uploaded the graphic for his alternate CTA, Danny will go through the same set-up steps listed above. If your redirect URL is different from your original CTA, this is where you would configure that. Once he’s finished, Danny will see both CTAs. Here, Danny can reorder his rules or add an additional smart version of the CTA. This is a great feature because say you accidentally chose the wrong graphic to correspond with your smart rule, you can rearrange the order here instead of being forced to create an entirely new CTA. Once Danny is happy with his CTAs, he clicks FINISH.

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NOTE: On the main Calls-to-Action dashboard (Marketing > Lead Capture > CTAs), HubSpot will list “smart” under the title of the CTA so that Danny can differentiate between a smart or simple version here:

Multivariate CTAs (A/B Testing)

The second type of Call-to-action we will discuss is called a multivariate CTA. A multivariate CTA enables you to A/B test different versions of your CTA to determine the most effective design or copy. For example, Danny may want to see if the same version of his CTA performs better (more clicks) as a blue graphic vs. a green graphic. HubSpot recommends changing only ONE variable (color, text, etc.) when running an A/B test so that you can more easily determine which of these factors caused more site visitors to click on one CTA vs the other. If you change too many variables, the results are hard to interpret because you cannot tell which change made the difference. HubSpot makes it easy to do A/B testing by allowing you to create multivariate CTAs. The multivariate option is next to the smart option when creating your CTA here:

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Once you click Create multivariate test, on the next page, upload the alternate version of your CTA graphic you’d like to test, or “Variation B”. Danny decides to have the variant be color. He uploads a green version of his blue CTA:

smart cta6Danny clicks Next and can enter the CTA options we mentioned above for his Variation B and click Save. He can then click Finish or Add another variation:

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Since Danny is using two versions of the graphic (blue and green) for this test, he will click Finish. Same as with the smart or simple CTA, Danny will see his multivariate CTA differentiation listed beneath the title of his CTA in the dashboard below:


Measuring the Results of an A/B Test

Measuring the results of an A/B test are not quite the same for a simple or smart CTA. To analyze your multivariate test, you will go to Marketing > Lead Capture > CTAs and find the name of the CTA would like to analyze. You can then choose the “multivariate” CTA you would like to analyze in the Calls-to-Action dashboard:

Click on the name of your CTA as you did above and head over to the dashboard. Review the dashboard of your A/B tested CTA to determine which is performing the best.

A banner* will appear at the top of the details screen declaring a winning CTA:

Photo courtesy of HubSpot

“After each variant reaches 1500 views, HubSpot looks to declare a winner. They look at clicks/conversion rate and use a chi-square test of independence (with a p value of 0.05) to declare a winning variant. If there are more than two variants, they compare the data for each variant against the sum of the data for others and find the variant with the highest conversion rate that is statistically significantly different from the others.”

If you feel that you’ve given your test enough time to run its course and are happy with selecting a winner to your A/B test, simply click “Only show this variation” and only the winning CTA will appear in your content pages. Now of course, if you wanted to continue on with running two versions of the test, simply ignore that banner and continue to have both CTAs running within your content pages business-as-usual. You can also choose to turn off your test at any time by hovering over the version of your CTA you would like to turn off and clicking Turn Off. (You can also turn it back on if you need to right from this screen).

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On the calls-to-action dashboard, you can also click the Actions drop-down next to the CTA internal name and (1) Edit your CTA, (2) Add another multivariate version, (3) View details or track performance, (4) Clone, (5) Get the embed code (and use it an email or other external content) or delete your CTA:


Whether you choose to do a simple CTA, smart CTA or multivariate test, using a tool like HubSpot can help you create these lead generating website elements in seconds. Begin to convert more of your website visitors into real, qualified leads with personalized calls-to-action that are easy to test (multivariate) and optimize (smart). CTAs help funnel potential customers through an important step in their buyer’s journey using personalized content tailored to their needs. If you need a refresh on creating CTAs, head over to our previous post.

Written by The Rare Karma Team