Whether you’re pushing a lead magnet to grow your email list or promoting your upcoming webinar on Instagram, one of the simplest ways to boost your conversions is to craft clear, strong CTAs.
So, what’s a CTA? It stands for call to action: concise, persuasive copy that prompts a reader to take action.
An effective CTA indicates what desired action you’d like your audience (or potential client) to take. That could be anything from signing up for your newsletter to visiting your website, or purchasing a subscription.
But before we go any further, let’s talk about why CTAs matter in the first place.
Why writing a strong CTA is so important
When you’re pushing something new to your audience, you probably have a very clear idea of what you want them to do. That makes it easy to dismiss the importance of a CTA.
Why reiterate an action when it’s so obvious? Isn’t that why they visited the page in the first place?
Think of it like this:
A call to action is the last five seconds of your big pitch.
You’ve laid your heart out on the table, they’ve seen everything you have to offer, and now the power to decide lies in their hands. Your CTA, in this scenario, is your final opportunity to create a significant impression on your audience before they choose to dive deeper, or click away.
And that could be the difference between a conversion and a lost opportunity.
A good CTA is also a great way to ensure that you’re clear about the action to be taken when you’re presenting marketing materials. Interested prospects will always look for the “buy now” or “learn more” button, and a well-done CTA is going to make their experience smoother.
So, while it may be easy to dismiss the importance of a good call to action, it’s actually excellent real estate for you to be creative, pump up the urgency of an offer, and ensure that you’re clear about the action you’re urging your prospect to take.
What are the best CTA practices?
There’s a whole host of CTAs out there, and skilled copywriters and content marketers know that not every CTA works in every scenario (it’s the old ‘square-peg-round-hole’ story).
The most effective way to decide what’s best in any given case is a little groundwork.
3 basic things you need to keep in mind while writing your CTA are:
- The purpose of your CTA
Thinking about the purpose of your call to action is a great way to narrow down potential words that could be used.
Is the purpose to…
- Help your audience gain more information?
If you’re pushing information to your audience, wording that creates a sense of curiosity or intellectual gain would play well.
Words to consider: learn, read, find out, see more, continue, discover, know more
- Allow access to a new page?
If the purpose of your CTA is to allow your audience to access an article, newsletter, subscription, or waitlist, words that communicate a new beginning or point of origin might serve you well.
Words to consider: Start, Try, Give [X] a try, launch, view, sign up, get immediate access, swipe up, select, book, claim
- Initiate a purchase?
If your CTA is to get a prospect to purchase a membership or subscription, it might be useful to go for words that convey the existence of a purchasing decision, as well as urgency.
Words to consider: shop now, buy, sale, get [X]% off, choose your [X], don’t miss out, offer ends soon, get your [X] today
2. The feeling you want your CTA to communicate
While it may seem like every call to action must include an urgency or persuasion-based component, that’s not always the case. A CTA may evoke many different emotions depending on the context and the chosen language.
Here’s an example:
“Explore” is a great CTA for Unsplash here because it conveys a sense of possibility and emphasizes the value of choice when it comes to free high-resolution images, which is exactly what the site provides.
Here’s another great example:
The call to action “Video: How It Works” does a great job of satisfying a visitor’s curiosity about how DocuSign goes about their service and instills a sense of trust and transparency by telling visitors that they’re happy to explain their process via video and that their documents are in a safe place.
Speaking of curiosity…
The “Tell me more” call to action inspires curiosity (pushed further by some pleasing copy) and makes the visitor want to venture forward into the world and the benefits that Collect has waiting for them.
3. Where your CTA is going to be
Always structure your call to action keeping in mind where it’s going to be used.
A shorter, punchier, more urgent CTA might trigger more engagement if it’s going up on social media.
The Economist is crisp and clear with its call to action which is perfect for Instagram promotion, where most visitors might have a shorter attention bandwidth than a landing page or email.
Here, Evernote connects with readers instantly with good design, some minimal copy, and the CTA “Learn from the link in our bio.”
On the other hand, it might be beneficial to opt for a more conversational call to action if it’s going to show up in emails, newsletters, or the like.
Country Bean takes a clean but explanatory approach to their new offer here, for example; as opposed to doing something crisp and short like “Use code TREAT for 1+1 on coffee spreads”
Reedsy’s goal-setting CTA flows seamlessly with the rest of the email because of its consistent, conversational tone, and the way it addresses the reader directly.
What to ask yourself while creating a CTA
- Who is your audience?
Understanding your audience can help you come up with calls to action that are more effective and also up your credibility as a service provider.
For example, if you know that your audience is made up of remote workers who will benefit from your time-management resources, a CTA like this one will evoke more of a response than a more general “Click here to sign up.”
Similarly, let’s say your audience comprises business owners who’ve had trouble hosting their courses and memberships online. A CTA like “See How We’re Doing It Differently” might get your visitors excited about working with Hey Marvelous, because there’s something of value for them here.
2. Can you incorporate your brand voice?
If you have the opportunity to inject your brand voice into your CTA, go for it! Think of it as a chance to flex those copywriting muscles, if on a micro-scale.
Pretty Fly Copywriting’s CTA here is a brilliant example of being brand-consistent while being clear about what action the CTA is asking you to take. It’s engaging, conversational, and fun!
This CTA for Airbnb does a great job of communicating a sense of exploration, relaxation, vacationing, flexibility, ease, and possibility which is very much in tune with their brand voice.
3. Are you communicating momentum?
Remember, the whole point of a call to action is to urge your audience to do something, i.e. take the desired action. There are many ways to communicate this movement and flux.
Uber does a good job of using a strong action word to get users to sign up, without compromising on precision.
You can also indicate action and momentum by indulging in some micro-level future-pacing where you focus on the result of an action and how it might benefit your audience. Here, Earth Hero does this by indicating a 10% discount on your order.
Foolproof tips for a strong call to action
- Make it sound low risk
A little bottom-line copy stating, “You can click out any time!” or indicating an option to unsubscribe goes a long way. It puts your visitor in a comfortable position. Why?
This one line can make moving forward with an action easier because of the minimal risk involved.
In the following example, Forbes takes the time to mention that the reader can cancel any time in unmissable bold type, solidifying the thought in the visitor’s mind.
Zendesk articulates low-risk by telling users that they needn’t submit their credit card information to start a free trial.
2. Don’t miss a chance to communicate urgency
If the desired action warrants urgency, don’t miss the chance to convey it through your call to action. Not only will an urgency-based CTA grab more attention, but it’ll also reiterate the time-sensitivity of the offer right before your prospect is in the position to make a decision.
Here, Disney+ gives visitors a taste of what they’ll get to back up their super simple but well-done CTA, “Stream Now”.
QuickBooks drives home a sense of urgency by lending their visitors the knowledge that they’ll be able to avail their services at half the price if they buy from them now.
3. Articulate benefits
If your marketing materials come with benefits, discounts, or resources, it’s good practice to mention them while crafting your call to action for maximum visibility.
Here, Revive Social clubs adding you to their email list and sending you a valuable resource at once in this CTA, making the benefit hard to miss.
OptinMonster makes sure to use the possibility of saving 35% or more as the centerpiece of its call to action here.
4. Use social proof
It can be very interesting to use social proof in a call to action if there’s a way to mention it naturally and in tune with your purpose.
This Twitter post by Rev does this perfectly in the CTA and accompanying copy.
In this example, HootSuite builds trust by talking about their biggest clients.
5. Dress your CTA up
If you have any control over what your CTA button will look like once it has been opted in, there are some proven ways to affect conversions.
According to multiple researchers and copywriting experts, red, orange, and green work great for CTA buttons, because they’re bright on the eye and easy to find.
But in many cases, SaaS companies and service providers choose to stick to their brand colours and designs to maintain consistency.
Both types of CTAs can work well as long as the chosen colours contrast their background well and aren’t lost on the page.
A CTA that’s obvious, easier to locate, and closer to the offer will always convert better than one that seems disconnected or out of context from the rest of the page, whether that’s in terms of copy, or design.
Here are some examples of CTAs that achieve this very well:
Another great way to make a call to action more effective is using arrows to communicate movement visually on a screen.
These are some great examples:
There are multiple possible combinations of button copy, designs, and colours that can be employed to create the perfect CTA. But it’s incredibly important not to get carried away and lose sight of the goal: illuminating your client’s next step.
One very quick way to ensure that your CTA is effective is to put yourself in a potential client’s shoes (or get a second opinion) and see whether you’d be able to navigate the page smoothly.
Another foolproof practice is to set up some simple A/B testing and see what your prospects respond to better. This can help you dive deeper in the minds of your clients, eliminate what doesn’t work, and make your life easier down the road.