How to create an effective call-to-action

 Uncle Sam

The call-to-action (CTA) is an essential part of any piece of marketing. It’s is the part where we tell our readers – our prospective customers – what we want them to do next.

Common examples of CTAs in digital marketing include:

  • Hyperlinks that lead to related pages or articles within your website
  • Buttons, like “Add to basket”, “Call us” and “Download our whitepaper”
  • Forms (sometimes pop-up ones) such as newsletter sign-ups and callback requests

Good CTAs keep visitors on our websites and, more to the point, they drive conversions – so getting them right is absolutely essential. We should all think carefully about every CTA we create.

Here are four fundamentals of CTA effectiveness:

Assertive language

It’s a call-to-action, not a request-to-action, so it needs to tell the reader what to do.

Compare these two closing sentences:

a) “If you would be interested in finding out more about our content marketing services, please do not hesitate to give us a call on 0161 848 4300.”

b) “Call us on 0161 848 4300 to find out exactly how our content marketing services can help your business.”

The first is timid and sluggish. “If” conveys self-doubt and “please do not hesitate to” is redundant and negative. We may as well add this onto the end: “No worries if not, though!”

The second CTA is much more bold and direct. It puts the instruction first (“Call us on 0161 848 4300”) and it then tells the reader what’s in it for them (“our digital marketing services can help your business”).

Don’t forget that the reader is already on your site, which means they are actively interested in what you have to say or offer, so you are entitled to be assertive.

Concise wording

Concision is, of course, linked to the assertiveness that we’ve just talked about, and is therefore desirable in any CTA – especially buttons and banners, where space is usually very limited.

Even in the case of larger buttons, you should still aim to be concise, because you’re better off using fewer words and making them larger than using more words and making them smaller.

Concise wording also makes your instruction sound like easy work for the visitor, which should increase the likelihood of them engaging with it.

Here’s an example:

 Homepage snapshot

It says “View our website portfolio”, rather than “Please feel free to view our website portfolio if you like”.

This is for two reasons.

First: because we want you to know that we are proud of said website portfolio. Second: because we want to make the most of the available space – the graphics of the monitor, tablet and mobile are much more interesting than those unnecessary extra words would have been.

Prominent placement

If you place all your CTAs at the bottom of your pages, fewer visitors will see them.

Although you should definitely spend time writing and adding informative copy to all your service pages, you need to accept that not every visitor will want to read it from start to finish. Some of them will have already done their research at a previous date (either on your site or a competitor’s), some of them will be in a rush, and some of them will just be plain lazy.

Your website needs to provide a good user experience to every type of visitor – novices, know-it-alls, rushers and the easily bored. You want them all to convert, don’t you?

As such, you need to make conversion easy for all your visitors. One way to do this is place your CTAs ‘above the fold’ (that is, visible immediately – without the user having to scroll down the page).

The below Amazon page is a great example of CTA prominence:


It confronts the user with three different buying options straight away, which enables immediate conversion – and why shouldn’t it? The aim of this page is to drive DVD sales, not to inform users of the DVD’s running time, its release date or what other Amazon customers think of it.

Non-ecommerce sites can employ this tactic as well, albeit to a slightly lesser extent; you don’t want to bombard visitors with CTAs on an information-focused website, but the ones you do insert should be prominent.

Visual appeal

I could point you towards our client testimonials through hyperlinked text within copy (like I just did there). This is the easiest type of CTA to put together, because it takes two seconds.

But, if I take two minutes, I can create a banner that takes you to the same place, and which would sit nicely between two paragraphs, like this:

Read our client testimonials

The HTML code template for this banner is pretty simple, and the banner itself is admittedly primitive. But it stands out more than a hyperlink, doesn’t it? It can be used on any WordPress site.

Even a layman can understand how it works and how to manipulate it. If you download the ColorPick Eyedropper Chrome extension, you’ll then be able to ‘pick’ the code for the colour you want the banner to be.

Here’s the template (minus the speech marks at either end):

“<a style="background-color: #boxcolourcode; width: 96%; text-align: center; display: block; padding: 8px 2%; margin-bottom: 20px; color: #fontcolourcode;" href="URL"><strong>CTA wording</strong></a>”

All you need to do is get rid of the bookending speechmarks, and replace the four parts in red with the following:

  • The code for the colour you want the banner to be
  • The code for the colour you want the text to be
  • The URL for the page you want to link to
  • Your call-to-action wording

Well-crafted and well-placed CTAs lead to more enquiries and conversions, so it’s worth spending time on each one. Of course, there is more to engaging content than a good call-to-action…

Learn how to write a gripping introduction