Creating Killer Calls to Action


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Whether you’re looking for leads from your website or clicks from your Twitter tweets, having a good, solid call to action is key.

A call to action is messaging that encourages the reader to do something: click, call, buy, download or some other action.

Without using the appropriate wording, visitors to your site may be left not feeling the urgency you want them to, and they may leave. It’s important to catch them while they’re in the mode to do something further. Invite them to download your free whitepaper, sign up for a free trial, subscribe to your email newsletter or call for a complimentary consultation.

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Key Elements in Calls to Action

If you are not a professional marketer, calls to action could sound complicated  They are not.  Creating effective calls to action just involves keeping some simple rules in mind.

Your calls to action on your website should, at a minimum, have these six elements:

1. Short

Many calls to action are in the form of a button or link.  Short verbiage works best. Who wants to read a button with 14 words on it?  It would be confusing and overwhelming.  Nobody is going to click on that kind of button.

Think about your favorite eCommerce site, such as Amazon or eBay.  Think about the calls to action on their sites. You will see buttons that say “Add to Cart” or “Buy It Now” or something similar.  They don’t say something wordy like “We hope you will select this and proceed to check out where we will get your credit card information.”  They are short, sweet and to the point.

2. Easy to understand

Calls to action are not the time to be too creative with verbiage.  Tried and true works well.  “Download” or “Learn More” or “Subscribe” or “Get it Now!” are all easy to understand.

When the call to action is obvious, the visitor to a web page doesn’t have to stop to think or, worse, guess.  You don’t want to interject anything that causes a person to pause out of confusion.  It’s easier pass by something confusing, than to take action.

3. Urgent (“now!”)

Get them to do it right now.  Shoppers today are bombarded with choices.  You don’t want shoppers to hesitate.  Chances are, if they go away they will not come back and do it later.  Something else is bound to capture their attention. They will more likely end up on your competitor’s site where they will buy that item or download that whitepaper or subscribe to that newsletter.

4. Highly visible on the page

What good is a call to action if people don’t see it?  Calls to action should be prominent.  That usually means above the scroll (i.e., the top part of the web page).

A call to action should be large enough and designed so as for people to spot quickly. Use choice of colors and other design factors to lead the eye to it.  Lack of clutter also helps a call to action to stand out.

Sometimes you might consider having the call to action twice, especially on a long page.  In that case you might put a call to action at the top and one lower down in the page.

5. Encourages people to click a link

Many calls to action involve clicking on something.

Avoid making the person click more than once to reach the stage of doing something. For example, if you want people to read your article that you’ve tweeted, avoid sending the person to an intermediary page such as your Facebook page where you’ve shared a snippet of the article. Instead, send the person directly to the article you want him or her to read.

The more clicks someone  has to make, the more opportunities to lose that person before he or she takes action.

6. Throughout your site, not just on one page

The more people who see your call to action, and the more times they see it, the more follow through on it.  For example, if you want people to subscribe to your newsletter, have a subscribe button or email form on every page (or just about every page).

More Tips About Calls to Action

Remember to use wording that will appeal to people. What do your visitors want to do? Save? Learn more? Get something free?  You can also use savings as a call to action, such as “Save 40 percent when you spend $50 today.”

Try not to bombard your visitors with too many choices for what to do next. For example, if they have the option to click, download and buy, they may be overwhelmed and leave. Instead, choose one call to action for each page. On the product description page, focus on a buying call to action. On the homepage, offer a free download. On Twitter, the call to action would focus on clicking your link.

And speaking of calls to action on Twitter and social media, you want to give people a reason to follow you, as this post from 10,000 Words explains. Prove your presence on social media is useful to them. It could be as simple as “Please RT” after an interesting blog post, or “Share your thoughts on this” after a poignant question. Engage readers with your call to action.

For more, see these great (and not so great) examples of calls to action.

Finally, experiment to see what call to action verbiage gets the best results. Consider doing an a/b test page using different calls to action. Whichever one gets more clicks is the winner.

14 Comments ▼

Susan Payton - Awards Communication Mgr.


Susan Payton Susan Payton is the Communications Manager for the Small Business Trends Awards programs. She is the President of Egg Marketing & Communications, an Internet marketing firm specializing in content marketing, social media management and press releases. She is also the Founder of How to Create a Press Release, a free resource for business owners who want to generate their own PR.

14 Reactions

  1. A great way to practice writing punchy calls to action is through Twitter. As an example, find an old post on your blog that was well received. Write 2-3 alternate headlines and tweet them out using a trackable shortened link (like bit.ly). Check the analytics the next day and see which headline got the most clicks. Fast and easy feedback.

    • Great idea, Robert! Although I’ll be honest, I don’t know how to get shortened links Twitter-style. Mine all look like the full link with “…” at the end. I’ll have to figure out a way to employ the tactic. What is your Tweet handle? I’ll look for you on Twitter.

  2. Great article, Susan! Thanks for your “action” when we “called” you!

  3. Susan Payton

    @Robert–
    (you get the award for commenting the most on my posts!). I love the tip!

    @Ashley–
    No prob!

  4. Thanks for the tips Susan, I’m currently in the midst of a website and marketing material redesign so I’ve been thinking a lot about calls to action lately. It’s a bit tricker when you don’t sell a physical product, but getting visitors to convert on things like free whitepaper downloads is a great idea.

  5. Susan,

    I appreciate you sharing your call to action tips. The key to any call to action to be effective is to follow the suggestions above. Keep up the great content.

    Best,

    Stacie Walker

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