profits, revenue, business

What Is Call To Action And How Do You Write One?

In every conversion process, there are several moving parts. And while all of these parts are important, some are considered more important than the others. Among the most important ones is the Call to Action.

But what exactly is the call to action, how important is it, and should you even care? This article answers these questions and more. It is meant to be a CTA 101, so most things you’ll find here are basic but important stuff. Let’s get going.

What Is Call To Action, Or CTA?

Call to action as a prompt on a website that tells the user to take some specified action.” Says one of the definitions I found online.

This definition is great, yes. But calls to action have been around long before the invention of the web in 1989. This is an ad by John Caples 60 years earlier.

John Caples' 1929 ad with a call to action
1929 Ad

This ad would go on to feature an order form below the fold so readers can place orders right away.

Another definition says a call to action is “a phrase that’s used to tell the user exactly what action to take and how to take it.” This is also a nice definition, but I’ve seen full-sentence and paragraph-long CTAs with full stops in-between multiple statements. So the word “phrase” doesn’t quite catch it. Here’s an example from WhatFix.

Whatfix paragraph call to action

That’s the call to action — used after a blog post. The first and second statements handled the transitioning from “teacher” to “marketer,” while the last statement made the actual call.

The author, however, affirmed later in the article that a call to action can be longer than a sentence. But I think she could have crafted the definition to cover that too.

I also found one that says a call to action “is the part of your advertisement that tells your target audience what they should be doing once they click on your  PPC ad and hit your website or landing page.

Sorry, but that’s not exactly it.

Marketing and advertising (and by extension, calls to action) aren’t restricted to PPC ads that lead to a website. What about TV commercials, posters, influencer marketing, FM radio jingles, and newspaper and magazine ad placements? Should we not use CTAs for these campaigns? Of course, we must — except if we’re only out for awareness.

Plus, a call to action on an advertisement should only tell the audience what to do at that point — make a call or learn more about a product — not what they should do on the landing page. What they’re to do on a landing page is communicated at length in the landing page copy.

And except if the CTA is the only element on the landing page (a subscription form, for example) without any copy, calling a visitor to action the moment they hit your website isn’t good practice, and it’s not recommended. But that also depends — placing a call to action above the fold is effective; intimidating users with a full-screen pop-up? Not so much.

Which definition, then, perfectly describes calls to action?

Well, there’s one definition by David Zheng on CrazzyEgg: “…an invitation for a user to take some desired action.” Good. But reading further down the piece, he favoured persuasive writing above other forms of sales and marketing. And the word “user” suggests he’s talking more about websites.

Now, the best definition of calls to action I found out there is this one from Mindy Lilyquist on TheBalanceMB: “…a statement designed to get an immediate response from the person reading or hearing it.” Parfait! This definition covers every form of calls to action wherever it appears, and whatever it asks the user to do.

A call to action is a statement designed to get an immediate response from the person reading or hearing it.

Calls to action are as old as marketing, and you’ll find them wherever there’s marketing or advertising of any kind. Even new small-business owners who have never advertised before use CTAs. They just may not know it by that name.

How Important Is Call To Action In Marketing?

I wouldn’t say calls to action are the most important things in marketing and sales — there’s like a gazillion other things competing for that position. Besides, CTAs alone can’t close sales. They often need an excellent conversion-focused copy to perform to the best of their abilities.

That being said, a bad CTA can water-down the effectiveness of a mind-blowing copy, while a good CTA can make a good copy work so hard you’d keep it around for years.

On CTA’s importance, Neil Patel, an industry thought-leader in digital marketing says “without them, your traffic has no clue what you want them to do.

See, if you write blogs and sales pages but refuse to add calls to action, no matter how long visitors spend on your website, navigating without direction, they’ll eventually bounce. And you won’t gain anything from their visit except an addition to the numbers you see on your analytics dashboard.

If you write blogs and sales pages but refuse to add calls to action, no matter how long visitors spend on your website, navigating without direction, they’ll eventually bounce

If you write an engaging product description or copy on a landing page but refuse to call visitors to take the action of buying that product, you’ll waste leads. 

And if your CTA is repulsive, hard to find, or intrusive, there’s a high chance you’ll lose more sales than you’ll close.

Types Of CTA

There are several types of CTAs. But in digital marketing, I can identify two major categories of calls to action — Text CTAs and Button CTAs.

Text CTAs

example of text call to action, cta

Only common in email newsletters and blog feed “read more,” text calls to action are not so popular. And many people don’t think of them as calls to action (especially when you use them casually within the content body) because they’re so used to clicking big “Buy Now” buttons.

Button CTAs

example of button call to action, cta

These ones scream “I Am A Call To Action.” You’ll find them almost everywhere digital marketing is happening: social media campaigns, home pages, form submissions, landing pages, emails, etc. Over the years, they’ve been found to be much more effective than text CTAs.

In another classification of CTAs by Hubspot, 8 types of CTAs were identified as the ones you actually need on your website. This list, however, is based on their functions or the result of the action they call for, not their forms.

Types Of CTAs Based On Function

1. Lead Generation Call To Action.

walk me lead generation cta
Walkme email subscription/lead generation form

A lead generation call to action is often placed in places that receive the most views — below posts, within posts, and sidebars most of the time. It must also clearly communicate the value behind taking the action. It is, after all, meant to convert visitors into leads.

2. Form Submission Call To Action.

hubspot registration from submission cta
Hubspot’s registration form

Okay, we’ve all filled forms at one point or the other. There’s no week where I don’t fill one form or the other. If you’re going to use forms on your website — which is most likely — It is recommended that you trade out the traditional “Submit” to something more activity-oriented, you dig? I once read somewhere that “nobody wants to submit.

3. Read More Call To Action.

9 tips on how to write headilnes for ads read more cta
Withnostress read more call to action

Although Hubspot calls this “Read more Button,” it’s not always a button. On this blog, I use text for the read more CTA in the blog feed. And I’ve seen several other blogs that use text too. Some do use buttons, though.

4. Product or Service Discovery Call To Action.

iWatch series 2 production announcement
iWatch series 2 announcement

This is a CTA that lets a user know about new product releases, updates, and feature addition to old products. It’s also used when you need to update users about changes in pricing to your products and services.

5. Social Sharing Call To Action.

with no stress social share buttons
Withnostress social sharing

This CTA is essential to making a blog post go viral on social media. If you’re not asking visitors to share your content on social media, you better be asking them to do something better — like buying or subscribing.

6. Lead Nurturing Call To Action.

similarweb's lead nurturing cta
Similarweb’s lead nurturing call to action

This one often takes several steps to convert a visitor to a buyer or a regular customer. That’s why lead generation and lead nurturing CTAs are both on this list. This CTA is only useful for people who need (and are considering using) your product or service. The example above is from Similarweb’s homepage.

7. Closing The Sale Call To Action.

ubersuggest closing the sale cta
Ubersuggest sale closure call to action

Whether you’ve nurtured leads or your leads skipped nurturing, you still need to close the sale. The most basic sales closure CTA is “Buy Now,” which is now considered to be under-effective. Above is a great example of a sale closure CTA from Ubersuggest.

8. Event Promotion Call To Action.

vrightonSEO summit
BrightonSEO event announcement

If you’re holding a business event, workshop, summit, etc. and would like invitees to register or book a sit. You’ll need this one here.

Writing A Call To Action

There are several situations where you might need to use a CTA. And more often than not, you’ll need different strategies to write CTAs for different purposes and platforms.

Here are some tips for writing CTAs for different platforms and actions. And examples to go with each one.

1. Newsletter Call To Action

Both businesses and bloggers often ask visitors to sign up for their newsletters, either to receive weekly updates or daily digests. Mostly, it’s just regular updates on newly published blogs, but businesses also send sales letters to their subscribers.

Whether you’re telling subscribers about your new blog post or trying to sell to them with a sales letter, you need to call them to action at both instances.

Because HTML sometimes breaks in emails and renders the whole message illegible, it may be better to opt for text-based CTAs in newsletters. Many businesses and top bloggers often create a landing page, then send an email lead with a call to action to visit the landing page.

This one’s from American Writers and Artists Institute (AWAI). They often use text calls to action in the copy and buttons only at the end.

AWAI email snapshot
AWAI email

And one from Jon Morrow.

jon morrow email snapshot
Jon morrow email

That being said, button CTAs also work well, and are effective too.

This is from BloggingPro

bloggingpro email snapshot
BloggingPro email

And a fully customized Event Promotion email and CTA from The United Bank for Africa.

event promotion by UBA
United Bank for Africa event promotion

Tips for Writing Newsletters CTAs:

  • Use active voice
  • Make the call to action immediately after the intro
  • Include the CTA at the end
  • Remember to keep it short and direct
  • Communicate a benefit
  • Command urgency

2. Landing/Sales Page Call To Action

Landing pages have only one purpose — to convert anyone that lands on them. And while you must strive to get the best copy for your landing page, you must also strive to get the best CTA to match the copy.

Landing pages have only one purpose — to convert anyone that lands on them.

A landing page’s CTA can come in different forms, shapes, and sizes. It can be a button:

hire a health and wellness copywriter withnostress
Joseph Olu health writing cta

A sign up form:

Engage bay CRM sign up form
EngageBay CRM sign up

Or whatever you desire to put on it, for that matter.

Tips for Writing Landing Page CTAs

  • Less is always more
  • Use active voice
  • They shouldn’t blend in with the page
  • They should neither be too small nor too big
  • Use one CTA for one landing page but show it several times
  • Don’t keep them too deep into the body or too far from one another, in case the prospect makes a decision while reading
  • A supporting CTA should be kept around. Exit-intent CTA works best to call “bouncers” to take another action.

3. Youtube Call To Action

There are basically two places where you can call viewers to action on YouTube — within the video and in the description text.

Many businesses and digital marketers use the ever-present CTA within their videos, like this one.

Youtube ever-present call to action
Image Source: Hubspot

This CTA appears right from the beginning of the video and stays till the end, and without obstructing your viewers’ view in any way. However, ever-present CTAs shouldn’t stop you from utilizing the end-of-video CTA.

With end-of-video call to action, you can suggest new videos, ask users to subscribe to your channel, market your product, promote your social media etc. You might want to place some priority on suggesting videos for your viewers. It’s very easy for users to get lost in YouTube’s ‘Recommended’ section, and they might wander off your channel.

What can you do with the video description? No, don’t just describe the content in the video, that’s not enough. Promote your website and social media handles as celebs do.

Sia (one of my all-time favorite singers) does this. Her website is further down the page.

Sia Youtube

Justin Bieber does it too.

Justin Bieber youtube

Want to see a digital business doing it? Check Neil Patel’s Youtube out:

And Hubspot:

Tips for Writing (or Saying) YouTube CTAs

  • When you ask for a subscription at the end of your videos, don’t be self-serving. Instead, communicate a benefit, e.g. “Subscribe to this channel for in-depth videos about digital transformation and step-by-step guides on how to seamlessly digitize your business.” Or “every week, we produce videos on the latest trends in marketing and sales, and how you can use them in your strategy to close more deals. Subscribe to this channel so you don’t miss an update.”
  • If your videos are long because you treat in-depth topics, you can make the transcript into a PDF, ask viewers to get the link in the description and ask for their email to download the PDF.

4. Instagram Calls To Action

There are four places where you can call your audience to action on Instagram — ads, profile pages, posts, and bio. First advice I’ll give you? Don’t be a sales jerk.

I know you’re on IG to sell, but, hell, give your audience a break. Not every content you roll out should ask people to buy. However, never fail to call them to take action.

With business profile CTAs, you have six options — Book, Reserve, Get Tickets, Gift Cards, Order Food, and Donate. Your choice depends on the action you want users to take on your wall.

I don’t think these action buttons will be of much use to a B2B digital business. So you might want to settle for the follow button for the most part.

IG business profile action buttons

With IG ads, you have 12 CTA options — Apply Now, Book Now, Contact Us, Download, Learn More, Request Time, See Menu, Play Game, Use App, Shop Now, Sign Up, and Watch More.

IG ads call to action

To use these buttons, though, you must accept purchases or bookings through one of IG’s partners.

Tips for Writing Instagram CTAs

  1. With your content, you can ask for shares, likes, and/or comments.
  2. Repurpose content from your blog and ask users to view the full piece.
  3. Be concise
  4. Use the active voice too

Whatever works for you.

For bios, it’s commonplace for influencers to define their services and modes of contact. And most businesses simply describe what they do. But make sure you ask them to do something. Either to view your latest posts or to follow you for (insert type of content you deliver).

5. Twitter Call To Action

There are 4 very effective CTAs on Twitter, according to Twitter itself (or themselves). And they arrived at this conclusion after analysing 20,000 randomly over a 3 month period. They are:

Download CTAs

2020 Mama download tweet

Promoted tweets that explicitly ask the audience to download and then accompanied by a link got increased clicks to URL by 13% in timelines and 11% in search. A good way to build that mailing list, innit??

Retweet CTAs

Ahrefs fiveaway tweet

The key to getting this to work is to offer the audience something in return for their efforts in retweeting your ad.

It was reported that promotional tweets that asked for retweets received, on average, 311% more retweets in timelines and 317% more retweets in search.

They also found that using the full word “Retweet” works better than using “RT”. And making the call to action at the beginning works better than including it at the end of the tweet.

Follow-us CTAs

AHrefs follow us tweet

Twitter also discovered that promoted tweets that asked for a follow increased follows by an average of 258% on timelines and 86% in search. But you’ll need to highlight what will be their reward for following you. If you share great content, mention it. If you do giveaways, mention it.

Reply CTAs

Source: Twitter.com

If you’re interested in sparkling a conversation with Twitter users, pose a question and don’t forget to give them a reason to reply. Conversation-focused promoted tweets increased replies by up to 334% in timeline and up to 307% in search.

Google Ads Call To Action

With Google Ads, there are no CTA buttons. You’ll have to make do for that in your ad headline or description. 

Fully aware of the fact that about 80% of the people who read the headline don’t read the copy, you’ll want to use your CTA in the headline — like SEMRush.

However, using it in your description isn’t bad too. If you study the descriptions in the ad above, you’d notice that each one, apart from Backlinks Checker, contains a clause that starts with an action verb:

— enter a term…
— collect millions of…
— see competitors’ best…
— track up to 20…

Pretty sure anyone looking for a keyword research tool but hasn’t heard of this ad is going to take a peek at what’s behind those pages.

Tips for Writing Google Ads CTA.

  • Try to mention the CTA in your headline
  • Be sure to communicate the benefit that sits on the other side
  • Focus on one action.

What Now?

Get to optimizing the calls to action on your website!

I’d recommend you get the Heatmap tool from Crazyegg for some heatmap data of your landing page before experimenting with positioning.

Whatever changes you plan to make on your landing pages and sales, make sure you have the right data and be sure that the changes are actually worth it before you get on with tweaking stuff.

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