CTAs 101: Be Sure Your Call to Action Works


by  Kristen Dahlberg A CALL-TO-ACTION  or CTA can be a powerful tool for optimizing your website, boosting performance and generating ...


A CALL-TO-ACTION or CTA can be a powerful tool for optimizing your website, boosting performance and generating leads. Effective CTAs help your business grow by increasing your following and engaging viewers.

So, what is a CTA?

A call-to-action is an instruction in the form of a button, banner, graphic or a text link that is placed at a strategic location to encourage a specific activity or function.  The placement and wording encourages visitors to click or follow through with the desired action – providing their information within a landing page or opt-in form, visiting a related blog post, signing up for a newsletter, etc.
While CTAs have many purposes, they are often used to generate leads or convert visitors, regardless of the type of conversion you seek (sales, followers, sign-ups). Clearly, using CTAs can have huge benefits for your business, which is why you should spend some time planning before you begin to use them.


In spite of the fact that CTAs are usually found in the form of a button with a short text feature, this isn’t a general rule. You will commonly see CTAs like this one:

On the other hand, you can create a custom design, like OpenTable did in this email CTA by adding a short description, an image and modifying the button text accordingly:

In addition to the actual look of the button you can also ask your visitors fill out a form, provide their email address, subscribe to your newsletter or even fill out a short survey. This information can later be used to make your marketing campaigns more effective.

Be concise but persuasive

A CTA usually contains text that is designed to encourage clicks. Together with an engaging design, text should invite people to take action. Here are a few guidelines to follow when using text in CTAs:
  • Be concise and to the point. Short, yet persuasive will grasp the attention of your visitors more quickly than a lengthy description. Urban Influence does a great job with their CTA by keeping it short and witty: 

  • Shorter text will be more prominent on the button, as opposed to a longer text which might be too small to read or even notice.
  • Be persuasive and encourage users to interact.
  • Use imperative verbs such as “download”, “register” or “buy”, to encourage the specific action you seek. Straightforward and firm is the feel with this effective CTA from Stone Brewing:

Make CTAs visible

The next thing you need to consider when implementing CTAs is visibility. Their purpose is to encourage clicks and inspire users to take action, so be sure your CTA isn’t something they can scroll past without noticing. If a viewer doesn’t see your CTA in the first place, they obviously cannot take action so remember to address these features:
Some of this goes right back to design, but you may need to see your CTA in place before you know how to adjust those components accordingly. 
  • Position – Make sure you place a CTA near the top of the page or email, as not all visitors will scan through the entire thing. If the CTA is buried at the bottom, chances are they’re going to miss it.
  • Color – In order to make a CTA as prominent as possible, use a color that provides contrast with the background and surrounding features. If your CTA has a pop of color and draws attention in comparison to other components on the screen, you’ll increase the number of potential clicks.
  • Size – Of course, CTAs should be large and prominent to stand out from your other content.  However, bigger isn’t always better. Don’t go overboard with the size of the CTAs, but rather find a size that increases visibility without becoming a distraction and disrupting the user experience.
This CTA from Jamba Juice is a great example of strategic visibility. It is placed toward the top of their page, is a bright, well coordinated color AND is sized to fit in while also standing out.

Desktop vs. mobile users

Another important aspect of CTA design? Mobile friendliness.
Consider how your website or email looks on the mobile devices. They may not look the same on all the devices, which is why you need to optimize CTAs separately for desktop and mobile users. For example, if positioning the CTA at the top of the right sidebar looks great when visiting your site from a desktop computer, keep in mind that for mobile users the right sidebar might be shown at the very bottom, below all of the other content. Therefore, this positioning might reduce the performance of the same CTA on mobile devices.
WordPress optimized their CTA so it has the same consistent feel on both desktop:

And mobile:

Click and convert

Once you are completely satisfied with the design of the CTA, what you need to take care of next is the function.
Although it might seem redundant to mention, it is important to check whether your CTA is really clickable, i.e. if the link works. Having a broken link will only mean wasted opportunities. Always connect the button to the appropriate opt-in list, page, download, or whatever you are directing viewers towards to utilize the power of your CTA.

Review and rethink

If you’re implementing CTAs for the first time, it’s unlikely that you’ll see the full potential of this feature on the first try. In order to use CTAs the smart way, you need to review them, measure engagement and analyze the conversion rate. This way you get to see what works best and -if necessary- rethink your strategy to implement changes that will truly boost results.
For example, try using different types of CTA buttons, experiment with several designs, and test by changing elements and copy for each. This approach helps analyze every aspect of engaging and converting visitors, allowing you to see the bigger picture. Explore all sorts of options that will improve the effectiveness of your new call-to-action!
Have you learned some new tips that will help maximize conversions and engagement? Know someone who may need to breathe new life into their CTA strategy?
Please let us know in the comments which tip you liked best and share this post to help others benefit as well!



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#DIGITAL: CTAs 101: Be Sure Your Call to Action Works
CTAs 101: Be Sure Your Call to Action Works
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