Skip and go to main content

Performance Marketing August 15, 2017

What Makes an Effective Call to Action?

Dept content services

Calls to action (or CTAs), those little micro-messages we see on buttons and links, are worth paying a lot of attention to. They play a critical part in finalising a successful user experience, which is often a successful business goal too.

We are in the business of designing experiences which ask people to carry out a specific behaviour. It could be to learn something, register, sign up, switch, contact, download, buy, pay, view, play, and so on.

The web offers a wealth of possible actions and interactions. Therefore it’s worth spending time getting the ‘ask’ right. Here are some things to keep in mind when writing your own call to action text and turning asks into completed user tasks.

Make it clear but keep the context

Users are typically distracted and busy, so whatever you are asking them to do needs to be clear and concise. However, don’t make it so concise that it lacks context. Context is everything. Every page is a landing page and users may not have read every word you carefully prepared during their ideal user journey. So ensure that what you are asking them to do makes sense to your core users. Otherwise your call to action may have unintended consequences!


Another point about context

Some companies still have a very self-conscious attitude to the fact that they offer services online; however, we need to embrace online as the norm. After all, your user is online if they are reading your copy. So try not to offer calls to action like ‘Apply Online’ or Apply Now on our Web Form’. ‘Apply Now’ will do nicely as button text. Other methods such as applying by email or post are now the non-standard method, so call them out instead.

Be consistent

Unless your brand and content strategy calls for quirky and unusual experiences, use copy that is consistent and commonly used. If people are used to seeing ‘Sign up’, ‘Register’, or ‘Send’, don’t throw them off by asking them to ‘Jump on board’, unless of course you are a yacht company or a collective of pirates. When users are submitting a Contact form, don’t have ‘BOOM!’ as the send copy unless you are Basil Brush or trying to appeal to fans of cartoon explosions. It may not always be exciting but consistency is really useful for users.

Focus on the goal

I’ll sometimes receive copy that contains calls to actions focused on the format. For example ‘Start the application form’ and ‘Download a PDF’ were two recent offenders – what application form, or a PDF about what??

Remember, a form is only a means to an end and PDFs are only a format.

My advice is to bypass that and focus on the end goal, and to be as obvious as possible, within reason. That could mean the above examples can be rewritten as ‘Apply online for your XYZ’, or ‘Download the XYZ white paper’.

Not coincidentally they are also better optimised, as we are clearly telling search engines and users what is going on, and what those links specifically refer to.

Ban the bland and meaningless

No Click Here, Read More, Find Out More!

A lot of text link writers continue to fallback on text like ‘Click Here’, and ‘Find Out More’ as calls to action. Ban them and force your writers to come up with meaningful text links. This is not a new tip, it should be part of your SEO 101, but it does bear repeating for those new to web writing and Search Engine Optimisation. After all, whoever Googled ‘Click Here’ or ‘Read More’?

There is ALWAYS something to ask

A lot of web copy forgets to ask users to do anything. There is always something to ask. From subscribing to your newsletter, to following your brand on social, or reading your terms and conditions; always give a page and its user a purpose and a call to action.

In summary, microcopy like that found in calls to action is really important. Ensure that yours make sense and is working hard for you and your users. Why not get in touch to discuss your online content and CTAs.

Questions? We are here to help!


If you're reading this, you unfortunately can't see the form that's supposed to be here. You probably have an ad blocker installed. Please switch off your adblocker in order to see this form.

Still encountering problems? Open this page in a different browser or get in touch with us: [email protected]