Written by Caroline Cox on Oct 6 , 2022

From effective examples to best practices and everything in between, here’s the 411 on creating successful calls to action.

Here you’ll find:

  • How to define CTAs
  • Ways CTAs can enhance your marketing strategy
  • How to write an effective call to action
  • Why testing CTAs is crucial

Who is Luke Skywalker without Obi-Wan and Yoda? Dorothy without Glinda? Neo without Morpheus?

In many of the most well-known hero’s journey tales, there’s always a guide showing them the way.

The bad news: Your brand isn’t the hero in marketing. The good news: You’re the wise sage revealing the path to victory.

The best way to guide your heroes (aka your customers) is to light the path that leads them to you. You do this by leading them through a string of actions they can take to achieve success — by purchasing your product or service, of course. 

Rather than speaking in riddles or rhymes, marketers have calls to action (CTAs). These prompts can bring your target audience through your sales funnel — and boost your conversion rate in the process.

What is a CTA?

A call to action is a phrase or sentence that encourages potential customers to take a specific action. Most CTAs are buttons or hyperlinks that make it easy for the consumer to answer the call, but not all CTAs have links attached.

You may have been creating CTAs this entire time without realizing it. A CTA can be as simple as “Buy now!” or “Like and Subscribe!” But when strategically crafted, the chances of a reader following your CTA increase exponentially.

Typically, you’ll find a call-to-action button or phrase at the bottom of a webpage, but they can be placed just about anywhere — such as in a piece of content marketing like a blog. Watch:

See how easy that was?

Most business have multiple CTAs peppered throughout their site. Not only that, but there are hard and soft CTAs. Deciding which ones to use (and how) depends on where you think the reader is in the sales funnel. 

How are CTAs related to the SERP?

Of course, it can be super impactful to have well-placed CTAs on your site. But what about the calls to action that actually get them there in the first place?

A proper CTA on the search engine results page (SERP) can be a game-changer when it comes to your site traffic. A meta title and, even more so, a web page’s description are the first opportunities to get folks to click to your site, then take another action once they land there.

The same for paid search, which are those search results with “ad” on them that brands pay to surface along with organic results. Those ad headlines and descriptions are all a type of CTA to get users to a landing page.

If you’re drafting an SEO blog article that someone doing a Google search would stumble upon, they’d likely be just starting their journey with your company. In this instance, you’d use a soft CTA to get them to sign up for your email list or learn more about what your brand offers.

Once that person signs up for your email blasts and becomes more familiar with your company, you can start throwing hard CTAs their way with more direct language aimed at converting them. 

In either case, action verbs will be your best friend. Using a verb gives the reader an action to take, so when they finish consuming your content, they don’t just think, “Cool!” and close the tab. 

How can CTAs enhance my marketing program?

CTAs can enhance your marketing program by boosting sales and engagement. Specific perks include:

  • Building your audience
  • Adding purpose to your marketing efforts
  • Increasing your visitors’ time on your site
  • Providing your consumers with a roadmap through the sales funnel

Ideally, if they follow the trail of breadcrumbs in the form of CTAs, they’ll end up making a purchase.

The across-industry average click-through rate (CTR) for CTAs is slightly more than 4%. While that may not sound like a lot, it’s actually about the same as the average Google Ads CTR.

Additionally, including one clear CTA in an email campaign can increase clicks by 371% and sales by 1617%.

No, that’s not a typo. It simply shows that you yield better results when you give your audience a little nudge in the right direction. 

Most CTAs take about 10 seconds to write and have a massive impact. So the question isn’t really whether you should include a CTA, it’s how can you write a CTA that will get the most responses?

How do I write effective CTAs?

If writing a compelling CTA was as easy as slapping “Buy Now!” at the end of every page or email, you wouldn’t need to keep reading.

So, what makes a good CTA? To be fair, there are some cases where the above example is the best option, but it’s essential to know how to pair the right type with the right content.

To start, you need to know a few things:

  • Who should be reading this content?
  • What is this content about?
  • What do you want your audience to do after they finish reading this content?

Next, you’ve got to consider the right CTA type, where your audience is coming from, the proper length, and the best style of copy to employ.

1. Pick the proper CTA type

The best call-to-action for your campaign can come in many forms. There are plain text CTAs, CTA buttons, CTA images and graphics, and more.

There are also CTAs that keep it simple and straightforward, and others that serve to pique the viewer’s interest or incite FOMO (fear of missing out).

According to HubSpot, the eight main types of CTAs are:

  • Lead generation: Turning website visitors into customers
  • Form submission: Getting contact information for leads
  • “Read More:” Showcasing snippets of content to catch readers’ interest
  • Product or service discovery: Encouraging consumers to learn more about what you have to offer
  • Social sharing: Prompting people to spread the word about your brand on social media
  • Lead nurturing: Moving people through your sales funnel
  • Closing the deal: Converting your leads
  • Event promotion: Motivating people to sign up for and attend your events

When you know what type of CTA you want to employ, it’s time to think about your audience’s POV.

2. Put yourself in your audience’s shoes

Aside from identifying where the reader is in your sales funnel, you need to know them like they’re your BFF. For instance:

  • What motivates them to choose one product or service over another? 
  • What messaging most appeals to them?
  • Where do they get their information?
  • What kind of offers are most effective with them?
  • Which hesitations or concerns of theirs can you address?
  • What problems can you solve for them?

When you know what makes your customers tick, you can tailor specific CTAs that are more likely to pique their interest.

Maybe most of your customers will die on the hill of getting free shipping before they click a purchase button. Or maybe they want to hone a certain skill, and you offer them access to an exclusive webinar.

The more specific you can be about who the CTA is for, the more likely it is that your audience will follow through.

When we worked with Honda Motor Co. to craft new landing pages, YouTube influencer pre-roll ads, and hyper-targeted campaigns, we knew CTAs would be crucial. As a result of our efforts, Honda saw traffic increase by 200% while cutting cost per conversion by nearly a third. Here’s how we did it.

3. Be strategic about CTA length

Another aspect to consider is the length of your call to action. CTAs should be straight to the point and generally shouldn’t be longer than 15 words. However, there’s a big difference between “Buy Now” and “What are you waiting for? Claim your BOGO deal before time runs out!” 

Again, this will come down to whom the CTA is aimed. If it’s a loyal customer or a warm lead you’re remarketing to, “Buy now” may be the only nudge they need. But if you’re speaking to someone who just discovered your brand, you may need to entice them a bit to convince them to take a leap of faith.

4. Get familiar with a variety of CTA copy styles

Just like your blog post copy may be slightly different than the language you use in your email marketing campaigns or e-commerce ads, the CTA writing style you use should vary based on the action at hand.

Some of the most popular styles for CTA copy include:

  • Emotional language: “For every pair you buy, we donate one to a child in need. Shop Now.”
  • Action phrases: “Try it free for 30 days.”
  • Questions: “Want to discover our secrets? Sign up for our webinar.”
  • Limited-time offers that create a sense of urgency: “Hurry! Your 15% off code expires in 24 hours!”
  • Solutions for problems: “Sick of wasting time and money? Say hello to the solution.”
  • Personalization in email sequences: “What are you waiting for, Joe? Claim your spot for this free webinar today.”

Pro tip: Personalizing CTAs can reportedly increase performance by over 200%.

What are the latest CTA best practices?

Digital marketing trends constantly change. Because of that, as you begin drafting your CTAs, here are some things to keep in mind.

  • While you don’t want to litter your homepage with CTA after CTA, don’t feel obligated to have one at the very bottom in your footer. Three is typically a good place to start: one at the top, one in the middle, and one at the end.
  • Try using a pop-up CTA with a welcome gate, chatbot, or splash page.
  • Use persuasive language in your CTA — remember, you’re trying to compel the reader to take the desired action.
  • Use urgency and exclusivity to your advantage so consumers will feel like they miss out on something if they don’t follow the CTA.
  • Your CTA shouldn’t look like the rest of your copy. Whether you turn it into a button, highlight it, or put it in a special box, you want your readers’ eyes to gravitate to it. 

Call-to-action examples

As you can probably gauge by now, calls to action can take near-endless forms. Here are just a few effective CTA examples to inspire your own:

Blog post example

Hawk blog CTA

A simple on-brand graphic, a concise question, and one sentence illustrating who we are and what we do. Not to brag or anything, but you can file this blog CTA of ours under “chef’s kiss.”

Email example

Hootsuite email CTA

After signing up for this webinar from Hootsuite, a social media management platform, registrants received this follow-up email with the on-demand recording. There are a few sentences laying out the viewing logistics, then they get down to business with a bold, can’t-miss button to watch the recording. Easy breezy.

Homepage example

amped kitchens homepage cta

Amped Kitchens rents out private commercial kitchen spaces on a monthly basis In Chicago and Los Angeles. Their audience is hyper-targeted, meaning that if someone is landing on the company’s website, it’s because they’re in the market for a rentable kitchen. With that in mind, Amped’s homepage buttons offer a soft CTA (“get more info”) and a hard CTA (“schedule a tour”).

Display ad example

Display ad CTA

E-commerce brands have the benefit of letting their products speak for themselves through visual-heavy advertising. Such is the case in this straightforward ad for a fashion brand dropping an exclusive collection with Target. The ad reels you in with photos, hooks you with the LTO (limited-time offer), then uses the CTA button to take you right to the products.

Pop-up example

Newsletter pop up CTA

The Strategist is a product recommendation publication made up of independent reviewers. This pop-up invites readers to sign up for their newsletter and gives them plenty of reasons why they should in just a few action-oriented words like “be the first,” “newsletter-only sales picks,” and “discount codes.”

In-text example

HubSpot in line CTA

CTAs don’t always have to be about buttons or graphics. They can be as simple as hyperlinked text and be just as effective. This HubSpot example from the brand’s marketing blog offers a free guide delving deeper into the topic the reader is probably already interested in, since they clicked on a blog post about the same topic.

Paid social example

Facebook ad CTA

Who doesn’t need a vacation right about now? This travel company knows you do, which is why they’re using a clever mix of enticing imagery, fun emoji, and a limited-time offer to get the Facebook user to click and take that next desired action.

How do I test my CTAs properly?

If you aren’t getting the results you want with your CTA, try A/B testing with different language or visuals (if applicable) and monitor performance to compare.

A/B testing your CTAs takes time, especially because you want to give each iteration time to run its course so you can gather enough data to see significant findings. Even so, testing is a key part of the optimization process. It’s how you know you’re reaching the right audience in the right way.

Luckily, you have plenty of opportunities to test your CTAs, from your homepage and emails campaigns to paid social ads and everything in between.

The takeaway

When so much goes into a digital marketing campaign, calls to action may seem overly straightforward or like an afterthought. But, as all the evidence above should show you, a thoughtful, strategic CTA can skyrocket your program’s effectiveness and success.

Don’t be afraid to have fun with your CTAs — take some time to brainstorm, test a few out-of-the-box ideas, and see what your audience responds to… you may be surprised by what you find.

This entry was posted in Blog, Digital Marketing and tagged , on by .
Caroline Cox

About Caroline Cox

Caroline is HawkSEM's content marketing manager. She uses her more than 10 years of professional writing and editing experience to create SEO-friendly articles, educational thought leadership pieces, and savvy social media content to help market leaders create successful digital marketing strategies. She's a fan of seltzer water, print magazines, and huskies.

Caroline Cox

Caroline Cox

Caroline is HawkSEM's content marketing manager. She uses her more than 10 years of professional writing and editing experience to create SEO-friendly articles, educational thought leadership pieces, and savvy social media content to help market leaders create successful digital marketing strategies. She's a fan of seltzer water, print magazines, and huskies.

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