How to write a CTA

Remember the days when the ability to “close the deal” was a big thing for sales people? I do! And the way to do it, according to popular belief, was to Ask for the Order. Yes, in capital letters. In online marketing, however, that translates into adding a Call to Action (CTA) to your material that is designed to encourage the response you want from your visitors. Here’s how to make your CTAs enticing–and effective.

What Is a Call to Action?

A call to action is (almost literally) self-defining. It’s a request to a visitor to your web page asking him or her to take a specific action. Sometimes the action is very simple and involves no more than the click of a button. On other occasions, a little more effort is required, such as when a website visitor is asked to fill out a form to become part of an email list. Then, of course, there’s the most sought after call to action: the kind that results in a visitor becoming a lead.

You’ve probably seen calls to action throughout your journeys online. They usually appear in forms like:

  • Click here to start your free trial!
  • Follow this link to download the PDF.
  • What’s your favorite type of call to action? Sound off in the comments below.
  • Join our email list and receive free updates weekly!
  • Time is limited. Order now!
  • Like us on Facebook.

It’s likely you’ve seen those types of calls to action in more than one place. They’re nothing more than a modern flavor of a sales tactic that’s been employed for decades. They simply ask your visitors to do what you want them to do.

CTAs are a Great Way to Find Leads

A great call to action will help you find leads. That’s because your call to action might ask a visitor to become part of your contact database. You can also encourage visitors to subscribe to your blog or news feeds, follow you on social media or just bookmark your website.

Digital marketers often hype the importance of building a series of targeted email lists. That way, you can reach out to people who’ve expressed some level of interest in your products or services in the past and gently encourage them to pass through the sales funnel. When you’re doing that, you should tailor-fit your emails not only to the types of offerings the customer has shown an interest in, but also to the stage your prospect is at in the funnel.

However, in order to get to that point, you have to create a call to action that grabs the visitor’s attention and inspires him or her to take the next step of filling out a brief form to become part of your company’s email distribution list. That’s often the hard part, according to Jonathan Long of Market Domination Media (@MDMJonathan).

Here are a couple of points to make your calls to action irresistible:

  • Emphasize the value to the customer – It’s often the case that calls to action are company-centric (“We’re the #1 SEO company in the world!”).  Avoid making your company the focus of your call to action, and instead explain how the action will benefit the person reading about it (“We’ll show you 25 secrets about ranking that Google doesn’t want you to know!”).
  • Offer something free in exchange – This is a tried and true tactic that’s been employed for years and it doesn’t show any signs of getting old. If you want someone to follow your call to action, offer that person something free in exchange. Usually, the freebie is offered in the form of a digital download (such as a PDF file) or free access to the company website for 30 days. In either case, you’ll require the person’s email address in exchange for the free offering and that’s how you’ll build your list.

Some Dos and Don’ts About Calls to Action

As with any other aspect of marketing, there are certain best-practices that you should follow when creating your calls to action. Here are some dos and don’ts when it comes to producing CTAs that convert.

  • Do make your call to action very visible – It’s way too easy to unintentionally hide something on a web page so that it’s difficult for a visitor to locate it. Ensure that your call to action is above the fold and takes the form of a “can’t miss” box or noticeably carved-out segment of your web page so that visitors will see it.
  • Don’t use the word “submit” on your form – Professional web developers know that the word “Submit” is the default word for form submission buttons on an HTML page. In the modern era, most developers use much more sophisticated widgets to handle form submissions. However, there may still be a few remnants of the past out there that use “Submit” as the call to action button text. That’s simply unacceptable. Contact your web developer and put a better verb on that button so that you’ll see an improved conversion rate.
  • Don’t be too wordy – People are busy. They don’t have time to read a call to action that spans multiple paragraphs. Instead, opt for a few sentences that get straight to the point and are loaded with power words that will inspire people to follow the call.
  • Do use active verbs – The actual call to action should begin with a verb that requests the visitor to perform some specific action. Some good examples are: “Click here to get your free copy,” “Download the PDF right now,” “Learn more,” and “Join thousands of consumers who are saving money.”
  • Don’t Underpromise, do overdeliver – The last thing you want to do is to generate some ill will because you overpromised and couldn’t deliver. Put some good customer service together with your marketing efforts by underpromising what you’re going to deliver and then delivering more than the customer expected. You’ll put a smile on that person’s face and possibly earn a customer for life.
  • Don’t link the CTA to your home page – Your call to action shouldn’t point to a home page. Instead, offer a dedicated landing page where people can follow your action. A home page is used for all sorts of traffic and isn’t designed specifically for marketing. Show your visitors that you’ve dedicated an entire page to your call to action, and they’ll feel right at home.
  • Don’t overuse CTAs – Too many calls to action are a distraction and a nuisance. Avoid flooding your visitors with multiple CTAs and instead select the best one or two based on the page that they’re visiting.
  • Do put a CTA everywhere – Although you shouldn’t put multiple CTAs in one place, you should put at least one just about everywhere. That way, no matter where people land on your site, they’ll be prompted to take some sort of action that will boost your brand.
  • Do swap out your CTAs for new ones – You shouldn’t use the same CTA forever. Human beings believe that variety is the spice of life. They like to see something different every now and then. If one of your calls to action didn’t grab somebody at first, maybe another type of call to action at a later time will do the trick.
  • Don’t use Flash or bandwidth-consuming animations – Although there are some really cool visuals that webmasters offer with Flash and animated GIFs these days, they’re also a challenge for people on devices that don’t support Flash (e.g., iOS) or low-bandwidth devices. It’s best just to leave those out completely.
  • Do track the performance of your CTAs – You’re not going to know if your calls to action are successful unless you track their performance. Fortunately, you can do that with Google Analytics UTM. That’s a feature provided by Google that basically adds request parameters to the URL people follow when they click on your CTA button. Then, when you visit Google Analytics next, you can access a chart that will show you, over a period of time, how many people clicked on your link. Google also helpfully provides a link tracking builder that you can use to create the link for your CTA campaigns.
  • Don’t use logos in your CTAs – Remember, the name of the game is to give the customers what they want, not to self-promote. You’re taking up much-needed screen space that can be used for more important parts of a good call to action if you’re including your logo.
  • Do tailor-fit your CTAs to customer interest – All of your customers aren’t the same. This is especially true if you offer a variety of products or services. Be sure to customize your CTA based on the interest of the customer. Usually, that interest can be gauged by the pages that he or she is visiting.

A good call to action can make all the difference for your online campaigns. Be sure that you invest the necessary due diligence to create CTAs that are noticeable and offer an irresistible temptation to get people to click on your link.

What’s the best call to action that you’ve ever seen? Feel free to let us know by sharing your thoughts in the comments below.