How to Craft an Effective Call to Action – with Examples and Phrases

call to actionYour call to action is the means through which you turn a visitor to your website into a lead or sale. The action in question could be:

  • Subscribe to your newsletter
  • Download an ebook
  • Sign up for an event
  • Make a purchase

Crafting an effective call to action is as a much an art as it is a science. There are call to action phrases that have been proven to work since the dawn of copywriting.  Through studying call to action examples by top marketers, you can learn the underlying principles to apply to your own brand.

Get your call of action right and you’ll be drowning in sales. Get it wrong, and all the traffic in the world will not help you.

Definition of the call to action

The call to action is a line of text or image that leads your visitors to take action. Usually that action is marked with a call to action button.

Simple, right?

Not quite. If you want to truly maximise your conversion rate you need to go a little deeper. The most effective calls to action employ powerful yet subtle psychological tactics. These tactics persuade and even compel your visitor to press that button. If you master these tactics, your conversion rates will soar.

We’ll discuss these tactics in a bit. But first you need to consider what happens before your visitors reach your call to action.

The build-up to the call to action

The build-up to the call to action is as important as the call to action itself. Before your visitor reaches your call to action, you must convince them that your brand will meet their needs. They should be fully engaged with your content and ready to take the next step. There are three qualities your content must establish:

  • Credibility. Your visitor must be persuaded of your expertise in your field. Give them authoritative, valuable content backed with facts and data.
  • Connection. Your visitor should feel a connection with your brand. Write your content using the words and phrases that your visitor likes to use.
  • Trust. Your visitor should trust you. Cite case studies and quote glowing testimonials from satisfied customers.

So now you’ve got your visitor fully engaged. Time to drop your call to action. Knowing how to use psychology is an essential part of sales and marketing. The call of action is no exception.

How to use psychology to get your visitors to take action

A big button labelled “Click Here” or “Submit” is a call to action. Technically speaking. But it isn’t particularly enticing.

With a little knowledge of psychology, you can you come up with something much more compelling. The key to all of this is getting inside the minds of your visitors.

Understand their expectations

The flow of the web page where the call of action is positioned is important. The surrounding content should build the desire for action by engaging your visitor then, leading them to the call of action. Consistency is important. Use similar language on your call to action and the surrounding content.

Position your call to action button exactly where your visitor would expect to find it. For maximum visibility, position it “above the fold”, so your visitor can see it without having to scroll down. If you have long copy that you want your visitor to read first, a better location might be at the bottom of your copy.

The button should look like a button, and it should be given a colour that contrasts with its background so that it really pops out.

Exploit their curiosity

It’s not just cats who are curious. People are curious too.

You can exploit your visitors’ curiosity by giving them a tantalizing tidbit of information. Now they want to know more. This creates what copywriters like Joanna Wiebe call the curiosity gap.

The curiosity gap is the gap between what your visitors know and what they want to know.
You can employ this technique thus:

  • Explain broadly what your visitor will gain when they click the call to action button. But skip the specifics.
  • Suggest that behind the call to action button lies a hidden secret or a remarkable discovery.

Create anticipation

Content marketer Neil Patel is a big proponent of using anticipation as a marketing strategy. He breaks it down into three stages:

  1. Make a statement that your target audience are bound to agree with. For example, if they are digital marketers, they will agree that they want more traffic.
  2. Present the statement in a positive way using bright colour schemes or photos of happy people.
  3. Use positive language in the button copy. Words like “yes”, “get” and “see” work well.

The critical part is the first part. By giving your audience something they agree with, they’re put in a positive state of mind. This will make them more receptive to your call to action.

Offer a choice

No one likes being pressured into acting. People like to feel free and in control. With this in mind, you can offer them a choice.

Dr Jeremy Dean at PsyBlog calls this the “But You Are Free” Technique. A recent review of 42 psychology studies of this technique concluded that it was found to double the chances that someone would say ‘yes’ to the request.

You can incorporate this technique by offering your visitors two buttons. Now don’t just offer them a “yes” button and a “no” button. If they don’t want to proceed right now, maybe they just need more information. Try this:

  • A “yes” button for them to proceed with your offer.
  • A “find out more” button for them to access more information.

State the penalty for inaction

Now this is an age old copywriters’ technique. And that’s for a reason. It works. Copywriter Demian Farnworth describes the penalty as follows: “The penalty is a device that clamps down on the prospect and refuses to let her go until she places the order.” By stating the penalty for inaction, you introduce the Fear of Missing Out (or FOMO) in your visitors.

You can introduce a penalty in the following ways:

  • Give a limited time offer. Discount your prices for a specified time.
  • Produce a limited supply. Let your visitors know that there are only a specified number of products available.
  • Emphasise their loss. If your visitors will benefit from your product, remind them of what they will lose if they don’t make the purchase.

Dispel any doubts

Your visitor is interested in what you have to offer. They want to take the next step and they’re hovering over your brightly coloured call to action button. But there’s a nagging doubt in their mind holding them back.

This is when you need to wash their fears away and reassure them that they are doing the right thing:

  • Use confident language. Confidence is infectious. Are you a leader in your field? Are your products superior to that of your competitors in some way? Well say so. Don’t boast, but be bold and clear.
  • Mention testimonials. Testimonials are an extremely effective way to persuade your visitors through what marketing psychology expert Dr Robert Cialdini terms social proof in his classic text “Influence: The Psychology of Persuasion”. If other people say your stuff is good, it must be good.
  • Include numbers. Numbers are objective and specific. They are more reassuring than vague promises. State how many people have already purchased your product. Give statistics or data which measure the effectiveness of your methods.
  • Make them feel safe. Many buyers are risk averse. If you have a guarantee or refund policy, let them know about it.

Call to action phrases

To craft an effective call to action, you must use phrases which prompt your visitors to take the next step. Copywriting teaches us the words and phrases which can:

Be persuasive

David Ogilvy, the “Father of Advertising” was very fond of these persuasive words which encourage action.

  • Announcing
  • Introducing
  • Improvement
  • Quick
  • Easy

Show cause and effect

Business coach Darlene Price, author of “Well Said! Presentations and Conversions That Get Results” , recommends using cause and effect phrases to persuade and convince your visitors.

  • Because
  • Due to
  • For this reason
  • Since
  • Therefore

Convey value

Use words and phrases that speak to your visitors’ desires and emphasise the value they are about to receive.

  • Get
  • Want
  • Need
  • Free
  • Find out

Make it personal

Address your visitors directly and they will respond more strongly. You can use the second person: “Boost your conversions”. Or the first person: “Sign me up!”

  • You
  • Your
  • Me
  • My

Convey urgency

Let your visitors know they should take action right away. There’s no time for delay.

  • Now
  • Today
  • Before
  • Limited
  • Instantly

Call to action examples

Almost all commercial websites feature a call to action of some sort. But not everyone gets it right. These brands have really nailed it:

Smart Passive Income

smart passive income call to action

Smart Passive Income is the brand of online entrepreneur Pat Flynn. As this is a personal brand, Pat features a friendly, informal photo of himself. He refers to himself as “the crash dummy of online business”, which is funny and memorable.

He addresses a core need of his audience: “how to build your business better”. He states the value he offers: “sharing what works (and what doesn’t)”.

The fact that he has over 100,000 in his community lends him powerful social proof.

P90X

p90x call to action

The market is saturated with fitness products. P90X stands out with its bold claim “Get absolutely ripped in just 90 days.”

The text outlines all the components of the programme, using powerful, emotive words like “revolutionary”, “extreme” and “muscle-pumping”.

However the precise details of the programme are not disclosed. Are you curious as to what they are?

A customer success story is prominently featured, accompanied with a photo of the dude’s muscular physique.

Lastly, the unmissable call to action button is big and red.

Akismet

akismet call to action
In a few short sentences, Akismet positions itself a leader in the field of anti-spam. It fights the “latest and dirtiest tactics embraced by the world’s most proficient spammers”, and “learns and evolves every single second of every single day”.

The value it provides to you is in saving you the trouble of cleaning up your spam “because you have better things to do”.

You are offered a choice: “say goodbye to comment spam” or “learn more”.

Studiopress

studiopress call to action

StudioPress boldly leads with their social proof from having over 164,000 website owners using their WordPress Themes. Then there’s the quote from leading digital media blog Mashable calling it the “best of the best”.

If that’s enough to convince you can go ahead and “shop for themes”.

If you’re not quite ready, you can “find out more”.

Note how the green call to action buttons contrast well against the blue background.

Quicksprout

quicksprout call to action

Sometimes, simple is the best. Neil Patel’s Quicksprout blog is established as one of the top marketing blogs in the world. Neil Patel himself has been widely featured in major publications including Inc. Magazine, Forbes, and Business Insider.

So there’s no need to establish social proof.

There’s just one question, one that almost everyone reading will want to say yes to: “Do you want more traffic?”

Get your call of action right and watch your sales go through the roof

Your call to action is your message to your audience prompting them to take action. It’s the means through which you convert visitors into customers. Study carefully the call to action phrases and examples we’ve discussed.

Now it’s time to write one of your own.

When you craft your call to action every word is important. So take your time and choose carefully.

Get your call of action right and watch your sales go through the roof.

I create strategic content with authority and personality. My work has been featured in Search Engine Journal, Problogger, and Jeff Bullas. Businesses hire me to grow their traffic and boost conversions. If you’d like to know how I can help you, click here.

Comments

  1. Hi Clement,

    It’s good I landed here today…

    The act of crafting awesome call to actions and writing copies that convert is a craft very few bloggers, freelancers and internet marketers ever master. However, for the very few that master this reality, the sky is the starting point 🙂

    I got some new tips here today and I must thank you.

    Do make the day, great.

    Always,
    Akaahan Terungwa

    • Hi Akaahan

      I agree completely. The call to action is the key to transforming your traffic into sales leads. If you invest the time to get it right, your business will thrive.

      Have a great day!

      Clement

  2. Excellent article! For now I have avoided the CTA as I am working on the credibility and expertise part. The shift is coming and you’ve provided some very good examples.

    • Hi Robert

      Establishing your crediblity and expertise is the foundation of marketing. Once you’ve done this, it should make your audience much more receptive to your CTA.

      Thanks for your input.

      Clement

  3. Ben Seow says:

    Hi Clement,

    Wow, I got to say this is an interesting read. And I think you’ve got some pretty cool examples there too. Keep up the good work, bro!

    Ben

  4. Hello Clement,
    You really have a very awesome blog here and i love how simple it is, its actually my first visit :).

    Coming to your post, one thing that usually determines if a desired/particular action will be taken on a website or sales page is the call to action you used.

    One thing is to present an irresistible offer and the next thing is to use a very clear and bold call to action to tell your visitors what to do.

    I really enjoyed this post.

    Thanks for sharing.

    • Hi Theodore

      Thank you for your kind words.

      I agree with the need to be very clear and bold in your call to action.

      As Siona Simmone said in Copyblogger:

      “You need to tell your reader exactly what to do, how to do it, and that you want him to do it right now.”

      Clement

  5. Hi Clement,

    Excellent post about calls to action. I have had so many clients in the past worry more about traffic and not worry about their content.

    They finally get that huge amount of traffic and still get no sales. You need to make sure your content and design is optimized so that the traffic you do get converts. That all starts with your call to action.

    Love the examples, will be back for more 🙂
    Chris

    • Hi Chris

      Exactly, optimising your content and design to lead your reader to the call of action is how to do it. Every link in the chain is important. Great insight.

      Clement

  6. Hi Clement,

    Personalizing seems to work well for my calls because we all like to be singled out. In a good way. If you address me personally and directly I’m more likely to take the desired call to action and to do it regularly too. That’s the rub; inspiring readers to follow specific calls on the regular, to grow your community and business over time. Thanks Clement for the super converting tips.

    Ryan

    • Hi Ryan

      Thanks for the great comment. As you say, forging personal connections is super effective in marketing. If we can work out a way to address our audience ‘personally and directly’, the chances of converting them into a lead is much greater.

      Clement

      • So true Clement. Those 1 to 1 bonds work miracles for our businesses. Like each bond is a concrete block for the foundation of our blog.

        • Hey Ryan

          I agree. Connecting on a 1 to 1 basis is a sure way of building our brand. It’s like building a wall one brick at a time.

          Thanks for sharing your insight.

          Clement

  7. Hey Clement,

    We all need to be sure and have a strong call to action on each post. In the past I’ve been guilty of not having much of one at all besides comment and share my post.

    Although I’m doing so much better I’m still told it’s not strong enough BUT I’m getting plenty of responses for what I’m asking them to do so obviously it is working beautifully for me. I’m sure that those looking from the other side might not think that it is but my calendar is full each month.

    I appreciate though what you shared here and will definitely bookmark this post because as I said, I could do much better than I am right now. Just think how many more clients I could get if I improved upon this even more.

    Thank you!

    ~Adrienne

    • Hey Adriene

      Thanks for stopping by. I just had a look at your “hire me” page and it looks great. I like the way you started by outlining the problem with lots of references to data before you put forward your solution. And your testimonials are fantastic.

      Perhaps your call to action could be more prominent, but you’re fully booked already so what’s the problem.

      Don’t want you getting overworked!

      Clement

  8. Keir Moorman says:

    Hey Clement,

    Great article.

    I subscribed to your newsletter, and I will definitely be putting some of your methods into practice. I especially liked that you used known industry professionals to establish credibility throughout the article.

    I don’t think I can say anything that hasn’t already been said in the comments.
    In summary, this article was an example of how to write amazing content that educates your readers and solves a problem.

    • Hey Keir

      I’ve learnt a lot from known industry professionals so it’s only right that I give them credit in my posts.

      I’m glad you will be putting some of my methods into practice. Action is aways better than inaction.

      Please get back to me sometime to let me know how my methods are working for you.

      And thanks for subscribing.

      Clement

  9. Hi Clement,

    This is something I need to work on myself. Thank you for all the wonderful examples. Another well-researched and superbly written post.

    Carol

    • Hi Carol

      Glad you found my post useful. I learn a lot from your posts too!

      Clement

  10. Excellent overview of some straightforward copywriting techniques. I think a lot of this stuff just flies over people’s heads, to be honest — they encounter it so often on the web that they don’t realize it’s being doing purposefully.

    The best advertising makes you believe it’s not advertising after all.

    I’ve wondered about the age of some of these techniques, to be honest, and how an increasingly advertising-blind population responds to stuff that used to work even 10 years ago. Words like ‘limited’ and ‘instantly’ can very quickly be incorporated into a sentence in such a way that it sounds overly sales-y.

    I wonder how people react to that.

    • Hi Adam

      The best copywriting techniques are timeless. Nevertheless people are getting more blasé about overtly salesy messages. The psychological triggers still work, though you might need to be more subtle about it.

      Thanks for chipping in.

      Clement

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