call to action

How to Write a Click-worthy Call to Action

Linda Mulcahy
September 28, 2018

As a copywriter, your goal is to motivate your readers to do something. Along with persuasive copy, a good call to action (CTA) helps readers take that next step, whether it’s to sign up for a course, opt in for a newsletter, donate to a cause, schedule a call, navigate to another page, or buy a product.

We all see CTAs every day, from a plain “Add to cart” button on an ecommerce site to an urgent “Call right now!” in a late-night infomercial. This part of the message might seem simple enough that it hardly warrants much thought.

But a well-crafted call to action can be the element that makes the difference between a click-through and a click-away.

So how can you craft a compelling call to action that your reader will click? Here are some tips:

Do This in Your Call to Action

  • Keep it short. The general rule of thumb is just 2-5 words.
  • Start with a verb. Phrases that start with verbs are clear and active. Good action verbs include
    • Buy
    • Order
    • Download
    • Discover
    • Donate
    • Support
    • Learn
    • Create
    • Explore
    • Read
    • See
  • Convey urgency. We go nuts for cyber Monday deals because we know we have just one day to take advantage of them. Play to your readers’ fear-of-missing-out (FOMO) mindset by communicating the time-sensitive nature of your offer through phrases like “Buy Now,” “Order Today Only,” and “Subscribe for Free Today.”
  • Convey scarcity. Scarcity makes everything desirable, whether we’re talking about time, money, or products. Again, appeal to FOMO and use scarcity language, such as “Apply for one of 10 spots” or “Buy now before tickets are gone.”
  • Mention the benefit. Remind the reader what will happen for him when he clicks. Using numbers helps. “Click now to save 20%!”
  • Mention it’s free. When appropriate, include the word “free.” People are more likely to complete the transaction if it won’t cost them anything up front. This works well for free subscription trials, free 30-minute phone consultations, or free online assessments.
  • Personalize with I/me/my pronouns. To increase the personal connection to the action, use language the reader would use himself. For example, “See my credit score” is far more emotionally satisfying than “See credit score.”

Don’t Do This in Your Call to Action

  • Don’t get too clever. You don’t want to confuse or offend someone who is about to take a step further in your sales funnel. Yes, edgy or witty CTAs can be effective, but never at the expense of clarity. Keep the wording (and the graphics, for that matter) clear and simple.
  • Don’t claim false urgency or scarcity. People see right through the tired tactics of pretend going-out-of-business sales. If you’re always claiming the same shortage of products or the same limited time offer, people won’t trust the deal. So use scarcity and urgency claims in moderation.
  • Don’t combine multiple CTAs on one page. Similar to the best practice for writing email subject lines, your CTA should focus on just one thing. You’ve taken your readers on a specific path through your copy, so make sure your CTA is a natural next step. Don’t introduce options at this point.

Split Test Your Calls to Action

Does it really matter if you use an exclamation point or not? What about if we change the word “Order” to “Buy”? While these seem like trivial edits, the results could surprise you. When possible, choose two good options for a CTA and split test them to see which one generates better click-through rates. If you need help setting this up, your email provider or website developer can help.

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