The Fundamentals of a Call to Action that Works: Copy, Design & Placement

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Call to actions (CTA) are a crucial marketing tool. Simply put, CTAs are how you get your readers to perform a specific action. This deed can be signing up for your newsletter, leaving a comment, or even purchasing a product you are promoting. In other words, CTAs are here to help you generate conversions.

From copywriting to design and website placement, this article breaks down the fundamentals of a call to action that works.

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No matter the nature of the action you are pushing, you will need to create an effective CTA. In other words, you need to help your CTA help you. Three essential elements go into creating an effective CTA. These are: what it says, what it looks like, and its placement.

As you might have figured out, this is how we are going to be tackling the best practices:

  1. How to write your call to action
  2. How to design your call to action
  3. Where to place your call to action

1. How to write your Call to Action:

In this section, we are going to look at the copywriting that goes into writing an efficient call to action. Here are five best practices to keep in mind:

1.1. Be straight to the point:

The number one rule when it comes to writing a useful CTA is this: be clear about what you want. In a nutshell, do not overcomplicate your copy and use a direct and straightforward wording. For example, if you want your readers to subscribe to your newsletter, tell them exactly that: “Sign up for our newsletter,” or “Subscribe to our newsletter now.” Avoid being vague or too wordy as this might end up confusing your visitors. An example of a long-winded sentence would be: "Find out more about our content here." Bottom line, think about it this way:how can your readers perform a conversion if they don't know what to do?

1.2. Incentivize, incentivize, incentivize

For website visitors to click on a CTA, they need to have some sort of incentive. So when working on your CTA, make sure to use any benefits you may offer as a hook. These benefits can range anywhere from receiving a discount on a product, to being the first to know about new website updates.

Keeping with the same example as above, what kind of advantage can your readers gain by signing up for your newsletter? Naturally, they gain access to exclusive content. So our CTA would look something like this: “Sign up for our newsletter, and access exclusive content now.”

1.3. Create a sense of urgency

People like instant gratification. There are simple changes you can make to your CTA’s copy that will have your audience feel the imperative need to click it. A simple way of doing so is by including the word "now" in your copy. For example, “Get your hands on your free e-book” versus “Get your hand on your free e-book now.” The latter sentence makes it sound like they would be receiving their free content instantly.

Another way to inject imperativeness into your copy is by placing your CTA within a limited timeframe. For instance, let’s say you are an editorial blog with a Hard Paywall, and you are offering new subscribers free access to your content for one month. In this case, a CTA that says “Try out our Subscription Service,” does not communicate this information, nor does it have a sense of urgency to it. However, if you say something along the lines of: “Sign up Now, and Get the Next Month for Free. Offer Available Only for March” - Conversions are sure to increase, as your readers will not want to miss out on this special offer.

1.4. Put your readers first

Another good copywriting trick that will drive up your conversions is putting your reader at the center of the action. To do so, you can switch out the use of the pronoun “your” with the first person “me.” In fact, studies have shown that this simple change has led to a 90% increase in conversions. So for instance, instead of having a CTA that says: “Sign up Now, and Get Your Next Month for Free,” try switching it to the first person: “Sign up Now, and Get My Next Month for Free.”

1.5. Say it your way

No matter what your CTA says, make sure its tone of voice reflects your website’s brand identity and personality. Let’s say you are a pop culture blogger who is playful and upbeat, and you want to drive your readers to read more articles. A CTA that says, “To Read More of Our Amazing Articles, Click Here!” will make sense for you. On the other hand, if you are a blogger with an informative and insightful tone of voice, for the same CTA you might want to go with: “To find out more, check out these articles now.”

2. How to design your call to action:

In this section, we are going to take a look at how your call to action should look. There are three different ways you can design your call to action: it can be a button, an image, or a piece of text. No matter which type you decide to use, the rule of thumb is this: your CTA has to pop out. Here's how you can do that:

2.1. If you’re feeling bold, go with a button:

Websites that use CTA buttons increase their click-through rate by 28%. With this being said, it's essential that the button you design catches your reader’s eye. All you will need to do to highlight hour CTA button is to use bright and bold colors. The color you choose can be the same as your logo’s primary color or any other element of your branding. Just make sure that the hue you select contrasts well with its background. Dropbox is an example of a website that designs standout CTA buttons:

2.2. If you are feeling creative, design an image:

People process images faster than words, so using an image as your call to action can be a useful tool. You can get creative when it comes to pictures, by adding visual cues that guide your viewers' attention. This can be done with flashy arrows or by even visually highlighting the critical benefit you want to push. Ultimately, what is helpful with a CTA image is that breaks away from your editorial content, really allowing your readers to notice it by halting their reading flow.

2.3. If you are feeling tactful, go with a simple text:

If you do not want to seem too forward, consider opting for a simple CTA text, which you can seamlessly embed into your content. In this case, to make your CTA pop out, write it in a separate paragraph. In addition, to make sure that you properly hyperlink and colorize the most valuable part of your text. Even though separated from the rest of your text, a CTA still needs to work with your content. Let’s suppose you have written an article about bitcoins, and you want your readers to download a white paper you’ve written on this same topic. Your CTA text can sound something like this: Want to learn more about bitcoins and cryptocurrencies, download our free whitepaper now.

Now that you've learned more about how to design the perfect call to action, you can take things to the next level by discovering how to get more affiliate link clicks. Check out this article on how to do exactly that now.

3. Where to place your call to action:

When it comes to your CTA's placement, there are no right or wrong answers. Your CTA placement will vary according to what works best for your audience, and the action you are pushing. Ultimately, content creators should test different CTA placements in separate articles to determine which one their readers will respond to best. What’s more, you can also opt to insert a CTA more than once into a piece, just make sure not to overdo it. Below, we look at four CTA placements to consider:

3.1. At the top of the page:

Many websites decide to place their CTAs above the fold. This way, website visitors will not have to scroll all the way to the bottom of a page to get to them. In fact, most readers only get through 60% of an article, so a top of the page placement might work best for content creators.

3.2 In the middle of your content:

A mid-post content placement is another good use of the CTA. If your readers are halfway through an article, they are more likely to download additional content or buy an e-book about the topic at hand.

3.3. At the bottom of your page:

Even though we just previously mentioned that readers only get through 60% of an article, you should still consider adding a CTA at the bottom of your page. However, it is preferable to use an end of the page CTA in combination with another placement to maximize your chances of conversion. Think of it as a final reminder.

3.4. In your sidebar:

The sidebar is an excellent home for hero CTAs that make up your blog's bread and butter. For instance, if you want your readers to subscribe to your newsletter, you might want to consider adding that CTA to your sidebar.

3.5. In Popups and sliders:

Pop-ups and sliders help you be more assertive. They are useful because they will definitely catch your reader’s eye. People are have grown accustomed to seeing ads on websites, so their eyes tend to glaze over static images. However, if your CTA pops up while your reader is scrolling through an article, it will definitely grab their attention, and maybe even lead them to convert.

CTAs are an effective tool to increase conversions. Different CTAs work for different audiences. That being said, don't be afraid to experiment, and try things out. Who knows? Your audience might respond better to a non-traditional CTA rather than to a more straightforward one. It is only by trying different combinations of copywriting, design and placement that you will be able to determine which CTA will make your audience click.

Rhea Chedid

Rhea is a Creative Content Producer at Bookwitty. Her expertise lies in the production of editorial content, videos and podcasts. A double major graduate from Georgetown University, Rhea has in depth knowledge in Sociology and English Literature.