How to create an effective call to action

7 min read
Erin Hutchison

A call to action is a prompt to get your visitors to do something. It can take many forms, depending on the purpose of your communication or web page — you could be asking them to click to learn more in-depth information on a subject, type in their email address to subscribe to a newsletter, book an appointment or buy your product. But there’s a big difference between a generic call to action and an effective call to action.

6 tips on creating an effective call to action

A great call to action tells readers exactly what to do next. Here are some tips on crafting yours.

  1. Use clear language.

  2. Keep it relevant.

  3. Make it ‘pop.’

  4. But don’t be annoying.

  5. Let third-party apps do the work.

  6. Test, measure and make changes.

Before we dive into the tips, let’s take a quick look at the history of this time-tested strategy.

A brief history

The call to action has been a part of business best practices since long before websites even existed. Think about those posters where you could tear off a phone number from the bottom. This turned a simple informational poster into something that prompted action by giving the reader a convenient way to take the next step in learning more.

One of the wonders of the web is that it’s a two-way street. You use it both to get and to give information. If you’re putting all of this work into courting search engines and battling social media algorithms in order to drive traffic to your site, and you don’t have any calls to action, you could be missing out. Visitors might simply wander off if you don’t tell them what to do next.

Best practices for creating an effective call to action

So what exactly should your call to action be? That entirely depends on what the objectives of your website or communication are. To get started you can take a look at HubSpot’s list of great call to action examples. It might also be helpful to check out what peers are doing on their sites to get some inspiration.

That being said, here are some best practices for creating an effective call to action that will work for any site.

1. Use clear language

It’s no secret that us Canadians are a polite group of people. If you’ve ever apologized for someone stepping on your foot, you’re aware that we have a slight issue with using direct language. But when it comes to writing your call to action, don’t shy away from being too direct with what you want your website visitors to do.

Effective Call to Action Punch
Calls to action must grab the reader’s attention and tell them what to do next.
Photo: Johnson Wang on Unsplash

Using simple and descriptive language, including the right verb, leaves no room for ambiguity or confusion. Feel free to inject your brand’s personality, voice and tone into your messaging, but maintain a delicate balance. Don’t get so creative that the message becomes unclear.

Here are some examples of calls to action:

  • Download our lookbook, 10 outfits you can wear to an interview in a Canadian winter
  • Sign up for our weekly newsletter to stay on top what dogs are moving into your neighbourhood
  • Subscribe now to poutine-of-the-month club and get the first month free

None of these are real (as far as I know). But someone should get on these ideas.

2. Keep it relevant

You can place the call to action “above the fold” on your website — that is, where it’s visible before the reader scrolls down on a page. Of course you have to ensure that the call to action fits within the context of the rest of the page, creating a natural flow for readers.

Also, don’t just cut and paste the same call to action on every page. You should tailor it to appeal to the audience and subject of that particular page.

Aim for one call-to-action per page. You don’t want to confuse people.

It can be tempting to include multiple calls to action to really squeeze what you can get out of each visit. But think about how overwhelming that can quickly get. Also, if you feel your page needs more than one call to action, perhaps your page is trying to accomplish more than it can handle.

If you’re tempted to do this, consider creating microsites on separate domains to separate out things like annual events or temporary campaigns.

3. Make it ‘pop’

Even though it’s crucial to take your time writing and editing website copy, the reality is that people don’t read. People are busy and as they’re scrolling through their phones, they tend to read just the title or skim to pick out the more important points.

You should make the call to action pop and jump out from the rest of your content. Think contrasting colours, size and placement or adding cool hover effects to a button.

Editor’s note: Making your calls to action pop is easy with GoDaddy Website Builder and Online Store. Just a few swipes is all it takes.

4. But don’t be annoying

Effective Call to Action Neon
Show some restraint in your call to action — simple and direct is best.
Photo: Kosta Bratsos on Unsplash

Just because I used the word ‘pop’ doesn’t automatically mean that your call to action should take the form of a pop-up. You might find that more intrusive web marketing tactics like pop-ups increase conversions, but keep in mind that your website visitors are real life humans who can get annoyed with pop-ups, just like you do.

5. Let third-party apps do the work

No matter what type of call to action you’re using, there’s likely a third party app on the market that can help you stay organized. With GoDaddy Email Marketing, for example, you can create a sign up form to display on your website, blog or social page in just three clicks.

6. Test, measure and make changes

As you add calls to action to your site, make sure you have a plan to evaluate what’s working and what’s not. Make use of tools you have at your disposal like Google Analytics, which can help you track your successes.

Effective Call to Action Neon
Tools like Google Analytics give you the data you need to improve.
Photo: Nick Hillier on Unsplash

If you don’t do any form of measurement, you won’t know if, or what you need to change. Just because you prefer to do things one way doesn’t mean it will convert well. Your opinion, while valuable, is not relevant when the numbers speak for themselves.

Let’s recap!

Adding an effective call to action on your web pages can help you achieve your business goals. Here are some tips to keep in mind when adding them to your website:

  • Be concise, but let your voice and tone shine through the messaging.
  • Draw attention to your call to action, but don’t be annoying.
  • Be sure to measure performance so you can improve conversions.

If your website doesn’t prompt your visitors to take any actions, you’re missing out on some great opportunities to grow your business. Including an effective call to action on your web page gives it the extra oomph it needs to turn a passive “window shopper” into someone who has a lasting, meaningful connection with your business.