How to Create Great Call To Actions

As discussed in a previous article, a call to action can help increase conversions.  Even the worst built call to action will have some positive effect, however if your call to action is well built, you can drastically improve it’s effectiveness.

Have a clear leadup

It’s all about context. A call to action with no context won’t really do much for you. You’ll have people that click it out of curiosity, but most of these won’t really convert, they just clicked to find out what it was. Always give your call to action some context, tell your users what happens when they click.

  • “For more information – Click Here”,
  • “For the latest news and information – Subscribe”,
  • “Reach Your Goal. Start Investing Today – Learn More”
  • “Help support the fight against X – Donate”

All of these Call to actions wouldn’t give you much if you took away the context,

  • “click here”, why?
  • “subscribe”, to what?
  • “Learn more”, about what?
  • “Donate”, why? to who? what cause?

While some of the context might be inferred from it’s surroundings, such as a donate button on a charities website, one might infer is to donate to the charity, it is always better to tell you users what the call to action is, and why they should click it.

A good example is They have a nice little paragraph explaining what mailchimp is followed by a “sign up for free” call to action,

Reward you user

Another great way to improve the effectiveness of your call to action is to offer a reward for clicking. Sometimes this might be the actual goal, like for Mailchimp ‘signup for free’, or as it is often used ‘Get a FREE quote’. It might also be an additional reward,  ‘order now and get a free t-shirt’. Whatever the case may be, you are rewarding your user.

Notice the word free shows up a lot. People love free stuff. As a result it’s like a reward for them, and you are offering them a reward (free stuff) if they click the call to action.

In some cases it might not be feasible or cost effective to incentivise your call to action. That’s ok, this is just one technique to make your call to action more effective.

Don’t have too many different calls to action

Studies have shown that when presented with too many choices, people will get frustrated and make no choice at all. The same applies with your call to actions.

If you have too many different calls to action on your site, they will be competing against each other, your page will lose focus, and you will actually have a lower conversion rate than if you had no call to action at all.

Think about a fast food restaurant, they keep it simple. “Do you want fries with that?” they don’t ask “Do you want fries, onion rings, a salad, a drink, or chicken nuggets with that?” and the reason is simple, they don’t want you to have to think about it. They want you to just say yes or no. For most, that’s an easy choice. The same goes for Call to actions, keep it limited. Usually more than 2, you start losing focus.

Create a sense of urgency

Adding a time frame to the call to action also helps increase conversion. For Example

  • Call us today at 1-800-somnmbr,
  • Order now,
  • While supplies last,
  • Offer expires 2/2/12
  • limited time offer
While some of them are just a time reference (now and today) and are a bit more subtle, the others add a specific time pressure to the call to action. They all make the user think that if they don’t take advantage of it right now, it might not be available later. 

Use the right language

When creating a call to action, strong action verbs are usually the way to go. You also want to keep it personal, so ‘receive a quote’ is not going to have as much of an impact as ‘get your quote’, or ‘get your free quote’ or better still ‘get your free quote today’

A few good verbs to use are

  • Call
  • Buy
  • Register
  • Subscribe
  • Donate

Also, if you are going to use Call, make sure to include the number they can reach you at. If the user has to look for it, they may not comeback.

Put it in the right place

While the placement of the call to action depends a great deal on the application, there are a few suggestions.

  1. Above the fold
    • Place the call to action so that it will be visible without having to scroll. This ensures that all your visitors will see it, and be able to act on it. This is usually ideal for a site wide call to action
  2. At the end of your content
    • A user has finished reading your content, and is now at the bottom of the page. A call to action here indicates to your user what you expect them to do next. The alternative is to scroll up and click on something else. This is ideal for a page specific call to action as the content above will give it more context
  3. In a sidebar
    • By far the least effective of the these placements, as once your user is looking at content, the call to action will be forgotten. It is most effective with a site specific call to action as it will usually show on every page, and it is separate from the page content.

Make it stand out

You want your call to action to grab attention, you want it to get noticed. To do this:

  • Use white space. Keep the area around the call to action clear, and free from clutter. It makes the call to action the main focus.
  • Use an alternative, high contrast color. By making it a high contrast color, you ensure it catches attention, and by using a color that is not part of your sites main color palette
  • Make it Big. Making it bigger increases the chances it will get noticed.  There is a point where it can be too big, but making it bigger than other elements around it will make it stand out more.

There are other techniques that can also work well, such as arrows pointing to it, or using a different typeface or visual style. It doesn’t even have to be pretty to be effective, in fact we’ve seen some sites where the call to action looked really ugly, but it attracted attention through it’s ugliness.  The important thing is that it stands out and attracts attention

Put it everywhere

Having your call to action (same one not different ones) in multiple places is also a great idea. It offers your users multiple ways to get to the goal.

Test it

Play around with your call to action, there are a few different ways of testing a performance, such as spit testing, and you should take advantage of it. Find out what works better. Sometimes changing one word, or the color, can have a huge impact on your conversions. Don’t be satisfied with your call to action just because it’s better than it was, work at making it as effective as it can be.


There or many other ways to improve your call to actions, however these are the building blocks, and remember to test different variations to find out what converts for you. Of course a call to action by itself doesn’t convert, it just brings people to the conversion page. A poorly designed conversion page, a conversion page that doesn’t work, or a conversion page that is too difficult to use/asks too much information may lead to abandonment.