How To Write The Perfect Call To Action In 5 Simple Steps


A call to action (CTA) is any text or graphic that provides a clear link to the next action. Its purpose is to provoke the reader/visitor/consumer (I will be using the term consumer) to perform a specific action.

Common actions include:

  • Signing up to a newsletter or e-course
  • Calling an organisation
  • Sending a message
  • Viewing a demo
  • Using an interactive tool

Whether it’s placed on your website, social media page or email, a CTA can be an excellent way to increase inbound traffic, leads and give your small business an advantage over your competitors. With so many reasons to utilise CTAs, it’s interesting to note only “47% of websites have a clear call-to-action button that takes users 3 seconds or less to see” (Go-Globe) and “70% don’t display clear calls-to-action for anything on their home pages” (Online Marketing Coach).

So why are CTAs so misused? Perhaps it’s due to a lack of understanding of their significance and purpose they serve, or perhaps it’s because people are unsure how to go about writing and applying CTAs.

No matter what your issues you’ve face with CTAs in the past, it’s time to put them behind you and start fresh with these 5 easy steps which will have you creating enticing and engaging CTAs in no time!


Step 1. Pick The Right Action Word (Verbs)

As the purpose of a CTA is to have the consumer perform a specific action, it is important to make the desired action clear. The use and effective placement of verbs is one of the simplest way to do so.

Select a verb:

  • If you would like your consumer to join your email course you can use verbs such as “subscribe”, “enrol”, or “email”

With a verb in mind, the next step is to locate it effectively within your CTA. Studies have shown the first and last few words of any copy (written material) stand out to most people. To take advantage of this simply place the verb at the very beginning of your CTA.

Place your verb where it’s most effective:

  • Instead of your CTA reading: “I’m ready - Sign me up”, modify the order of the words to read: “Sign me up - I’m ready”.

By switching the order of the wording used in the CTA, your consumers attention will be immediately drawn to the action you would like them to complete.


Step 2. Apply First-Person

The significance of using first person in a CTA is revealed in a study conducted by Unbounce. The study tests the engagement consumers has with two CTA buttons. The buttons were identical in every way with the exception of one being written in first person whilst the other was written in the more common third person. The result, “when [sic] tested live on the website, it turned out that the treatment with “Your” performed significantly worse than the control copy that made use of “My” – 24.95% worse to be more precise”.

Further to this test, another was conducted using the CTAs “Start your free 30 day trial” and “Start my 30 day free trial”. The CTA button using “my” showed a 90% increase in the click through rate over that of the “your” button. Such a strong result showcases the power a single word can have in a CTA.

By introducing first person terminology such as “me” in place of “your” you are encouraging your consumer to place ownership on the reward they will receive upon completing the action

Reframe your CTA:

  • Instead of stating “Get your free guide today”, reframe your CTA to state “Claim my free guide today”.
  • Instead of using the phrase “Sign up”, reframe your CTA to state “Sign me up”.
  • Instead of using “Join now”, reframe the CTA to state “Enrol me now”.

By reframing your CTA in this manner you will also be to avoiding a CTA that demands an action from your consumer. Yes, that’s right, the saying “you can catch more flies with honey than with vinegar” holds true in relation to CTAs. By reframing your CTA to be a demand from your consumer rather than one from your business allows you to clearly convey the benefit your consumer (not you) will obtain through their action.

This approach is a great deal more likely to engage your consumer and see them follow through with the intended action.


Step 3. Be Crystal Clear

Consumer uncertainty, doubt and fear are the ultimate action killers. If your consumer is uncertain of what will occur when they act upon your CTA, it is very unlikely they will follow through with the action due to fear and doubt.

The word “send” is the perfect example of a frequently misused term as it can be interpreted in many ways. To some, the word may imply mail via post, whilst to others it may imply email.

People have a tendency to assume their personal interpretation of a word will be that which is commonly accepted by others, yet this is not always the case. By placing assumptions upon the words you chose to use you risk consumer uncertainty which and therefore consumer inaction.

Please note, if you choose to use a word such as “send” in your CTA button for any reason, ensure you have made it extremely clear elsewhere in the CTA what this meant by the word “send”.

Clarify the meaning of your CTA:

  • By stating “Teach me how to write great copy in 3 weeks” you do not clarify what will happen when your consumer clicks on the button. While they may be eager to learn more about writing copy, they are unlikely to click due to a lack of clarity.

This CTA does not explain what your consumer will receive when they act, the method in which the information will be received, the commitment required or the cost. With so many unknowns surrounding what will occur after actioning the CTA your consumer is likely to experience fear and uncertainty leading to inaction.

  • By stating “Sign me up to the free 3-week Writing Perfect Copy email course” you make clear the way in which your consumer will learn how to write great copy.

There can be no doubt what will occur when your consumer clicks on the button. This CTA expresses what your consumer will be receiving when they respond, the method in which the information will be received, the length of time they can expect to receive the information and the cost.


Step 4. Keep It Short

Though it may be tempting to cram as much information as possible into a CTA, it is best to approach your CTA with the KISS principle in mind – Keep It Simple Stupid.

According to studies, readers only take in the first and last 3 words of any copy. This suggests the ideal length for a CTA is 6 words which can be a big challenge if you’ve never written a CTA before. To make writing an effective CTA easier, I recommend aiming for 10 or less words and ensuring the more critical information is positioned at the beginning, followed by the end of the CTA.

How to write a short CTA:

  • Write what you wish to say, ignoring the length
  • Identify the keywords which cannot be removed
  • If some of your keywords are particularly long, seek out shorter synonyms
  • Go through removing and shifting around words, ensuring the meaning is not lost


Shorten your CTA:

  • Though “Sign me up for this email course on how I can learn to increase my Twitter traffic by 30% in 4 weeks” may appear to provide your consumers with more information, research shows they are likely to ignore any information containing in the middle of the sentence.
  • By shortening the CTA to “Increase Twitter traffic by 30% in 4 weeks”, the consumer is more likely to clearly comprehend and receive all of the necessary information provided.

Once you start cutting your CTAs short it can be hard to stop, but it is important to remember cutting for the sake of cutting isn’t recommended. It is more important to convey your message than to use a shorter CTA which lacks clarity and information.


Step 5. Revise Your CTA

Congratulations! If you’ve followed my 4 previous steps you should now have a wonderfully written CTA in front of you and it’s time for the final step. Revising your CTA from the Point-Of-View (POV) of the consumer is crucial as it allows you to gain a new perspective and additional insight into how your CTA is likely to be received by your consumer.

Look at your CTA and ask yourself:

  • “Will this take long?”

If the answer is unclear or the response is yes, you will need to make some changes to your CTA and/or the action itself.

  • “Is this worth my time?”

If your CTA does not clearly express the benefit/s your consumer will receive, the answer is likely to be no and you will need to make some amendments to your CTA.

  • “Will this be simple?”

If your consumer is unsure how long the process will take, or it is evident it will require some time e.g. filling out complex forms, your consumer is unlikely to follow through with the action and you will need to make some changes to your CTA and/or the action itself.

  • “Is this something others are doing?”

If your consumer is left questioning whether they are likely to be the only person acting upon your CTA they may begin to fear the prospect of being ‘suckered in’ and feeling foolish. If this type of questioning arises from your CTA consider incorporating a numerical count or statement which shows your consumers that others have previously acted upon the CTA.

  • “Will this involve providing my credit card details?”

If your CTA requests credit card details it is likely to be extremely off putting to any consumer. Often your consumer will have their card away from them and question the possibility of future monetary costs and commitments which may apply. For this reason it is often best to leave any financial commitment to another time and place.

By following these 5 simple steps you can write engaging an effective CTAs for any copy. So give CTAs a go and include one in your next blog post, website update or social media post, and of course, comment or email me to let me know how it goes.

About The Author
Eva Niedzwiedz is a communications consultant and Director of Pickled Pineapple Public Relations based in Perth, Western Australia. Her mission is to help small business owners take advantage of their unique marketing potential through the creation and implementation of original content, tailored communications and social media services.