As a copywriter, the pieces you write will almost always include a CTA. CTA stands for call to action. A CTA is the copy you use to tell the reader what you want them to do next. A CTA is the action you want the user to take.
So, if you’re writing an email and the goal is to get them to buy a certain product, it may mean linking the text “shop now,” or even working with the designer to put copy on a button or include small arrows next to the text so users know it’s clickable. Or if you’re writing a newspaper ad, it may be “Visit us at nameofwebsitehere.com.”
It’s a crucial part of direct response copywriting (right up there with leading with benefits versus features).
To determine what your CTA is, it’s critical to fill out the creative brief with your client (or with your designer if you’re working on a spec ad).
Read More: The One Thing Every Successful Copywriting Project Starts With
Here are several factors to consider to help you write a clear, compelling call to action every time.
How the User Journey Impacts the Call to Action
Knowing what you want users to ultimately do is only one piece of information you need to write a clear, compelling CTA. You also need to know where your audience is in the user journey so you can determine what kind of CTA you’ll use.
If users are at the top of the funnel—they are just learning about the brand and the problem it solves—then you may use a soft call to action.
For example, if you’re writing for a brand that is selling a $5,000/month service, sending an email to users who have just subscribed for a free eBook, you may use a soft call to action like “Learn more” or “Read more.”
If a user is at the bottom of the funnel—they’re familiar with the brand and other marketing touch points have built trust and explained why the brand offers the best solution—you may use a more direct call to action, such as “get started,” “buy now,” or “sign up.”
You’ll want to understand where any piece of copy you’re writing fits into the bigger marketing picture so you know if you’re targeting users at the top, middle, or bottom of the funnel.
How the Medium Impacts the Call to Action
Another factor to consider when writing CTAs is whether you’re writing digital or print copy. When you’re writing digital copy, you can link text or have a button that is linked. So, there’s no need to say “Visit websitenamehere.com.” You can simply say, “Visit us.”
In fact, research shows that buttons can significantlyincrease click-through rates in emails. That’s because as people skim, the button stands out more than a text link does. However, you’ll want to make sure the brand you’re writing for tests this idea. They may find that linking text is just as, if not more, effective with their audience.
If the website you want to send users to has a long URL, you’ll want to create a short, memorable URL so it increases the likelihood someone will take the time to type it into their phone or computer.
CTAs Need to Make It Clear What’s Going to Happen Next
You need to give your audience a next step to take. (We’re writing the copy for a reason, right? We want the reader to buy the hand towel, sign up for the course, or watch the video–depending on the project, of course.) The call to action tells the reader what step to take next and how to take that step.
If they click on your “Buy now” button, they should be taken to the webpage where they can buy now. If you’re encouraging them to sign up for your newsletter, the next click had better take them to a place where they can do that. And if you’re telling people to come into the health club and sign up for a raffle, it had better be clear where that raffle is the second they walk in the door.
A CTA Needs to Include the Action
Since CTA stands for call to action it needs to include an action. CTAs are always commands, so they always begin with verbs to tell the user exactly what you want them to do. Depending on the project, a call to action might be “Sign up now for our newsletter,” “Like us on Facebook,” or even just “Buy now.”
Again, you’re telling your audience exactly what it is you want them to do. They shouldn’t have to think about the next step or the benefit they’ll receive if they take that action.
Testing Your CTAs
Because calls to action can have such a big impact on whether a user decides to take the action or not, it’s a piece of copy that’s worth testing.
For example, if you want users to a website to sign up for a free trial, you could test “Try it free” against “Get started.”
Remember: When testing copy, you’ll want to keep the design the same for a true A/B test. You could also test “Try it free” on a red button versus a blue button and see if the color changes the outcome, but you’ll want the copy to remain the same on both buttons so you’re not left guessing whether color or copy was the reason users clicked.
Other elements of the CTA that you may want to test when applicable include:
- Urgency: Using words like “now” or “today”
- Length: For example, “Subscribe” versus “Subscribe for instant updates”
- Point of view: Using second person, speaking directly to your users (“Get your free copy”) versus first person, speaking as if you are the user (“Yes, I want my free copy”)
Using “Click Here” as a CTA
Let me preface this by saying if the brand you’re writing for has tested “click here” and it performs well, then it’s copy worth considering. It’s also worth considering if your audience may not know that certain pieces of text are links. “Click here” may provide that guidance they need.
But in general, “click here” is a bit antiquated. Nowadays, users are tapping, swiping, or using voice recognition—they’re not necessarily clicking. Plus, it’s making “click” the action versus speaking to what you want the user to really do. For example, “To start your membership, click here” becomes simply “Start your membership.”
CTAs, like any other piece of copy, are worth testing. So, when in doubt, ask your client about previous CTA tests and whether they have any information to provide. If not, and if it makes sense, you can recommend a test.
Make Sure the CTA Stands Out
Finally, it’s good practice to let the CTA shine outside the body copy. While your designer will likely make the CTA clear within the design, you want to include it as its own line within your copy doc versus burying it within your body copy.
On Episode 121 of the Build Your Copywriting Business podcast, Nicki and Kate are talking about what makes an effective call to action—one that will maximize clicks and set appropriate user expectations—as well as what doesn’t make an effective call to action.
Listen in for more examples of CTAs that work and why they work, as well as examples of CTAs that could be stronger.
What are some of your tips for writing a compelling CTA? Tell us in the comments below.
Last Updated on March 8, 2023
Niko Holmen says
Hi, i read your blog occasionally and i own a similar one and i was just curious if you get a lot of spam feedback? If so how do you prevent it, any plugin or anything you can recommend? I get so much lately it’s driving me mad so any support is very much appreciated.
We’ve been monitoring it ourselves, but the Genesis framework we’ve built the site on does a nice job of monitoring it. It’s probably too late since your site is already up, but if you’re interested, here’s the info http://www.studiopress.com/themes/genesis