How to write CTA’s that really convert

A call to action is the decisive step between the email reader and the conversion that follows. Still, it’s all too often neglected. And we think that’s a crying shame, since a smart call-to-action with the right micro copy can easily boost both your lead influx and your sales figures. In this blog post, we’ll explain you how it’s done.

Why are calls to action so important?

A call to action (CTA in short) usually takes the shape of a button. Its sole purpose is to motivate the readers of your email or your website visitors to do something. This can be a purchase, a subscription to your newsletter, a sales catalogue request,... In short: a CTA has an immediate impact on your conversion rate.

But to convince visitors, a CTA shouldn’t just tell people what you expect them to do. It should also convince them to actually take that action. And the latter part is often forgotten. Saying what your contacts need to do is easy, getting them to actually do what you want them to, that’s a different story.

Empathy is the key to persuasion

To motivate your readers you need to know exactly who you’re writing for. Always keep your target audience’s needs in mind. What could encourage them to click your CTA? Write your message in a way that appeals to your visitors. Bonus tip: keep your tone of voice human. Engage in the conversation with your visitors and make them feel like there is a real-life person behind your website, app or ad.

It also helps if you play on the human psyche. It’s all in the way you approach your visitors. Take the emotive value of the message in this fictitious ad for chamomile tea for instance:

  • Negative: “Tired of all those sleepless nights? Try our new Chamomile Tea!”
  • Positive: “Enjoy a deep and restful sleep with our new Chamomile Tea!”

Chances are that the negative version will work best. After all, feeling exhausted from too little sleep sounds more intense than getting a good night’s rest. It also addresses a specific problem. Which will probably trigger more response from people.

Keep things crystal clear

The general rule for micro copy also applies to the text in a button: be clear and concise. Users want to find what they're looking for in a jiffy, without giving it too much thought. For example, what happens if you click a button that generically says ‘Click here’? Do I commit to buying something? Will it take me to another page? Am I signing up for something I’m not yet sure about? Your reader would have to dig into the full text to find out.

So always be as clear and concrete as possible. Are you creating an ad for a good cause? Don't just use ‘Help us’ as a call to action. Make it more specific, like ‘Become a volunteer’ or ‘Make a donation’. Are there any additional benefits attached to the action? Go ahead and add them. People prefer to sign up for a free 30-day trial offer rather than for a generic trial version of a service or product.

Be straightforward, without being too direct. For example, ‘Order’ sounds very definitive as a call to action next to a product, especially because people usually go through a few steps before they buy something: landing page with product information, review section, order form and eventually the ‘Buy’ button. So putting ‘Order’ in a button may keep a potential customer from clicking. A CTA like ‘Read more about this product’ can be more effective in this case.

Being clear also implies that you don't put double or conflicting messages in one and the same button, like ‘Get info and order’. Focus on one goal at a time and split up your message into two buttons. 

Golden rules to make your CTA’s really shine

You now know that a call to action needs to be snappy and clear to trigger people to take action. But how exactly do you do that? Unfortunately there is no magic formula for writing the perfect CTA, but there are a few simple rules of thumb that can help you do the job.

  • Write action-oriented. What can your reader expect to find after the click?
    Example: Read more info / Discover this offer
  • Create a sense of urgency. Use power words to spark your reader’s enthusiasm.
    Example: Download your coupon / Join now – it’s free / Claim your 25% discount!
  • Make it personal. Use personal pronouns.
    Example: Create my free account / Show my special offers
  • Be direct. Write in the first-person form
    Example: I take the special offer / I want this smartphone

Avoid long texts. Need more space for your message? Then use the area around your call to action. If necessary, play with arrows and other visual elements to automatically draw the user's attention to your CTA.

An icon can bring extra value to your call to action. Without reading the text, your contact can already see what the action is all about, like this magnifying glass with a miniature plane which accompanies the ‘Find your flight’ CTA. It’s a smart way to make your reader think less and act faster: win-win!


Test, test and test. Then test again.

As mentioned earlier, there is no formula for success that works as a passe-partout. The shape, color, copy, offer, sense of urgency, ... they are all equally important. What does work for one target group could have exactly the opposite effect for another. Meticulous testing remains the single most important thing.

The standard technique we use at RAAK is A/B testing. For MediaMarkt, Europe's largest retailer for consumer electronics, we developed a plan to test every piece of CTA copy. For example, we tested four new CTA’s against the original one in their automated birthday mails. We made a clear distinction between a focus on discount and focus on gift. The CTA with the focus on gift clearly worked best.


A call to action is a great opportunity to turn visitors into leads or customers. So all the more reason to put some extra effort into creating response-triggering CTA’s. This applies not only to the copy, but also to its design and placement. Although a call to action may seem to be just a tiny element on a webpage or in an email, it’s something you really shouldn't neglect. Need some more advice on this topic? Contact our experts now and write CTA’s that really work. (ha, see what we did there?)

New call-to-action


Posted on
Feb 2, 2021