Do You Know How to Write a Call to Action That Converts?


Here at MarketingWise, we are all about killer content.

Whether you are leveraging the power of video, the impact of info graphics, the reach of social media or the impression of a phenomenally branded WordPress website, it all comes down to the content.

Let’s say, for the sake of argument, you are an amazing writer. Or perhaps you’ve hired a skilled content marketing strategist. You know you have the content nailed.

But it’s still not converting sales. It’s not engaging your readers. Your messaging, even though it rocks, isn’t cutting the mustard.

I know why.

It’s your call to action, or CTA (or maybe even lack thereof).

The call to action is, in its own right, a sophisticated consideration that requires a deeper understanding of your reader’s point of view. Every page of content should have one, and the CTA has to be presented strategically and thoughtfully.

What is a call to action?

A CTA moves your reader to do one of a few things:

  • Request more information (Download our free guide)
  • Engage more intimately with your brand (Leave your comments below)
  • Make a purchase (Take advantage of our 20% discount today)

When your call to action moves readers to ‘request more information’, they might fill out a contact form, sign up for a newsletter, download a white paper or make a phone call. In this case, you will have created access to your target client – via email or phone.

A CTA might encourage a reader to engage more intimately with your brand by leaving behind a comment, participating in a contest, filling out a questionnaire or requesting a free demonstration/trial.

And finally, your CTA might move a reader to make a purchase. The ultimate conversion and the most powerful impact of a carefully crafted CTA.

So how do you do it? How do you write a call to action that will yield the intended results?

I’m going to tell you.

Harness the power of words

Just like anything else that you write online, you want your call to action to be engaging and meaningful. ‘Click here’, for instance, is a pretty bland and generic call to action.

  • Be specific & direct
  • Articulate expectations
  • Offer a sense of urgency
Instead of telling readers to ‘Sign Up’, tell them to:

Learn insider secrets TODAY to engage employees and drive sales through the roof!

This CTA lets the reader know what they are getting, what it will do for them, and that they should do it today.

Leverage your online real estate

Studies reveal that the most valuable space on your website is in the upper right hand corner, above the fold.  The eye travels here naturally, after it has had an opportunity to discern what your website is all about.

Notice that on the MarketingWise website, the subscription box is located precisely on this prime piece of real estate.

Some other website locations where CTA’s tend to convert are at the end of a post or landing page, or on the banner, so you might want to do some testing to see what works best for your readership.

Use design to your advantage

So now you have a CTA that is written well and you know exactly where to place it on your website.

You also want to make sure that it pops – really jumps out at the reader – and you can do this with design.

When I say ‘pops’, I don’t mean as in ‘pop up’. At MarketingWise, we don’t actually believe in pop up ads. They are annoying (don’t you agree?) and too ‘in your face’.

We believe in designing CTA’s that are aesthetically pleasing to the eye, simple to navigate, and provocative enough that they inspire a sense of curiosity and interest.

We think our ‘Contact Us’ tab, in the upper right hand corner, is a good example of CTA design that ‘pops’.

Coordinate your call to action with your sales cycle

It’s unlikely that someone who is newly familiar with your brand and product will initiate a purchase right away.

Every B2B executive understands the importance of nurturing your lead through the sales cycle, and your calls to action should reflect this strategy.

Use a good analytics tool to track visitors’ interest and activity and coordinate your CTA’s accordingly.

Your Turn

Have you given much thought to your calls to action? Are yours working for you?

Share your questions and reactions in the comments section below, and be sure to tweet and share this post if you found it useful!




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  •    Reply

    Learn insider secrets TODAY to engage employees and drive sales through the roof! I just put this on my business card if that’s ok………

    Good info, what’s driving the train; it’s the CTA I do believe……..

  •    Reply

    Great advice but I wouldn’t expect anything less from you Ruth!

    I know I still have room for improvement but I think I finally have all that call to action stuff down now. I still need to test some things but I’m getting there.

    Great explanation, easy to understand this one.


    •    Reply

      Adrienne, testing is the best way to measure if you are getting the results you expected! So bravo on that. Hope you’re having a great day! I think we are due for a little Mastermind reunion :-).

  •    Reply

    Great point Ruth!!

    Loved the point about using the online real estate effectively. Having a cleaner interface does mean a lot to the readers.

    Did a more basic post earlier here >


  • Aartjan van Erkel September 26, 2012 at 12:38 am

    Great post, and your blog theme rocks!

    Just one thing: the top right hand corner isn’t exactly known for bring prime real estate. Quite the contrary, in fact. E.g. Nielsen’s F-shaped reading pattern research indicates you should go for the top left hand corner for call tuo action placement. What studies have you found that contradict this?

    •    Reply

      Hi Aartjan. Glad you enjoyed the post and you like our design (we have a brilliant design team here!)

      I was referring to these studies that suggest the ‘F’ pattern online. Certainly the top left hand side is where the eye first fixates. And then it moves across the top of the page, settling again on the right. So, from a content marketing point of view, it is unlikely that anyone will opt=in or respond to a call to action before they have determined what they are reading. You want your value proposition, your tagline, etc. featured prominently on the top left (MarketingWise- content drive solutions), and then the rationale is that once the reader has determined who you are, what you do, and most importantly – HOW YOU WILL SOLVE THEIR PROBLEMS – then you want to articulate your CTA (on the top right). If the call to action is in the reader’s face before they have drawn any meaningful conclusion about your business, they won’t follow through. Does that make more sense?

  •    Reply

    Ok Ruth, so the CTA has two parts then?

    The things you are pointing out (the opt-in & contact links on this site) are not what I understood as CTA’s but I do understand them to be now. It is pretty obvious when I look at it that way. Thank you.

    The other CTA seems to me to be a question you may ask at the conclusion of your post such as “Have you given much thought to your calls to action? Are yours working for you?” where, for me, the real value is but I suppose that depends what your goals are. It seems that the content drives engagement so wouldn’t you want opt-in at the bottom of your site (or at the end of a post) as well?

    I see where you are coming from and I had a close look that the F pattern post link you provided to Aartjan above but in reading the pattern descriptions it leaves me thinking the most people end at the bottom of your site as I have done here. I do realize the most important info needs to be in the pattern areas but I can’t ignore the base of the F as an ending point. Whattya think?

    •    Reply

      Hi Ralph – thanks for taking the time to comment.

      You are absolutely right. You always need to start with your goal – what do you want the reader to do? If your goal is that you want readers to leave comments, questions and feedback, then YES, you should ask them to do that at the end of your post. If your goal is to get them to subscribe, you should ask them to do that (and we will likely be adding an optin at the end of posts here, just haven’t gotten around to it yet.

      As for the F pattern, if people are engaged enough, they will read through until the end. And we all work towards nurturing that sense of engagement. But the sad reality is that most people will not be engaged enough. They won’t make it to the end (which is why you are so special Ralph!). So you want to capture them with a CTA at their greatest point of engagement, which for the majority of your readers, will be above the fold, and in my opinion – on the right hand side of the page.

      •    Reply

        Thanks Ruth. I do feel “special” in a special sort of way…;-)

        All BS aside the tips here are great. I will take a look at my site and see if I need to change things around a bit. The idea that the first two paragraphs need to hold the secret sause also seems pretty important which, to me, is relevant to what I am doing. I have a few things to think about so thanks again for the valuable insight.

  •    Reply

    Truly right Ruth. This is often realted to its reach-response power, wherein it talkes merely on phone call to accomplish an activity or an action easily and quickly.

  •    Reply

    Thank you for the advice you gave me about my CTA!

    •    Reply

      Thanks for visiting Erin! An effective CTA is often a work in progress, and there is nothing wrong with testing your messaging, positioning and design. That’s the only way you’ll know what works best!

  •    Reply

    Great post – a clear, straight-forward explanation of the essentials of a good CTA. I also agree with your comment above – test it. It might tick all the boxes, but if it’s not working, rework it!

  •    Reply

    I know this if off topic but I’m looking into starting my own blog
    and was wondering what all is required to get setup? I’m assuming having a
    blog like yours would cost a pretty penny? I’m not very internet savvy so I’m not 100% sure.
    Any recommendations or advice would be greatly appreciated.
    Thank you

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