Everything you EVER wanted to know about call to actions!

Alarm clocks. That’s what this post is all about. Just that in marketing, the term used instead of “alarm clocks” are “call to actions”.

What is a call to action button?

I’d like to think of call to actions as alarm clocks…only that it doesn’t necessarily have to be noisy or irritating. 

call to action definition

But if you want the raw definition of call to actions, here you go:

Call to actions are words or buttons which prompt the user to perform the desired action, be it taking a quiz, asking for a custom quote or even signing up for free goodies. Call to actions (CTA) can be seen everywhere, be it in the offline marketing or online marketing.

Why is call to action necessary?

Why is call to action necessary? Well, if you want sales then you gotta provide CTAs. if  you want, of course.

When you are marketing, you gotta be like a subtly pushy mother: Dave, clean the room on Thursday. Dave, its Thursday tomorrow, you gotta clean the room tomorrow. Dave, its Thursday, for god’s sake, clean the room now! If you don’t clean the room now, you’re grounded!

call to action definition

Though of course, in marketing, the grounding thing doesn’t really work that well…unless it’s a subscription or free trial you are offering.

And read the above paragraph again: “… a subtle pushy mother”..

where is the cta

Look at the above example. What looks like a button is the rectangular shaped violet thing...except it turns out that it really isn't a button. It's just a fancy way to write a heading, a foolishly fancy way I must say.

Other than the faux button, do you see anything else that could be clicked on? No. The user will be feeling confused as well, and hence, the site owner will not really get as much conversions as excepted.

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Don’t batter your audience with CTAs front right and center. They’d hate it. Wouldn’t you hate it too? (that was a rhetorical question).

But if you want sales, you have to pushy. The trick is to keep the things in balance and be subtle. And by subtle, I mean applying human psychology tactics in optimum doses.

When is a call to action most appropriate?

A call to action can be placed almost anywhere where you want the user to take a particular action. You might think that CTAs are only prominent in the internet, but that’s not true. You can find CTAs in direct mail marketing and even brick-and-mortar stores.

Brick-and-mortar CTA

One day, I saw this CTA in my local store:


Here, Coop is offering little discount to people who choose their products over others. The discount is a small one, but a discount nevertheless.

There are two CTAs here, the primary being "Get 5% discount" and the secondary being "Join Co op". When you think from Co-op's point of view, you realise that their primary aim is to gain new customers and turn them into loyal followers of their products.

Digital CTA

The example given below is a beautiful example of A/B testing done right. 

call to action

In the left half of the screenshot, the first thing that demands your attention will be the green button towards the bottom. The heading is also benefit and value oriented, which is great because it evokes the curiosity of the target audience.

In the right half, however, instead of anything which looks like a button, there is a hyperlink provided. This hyperlink performs the same function the green button does...except that now, it looks less like a CTA. Even if the target audience is interested to know more about the topic, they will be slightly confused as to where to click. 

How to write a great c​all to action?

Making a great CTA is crucial if you want your leads to convert. There are several factors which come into play while making a great CTA. Today, I will tell you the major points of each factor.

1. Color

And not just color. The whole color psychology comes into play here. Look at the image below:

call to action example

And before we go any further, let me tell you one thing which should be embedded in your marketing DNA by now: CTAs MUST DEMAND ATTENTION FROM YOUR USERS.

And one way to do is through colors.

In the image given above, the first thing that comes to your eyes is CTA button. The color of this CTA clearly contrasts with the green background, which makes it very noticeable. 

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The copy highlights the benefits any user will get if they sign up: he gets to keep his busy life organised effortlessly.

And while we're talking about colors, lets not forget how neatly color psychology is tucked in between these layers. Green symbolizes nature, energy, renewal and money. The users don't have to spend any energy nor money to keep their busy lives organised, something which Evernote provides.

2. Shape

Remember the example of Rich Dad Poor Dad? The shape of your CTAs matter immensely as well. You need to keep your CTAs of a rectangular shape or something which netizens regularly see in the internet. For example, look at the image below:

call to action shape

The first thing that demands your attention is the heading. The colors used are on point, and the image complements with the Spotify's business: Music streaming platform. And the button is a rectangle with rounded edges.

3. Text

By text, I mean the "copy" used in and along the CTA. But before that, I would like to mention one exception on how buttons ought to be shaped like.

In this old email by Buffer, you see that the copy is direct and simple. It does not beat around the bush. And there are two CTAs, the primary being the blue button and the secondary being the link about one of their services. The target audience here are businesses using Instagram, and every word clearly motivates them to know more about how to grow their business.

call to action copy

When it comes to email marketing, it is recommended that you stick to the plain text non-HTML heavy content. This is all the more important if you are just starting out.

But why?

Because HTML heavy content usually lands either in the Promotions tab or spam box in gmail. When you are starting out, you want to be in the top of your readers' minds, and landing in spam or Promotions isn't a good way to achieve it.

After you have established expertises in your industry, you might consider having HTMl emails.

call to actions

In this image from Crazy Egg, the copy is beautifully structured. It hits the target audience right in their desires-list: To make their website better. And what's more, the user immediately gets to know how to achieve the desire.

But why should the user trust Crazy Egg?

The sub-heading removes further objections by providing social proof (220,000 websites improved their business) with the help of Crazy Egg.

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While it is very well known that the words "your, you" drive conversions well, when it comes to CTA button copy, consider using first person pronouns as much as possible.

4. Size

If you think about my previous points a carefully, you might think that the best way to attract your user’s attention is to keep huge CTA.

That is a blunder.

With Google SEO algorithm preferring mobile optimized sites greater than those who/which don’t, keeping the CTA sizes are important as well.

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This might seem of relatively minor importance, but think about it: you keep a big CTA button which looks attention grabbing on the desktop but takes one-fourth of the mobile screen, how would the user feel?

They’d feel as if you are demanding them to buy your product. Or sign up. Whatever. And people don’t like to be ordered, even less from a lame CTA button. So, what do they do? They ditch you.

call to action examples

Let's look at the image given above. This particular example can teach you both about color and size. Both the CTAs are contrasting to the white background, which makes both of them attention-grabbing. Both the buttons are even of the exact size, making "View our work" a self-defeating CTA. The user will be confused : which one should he click? You end up losing potential clients in this manner. 

If you have to keep two CTAs, structure them accordingly. Which one do you want to be the most preferred action your user should take? Make that more prominent to look at through colors and size.

Where can call to action be placed?

The placement of CTAs is also an important aspect to consider. Let me show you five major ways in which you can place your CTAs.

1. Anywhere

Frankly speaking, you can place your CTA almost anywhere...as long as you really really know your customers AND make it attention-demanding. For example, let me search for Fentry beauty in London. I get results like this:

call to action example

How many CTAs do you see? I can see at least 7 of them. And all of them of the same color and they aren't even button-shaped. And yet I pay attention to it. 


Because I am used to such ads. Because I have been using the internet long enough to know what to expect, and how to make sense of them. 

You must know your target audience this well too. You must do your own psychographic research of your market well in advance and use it to the best of your ability. To know more about how to do psychographic segmentation of your market, click here.

2. Sticky

If you haven't heard of psychographics yet, go follow this link now, because almost half of this blog post will talk about how necessary it is to know your customers.

Once you know your customers well, you will understand where exactly to place the CTAs. Let's take an example:

sticky call to action

Foodora keeps its one CTA sticky. The copy is simple and direct - Check if restaurant is delivering to your address or not.

They know that after their customers select their menu, they are gonna be pissed out to find out that the restaurant is NOT delivering to their area. So, they made their CTA sticky.

3. Below the fold

This goes against the usual rule to put a CTA above the fold, but this just stresses on why you must A/B test your pages.

call to action placement

Sometimes, users need some time to decide before clicking your CTA. This can usually be seen in the case of landing pages, where users need to know about what exactly that are getting. But don't think this is always the case! Always keep on testing your pages. I cannot stress on it enough! Again, you need to know your audience.

4. Repetitive

This kind of CTA placement is most commonly seen in landing pages. It is only successful if there is only one CTA which takes the user one step further down the funnel. Repetitive placement of the same CTA periodically throughout your landing page make the motive clear (sale) and keeps prompting the lead to take action. 

5. Pop-ups

Pop ups are underestimated and unloved by many. That is bad, because using pop-ups correctly can boost your conversions greatly. As long as your pop-up does not cover the content and extremely advertisy, popups convert well.

Two major types of non-irritating pop-ups are:

pop up

1. Pop-up with overlay: Here, there is a clear black overlay which has little copy and a clear CTA button. The copy provides value to the target audience and a reassurance that they won't be spammed. There is also an option to exit the pop-up without providing email address.

sliding pop up

2. Slide in pop-ups: These kind of pop-ups are my personal favourite because they only appear after you have scrolled down their content and actively reading their blogs. This means the timing has been thought of carefully. The color is bright, the copy is short and direct, the CTA button copy provides value AND it doesnt cover the content.

Notable mentions

I want to show you two other examples which also implement all the aspects of a great CTA, but having their own speciality.

1. Amazon Prime

This old version of Prime ad is the best I have ever seen till now. It looks direct and simple enough, but the devil is in the details.


Let's start with color. The CTA button pops out easily. It's golden in color. Golden symbolises "luxury, magic and prosperity". True, saving money is luxurious enough. 

Next. The "Without Prime" column has everything in red. Red symbolises "danger, bad". The "Prime" column has all the cool green stuff, all the good stuff. Come to think of it, the word Prime itself is smiling and calm blue to look at.

Now comes the words. Look at the Without Prime again. It is unformatted, crowded and even claustrophobic to look at. But Prime is clean and blue.

But we are not done yet. Look at the muted CTA : "Continue without free, fast shipping". It is a plain text hyperlink and even makes you wonder twice if you should click on it or not.

Reassurance and instant gratification? "Effective IMMEDIATELY".

2. Netflix

At first glance, Netflix may not look so detail-oriented as Amazon Prime. But if you notice carefully, the background image is a collage of all the popular movies and shows in that particular country. Which means in india. you get to see this:


And what's worthwhile is that the shows mentioned are NetFlix originals - you won't find them anywhere else.

Color is on point. Red logo, same red buttons and primary importance is given to new members. Instant gratification and reassurance is given (Free, cancel anytime).


Whew! That was too much to take in about alarm clocks. Who knew that alarm clocks can be so important for your business? 

If you found this post helpful, please do share it! (Yes, that's a call to action again)

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