What’s the one thing you want your reader to do?

What is the one thing you want your reader to do?

The answer to this question is your call-to-action (CTA) and should guide your thinking about every aspect of your campaign, email, or post. Your call-to-action (CTA) is one of the most important aspects of your online communication.

We’re firm believers that every communication should have some call-to-action, even if the call is to simply “Learn more.”

CTA’s are one of the most tested elements by online giants such as Amazon.com and Obama for America. For good reason:

  • Your click-through rates can jump as much as 30% with the right CTA.
  • CTA’s are extremely fluid: different CTA’s work better than others depending on timing, goals, seasonality, and frankly, CTA fatigue. “Donate Now” could be getting stale.

CTAs starting with a Verb rather than an Adverb will increase the number of clicks by a 5-1 margin. - Source: Hubspot

Tips for Effective Calls-To-Action (CTAs)

Here are more tips for effective calls-to-action for a variety of communications:

  • One call-to-action per email, blog, or post. What is the “one thing” you want your reader to do? Resist the temptation to throw the kitchen sink of links into your email in an effort to get people to click on “something.” Data shows that too many call-to-action options actually suppress action.
  • Ask early and ask often—sort of. Multiple links all with the same call-to-action are okay–and even preferable in some email appeals. Research shows that emails with three links often get higher click-throughs than just one link or button. However, too many links can suppress click-throughs. We’ve found the best response is with three to four links per email and obviously only one for a Facebook or Twitter post. Depending on the topic, we find that links in the copy combined with a graphic button worded carefully is the best performing combination for emails. When using a graphic “big and bold” works best.
  • Sense of urgency.You’ll get higher click-throughs even if you just ask for action “Today.” However, try something like CARE recently used here.

  • Keep your CTA above the fold. Research also shows that just about half of email readers do not scroll through the copy. Since about 43% of us read email on mobile devices, “above the fold” is pretty high up in your copy.
  • What's In It For Me: http://www.ddfl.org/

    What’s in it for me? State the clear value of clicking. Rather than “Learn More” try “Learn how to avoid catching a cold.” Rather than “Donate” try “Feed a Family of Five This Thanksgiving.” Rather than “Take Action” try “Sign the Petition to Save PBS.”

  • P.S. Remember This: your post script is a second headline and the perfect tool to get your reader to take action. It’s your last opportunity to convert your reader into a donor, advocate, or volunteer. Your P.S. should support the copy that came before, and remind the reader why they need to take action quickly.
  • Front load your best copy. Especially for online copy, “less is more.” Writing shorter emails might increase the likelihood that email recipients will encounter your offer before getting bored and deleting it. The same is true for blog posts (yeah, we know this one is too long).
  • Specific works better than generic. “Submit” doesn’t perform well. “Donate Now,” while direct, is widely use and hardly stands out anymore. Instead, check out this great Grand Canyon inspired CTA from NPCA.org
  • If it’s really important, like capturing an email address or a year-end donation, use a light box. You might think people find pop-ups annoying, but they work in timed campaigns.
  • Link your CTA to a consistent landing page, donation page, advocacy page. Never link to a generic home page unless the call to action is “Visit Our New Website”
  • Change your CTA up. Donate Now can get boring. Try Click Here to Feed A Family for $12

  • Remove obstacles. People often hesitate to take action because they fear that it may take too much time. But if you include things, like “It only takes 60 seconds to send a child to school” or “We’ll never sell your email address” in your button text, you remove any obstacles or fears around clicking-through or sharing an email address. An example is Obama for America here.
  • Segmentation trumps all. The more customized your call to action is to your audience based on interest, geography, or relationship to your organization, the better it will perform. It’s not always easy to segement. However, if you have the ability to segment your audience for email, it could pay to customize your CTA based on the readers interest or relationship to your organization. You can’t really segment your CTA’s in blogs or Twitter, but you can do some segmentation with your Facebook  posts, especially based on geography.
  • Test. Test. Test. Test different designs, link placements, wording, and text/image orchestration to keep your email campaigns performing as they should.  CTA’s are fluid and ever-changing. Some just get stale, so you really need to frequently test. We like using Optimizely, but there are several products and approaches to testing what works.