Lesson 6: How to Create Calls-to-Action That Get a Reaction

Hello, everybody! Take a seat because class is in session.

In our previous lessons, we discussed how to create good-looking landing pages and how to get people to visit them. Now we’re going to look into the decisive factor: the call-to-action.

Once you know how to make effective calls-to-action, you’ll be ready to start raking in leads.

The Definition

A call-to-action(CTA) is simply an instruction you give to your audience. It usually has an imperative verb (“Register now”, “Get in touch with us”) and we’ll get to the reason behind that shortly. The request could be anything.

According to the definition, the world has a lot more calls-to-action than we’d probably imagine. By simply sharing a funny video on Twitter and telling people to watch it, you’re creating a CTA.

However, if you’re interested in lead generation, the types of CTAs you should care about are the ones that get people to register on your website or subscribe to your mailing lists.

Here’s what one of our CTAs looks like:


In this lesson, we will talk about creating calls-to-action in landing pages but also in articles and websites. To be honest, every web page should have at least one call-to-action.

The Placement of Your Calls-to-Action

While we’re on the subject, let’s discuss the proper placement of CTAs. There has been a lot of debate on this subject and the closest people have come to a resolution is agreeing to disagree.

Placement in Blog Posts

It’s not that much about different opinions as it is about different industries and readers. Some companies have found above the fold( immediately visible part of the page) CTAs to work well. Other businesses get much better results when they let the viewer read for a bit before introducing a CTA.

In the past, above-the-fold CTAs was most popular because people rarely scrolled down the page. That’s not necessarily the case anymore. Visitors are pickier now. They want to see value before opting in. We’re not saying that above the fold doesn’t work anymore. It’s just that it doesn’t work for everybody.

At Squirrly, for example, we usually place our CTAs under the fold because we want potential leads to see the quality of our articles. Asking them to give out their email or become a client before they sample our content wouldn’t work as good.

ContentVerve experienced the same thing:

[Credits: ContentVerve]
[Credits: ContentVerve]
The IT or beauty product industries, however, get great results by showing the CTA early. Many of their customers already know what they want, they’re just looking for the landing page.

Do your own testing and see which side of the fence you are on. Firsthand experience is more valuable here than the advice of any thought leader.

Placement in Landing Pages

A landing page is designed to attract attention, but the CTA is the “crown jewel.” So you need to make sure it stands out.

I’m not saying you should place your CTA right in the middle of the page, but you do have to make it impossible to miss.

One popular method is to make the button colorful and big.

Unless you have a specific design in mind, don’t use the CTA’s color for any other button.

Here’s a simple color scheme that works. What stands out the most is the CTA, the other colors are neutrals (you can see some brown, some muted black and grey). But you can’t miss that green!

[Credits: CavasOnDemand]
[Credits: CavasOnDemand]
A landing page’s calls-to-action should be short and to the point. The rest of the page explains why you should opt-in.

Placement on the Website in General

Your homepage should have a special box with a CTA. It’s the most visited page on the website, so it has great lead generation potential.

Put a CTA on the website sidebar as well. The same sidebar usually appears on every page, so readers are always one click away from opting in.

Don’t think that you have to cram everything above the fold. A study by CXpartners concluded that if you move content under the fold, the audience will follow. Here is a heat map to prove it:

[Credits: cxpartners]
[Credits: cxpartners]

Finding the Perfect Placement for You

Understanding the human mind isn’t easy. With thousands of readers, it’s next to impossible. Come up with a hypothesis and see if it’s true. The key to finding out is simple: do lots of live tests.

It’s not just about the CTA placement and page layout, though, it’s much more. We’ll talk more about testing at the end of the article.

The Wording in Your Calls-to-Action

Placement isn’t everything. Even perfect positioning won’t help you get email addresses if the text is bad.

First of all, don’t make something generic like “sign up here” or “subscribe to the newsletter.” These messages may be clear enough, but most people associate bland CTAs like these with spam. The least you should do is make the CTAs specific to your brand or offer.

Here’s an example of what not to do (this text is pretty bland):

[Credits: Pressbook]
[Credits: Pressbook]
In general, your blog and social media accounts are great at building trust between you and the audience. With awesome content, you may be able to get away with a bland call-to-action.. but why risk it?

Make the opt-in button something different like “I’m in!” or “Let’s get this show on the road.” These are good examples because they bring a lot more energy than just “ok.”

Get people excited.

When it comes to CTAs, boredom is one of your enemies. Take the words “get” and “acquire” as an example. I don’t even have to tell you that “get” brings better results than “acquire.”

For a CTA button, some words simply work better than others; they’re more actionable. Here are a few more examples:

  • Featured
  • Exclusive
  • Advanced
  • Access
  • Secrets
  • Special
  • Better

Don’t assume that these words are magical and if they’re crammed together, they’ll make the ultimate CTA. They’re just useful when it comes to helping you craft your own message.

You call-to-action should be short (less than fifteen words). Otherwise, people will lose interest. With such limited space, don’t try to add unnecessary words just because they’re actionable. Make sure the message sounds natural.

Here are a few examples of what we mean:

[Credits: LessAccounting]
[Credits: LessAccounting]
Take note of how much information there is on this landing page. Still, it’s well structured, clear, and the simple CTA draws you in. Let’s do it!

[Credits: giftrocket.com/]
You can bet that no other company has the CTA “Send a GiftRocket.” The business embraces its quirkiness and so should yours.

[Credits: Grey Goose]
[Credits: Grey Goose]
Grey Goose uses a beautiful and simple design to draw attention to the CTA. Take this as an example of “less is more.”

The Feeling Your Calls-to-Action Evoke

Using actionable words is dandy but let’s not stop here. The emotions you create through your CTA are just as important as the words themselves.

That being said, evoking negative emotions can be just as effective in terms of getting people to click on your desired CTA as evoking positive emotions.  More about that in the following lines.

Accepting Brings Positivity

Earlier, I told you to get people excited about your offer. By doing that, you already add a positive spin to the opt-in. You can add another sentence after the “yes” answer to make it even more appealing.

Let’s make up an example: You want to send people emails with tips about home redecoration. Don’t let the opt-in button be just “send me the tips.” Make it more upbeat, like “Yes, send me the tips. I want to have a beautiful home.”

Note how the message was written in the first person. That’s not accidental. The most effective call-to-action take this route because it makes it more personal for the reader.

The idea isn’t to simply create a positive message. Craft a message that will make the reader feel positive.

Powerhabits gets it. The whole landing page is designed to get you smiling:

[Credits: PowerHabits]
[Credits: PowerHabits]
After crafting a CTA button that evokes happiness, it’s time to create contrast.

Declining Brings Negativity

Not all of your CTAs have to have the word Yes in them. (like, for example, Yes, sign me in or Yes, I’m interested).

You can also have the word No. But you need to be careful with this.

When adding a “no” button, you need to make this option sound boring and unpleasant. Again, accentuate negativity using additional text. (for example: No, I don’t want more traffic or No Thanks, I’m not looking to lose weight).

This will make the other option, which represents the action you do want people to take, sound way more appealing.

Watch out, though. There’s a fine line between making a negative message and a hurtful one. You don’t have to put people down for refusing to give out their email addresses.

Another simple way to achieve a “negative” effect is to make the button gray. It will look sad and unappealing, especially compared to the colorful “yes” button.

Men’s Health CTA is a good example here:

[Credits: Menshealth]
[Credits: Menshealth]
Compare the two buttons for a second. Which one seems more appealing to you?

Talking about Value

You should be offering people valuable information or other goodies in exchange for their email address. The problem is that not everyone will know how to appreciate the value of your offer. As a result, they may not choose to opt-in.

Show just how good a deal you are offering by using a unit of measurement everyone understands: dollars. By offering exact figures, you show people the real value they can get by opting in.

Here are two examples of CTAs that know how to leverage their value:

[Credits: Crazyegg]
[Credits: Crazyegg]
You might have also seen the use of the word “secret.” It’s a nice touch that adds excitement and exclusivity to the whole deal.

[Credits: the musician's guide]
[Credits: the musician’s guide]
In this example, I want you to notice the timer on top. That’s another big thing about successful calls-to-action.

Creating a Sense of Urgency

By this point, you know how to make pretty awesome CTAs, but there’s still one problem. The reader may like the deal but decide to sleep on it and “come back later.” The problem here is that most people won’t come back after this thought. They either forget or decide it’s not worth it.

Your CTA should create an incentive to act right now.

A good way you can do this is by showing the limited time window or stock.

Instead of making an offer indefinitely, it might be better to put a time limit on it. Sure, the time will run out and some people will miss it, but the conversion rate boost can more than make up for that.

Authority Nutrition’s call-to-action knows how to light a fire under their audience:

[Credits: Authority Nutrition]
[Credits: Authority Nutrition]
Experiment with this little psychological trick.

Another way to create a sense of urgency is by adding the word Today in your copy. It can bring in a lot more leads. Just check out the results ConversionXL got:

[Credits: ConversionXL]
[Credits: ConversionXL]
They tried out several different styles and found the “sweet spot” for lead generation.

A/B Testing

There are a lot of different styles and directions you can choose for your calls-to-action. To find the best fit for your audience, you need to conduct some tests. A/B tests to be specific.

A/B testing is when you create two or more similar pages that have one key difference. You launch them and measure their conversion rate. After a set period, you see which one did the best.

For the sake of clarity, we’ll split the points of interest into three categories:

The Layout

We just talked about different CTA placements so I won’t go into detail again. What I should mention, though, is that the layout encompasses more than just the fold. Each element on your page interacts with the other. Keep an open mind while testing.

For example, Unbounce discovered that placing the CTAs before the prices increased the conversion rate:

[Credits: Unbounce]
[Credits: Unbounce]
The change in the “treatment page” brought a 41% lift. A word of warning: their conversion rate increased dramatically, but that doesn’t mean it will work the same for you. So, it’s important to run your own tests.

The Design Elements

The sizes, fonts, and colors on your landing page (and website in general) are crucial to the conversion rate. Relatively small changes, like the color of a button, can have a huge impact.

Hubspot tried two different colors for its CTA button. Here are the “contestants”:

[Credits: Hubspot]
[Credits: Hubspot]
What they found is that the red button beat the green one by 21%.

A big point of interest is the image you use (if any). The feeling you evoke has to be positive, but there are tons of ways to do that. Will a photo do the trick or would a drawing work better? Maybe consider adding a video instead.

VidYard added a video to their landing page and doubled their conversion rate.

[Credits: Unbounce]
[Credits: Unbounce]

The Copy

When you consider how important every little detail is, it’s easy to see the role the text itself plays. Luckily, there’s no real need to try out a thousand versions that are almost identical.

When testing the copy, there are a few areas where you will want to focus:

  • The calls-to-action
  • The Headlines
  • The Secondary Headlines
  • The Descriptions

Now that you know which words are more “actionable” than others, see if you can’t improve your conversion rate. Don’t shy away from weird ideas. Timothy Sykes took a different approach and got a 39% better conversion rate:

[Credits: quicksprout]
[Credits: quicksprout]
You’ll need some A/B testing software if you want to get results fast. We recommend you try Unbounce, Visual Website Optimizer or Optimizely. They’re not free, but they’re worth the money.


Calls-to-action are a crucial part of any marketing strategy. And now that you’ve completed this lesson, you have a better understanding of how to use them effectively.

And with this lesson, you’ve also completed our course on Conversion Rate Optimization.

You’ve learned more about the different conversion elements you can include on your site, how to build better landing pages that have effective calls to action in place, how to make the most out of every opportunity to generate leads, and much more.

Use this knowledge to make changes in your strategy, generate more leads and grow your site and business.


I'm an energetic person that likes to write and play video games. I'm lucky that I met the Squirrlyans because now I write for a living. I still haven't found any use for my passion for video games, though 🙁

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