5 Elements of an Effective Call-to-Action

Give a clear path for your audience

5 min read

Jackson James

5 Elements of an Effective Call-to-Action

5 min read

You are going to learn very quickly what makes an effective call-to-action.

More importantly, you’re going to learn the reasons why.

A call-to-action is where someone makes the decision whether to spend money with you or not and it always stuns me that not many people employ these simple strategies for their digital presence because, after all, a buying decision is pretty important!

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Including these 5 elements has proven time and time again that there is, in fact, a ‘right way’ of writing calls-to-action. You can see the results with your own website and digital marketing.

Here’s some sad news though

87% of websites do nothing for their owners. This is so unfortunate given the incredible potential websites have to maximize revenue, business growth and increase a brand’s influence in the world. While there is more than just one cause of this large statistic (ignorance of buyer psychology and behaviours, failure to connect with the audience on a simple level, etc.),  this article addresses one of the major contributing factors to this statistic.

“87% of business owners have a website that does nothing for them.”

The problem is you have spent good money on your website but it is just sitting there…like a lazy employee…and not converting visitors into sales or leads.

People REALLY are not as smart as we think

I probably could have phrased that title better but here’s what I’m getting at. The way we talk as humans through our day to day life gives the impression that know what to do all the time. Surprisingly, this is not entirely true. We, as people, have the ability to figure out what to do but statistics show we prefer to be told what to do as it saves us having to work up the brain power to figure it out ourselves.

Our brains are designed to conserve calories. This means people will switch off when they have to work too hard to understand or identify something. It’s amazing how much of a better response businesses get when they simply tell their customers what to do and then tell them what to do again.

“Statistics show we prefer to be told specifically what to do as it saves us the effort of working it out ourselves.”

People love ease, simplicity and clarity. They love having their hand held. They love being guided.

Scientifically, people only pay attention to what’s called “salient cues.” A salient cue is a direct command – “stand up,” “sit down,” “sign here,” “watch this,” are all forms of salient cues. I saw this proved recently in a business meeting I had. One of the meeting attendees had us all stand up to do an exercise to illustrate something she was teaching us. After the exercise she continued sharing but everyone stayed standing, voluntarily, until she realised we were still standing and told us to sit down.

People will do what you explicitly tell them to. People choose the path with the most ease and least effort required. If your calls-to-action remove the energy required in order for someone to understand what you want them to do, you will win.

It requires you to be extremely specific.

If you’re still using the old-school “Contact Us” at the top of your website, these next 5 points will help you increase conversions.

5 Elements of an Effective Call-to-action

1. Determine Goals

What is the end goal of your call-to-action? It seems like an obvious question yet so many websites still use vague language like “Learn More,” etc. It tells me that people don’t ask themselves the point of their calls-to-action.

So, what is it that you’re wanting your visitor to do? Is it to buy a product? Book an appointment? Call you? Download something?

Your goal needs to be laser specific.

2. Actionable Language

This leads us to the second element your call-to-action must have and that is that it must use actionable language.

What is the goal of your call-to-action?
How can you communicate that goal in one, brief phrase?

“Learn More,” “Contact Us,” “Get Started” – these all feel like they perfectly summarise what you want your visitors to do…but that’s the very issue – they summarise. The problem with summaries is that they are too general and people don’t respond to general, vague instructions; they respond to specific and clear directions.

3. Make it attention-grabbing

The human eye catagorises things quickly in order to make sense of what it is looking at help the brain not burn too much energy thinking. This means your call-to-action needs to stand out significantly from everything else.

Making it a different colour than everything else is a simple trick but works brilliantly. Applying slight gradients can also be a great addition when used appropriately.

Creative language can be a bonus but don’t sacrifice clarity for creativity, ever.

4. Good placement

Now that we’ve got the basics down, you must have good placement of your call-to-action. People love being reminded what to do. It removes the energy required to think. Having your call-to-action repeated several times throughout your webpage seems like it’s annoying but rarely is that true.

Repetition helps guide someone and makes them feel safe and cared for. As long as your call-to-action is helpful people don’t mind being told the same thing over and over. Good placement and repetition provide a straight road for your visitors to travel on and removes multiple options that distract and wear out the brain.

People scan websites in a z-pattern. This means that the first location your main call-to-action should appear is in the top-right corner of your webpage as that is where the eye bounces off when scanning a webpage.

“Repetition helps guide someone and makes them feel safe and cared for.”

5. Worthwhile

Finally, your call-to-action must communicate value or something worthy of your visitor’s click. This comes back to the first point – the end goal. For example, if you want your visitor to download a resource, “Download Now” is a great call-to-action. If you want your visitor to place an order to take advantage of a special offer or discount, “Buy Now” or “Claim My Voucher” work really well.


It bares repeating: please do not use “Contact Us,” “Learn More,” “More Info” or any other vague language in your call-to-action. The question “why?” is always left in the mind of your visitor and it drastically decreases your conversion rate.

Why would a visitor want to contact you? “Well, they would want to book an appointment.” Then tell them to do that. Dont’ be shy! Tell them to book an appointment with you right now.

Why would a visitor want to learn more? “Well, they would learn how our process is different and the value it gives them over our competitors.” Then tell your visitors that upfront. Tell them, “Learn how to save time,” “Lower your expenses by 50%” or whatever the end value is of your different process.


Be clear.
Be specific.
Tell your visitors what to do.
Then tell them again.

“Download now,” “Book an appointment,” “Buy now,” “Call now” – these are just a couple of really great examples of effective calls-to-action that we see outperform vague buttons every single day.

Next Steps

If your serious about getting results from your calls-to-action in your marketing collateral and website, download our worksheet below. It will help you get laser specific, actionable and worthwhile calls-to-action that you see results from.

Free Worksheet

Download the worksheet to get your calls-to-action working for you, not against you.

Available in Word, PDF and Pages format

What’s stopping you from making better calls-to-action?

Tell us in the comments below

5 Elements of an Effective Call-to-action
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