How to Do Calls to Action... Wrong

Be under no illusion, your calls to action (CTAs) can make or break a digital marketing campaign or webpage.

Why CTAs matter

Calls to action…marketing necessity. Get them right and you have the means to propel customers to just the conclusion you want; be that driving up leads and revenue, purchasing goods or services, downloading your latest white papers, or any other of a myriad of outcomes necessary to grow your business.


Get your CTAs wrong and you are potentially crippling your digital marketing efforts and counteracting one of the most valuable weapons in your arsenal.


A poor quality CTA in today’s technology-driven marketplace, is the equivalent of – fifteen years ago, let’s say – listing your company in Yellow Pages and forgetting to add any contact details.

SMEs beware

You’d be surprised how many global enterprises still get it wrong - despite eye-watering marketing budgets - however, often it’s SMEs who are hitting widest of the mark.


A 2013 study by the Content Marketing Institute of a cross-section of smaller US business websites, threw up some alarming statistics:

  • 96% didn’t feature any industry how-to guides or white papers on their home pages.

  • 82% didn’t reference their social media profiles.

  • 72% didn’t have any CTAs on their interior pages.

  • 70% didn’t reference any notable CTAs on their home pages.

  • 70% of websites with a phone number didn’t display it in a prominent place.

  • 68% didn’t include an email address on their home pages.

10 ways to go wrong

Fluffy language

Don’t let there be any doubt as to what the customer will achieve by clicking on your CTA. Use clear, concise language. If you want your customer to ‘Download full report’ then say so. Not ‘Click here to be amazed by our survey’s results’.



Avoid ambiguous or open-ended invitations such as ‘Click here’ or ‘Submit’. Instead, declare a clear outcome, such as ‘Speak to a consultant’, ‘Buy now’, or ‘Download your free trial’.


Lack of visual impact

Your CTA, whether presented as a button, advert, anchor text or image, needs to stand out from the rest of the page in terms of colour, design and position – don’t create a wallflower.


Poor placement

Your CTA’s position on the page is vital, although the optimum placement of a CTA will depend on a number of factors including the goal of your page and the complexity of its information. Broadly speaking, lead generation or ecommerce CTAs should be displayed prominently near the top of the page, whilst more complex pages might warrant a CTA below the fold. Do your research.


Failing to optimise for your media

If you’re aiming at a mobile audience, for example, don’t bury your CTA at the bottom of your page where users will be required to scroll endlessly to reach it, or create tiny buttons that will go unnoticed on a small screen. Optimisation is key.


Lack of personalisation

A case study from the MarketingSherpa Email Summit 2013, demonstrated a staggering 90% increase in sign-ups by altering one word in a CTA, from ‘Start your free 30 day trial’ to ‘Start my free 30 day trial’. Whilst studies in other languages have thrown up very different results, the lesson here is clear: understand the level of personalisation that resonates best with your audience.


Lack of testing or analysis

According to Adobe’s 2013 Digital Marketing Optimization Survey, 49% of respondents said that testing wasn’t yet a priority for their company. Don’t fall into the same trap. Testing will allow you to maximise the impact of your call to action marketing and understand the preferences of your audience to eliminate language and visuals which fail to resonate.


Not matching reality with expectation

Make sure your CTA does what it says on the tin. If you are promising a free report, then make sure the CTA leads straight there, not to your homepage, or to a series of complex sign-up procedures.


Failing to SEO your CTAs

If your CTA is embedded as an image, make sure you alt tag it with strong keywords. This will ensure your offering is correctly indexed with search engines and will help to maximise traffic.


Too much choice

Don’t bamboozle your visitors with too many CTAs or buttons per page. Where more than one call to action marketing is necessary, create a visual hierarchy to emphasise priority (eg. more prominent buttons for greater importance).

Ensure your CTAs convert into warm leads with our free eGuide: Marketing Director’s guide: How to enable the sales team with hot leads

Please login or register to add a comment.

Contribute Now!

Loving our articles? Do you have an insightful post that you want to shout about? Well, you've come to the right place! We are always looking for fresh Doughnuts to be a part of our community.

Popular Articles

See all
The Impact of New Technology on Marketing

The Impact of New Technology on Marketing

Technology has impacted every part of our lives. From household chores to business disciplines and etiquette, there's a gadget or app for it. Marketing has changed dramatically over the years, but what is the...

Alex Lysak
Alex Lysak 22 September 2020
Read more
The Carrot of a Bigger Market is More Powerful Than the Stick of Legal Action in Driving Web Accessibility Investment, New Research Finds

The Carrot of a Bigger Market is More Powerful Than the Stick of Legal Action in Driving Web Accessibility Investment, New Research Finds

Getting web accessibility right is a massive commercial opportunity. The World Health Organization estimates that 1.3bn people worldwide are living with some form of impairment. The benefits of making it easier for...

Michael Nutley
Michael Nutley 30 November 2023
Read more
It’s Time For Brands to Move From Personalised, to Personal

It’s Time For Brands to Move From Personalised, to Personal

At a time when almost every brand is tailoring content and offers to individual customers based on their demographic data, purchase history, and online behaviours, are these personalisation efforts still adding value?...

Shafqat Islam
Shafqat Islam 27 November 2023
Read more
The 3 Most Important Stages In Your Presentation

The 3 Most Important Stages In Your Presentation

If you want to deliver a presentation on a particular topic and you have to prepare yourself for it you should make sure that you go through several very important stages in order to craft a compelling, persuasive and...

Nicky Nikolaev
Nicky Nikolaev 16 February 2016
Read more
From Success to Setback: Lessons in MarTech Decision-Making

From Success to Setback: Lessons in MarTech Decision-Making

We often talk to clients about the consolidation of MarTech capabilities across vendors, to the point that it’s often not too difficult to pick up a new technology if you’re comfortable working with an alternative...

Andrew Addison
Andrew Addison 29 November 2023
Read more