What to Call Your Call to Action

What to Call Your Call to Action

Should you say ‘read more’ or ‘product information’ in your product category view? Which is better – ‘add to cart’ or ‘buy now’?

There’s a lot of information out there on call to action buttons (size, color, location etc), a ton of call to action examples and ideas but with this post I want to focus on a single thing about them – the wording.

I’m giving you 4 rules for naming your call to action buttons and links.

1. Use trigger words

While people are browsing your site, they’re having a silent conversation in their mind. They’re asking themselves ‘where is X?’ or ‘how do I do Y?’. In most cases, people are looking for a specific wording.

Trigger words are the words and phrases that trigger a user into clicking. If the user is looking for ‘pricing’, and your link says ‘pricing’, they’re going to click on it. So in this case ‘pricing’ would be the trigger word.

Let’s say you want to find pricing information for backup service Crashplan. Where would you click?

People won’t go for the free trial without knowing what it’s going to cost them after the trial period is over. Don’t do this at home.

When people scan your web page and can’t find what they want (either the content or the link to it), you have a problem.

Don’t be clever, don’t re-invent the wheel

Remember, people spend most of their time on OTHER websites and are used to common wordings like ‘pricing’ or ‘login’. If you try to be original and use ‘see how cheap it is’ and ‘entry’ instead, you’re doing yourself a disservice.

So first thing, talk to your user base and try to understand which particular words they are looking for.

2. Call it what it does

The web is filled with bad call to actions (CTAs). The reason is that most people don’t think for themselves, but just copy others. Or just don’t know any better.

Here are some you will recognize.

  • Submit. Nobody wants to submit. Perhaps they want to subscribe to a newsletter, send a message or post a question – but definitely not ‘submit’. Always call your form CTAs by the specific action they perform. What happens after the users clicks? If they sign up for something, make that the call to action!
  • Read more. About what? Make it specific – what’s there behind the link.
  • Next. What comes next? I don’t know! This causes click fear. Say what comes next.

When calling the user to action, instead of the above mentioned vague words, use brief but meaningful link text that explains what the link or button offers.

There is one exception – click here (now). I’ve seen many tests where ‘click here’ performs really well. Here’s a MarketingSherpa study that found the same. Also note that this only applies to the call to action. You should not turn ‘click here’ into a link in the general body copy, always use contextual wording.

Owen & Fred’s email capture box has ‘subscribe’ as the call to action. I think everybody gets what happens after clicking the button. (But they should work on the value proposition of the form).

Also, avoid CTAs like ‘click here to discover X’ or ‘learn more about how we got started’. Avoid the click and learn more part, they’re just plain unnecessary  – use just ‘discover X’ or ‘how we got started’.

Don’t be verbose. Use terms people understand.

3. Don’t rush commitment

Most people are commitment-averse. The bigger the commitment that is being asked of us, the less likely we are to go for it.

Volunteer at a homeless shelter for a day? Hmm.. well, I guess I could… Volunteer 3 days a week for 1 year? No, thanks (some excuse).

Following the same principle, don’t ask for a commitment when you can delay it. The best example would be ‘buy now’ vs ‘add to cart’. When ‘buy now’ seems awfully final, ‘add to cart’ seems kind of risk-free and leaves the door open for changing the mind.

Seminole Sitters have this call to action on their site. The funny thing is that when you click ‘pay now’, you actually can’t pay! A clear case where a much better call to action could be made.

When you write your next call to action, evaluate the level of commitment you’re asking and see if you can lessen it.

4. Add benefits

If it’s not just another link, but a call to action on your landing page (or any other important page), you might want to add some punch to it.

You should definitely have a great sales copy before the CTA, but since people don’t read, you should communicate some value also next to the call to action itself.

Vimeo Pro says ‘Get PRO Now!’ (I like how clear it is, but I’d lose the exclamation mark), and adds that it’s ‘only $199/year!’. Since that really is a good deal for professional video hosting, it adds to the attractiveness of the CTA.

Ganttic addresses customer anxiety by adding “no credit card required” to their call to action:


Make your call to action link or button texts clear, use trigger words, go easy on the commitment and add some extra motivation to take action.

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Join the Conversation Add Your Comment

  1. Clear, interesting and original.

  2. Understanding visitors’ intention when visiting a web page is key. We need to know the next action that the visitors want to make. Any call to action words that fulfill their needs and wants will convert to whatever task we want them to do. And yes, I agree with you that value proposition will boost the conversion even higher.

  3. Just love how the form for email updates at the end is a perfect example… We should all eat our own dog food.

  4. ADD to CART or BUY NOW In the real retail world, you would never say BUY NOW to your customer because it would be impolite. you would point out the benefits and back off, allowing them to make up their own mind. that’s human nature. no one likes to be told to do something unless its a life and death situation, and even then they hesitate. But the cyber world is totally different. You are not ‘in their face’ so i am of the opinion that BUY NOW online is a direct invitation from a non human to get them to make a decision, so i have the feeling that its the best call to action. at present my website has a variety of calls to action which i think is confusing. i am planning to change it, but would appreciate any observations from this excellent site. thanks, Peter

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What to Call Your Call to Action