user experience & design

(How To) Improve Revenue with Effective Calls-to-Action

November 29th, 2016

In many cases, marketing is only successful if it inspires someone to buy a product. You can throw all types of statistics at a consumer, but until the money comes out, marketing is ultimately unsuccessful.

The “call to action” is meant to be the final blow to a consumer’s indecision. Any pangs of doubt should be gone before you ask for money.

Aggressive Call to Action

Let’s have a look at a piece of Navy propaganda from World War I.

Above image courtesy of WW1Propoganda

There are two underlined words on this poster: You, and Navy.

If you couldn’t read any of the other words except for “you” and “Navy”, you would still have a decent idea of what the purpose of this poster was.

The line “I Need you in the Navy this Minute!” creates a (false) sense of urgency in the reader.

This is the same type of urgency that sites are hoping to create with discount timers.

Docile Call to Action

Compare the war poster to the more abstract call to action on the current Netflix homepage.

Clearly there’s a different target audience for each of the two examples.

If the WWI propaganda was a knife, aggressive and cutting straight to the point, the Netflix call to action is a spoon: smooth and non-threatening.

Notice that on both the poster and the web site, the most important text is either colored or highlighted in red.

But while the war poster could be described as threatening, the Netflix call to action is comforting. “Join Free for a Month”, that sounds like a fool-proof plan doesn’t it?

Despite this difference in tone, both call to action phrases use imperative verbs, or verbs that instruct the reader. Imperative verbs allow you to make a clear and succinct call to action without having to go into details.

Many of the best public speakers have figured out the importance of closing with imperative verbs.

Improving Your Call to Action

According to CrazyEgg cofounder Neil Patel, unique calls to action are usually more successful than generic phrases such as “Buy Now” or “Purchase”.

Rather than a direct link straight to the register, CrazyEgg’s call to action is “View Heatmaps”. After viewing the gallery of heatmaps, the user can proceed to view the different packages CrazyEgg offers for mapping the clicks.

The key takeaway here is to make the user feel like they’ve learned something before you remind them that you’re after their money.

Word Choice is Key

Since you want your call to action to be a brief, imperative phrase, word choice is ever important. Remember that minimalism is key, so there’s no need to throw a five syllable word into your call to action.

When the Veeam data management site changed their CTA from “Request a quote” to “Request pricing”, their response rate improved by nearly 162%.

Image courtesy of WordStream.

If they were to streamline those three links into one button that takes the user down the download and purchase funnel, I would bet that they would improve their response rate even further.

Optimize your Banner

If you already have a banner in in your site, you should definitely add a CTA.

Optimize your Banner

If you already have a banner in in your site, you should definitely add a CTA.

Just by adding a holiday themed CTA to their website banner, SustyParty (vendors of sustainable party equipment) increased their response rate from the homepage by nearly 250% according to Dan Shewan of WordStream.

Adding a timeline to your upper banner that counts down towards the end of a promotion is a ploy to create urgency in the user. This isn’t necessarily a call to action, but it’s a still a great tweak to your current web build.

Conclusion: Test Your CTA

Creating the perfect call to action is somewhat of a fickle art. What might be good advice for one site could ruin another site.

According to web content specialist Dan Shewan of Boston, Massachusetts, “only data gleaned from a rigorous, statistically significant A/B test based on the behavior of your customers should inform your decisions”.

So don’t run in and blindly and start changing your CTA based on every blog you read about usability.

If you would like to learn how to perform a-b testing on your CTA’s, check out this Usability Geek article by Codal’s senior technical writer Yona Gidalevitz.

Jenna Erickson


Jenna is the Marketing Manager at Codal, blogger, and technology + startup enthusiast. With a responsibility of Codal's marketing programs and brand management, she is always strategizing new ways to reach clients through content and inbound marketing tactics. In her free time, Jenna enjoys traveling, cooking and reading.


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