Getting Beyond the Same Ol’ Call-to-Action

Our digital environment is literally pock-marked with calls-to-action and most of them not particularly illustrious.

“Learn more”

“Click here”

“Read more”

“Buy now”

“Sign up”




— we could go on and on.

The above are the usual cast of characters. Easy, utilitarian, handy, go-tos–they are like affordable parts for a GM or Ford car. If that car is nothing special, then these plug-n-play CTAs make sense. But when your site or your blog post or your whitepaper, or your opt-in copy is something really unique, how do you go about divorcing yourself from these banal elements to write your way to a special one?

1. Start collecting a “swipe file” of cool and interesting CTAs. Here’s one  of my latest:

Cool call to action

2. Identify your content tone and voice–is the content serious, lighthearted, socially conscious, hip and  trendy, old and stodgy? The one above is hip and trendy and it likely matches the overall tone and style of the site.

3. Play with your words. You’ll need a tool box of verbs–the action figures of language. The more verbs you familiarize yourself with the more nimble your CTA “vocabulary.” I tend a big spreadsheet of words and phrases that I have found to be useful for creating calls to action.  A thesaurus and Random House’s Word Menu are worth their weight in gold, as well–desk versions, not online. Good old paperbacks in which you can fold the pages down, mark up with a highlighter or pen, crack the binding …There is something very visceral about the experience of flipping through a physical book that just cannot be emulated online (at least not yet). (FYI:  Word Menu is a fat book subdivided into categories and then stuffed with words that relate to that category.)

4. Mix it up. It’s incredibly b-o-r-i-n-g and not so stimulating to reuse the same CTA on page after page of content or throughout your content at large. Many A/B tests indicate, for example, that the ubiquitous “Submit” button could possibly drive improved conversions when modified to say something a bit more meaningful to the action behind the button.

That was just a few tips.



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