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The Back to Basics Guide to CTAs

Attracting visitors to your website is great. It’s one of the first goals you need to target in your digital marketing strategy. Generating traffic with content that is informative, relevant and entertaining is something every business needs to do, but it is of course only the first step - there has to be a point in bringing people to your content. What is that point? You want visitors to become leads or potential customers, and in order for them to do that, you need to have the means by which they will engage and offer up information in return for more valuable content.

Potential customers will now very rarely visit your website and purchase something immediately. They come to your site primarily for information, and you need to offer value to them by providing that information through an effective inbound marketing strategy. But fair’s fair, and for your business to grow, you need an exchange, so that you can find out more about them and tailor further content to their needs.

That’s where a Call To Action, or CTA, comes in. But what are they? Why do you need them? And what are the best practices for using them? Well, just as we took a step back last week to discuss the basics of keywords, here we will turn back the dial and take a fresh look at CTAs. Let’s take it from the top.


Let’s face it – we all love a good call to action. Remember as a child when you used to run to the traffic lights because you wanted to beat your siblings to it so you could press the button for the pedestrian crossing? (I’m presuming that wasn’t just me). We have a compulsion to press that button, or to click on that sign that gives us a compelling and actionable command like ‘Download’ or ‘Start’. We even have a strange urge to press or click on things that specifically tell us not to, so it’s easy to understand why CTAs work so well on a website.


Put simply, a CTA, as HubSpot defines it, is a button or link you place on your website to drive potential customers to become leads by filling out a form on a landing page. It is the link between the content your visitor is initially interested in, and a page with a more high-value offer on it that is interesting and relevant enough to persuade them to complete a form to get it.

This could be a free trial, an eBook, a handy graphic – anything that adds value to the visitor’s search and helps them in their efforts to find a solution to their needs.

What can a CTA do?

Having a website without CTAs is like holding a raffle without giving out any tickets. When you pull out the winning ticket, how do you know who gets the prize? You need to have some form of system whereby you know who has come to your site, what they showed interest in, and how they engaged, so that you can get in touch with them. Placing a CTA on the pages that gain the most traffic, like your blog, is lead generation at its simplest.

Generating leads is one thing, but you can also use CTAs to nurture existing leads, further encouraging them to buy your product or service by tempting them with another offer, such as a free trial, by placing CTAs on pages leads visit often. If you use these effectively, you will see more sales-focused CTAs bring in actual customers through ‘Buy Now’ or ‘Contact Sales’ buttons.

Don’t forget those social media share buttons – they are CTAs too!

It’s also important to recognise where a potential customer is on the buyer’s journey, based on the content they are looking at, their click-throughs, etc, so that you can provide the right CTA with the right offer to them. The CTA should be relevant to their current needs, and the logical next step in their search, so first-time visitors should be offered, for example, a simple fact sheet, while frequent visitors who have downloaded several guides and eBooks might be ready for a webinar. This is an important point, so we will repeat it: Recognise where a potential customer is on the buyer journey.


Best practices for creating a great CTA

So, now you know the benefits of having CTAs on your web content, it’s time to consider what makes a good one. There are simple rules of best practice to follow to make sure your CTA is as clear and enticing as possible. These include:

  • Make it stand out, visually striking, with copy that compels you to click on the offer
  • Keep it short – no more than five words
  • Make it large enough to see, but small enough that it doesn’t take attention away from the main content, and don’t forget mobile – it must be thumb-friendly!
  • Use actionable verbs, eg, ‘Download Your Handy Chart’, ‘Start Learning’ ‘Find More…’ or ‘Get More…’ and leave no doubt as to what the reader has to do, but keep it at a low-commitment level with ‘Shop Now’ rather than ‘Buy Now’, for example
  • Make it easy to find and placed naturally and appropriately within the webpage
  • Most importantly, make it clear what the visitor will get when they click (and make good on that offer on the landing page) and promote the benefits of doing so

If you follow these best practices, you should be able to create effective and compelling CTAs that will bring potential customers through the buyer’s journey, making high-quality leads that will help you meet your marketing objectives and see your business grow.

Need help creating content that will generate leads? Download our Lead Generation Survival Kit.

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Adam Hyland - Chief Editor

Adam Hyland - Chief Editor

Adam is the most vital link between your message and your audience, ensuring your tone is on brand and optimised for engagement.

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