Every email has a purpose. Whether it’s to inform users of a product update, an upcoming event, or the latest offers—every campaign should have a primary goal. In most cases, the goal is to get subscribers to do something.

Enter: calls-to-action (CTAs). CTAs help guide your subscriber to the primary action you want them to take.

In this blog, we’ll cover CTA best practices, including:

Why is a call-to-action important?

While some email campaigns exist purely for entertainment or educational reasons, most campaigns are used to market something—a product, service, or event. As email marketers, we need our subscribers to buy those products, subscribe to those services, and register for those events. And the only way to accomplish that is by getting subscribers out of their inbox and onto a landing page.

Sending great content and hoping that a subscriber remembers you is not enough (although that helps). You need subscribers to take action immediately, and CTAs are the way to do that.

As email marketers and designers know, there’s more to conversions than simply adding a button to your email. We’ll go over some guidelines to keep in mind when you’re designing and implementing CTAs to your emails that will help improve your success.

Designing calls-to-action

A good CTA doesn’t just stand out—it highlights the value of what happens, beyond the click. Let’s dive into considerations when it comes to designing CTAs.

Define the purpose

Just like an email needs a purpose, so does a CTA. Sure, the purpose is to get subscribers where you want them to take action. But by asking yourself the following three questions, you can get beyond the superficial and figure out the real purpose behind your CTA:

  1. What do I want a subscriber to do?
  2. How will they know what to do?
  3. Why should they do it?

Every CTA should provide value for the subscriber. Whether or not it is explicitly stated, it should be clear exactly what they get for investing their time in your email and landing page. These questions help to clarify that value and, once answered, you can start thinking about how best to convey that value proposition in a CTA.

Consider your language

There are two main parts to any CTA: the language and the design.

While the design helps draw the reader’s eye and makes it easy to use, the language in the CTA is what convinces a reader to interact.

To help illustrate what constitutes an effective CTA, let’s break down some common ones:

  • Click here
    The biggest mistake that marketers make is using weak, passive language in their CTA. A classic example is the infamous “click here”. While “click here” may seem like a great CTA (in that it tells a subscriber exactly what to do), it really doesn’t give a reader any incentive for taking action. It doesn’t describe the value or what will happen if, in fact, they do click the link.

    As an alternative, you should use language that describes why a user should follow a link. Use verbs to describe what they will do by interacting with the CTA and, if possible, create a sense of urgency or timeliness.

  • Buy now
    Some CTAs (like “buy now”) infer a greater commitment on behalf of the subscriber—you’re asking them to spend their money by clicking the button. On the contrary, “shop now” represents a much lower commitment.

    High commitment propositions, like alluding to spending time or money, can be scary for a medium as casual as email. Instead, focus on low-commitment propositions that don’t require a huge investment from your subscribers.

Instead of going for a “click here” or “buy now,” consider verbs that tease your CTAs. Your button text should set the expectation for what your subscriber will encounter after they click.

Here are some examples of more descriptive, enticing calls-to-action:

  • Shop fall collection now
  • Access your account
  • Get 50% off today
  • Start testing
  • Learn more
  • Start planning
  • Show me how
  • Run faster

We dive deeper into this on our conversion-centered design blog post.

Think about size & placement

After you have nailed down the language for your CTA, it’s time to think about its size and placement.

According to our 2021 State of Email Engagement, mobile is the top way to read email, with 44.7% of opens taking place on a mobile device or client. As mobile continues to gain popularity, the physical size of CTAs are more important than ever. While clicking a link with your mouse on a desktop provides very precise control, touching a CTA with your thumb can become frustrating when targets are too small or cramped too close together on mobile devices.

Generally, you’ll want to keep CTAs big enough for even large thumbs to easily tap. Apple suggests making touch targets at least 44×44 pt. We recommend that as a great starting point when designing any CTA.

Whitespace

Along with making CTAs big enough, you need to provide generous spacing around them—aka, whitespace. This makes your CTA easier to find. Including whitespace around CTAs also prevents subscribers from getting frustrated when they attempt to tap one link and get another.

Let’s look at this example from DataCamp:

Source: Really Good Emails

What makes these CTAs effective? First is the generous padding provided, from the block and the CTA button. Second is the center positioning of the button. Together, these techniques help guide the eye. We dive deeper into this on our blog about conversion-centered design.

It can also help to repeat your primary CTA further down in the email. Enthusiastic scrollers may miss the first one and the repetition helps to add weight to your CTA and reinforce its importance.

Make your CTA stand out with contrast

Finally, when designing any CTA, it’s important to think about how it will contrast with surrounding content.

Using color is a great way to add contrast. Vibrant colors are generally best at drawing the eye to the CTA. Even if you use muted colors for your CTAs, they need to contrast with any background colors, images beneath the CTA, or surrounding text.

Take these following examples. Which one draws your attention?



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