21 Call to Action Examples and 3 Rules for Effective CTAs

I started this article looking for 101 call to action examples.

My plan was to review the all-time great copywriting controls and find the calls to action that made them so effective.

After all, they were written by the historical greats.

But I hadn’t read more than a handful of mailings when I discovered something interesting. All the CTAs were essentially the same.

Well, that was a bust!

Or was it?

I found some interesting parallels between traditional direct mail calls to action and the digital calls to action being written today. And I found three criteria for effective CTAs that work no matter what format you’re using.

Let’s take a look…

First, some traditional calls to action

Reviewing traditional direct mail promotions, I found three things that nearly all calls to action accomplish. See if you can find them in this line-up of old CTAs. (I’ll tell you my findings below.)

Sales and Marketing Management Magazine

So if you were waiting for the perfect time to seize this opportunity, the time is now. Send for your free issue today.

Outside Magazine

Discover the exciting world of outside. Subscribe today.

Success Magazine

Get a taste of SUCCESS! Send me the form at the top of this letter and I’ll send you the next issue of SUCCESS absolutely free.

Harpers Magazine

May I send you a free copy?

There is no obligation attached to my offer…

Please let me know if you’ll accept my offer by January 31.

House & Garden

So indulge—in so much excitement, for so little! Please take advantage of our “Summer White Sale” and save on a subscription to HG today.

Those were the more creative ones. But the majority read like this:

Do mail your acceptance to me today.

So act right now. The postage is paid and you’ve got nothing to lose but a great garden to gain!

SEND NO MONEY NOW! But please mail your card today!

So if you’re looking for knowledge, a rewarding adventure, and the advantage a future perspective can offer, mail the enclosed card today!

See the pattern?

The CTA is your final instruction to your reader, so (duh!) there won’t be 101 variations.

In direct mail, you have to tell people to “mail the enclosed card.” In digital marketing, we ask for a click.

No matter how creative we get, it still boils down to this one request.

But if you look closely at the examples above, there are three things that nearly all the CTAs include:

  1. A no-obligation statement that removes or reduces risk. In many cases, they’re asking for a free trial rather than a purchase. In other words, try us, you’ll like us. This gives people the confidence to buy.
  2. All of them contain some version of “Mail your acceptance card.” This is simple usability. You have to tell people what to do next. Today it would read, “Click the button below.”
  3. Encouragement to respond right away. That’s standard direct response. Don’t give people an option to wait and think about it.

Let me show you a few more examples

Transferring traditional techniques to digital formats

Some digital CTAs perfectly mirror the old mailings. Take this one from Stansberry Research’s Retirement Millionaire promotion.

retirement millionaire

The pattern is there:

  • Try it, you’ll like it: “Try” is in all caps.
  • There’s no obligation, which is the modern version of “send no money now.”
  • He wants a response “right away.”
  • Click on the “subscribe now” link to fill out a form.

Now let’s look at some other formats for CTAs…

The “why not” argument

Sometimes there isn’t a strong reason to take action. But there’s no reason not to, either. Here’s how W Magazine used this logic in an old direct mail piece:

This offer may not last long. So order W now—and see what you think of your free issue. After all, with so much to gain—and with absolutely nothing to lose—shouldn’t you at least take a look?

And here it is in a recent 1-2-3 Shrink promotion:


Your CTA needs to make you want to click, and let’s face it, there isn’t always a compelling reason to try something. Price can get people’s attention, but it’s not good for business, so a common alternative is to ask, “why not?”

Making it all about the benefits

This old Audubon promotion didn’t just offer a subscription. It offered “all the benefits of membership.”

To begin receiving AUDUBON at once and to enjoy all the other benefits of membership in the National Audubon Society, simply return the enclosed form.

If you can offer membership in an exclusive group, this may be a useful approach. But what if you aren’t offering a club, per se?

Focus on the benefits of responding, like this “Off the Grid” promotion from Sovereign Investor:

off the grid

Who doesn’t want to protect their wealth, build a fortress around themselves, and live a richer, more satisfying life?

Leading with a strong CTA

Here’s the headline in an old Earthwatch promotion:

Got some free time? A week? A month? A summer?

Come volunteer for a conservation project in the wilds, an environmental project in the tropics, an archeological dig abroad.

Or if you’re busy now, cheer us on from the sidelines.

Adventure? Save the world? Wow! It even has a built-in call to action, the “come volunteer” statement. Today, I’d recommend following this headline with an order button.

The call to action for this promotion is good, but not nearly as compelling.

Remember, the CTA must tell people what to do next. Which means it can’t always have the same excitement level as your headline or lead. Here’s how Earthwatch did it:

If our organization sounds like something that you too would take pleasure in being a part of—whether by participating actively, or cheering us on from the sidelines—I urge you to send in the order form at your earliest convenience…so your adventures can begin with the very next issue of EARTHWATCH.

Can the lead ever work as your CTA? In the Earthwatch promotion, it could have. But back then, you had to provide instructions for how to respond.

Today, people are comfortable with responding to digital offers, so you don’t need to provide the instructions that made their CTAs clunky. You can simply provide a link or button—and people know what to do.

Here’s a digital promotion that pulls off this technique quite well.

It was introduced in an Early to Rise email like this:

power habits of multimillionaires email intro

Click the link, and you land here. There’s nothing on the page but the CTA.

power habits of multimillionaires

Selling the trial

Because people are so comfortable with digital formats, your CTA can almost be implied. (Implied, but not forgotten!)

Prevention promotions typically ask for a Try rather than a Buy. It sounds less obligatory, so buyers offer less resistance.

And Prevention is so sure you’ll like their products, they give generous trial periods. Here’s one from Prevention’s Dance It Off! promotion. Notice that the actual CTA is in a graphic:

Dance it off

Of course, software and similar products rely on the trial too. Here’s Crazy Egg’s call to action:

crazy egg

This approach emphasizes the no-obligation element of strong CTAs. And it works.

Two CTAs that don’t work

I mentioned above that you can leverage people’s comfort with digital marketing, which allows you to streamline your calls to action. But you still need to be clear.

Weak or no CTA

One of the most common (and worst) mistakes in direct response is to assume people know what to do, and forget the call to action.

From my perspective, that’s what this promotion does:

rich dad

This is just a portion of the page—there are floating elements that didn’t allow me to grab it all—but this screenshot has the majority of the information.

Where’s the call to action?

“Pick your city” is all I can see. That’s not compelling, risk-reducing, or benefits-oriented. In fact, if you read the fine print, the author of the book won’t be at the event.

There’s little here to compel anyone to respond.

The other extreme: too strong of a CTA

I can’t tell you what’s on the page because the pop-up acts as a pay-wall, so to speak, blocking entrance until you share your email:

Joss and Main login

Here, I’m stuck if I don’t respond.

“Join Now” or don’t view the page.

This call to action is a little too high-pressure for my taste. What saves it is the “Why we ask for email” link at the bottom of the form, the promise of 70% off, and the no-hassles language below the button.

But I still don’t want to be forced into compliance, so no thanks.

You want a strong CTA, sure, but not too strong.

The winner: A benefits-oriented, personal CTA

TheStreet’s Quant Ratings promotion showed up in my inbox, and it’s the clear winner among the promotions I reviewed.

Look at the call to action:

The Street cta


This CTA does a lot of things right.

  • It implies no work on your part. It’s completely benefits-oriented and personal, asking you to put TheStreet to work… for you.
  • There isn’t a vague, uninspiring “click here” command. The link is embedded in the benefit statement. And that statement is phrased as a command, so I can’t miss it.
  • There is also a button—in a bright, can’t-miss red—that offers an incentive for clicking: “Save $150.” (You’ll need to test the color that works for your promotion, but here, red does well.)
  • Urgency is subtly included in the CTA with “don’t wait another minute.” So it urges you to respond now without resorting to hype.

Does it fulfill the three criteria for effective calls to action? You bet:

  • It offers a trial membership.
  • The link and button provide implicit instructions (without going so far as to omit the CTA). It’s clear that you’re supposed to click on the link or the button.
  • You’re asked to respond now: “Don’t wait another minute.”

Not only does this call to action use the same techniques that worked in direct mail, it improves on them, because there’s no bulky paragraph telling you where to find the response device and how to submit it.

With digital, you can build the response into the promotion for a seamless user experience.

Your turn

CTAs may have changed over the years, but the goal hasn’t changed: Put the right message in front of the right people at the right time. It’s critical that you learn to do this well. And, of course, there’s no better way to learn than to be testing your CTAs.

Have you got some favorite techniques for an effective call to action? Or do you struggle with telling people how to respond? Let us know in the comments below.


Kathryn Aragon is the former editor of The Daily Egg. She trains service-based businesses in the strategic use of content to take their business to the next level. Check it out at KathrynAragon.com. Follow her on Twitter and Google+.


  1. Thanks for a great article. You really did your homework, and delivered a really useful

    Thanks for all you do,
    Phil Bogan

  2. Hi Kathryn
    Most of the articles I see like this are all about how different every call to action is, and they dissect every nook and cranny. I do get some tips there, but I like your points here as well. This post makes calls to action seem easy (they are for me usually) 3 simple steps to a great CTA. I hope a lot of people read this and get the take away.

    • Thanks, Mary. When I researched this article, I found more similarities than differences in the best CTAs. It totally changed the direction of the article, bit it was a cool “discovery” for me as a writer.

  3. Thank you Kathryn for working had and bringing to us such great examples…Really nice article

  4. Good article. It is always good to get lots of interesting examples! Thanks Kate

  5. Great article with usefull examples. Thank you

  6. Thanks for sharing these examples. They’re very informative and helpful. Creating CTA’s is a never ending battle and I’ve found it’s always best to split test examples. With the data at hand, it makes it easier to determine what is working and what isn’t.

    • That’s a great point, Will. No matter what everyone else is doing or what the current best-practice is, you still have to test to know what’s best for your brand. Thanks for sharing.

  7. Hard to imagine a guy like Robert Kiyosaki would forget about such an important marketing element, but there it is. It would have been better if a strong call-to-action linked to another page with the the “pick your city” portion on it.

  8. Thanks for posting this article! Really educated me a lot! I’ve been making these CTAs for a long while now but never really understood it’s power! Thanks!

  9. Thanks a lot for such a great post about CTA, Actually I am a trainer and my next topic is CTA that is why I was looking for some awesome article and finally I got it. Thanks again

  10. Great site thank you. I realised my call to actions are quite weak so you have inspired me today to make clear and stronger call to action! Many thanks!

  11. Hi Kathryn ,

    Thanks for this great article . I am a small business owner and have my website running without any Call to Action button for last 1 year . Now I am looking for upgrading my website , so I was searching infomrtaion for call to action tips . Then I come across your blog post and this is very enriching , now I can engage my web deisgner for effective deign .

    Thank you !


  12. Like Golbinda my site has had no call to action or real landing page.

    Getting organised… like your sample CTAs and landing page comments ‘imagine’ is my new focus

    Thanks G

  13. Great article. I especially enjoyed the last example, showing how to effectively use two differently CTAs together. Very nice.

  14. Hi, your blog has helped me a lot in researching on this topic. It sure makes a lot of sense. Please keep updating this page, since I intend to visit it much more often now. Thank you!

  15. Big thanks it due to this info. When i work a web site supplying vimeo online video duplicating. It contains a number of movies nevertheless it takes a long time to help weight. We have checked out this with Pingdom device and also the test out demonstrated that my web site takes 58 mere seconds to help weight. I know 58 mere seconds will be further high nevertheless what exactly might i, my partner and i didn’t learn how to reduce this. Information provided suggestions actually useful as well as let me put into practice this. thanks

  16. Nice comparisons Kathryn.

    Lately website CTA strategies have included hand drawn arrows pointing to the button. This has hugely benefitted the websites and increased their registrations. This is because visitors find it easier to connect to a hand drawn arrow image as compared with normal buttons.

  17. Thanks for the great article Kathryn. I’ve learned a good amount from it. One thing I’ve been curious about are generic call to actions vs call to actions specifying the exact service the website provides.

    For example, many websites use generic call to actions, such as “get started”, “sign up”, “free trial”, “sign up for a free trial.” Even large companies that (I assume) optimize their homepages to the max use these generics. If I were to visit these sites and take the time to read their headline, perhaps I’ll know what I’m being asked to sign up for. To register for. But if I just glanced the page, I might have no idea what they meant by “sign up”? Sign up for what?

    Now, compare that to something that crazy egg does. On the homepage, it doesn’t say sign up, or free trial, or get started. It specifically says “show me my heatmap”. It’s a call to action that specifies precisely what I’ll be getting whatever is on the other side of the call to action.

    Another example is safelite repair. When I go to their homepage, there’s no “get started”, or “call us” call to action. It very simply says “fix my glass” which, like crazy egg, specifies exactly the service the site provides. No guessing games. When I went to their homepage, I didn’t even bother to read the headline. My eye just went straight to the button, which motivated me to double-back and read the headline (which did read like terrible techobabble).

    With both sites, if the only element on the homepage was the call to action button, I’d still know what the websites were about. With the generic call to action websites, I’d have no idea.

    If the call to action text was the only element on all websites, I wonder what percent of people could decipher what they were selling?

    To drive my point home, take into account A/B test companies optimizely and vwo. If you were to remove everything on their pages except their call to actions, you’d have no idea what they were selling.

    So, my question is does this matter? Should the call to action be specific to the service, or can a generic call to action get by as long as the headline sufficiently explains what the website/service is about? Is a generic call to action actually better due to it being vague and more open-ended?


    • TJ, what a great question! Specific will always beat generic. And if you have nothing on the page but a headline and a button, it had better be specific–for exactly the reasons you specify. People don’t respond if they’re confused. But it’s sometimes hard to create a specific CTA that’s short enough to fit on a button. That’s where you have to get smart or, if you can’t think of something that’s specific and short, go a hair more generic. I do think the headline, body copy and CTA need to work together. Sometimes, you can put copy around the button to make a slightly more generic CTA make sense. But I tend to make that decision for each specific page.

  18. What a great web blog . I like this blog because of its design and interface. It is user friendly and it is nice to visit the blog.

  19. thank you so much for this. I love the part about “Selling the trial”.

  20. Great Article. There are some points that you have showed us not to do with CTA. That’s nice. Thanks for the post more active by leaving replies.

  21. Makayla :) says:

    im writing an essay for why i should be chosen to do the national wreath laying in dc and im stuck on a call to action could anybody help me???

    • Hi Makayla. That’s tricky because a true CTA feels self-serving. Try something along the lines of, “Please choose me, and I’ll…” [Fill in the big benefit to them if you are chosen]

  22. Thanks for the nice article, Kathryn. Just wondering whether the rules are sort of persisting or a fashion thing. If everyone is doing it the same way, won’t readers get fed up with it and resist the CTA?

    • Phil, that’s a great question. I think these rules transcend fashion. They are the basic foundation for your CTAs. You can get creative with your offer, your funnel, etc., and stand out from the crowd. But with the CTA, you still want to drive immediate action and remove risk.

  23. Great post, I love your examples as well. A lot of things I had trouble with make sense now.
    Thanks for sharing.

  24. I’m about to launch a landing page for my information product but I’m having difficulties crafting the perfect call to action. Your post has been useful and I appreciate your effort. But I still need help in creating mine. Thank You

    • I’d spend more energy on getting the offer right. Once the offer is right, your call to action is easier. You can make it fun, like “gimme,” or do a traditional “Yes! I’m ready!” Hope that helps.

  25. Usefull article with great examples. THX a lot:)

  26. Wow cool tips for the CTAs

  27. Thanks Kathryn :-)

  28. Nice post. Very clear, but in our opinion (wishingwell.es/ i.e.) we use it the most clear as possible. Simple is a must. Simple is much. Clearity in the conversion helps the ROI, al clearity in CTA’s improves the conversion, so…

  29. Hi Kathryn,

    Great collections call to actions buttons. I am looking for call to action button for my blog. So can you please help me how to create best call to action button for blogging sites?

  30. Thanks, Anant. At the end of a blog post, my favorite CTA is to ask people to share their experience or opinion about the topic you just shares. Of course, you also want a static CTA to subscribe so they can get more great content.

Comment Policy:

Please join the conversation! We like long and thoughtful communication. Abrupt comments and gibberish will not be approved. Please, only use your real name, not your business name or keywords. We rarely allow links in your comment. Finally, please use your favorite personal social media profile for the website field.

Speak Your Mind