man looking at his cellphone
PHOTO: Derick Anies

Creating a good call to action is a standard requirement in digital marketing. But today’s digital ads are anything but standard.

Call to actions, or CTA, in the early days of the web could be found in search ads displayed on a computer screen. Those specific phrases found in ad banners, buttons or within the text of the sales materials all aimed at the same goal: encourage consumers to take an action. Today’s call to action — while sharing the same goal — can appear on many more devices, and seemingly anywhere. That means marketers must reassess what makes a good call to action. The message now appears in a broader environment that can influence the reason whether someone clicks … or not.

Marketers often used analytics to help refine their CTA messages. But because people are accessing media while on the go, the real world environment provides an opportunity for a CTA to say more than just click a button.

Below are some straightforward ideas to incorporate and modernize your call to action messages. The key is thinking beyond the attempt to gain someone’s attention and to think about how the CTA can enhance a customer experience or spark a dialogue. 

Related Article: Reading the Digital Cues: Actions Speak Louder Than Words

1. Keep Call to Actions Conversational and Informative

Some ads include a call to action that works fine but the words, such as click here or register here, remind the user of of going to a web page. There's nothing terribly wrong with these, but with mobile devices, IM platforms and other avenue to connect with people, it is better for the call to action to let people know what to expect when they click on a button. So the words "click here" can be replaced with the phrase “Learn more,” telling the person they will see more relevant information.

2. Make Sure Your Ad Copy Supports the Call-to-Action

Ads have always relied on CTA, but ad features have increased their versatility. Ad extensions allow for call from ads, location details, and more. Use these to guide decisions on descriptive text that fit the context for the ad as well as review copy on an associated landing page to entice the customer with a fuller picture of the benefits the ad mentions. 

3. Explain Why Customers Should Follow You on Social Media

If the call-to-action is for driving customers to a social media profile or page, be sure to explain how they'd benefit by following you. The age of seeking followers for follower's sake is over. A CTA that calls out the exclusive content they'll see in a Facebook group or the breaking news they can read about on Twitter can drive follower count that increases the quality of engagement.

Related Article: Social Media Marketing: Looking Beyond Reach

4. Consider Opportunities to Be More Personal in Different Channels

Marketers can deliver digital ads in formats ranging from email messages to chatbots and beyond, all of which provide opportunities to develop more personalized text for enticing a customer to click on a button. Increasingly customers are opening emails with CTAs in a mobile phone, or seeing that call while engaging with a chatbot. Both channels have the opportunity to use images to demonstrate what is being promised if the person responds to the call.

5. Include Accessibility in CTA Decisions

Inspect color contrast not just for an A/B testing on CTA, but to make sure it addresses accessibility requirements. Complementary colors are meant to incorporate shades that provide high contrast between content and the background, enough for anyone with vision impairments to detect the key difference. According to the site for The a11y Project, an open source developer community on online accessibility standards, many element require a contrast ratio of 3.0:1 or higher, depending on the element in question. 

In fact the importance of a11y has been growing particularly among the developer community. Chris DeMars, a front end developer and accessibility advocate, has always highlighted the importance of developing a call to action for internet users with disability issues. I met DeMars when I presented at the DevFest KC in Kansas City earlier this year; I was impressed with his accessibility session. I asked him for his perspective on the value of accessibility for call to action: “When creating call to actions,” DeMars responded, "Designers and marketers should always take into consideration how easily readable the content of the action is.”

A strong call to action is part of a good marketing, and consequently, an analytics strategy. To make that call to action as strong as it could be, marketers have to craft calls that speak to customers as much as it suggests actions to customers.