You’ve seen it thousands of times: “Buy now! Click here! Find out more…” A call to action (CTA) can run the gamut from intriguing to annoying, but having a strong one is crucial for converting visitors into customers. Whether on your website or a brick-and-mortar storefront, you need to have an effective CTA to drive purchases. Yet, so many businesses underutilize the power of the call-to-action phrase. Here’s what you might be doing wrong — and how to fix it.

Examples of Calls to Action

Before we dive into the process of improving your CTA, let’s take a look at some phrases that compel people to move down the sales funnel:

  • Get started for free: This phrase describes the benefit of converting. The customer has nothing to lose.
  • Subscribe to our newsletter: When followed by a description of what customers stand to gain if they subscribe, this can be an effective way to get people’s contact information.
  • Start streaming now: This CTA promises to offer your visitors what they came for, and fast.
  • Add to cart: Simple, direct and easy to understand, this call to action somehow doesn’t sound salesy, even though you’re literally making a sale.

Good CTAs are intriguing, but not too vague. They offer benefits to the customer and help them get what they came for. Even if they’re not used to directly make a sale, calls to action can help you acquire people’s contact info to convert them in the future.

Common Call-to-Action Mistakes

Designing an effective CTA can be tricky, but we’ll walk you through it. Here’s what your business might be doing wrong:

1.   You Have Too Many CTAs

Take a look at the Walmart website. Without even scrolling down on the homepage, you’re inundated with calls to action: “Shop now,” “Add,” “Reorder,” “See pickup and delivery times” and “View all deals” are all given equal space on the page. Factor in the dozens of photos, and it’s a visually overwhelming website

In contrast, look at the site for Meow Wolf, a chaotic art installation that doubles as a theme park experience. Though the product they’re offering is bright, multicolored and loud, Meow Wolf’s website is strikingly simple — the only CTA that immediately stands out is the “Buy Tickets” button. Visitors know what to click right away.

famous marketing experiment found that when given too many options, people often choose to do nothing. In the study, customers visited a booth that offered either six or 24 flavors of jam. The booth with 24 jam varieties drew in more customers, but in a shocking twist, only 3% of people made a purchase. At the table with only six flavors, a whopping 30% of people bought jam. That’s ten times as many customers!

The study suggests that paralysis by analysis is very real. To get more people to click on a CTA button, make it an obvious choice.

2.   It’s Too Wordy or Vague

Your call to action should be descriptive but simple. The phrase “Click here” is too vague — what will happen when customers click the button? — but the sentence “Please click here to learn more about how you can save money on our ebooks and audiobooks so you can start reading today” is too complicated.

Keep it clear and concise. This can be a much more effective technique than overwhelming readers with a block of text, or worse, raising their suspicions by using the solitary, always-mysterious “Download.”

3.   Your Site Isn’t Optimized for Mobile

In 2021, 40% of US customers made a purchase from their smartphones at least once a week. Like it or not, much of your online traffic is coming from mobile devices, so you need to optimize your website for it.


Use a website design tool to see how your page looks on mobile and desktop. Then, tweak your text and image placement until everything lines up well. Remember that smartphone customers have to use their fingers to make selections, so be sure to space out all clickable phrases and buttons far away from each other.

4.   The CTA is Hard to Find

Customers won’t be able to locate your website’s CTA if it’s too small, similar to the background color, surrounded by extra text or too visually similar to the body copy. Make it stand out. Most websites put their call to action on a button so people know they can click on it.

5.   Your Customers Don’t Trust You Yet

Your CTA might be asking clients to do too much, too soon. Maybe they haven’t had a chance to learn about your business yet. What are you selling? Are you a reputable company that provides quality goods and services?

You need to keep timing in mind when deciding where to place your CTA. If you have a button telling people to “Order now” in the middle of your homepage, it might turn customers off. This is the equivalent of asking people to buy something as soon as they walk through the door. Make sure you offer a thorough description of what you’re selling first.

6.   Your Website Design Needs Work

On a similar note, does your website look trustworthy? Is it polished and professional, or brightly colored and covered in spammy links? People click away quickly from outdated or ugly websites.

You could be selling the world’s first legitimate anti-aging serum, but if your graphic design is an affront to the senses, you won’t get conversions. A 2021 survey found that 13% of online Vietnamese shoppers cited poor website design as an obstacle to making a purchase.


Sometimes, simpler is better. Try revamping your site’s appearance and see if it drives more traffic.

7.   You’re Not Describing the Benefits

What will people gain from using your services? How can your product help them? You must give people a reason to make a purchase. In 2022, the number-one CTA phrase used in ad descriptions on Amazon was “find deals.” The second most popular call to action, “free shipping,” also offers something tangible to customers.


A CTA isn’t the place to be humble or undersell your product. Your business provides something unique and valuable that people can’t find elsewhere, so make sure you get the message across.

8.   The CTA Doesn’t Convey Urgency

Which CTA makes you want to purchase something more: “Add to cart” or “Add to cart — hurry! This item is in three other people’s carts”? They both implore you to take the same action, but one of them gives you a reason to act immediately. Websites like Etsy and other large retailers use this technique in their checkout sections.

It’s not enough just to tell people to do something. They need evidence as to why they should do it now, and appealing to the fear of missing out can give people a reason to convert. Convey a sense of urgency: “Act now” and “Limited offer” are both classic advertising phrases for a reason.

Writing Effective Calls to Action

Getting customers to act is the heart and soul of marketing. You can have a wonderful product or service, but if people don’t feel compelled to learn more about it or make a purchase, you’ll have a hard time turning a profit. Though many businesses struggle with writing CTAs, you don’t have to — by keeping your calls to action concise, informative, intriguing and easy to find, you should be driving sales in no time.

About the Author: Eleanor Hecks is editor-in-chief at Designerly Magazine. She was the creative director at a digital marketing agency before becoming a full-time freelance designer. Eleanor lives in Philadelphia with her husband and pup, Bear.