Article first published in October 2014, updated May 2019
Is your email click-through rate lower than you’d like?
But, for some reason, people still aren’t clicking through to
your website to learn more or take you up on your offer.
It may be that the call-to-action (CTA) button you are using in
your campaigns is letting you down.
Read on to see a few samples of outstanding CTAs as well as a
few different key aspects that need to come together to create the
perfect call to action for email campaigns.
What are CTA buttons and why are they important?
CTA buttons are the buttons you use in your email campaigns that
link to somewhere outside of the email, usually to a website or
They are important because they increase click-through rates by
making it clear to the reader what their next step should be.
a bit of experimentation and found that using a button-based
CTA increased our click-through rate by 28% over a link-based
This result comes from the fact that buttons have a few unique
attributes that linked text doesn’t, including:
Size – Often a button will be much larger
than a linked piece of text, catching the reader’s eye.
Design – Buttons often have design elements
that links don’t, such as shadows, gradients, and other effects.
Design elements can make them stand out to readers.
Color – Often, buttons will have a
different color to the background and text, and this contrast draws
the eye and makes the reader notice them more.
Whitespace – When a button is set away from
other elements in the email, the whitespace around it creates an
area free from distraction, leading the reader right to it.
When we look at those attributes combined, it’s clear that a
button is perfect for capturing the attention of scanning
readers and driving them towards conversion.
What is a CTA in email?
After a reader examines the content of your email and has a
better idea of who you are and what you offer, they’ll see that
big button at the bottom of the page tempting them to dig deeper.
By clicking on the button, they’re increasing your traffic and
taking the first step towards a healthy relationship with you, the
Calls to action in email campaigns test a customer’s trust in
your company. If they like what they’ve seen thus far, they’ll
want to know more. You convinced them that you’re worth their
time and attention, so a click of the CTA button is bound to come
next. These buttons also hold a reward for the customer, such as a
chance to try your service or products at no cost or at a
How do you write a call to action?
To write a perfect call to action in an email, you’ll need to
consider what your customers want from you. Are they likely to get
excited about a free trial or a chance to test your products at no
charge? When the marketer can pinpoint what a customer is feeling
or desiring, they can write the call to action to meet those
The best way to understand how to write a call to action in an
email is by looking at
some solid CTA buttons used by companies that understand their
audiences and know how to entice people at first glance.
The CTA button in this Dropbox email is simple and utilizes the
many aspects of the brand, such as color scheme, but the button
offers individuals a discount, something few people are going to
think twice about before clicking. The opportunity to get something
or try something at no initial cost is likely to hit home for
several people intrigued by a potential service.
Really Good Emails
The online streaming service provides customers with a CTA
button that offers them a chance to try Netflix free for a full
And utilizing red is a smart idea. According to a
Huffington Post article, red is associated with “warmth”
and a “call to action,” so the utilization of red for a CTA
button makes perfect sense.
Really Good Emails
Chatbooks, a company that creates photo books from the pictures
on a mobile device, uses their simple color-contrasting CTA button
to promote engagement. One of the reasons why this CTA is so
impactful is the offer itself. The CTA button showcases a 20%
discount offer, which should encourage recipients to leave their
inbox and head over to the Chatbook’s site.
But how do you create an effective CTA button for your next
email marketing campaign?
The 3 aspects of effective call to action buttons
An ideal CTA button has three main aspects that work together to
create an effective conversion point for the reader. Copy, design,
and placement can all have substantial impacts on a call to action
in an email.
The words (or copy) on your CTA button are what inform and
encourage the reader to act on the conversion. Your copy should
compel the reader to act by addressing each of the following
As humans, research shows that we
innately fear the unknown. We like as little ambiguity in our daily
lives as possible, so it’s a good idea to write copy on your CTA
button that explains exactly what will happen when the reader
clicks on it.
The team over at eWebDesign understands this principle and puts
it to good use in their email campaigns. The precise copy they use
on the CTA ensures every reader knows exactly what is going to
happen when they click it.
Takeaway: When you are writing your next
call-to-action button, make sure to be specific about what will
happen when the reader clicks the button. It will help reduce any
anxiety the reader has towards clicking it and will ultimately lead
to more conversions.
Focus on the benefit
People’s time is precious, and you need to promise them a
benefit to get them to click-through from your email and take your
A good example of this is the campaign for our recent post
email copy that sells. Instead of using generic button copy
like “Read more,” we encourage people to click-through by
reinforcing the benefit of reading the post (learning to write
email copy that sells).
In the past, we’ve done several A/B tests comparing
benefit-focused copy to generic copy and, each time, the
benefit-focused copy has increased click-through
rates by about 10%.
Takeaway: Instead of using generic button copy
like “Read More” or “Buy Now,” use the button copy to
reinforce the benefit the reader will get from clicking through
from your email.
Be careful of friction words.
Friction words are those that imply your reader has to do
something they don’t necessarily want to do.
Common friction words include:
Nobody wants to buy or download something. They simply want the
benefits of buying or downloading the item.
So, to reduce the perceived effort of your readers, replace
these friction words with frictionless words like “Get” or
“Learn” and follow them up with a benefit statement (I.e.,
“Get your free account”).
Aagaard at ContentVerve tested this, he saw a 14.79% increase
in conversions just by changing one word.
Result: 14.79% more conversions. Statistical
Takeaway: Decrease the reader’s perceived
effort in converting by removing words that suggest they need to do
something they don’t necessarily want to do, like download or
Instead, replace them with words like “Get” or “Learn” that
imply a benefit.
shown that human beings are far more driven by avoiding loss
than they are by achieving gain.
So, when creating CTA buttons for your email marketing
campaigns, use the first-person
possessive determiners such as “my” to give people
ownership of the offer and trigger that sense of motivation that
comes from avoiding loss.
When our friends at Unbounce changed the word “Your” to
“My” in their call-to-action buttons, they saw a 90% increase
Result: During the campaign, the treatment
increased CTR by 90%.
Takeaway: Use the first-person possessive
determiners such as “my” in the copy of your CTA button to give
people perceived ownership of your offer and trigger their sense of
Along with the copy, the design of your button is the other
critical element you need to think about, and your button should be
designed with these concepts in mind.
Stand out on the page
First and foremost, your buttons need to stand out amongst the
rest of your content to ensure they get noticed.
One of the best ways to do this is by selecting a button color
that contrasts the other colors used in your email campaign.
Take this email from Freshbooks, for example. They
use a bright green button for the main call to action in the email,
which stands out against the predominantly blue and grey colors
used through the rest of the campaign.
Takeaway: Use contrasting colors to make sure
your CTA button stands out amongst the rest of your content. If
you’re not sure, try using the infamous
squint test to see whether you’ve made the button prominent
enough or whether you need to go back to the drawing board.
Look like a button
There is an old saying in usability design circles that says,
“Familiarity breeds usability.” When people are familiar with
something, they intuitively know how to use it.
People have been clicking buttons on the web for years, and they
intuitively know it’s what they need to do to get to the next
So be careful about getting too fancy with your button design,
as buttons that don’t look like buttons tend to get clicked
This email campaign for our recent guide on How
to get Better Marketing Results with Beautiful Design follows
this rule nicely.
The main CTA button features a rounded square background with a
smooth gradient, leaving no confusion in the reader’s mind that
this is a button they can click to go ahead and read the guide.
Takeaway: When designing CTA buttons for your
email marketing campaigns, avoid the temptation to get too fancy,
as people might not realize it’s a button they can click. Use
rounded square backgrounds, where possible, and add a gradient or
stroke to the button to help it stand out on the page.
Although it’s tempting to make your CTA button huge to ensure
it gets noticed and clicked, testing has shown that it may not be a
tested making their client’s main CTA button extremely
large, they actually found that it decreased conversions by about
10%. They hypothesized that the larger CTA button drew the
reader’s attention away from the copy and images and presented
them with the conversion point before the reader was convinced of
the value of converting.
Result: 10% decrease in conversion. Statistical
Takeaway: Make sure the button you create and
add to your email marketing campaigns is appropriately sized for
the rest of the email. You want people to notice the images and
headings in your email as well. Otherwise, if the first thing they
see is the CTA button, they will likely ignore it, as they
haven’t been adequately convinced of the value of your offer
Surrounded by whitespace
Whitespace (sometimes known as dead space) is the blank area
around your call-to-action button.
Adding ample whitespace around your CTA buttons encourages
click-throughs by separating them visually from other elements in
your email and helping focus the reader’s attention on them at
the right time.
A good example of this is the Inside Design series by InVision. By adding ample
whitespace around the main call to action in the email, they draw
the reader’s attention and make it very clear what the next step
Takeaway: Use whitespace around your main
call-to-action buttons to help them stand out from the other
elements of your email campaign and get noticed.
However, too much whitespace between elements can give readers a
feeling that the two aren’t connected. Use your best judgment to
ensure your copy and CTA button are separated enough to stand out,
but close to enough that your readers know they are connected.
There has long been debate amongst email marketers as to where
the call-to-action button should be placed. Many believe an email
call to action needs to be above the fold. However, with
email on so many different devices and screen sizes, this can
be a tricky rule of thumb to follow.
Here at Campaign Monitor, we believe the ideal placement of the
CTA button is relative to the complexity of the offer.
If the product/offer you are making in your email campaign is
easy to understand, and the reader would have little anxiety around
taking your offer, then positioning the CTA towards the top can
increase conversions. A CTA near the top of the content allows
readers to easily find and click the button without having to read
long paragraphs that try to convince them to do something they are
already convinced to do.
However, if the product/offer is a bit more difficult to
understand and the reader may have some anxiety towards taking your
offer, then positioning the CTA button high in the email will
likely reduce conversions, as they will see it before they have
been adequately convinced they should be taking the conversion
The team at Authentic Jobs understands this and puts it to
practice nicely in their email campaigns.
Although the image and accompanying headline push the CTA button
well down the email, they realize that the reader needs to be
convinced the offer is worth their time first and use a beautiful
product image and compelling copy to convince the readers of the
value of converting before presenting them the CTA button.
Call-to-action buttons are the main drivers of click-throughs to
your website, product, or whatever other destination you choose, so
it’s critical to get them right.
Use the email marketing call to action best practices when
These three aspects are critical in engaging your customers and
making your email marketing campaign effective.
Start focusing on these steps to ensure your CTA is as
solid and powerful as it can be,
learn how to optimize your CTAs here.
How to Create the Perfect Call to Action for Your Email Marketing
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