How to Create Effective Email CTAs [7 Best Practices + Examples]

September 06, 2022
Written by
Nathalia Velez Ryan
Opinions expressed by Twilio contributors are their own
Reviewed by
Ayanna Julien
Opinions expressed by Twilio contributors are their own

How to Create Effective Email CTAs [7 Best Practices + Examples]

Every marketing campaign centers around a specific goal, like encouraging recipients to make a purchase. And one of the most important email elements to help you reach that goal is the call to action (CTA). 

At first glance, a CTA might seem simple, but it takes intentional strategy and email design to ensure that this small-but-mighty element helps you achieve conversions. 

This post offers 7 tips to create CTAs that convert and examples of effective CTAs. 

What is a call to action? 

A CTA is a prompt for the reader to click through to take the desired action. It’s typically a button or a link with descriptive, actionable text, such as “Shop now,” “Donate,” “Register today,” “Read more,” etc.  

CTA - shop now

As a consumer, you encounter CTAs often within emails, websites, and apps and likely seek them out when you’re ready to take action. And as a marketer, you should craft CTAs strategically to ensure they help you achieve your email marketing campaign goals. 

Why is the CTA important?

Imagine that you receive an email about an event, and the copy and visual elements get you excited to attend. But you don’t know where to go to buy tickets, and it’s not immediately apparent in the email. If you don’t have the time to track down the ticket purchase page, you might give up.

As this scenario illustrates, without an obvious CTA, your recipients won’t have a clear path forward, and they may just move on to the next email in their inbox. This is why the CTA is so important: it allows you to clearly tell recipients the action you want them to take and brings them to the right page to do so. 

Most importantly, an effective CTA helps you move recipients through the customer journey and can improve your click-through rate and conversions

Email marketing CTA best practices

Now that we've discussed the why, let’s get into how to set your CTAs up for success with these 7 best practices. 

1. Start with a compelling verb

The most important element of CTA copy is the verb. Verbs are the action words that compel the reader to click. So a nondescript “Click here” is a missed opportunity to get the reader excited to act. Instead, be specific and direct about what you want recipients to do and where they’ll land when they click. 

For example, the goal of ecommerce emails is typically to get recipients to make a purchase. To this end, you could use verbs such as “shop,” “buy,” or “get.” This makes it clear to the reader that clicking on the CTA will take them to a page where they can make a purchase. 

Once you have a compelling verb, you can add words that create a sense of urgency, like “now” or “today.” Or if you’re promoting a deal or coupon, add words like “sale” or “50% off” to entice the reader. When you combine these elements, you can create CTAs like: 
  • Shop the sale
  • Get 50% off 
  • Buy now
  • Order today 

2. Make the CTA stand out

Don’t make your recipients search for the CTA—this element should be easy to find from just a glance. To achieve this, CTA buttons should use bold, contrasting colors and relatively large text, immediately gravitating the eye toward them. Leaving some white space around the CTA button also helps to emphasize it. 

Additionally, you can include CTAs within the email copy to increase your chances of users clicking on the link. But don’t solely rely on these as readers just skimming the email could easily miss them. 

3. Place the CTA strategically

Strategic CTA placement can increase the chances of recipients finding it and clicking on it. The cardinal rule is to keep the main CTA above the fold (the top half of the page). This means that it should be clearly visible toward the top of the email so that recipients don’t have to scroll down to find it.

Then, you can reiterate the CTA at the bottom of your copy for recipients who need to read a bit about your offer before they decide to act. When you do, place your secondary CTA in a natural spot, like the bottom right, where readers can easily see it once they get to the end of the email.

4. Establish a hierarchy when using multiple CTAs

Some emails, such as newsletters or marketing emails, will have multiple CTAs. When this is the case, don’t make your CTAs compete with each other. Instead, highlight the primary CTA—the number one action you want recipients to take when they read your email—by using bold colors and a large font size. Then, use smaller text, more subdued colors, or simple linked text for secondary CTAs. 

5. Make sure the CTA leads to the right page

This sounds like a no-brainer, but the CTA must take the user to the right landing page where they can complete the action. If you lead them to your homepage, where they have to search for the specific page they wanted, they could get frustrated and leave. For example, if your email promotes a sale on jeans, make sure the CTA goes straight to the jean category page on your website. 

And because we can’t always avoid human error, like sometimes placing an incorrect or outdated link in the CTA, testing your emails before sending is crucial. Double-checking links only takes a few minutes and can make a big difference in your conversion rates. 

6. Optimize for mobile

Although recipients check their email on various devices, 61.9% of them will open your emails on their mobile devices. So make sure recipients can easily find and tap on the CTA no matter what device they use. Because if they have to zoom in or scroll side to side to access the CTA, this creates a negative user experience. 

So what’s the best way to ensure CTAs are easy to click from all devices? Use a responsive email template that resizes to fit the reader’s screen. Learn more about optimizing emails for mobile

7. Utilize A/B tests

The CTA is one of the most important elements to A/B test in your emails. Testing small changes to the CTA allows you to determine the most effective action verbs, placement, and design. 

When A/B testing, be sure to test one element at a time to find out exactly what makes a difference. For example, in a single round of testing, you can try 2 different button colors, and in another test, you can experiment with the button text. This helps you narrow down what performs best with your recipients. 

Effective email CTA examples 

With the above best practices in mind, let’s take a look at a few examples of effective email CTAs. 

Drizly above the fold 

In this email, Drizly places its CTA above the fold, making it front and center when you open the email. So if readers are ready to purchase just from reading the subject line and heading, they can go straight to the product page. This CTA also uses creative wording that you don’t see in every email, but it’s still clear and concise. 

Drizly email CTA - send a gift

MasterClass in hierarchy

In this email promoting a new class by Melinda French Gates, MasterClass emphasizes the primary CTA with a prominent button that leads to the page for this class. Then, further down the page, there’s a smaller CTA that leads to a class library. The secondary CTA is still easy to find thanks to the red font color, but it’s deemphasized by using plaintext (no button) in a smaller font size. 

MasterClass CTAs - Watch Now and Explore More Classes

This CTA hierarchy gives readers more options if they’re not interested in going straight to the Melinda French Gates class, and it does so without competing with the email’s primary CTA. 

Supergoop’s shaded emphasis

Although color and font size are the most common ways to make CTAs stand out, this Supergoop email takes it one step further by using a drop shadow to make the button jump off the page (metaphorically). This simple visual effect gives the CTA dimension and makes it more eye-catching. 

Supergoop CTA - Shop Now

Vanity Planet creates urgency for bestseller

This CTA from Vanity Planet creates a sense of urgency to purchase one of its bestselling products. And since subscribers likely know this product tends to sell out quickly, this CTA text nudges them to make a purchase now before it’s too late. 

Vanity Planet CTA - get her before she's gone again

Send compelling emails with Twilio SendGrid

Whether you build your emails from scratch or with a template, Twilio SendGrid empowers you to create CTAs that drive conversion. 

Our email marketing templates have built-in CTAs customizable to fit your brand. You can also use the HTML editor or drag-and-drop email editor to build custom email campaigns with effective CTAs. And with email testing, you can quickly catch any broken links and ensure all your buttons go to the right place. 

Ready to build compelling email campaigns? Try Twilio SendGrid for free to get started. 

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