What is a Call To Action?

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What They Are, Where They Go, How To Use Them

In many marketing pieces — both here and on advertisements, blog posts, articles, case studies, videos, infographics, and other such things filling the Internet — you’ll find what we in the business refer to as a “call to action.” Sometimes it’s obvious and sometimes it’s done in a subtle way, but successful marketing pieces always have it. In fact, it’s basically a requirement for good marketing because without it, your audience has nowhere to go (either literally or metaphorically) after they receive your message.

So what exactly is a call to action? Take the term at face value — it is a call for the reader/viewer/listener to take an action. What that action is, of course, depends on what you want, and that’s the whole purpose of the marketing piece.

A call to action doesn’t necessarily have to directly generate revenue. Conversion, or the execution on a call to action, can be as simple as reading more, downloading a free item, signing up for a newsletter, or following on social media. It doesn’t have to end with a monetary transaction (though that’s always a good thing!); as long as the end user has executed on your strategy, then it has been successful.

Describing a call to action may seem a bit vague, so let’s take a look at some good examples. The variety presented here will show you how you can get creative with your own marketing ideas, both with communication and with call to action.

Example 1: American Express



On this page, American Express offers a summary of articles on the majority of the layout. In the sidebar, they’ve put two call to actions: the first is a download click for a guide and the second is to sign up for an email newsletter. Both of these provide value (“exclusive benefits”) and promise this at no investment to the reader. The actions are easy to read, prominently displayed, and fit into the layout so they won’t be obscured by the primary content.

Example 2: Hubspot



On this page, Hubspot offers a guide to SEO keyword research. The article is chock full of information for the SEO newbie, all presented in easy-to-use step-by-step format. At the end of the post, the reader should feel confident to get going, which is why the article’s conclusion is followed by two calls to action: the first is a free SEO template to work with the information the reader just digested, and the second is for Hubspot’s marketing newsletter. The actions are placed in line with the article so that it is part of the natural flow, and the primary action (SEO template) is selected as a colorful graphic that works specifically with the article’s content for easy engagement.

Example 3: Forward Push


We practice what we preach at Forward Push. In this article, we focused on how marketing services can help Bay Area startups. From a strategic perspective, this was part of a series to promote a free ebook called “The Startups Guide to Marketing”, and the ebook download link is placed at the end as “Bonus Content.” Like the other examples, the call to action is presented clearly in a logical place, providing value at zero investment for the reader.

In each of these examples, the calls to action have all been 1) related to the primary content 2) displayed in a clear, logical fashion 3) offered to readers at minimal investment. This maximizes ease of use so that readers have no hurdles barring their way from acting on it. Still not sure how calls to action fits into your marketing content? Contact me at Forward Push for a free discussion on how your business can best utilize calls to action. (See what I did there? That’s a call to action too!)


By Marc Apple

Marc Apple is recognized as a leader in the marketing industry and has 20+ years of experience helping businesses of all sizes improve their digital marketing. He specializes in website design, SEO, social media, and paid search programs. He is a frequent contributor to other marketing websites and speaks regularly about marketing to small business owners and startups. To learn about Marc and to contact him, visit his author bio page.


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