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10 Call to Action Best Practices to Get More Email Subscribers

When you first created your email sign up form, you probably spent most of your time writing the copy and fine-tuning the design.

But how much time did you spend thinking about your call to action (CTA) button?

If you chose “submit,” “subscribe,” or “sign up” as your call to action copy, chances are it didn’t take much time at all. And while those are all perfectly good CTA choices, you might still be missing out on an opportunity to get more people to subscribe to your list.

To help you make the most of your opt-in form — and all the other work you put into your email messages — we’ve rounded up 10 call to action best practices.

Top 10 call to action button best practices

1. Be compelling

“Submit” or “sign up” are a little 2017. To really stand out and engage your site visitors, use copy that stops people in their tracks. Don’t be afraid to have some fun with it.

Vocal coach Felicia Ricci decided to have some fun with her CTA. Check out this distinct and inviting call to action button copy that ties in directly to her course.

unique call to action for a course

Or here’s Smashing Magazine’s irreverent take on button copy. It seems almost a bit too far… until you read the line below about them having 190,000 email subscribers. This wouldn’t work for many audiences, but for them, it’s spot on. 

Smashing Magazine's fun CTA Button Example

2. Keep it brief

If it takes too long for prospective subscribers to read your CTA, they may lose interest in signing up for your email list. Attention spans online are ridiculously short, so make every word count. 

How many words should a call to action have? The general rule is two to five words. 

This doesn’t mean you can’t break this rule and use a one-word CTA or even a 12-word CTA, but two to five words generally works best. If you want to break the rule, have at it, but consider running an A/B split-test to test your copy. (More on that in a moment.) 

Here’s a two-word call to action from the newsletter giant Marketing Brew. 

Marketing Brew brief CTA example

And another two-word call to action from the marketing masters at Digital Marketer.

Two-word call to action example from Digital Marketer

3. Use action-oriented words 

CTAs are all about getting people to take action, so use some sort of actionable word or phrase. Even “submit” gives readers a next step to take. So make sure your CTA is focused on the action you want your readers to take. 

Think of your CTA almost like an urgent, brief message. What do you want them to do, and how do you want them to feel when they do it? Find a verb that captures that experience.

Here are a few examples of verbs that are proven to get people to click:

  • Get
  • Book
  • Send
  • Download
  • Start
  • Try
  • Reserve
  • Take
  • Upgrade
  • Explore
  • Save
  • Go 
  • Give
  • Grab
  • Create
  • Upgrade
  • Join
  • Claim
  • Contact
  • Subscribe

That last one—subscribe—might seem a little old school. But some very successful sites use it. 

Like the newsletter Exponential View:

One word action-oriented call to action button from Exponential View

Or expert entrepreneur Gary Vaynerchuk:

Action-oriented CTA button example from Gary Vaynerchuk

4. Make it pop

If you’re looking for ways to make your CTA stand out, then experiment with the color. The color of your CTA should draw your potential subscribers to it.

Color has been shown to impact subscribers’ behavior. There is a close link between colors and emotions. Warmer colors—like pink—evoke completely different emotions than cooler colors, like steel blue.

There’s no hiding from Backlinko’s green call to action button here. The contrast between the button color and the rest of the page is striking. 

Backlinko using a green call to action button on light gray background

5. Make it easy to read

There are two parts to successful CTA coloring. First, use a type size large enough that people can read the button copy even on a mobile phone, and even in bad lighting. Don’t make anyone squint to see the CTA.

The second part of making the call to action easy to read is using enough contrast between the button text and the button color.  So when you’re using a darker colored CTA button color, the text should be a lighter color. And when you’re using a lighter color CTA, your text should be a darker color.

We recommend white text for the darker color call to actions and black text for the lighter color CTAs.

Check out the examples below to see how light on light and dark on dark almost blend into the background. Remember: Your CTA tells your potential subscriber the action you’d like them to take, so don’t hide it.

Call to action color comparison chart

6. Create a sense of urgency

We often encourage our readers to create a sense of urgency in their subject lines. The same can also be said for your CTA.

Adding words like “now” or “today” can prompt people to take action immediately. Very few of the people who see your sign up form will remember to sign up for your list later. You want them to take action now.

Marie Forleo’s opt-in box follows this CTA copy best practice well, and it’s backed up by a killer incentive. Who wouldn’t want to get anything they want? 

Marie Forleo following CTA button best practice by creating a sense of urgency

7. Sell your freebie

Many email list owners offer a “lead magnet” or a “freebie” to entice people to sign up for their mailing list. This is usually an ebook, but freebies can also be a video or a free course—anything you think your ideal subscribers would find irresistible. 

Here’s an example of an opt-in form with a lead magnet from the newsletter Contrarian Thinking. It offers an ebook called “28 Side Hustle Ideas.”

Contrarian Thinking implementing CTA best practice for selling value of freebie in their call to action

Also consider summing up the value of your lead magnet into one word. It sounds like a tough challenge, but it can be done. The call to action copy below is from Their one-word benefit summary is “save.” With a list of 200,000 subscribers, clearly that copy works. shows benefits of signing up in their CTA button

Another secret to selling your freebie is to make sure people know exactly what they’re going to get.  Even if you have to tell them twice. 

So while your opt-in box should explain what people will get when they sign up, consider repeating it in your call to action. Test out highlighting the benefit in your form button.

Here’s how our Founder Tom Kulzer did this on his personal site. Not only is the CTA unique and fun, but it clearly articulates what a subscriber can expect from his emails.

personal site CTA

8. Evoke emotion

Great marketing is all about tapping into emotion. You want your audience to feel a certain way, and your copy is the place to do it. This is one of the most powerful best practices for a CTA— or any copy. 

Fable & Folly Productions is all about community, and they want their website visitors to feel like they’re welcome. Check out their unique call to action copy in their sign up form below. 

emotional call to action phrase

Or consider this call to action copy from Lewis Howes. Those six little words will invoke big feelings for his ideal readers. 

A call to action button example that evokes an emotion

9. Try first-person vs second-person 

It’s natural for marketers to write to their audience in the second person, where the reader is addressed as “you” or “your.” This point of view is often used because it speaks to the individual as opposed to a mass audience. As a result, it feels more personal to the recipient. It also forces you to present the value of the action you want readers to take.

For example, this whole blog post is written in the second person perspective in order to encourage you to test new CTA copy so you can get more subscribers. And we often write our calls to action that way too.

In the form below from Running Shoes Guru, you’ll notice CTA button is written in the second-person perspective:

second person call to action copy

But it might also be worth testing out first-person language (“I”/”we”) on your sign up form. It can help your visitors feel a sense of ownership of your offer. 

Plant-Based Juniors, a blog about feeding children a plant-based diet, tried out first-person language on their guide’s landing page:

first person cta copy phrase

10. Test, test, and test some more

Call to action button copy best practices are great, but they have one fatal shortcoming: they generalize. So while everything we’ve told you about here is proven to work, it’s not specific to your audience. 

The only way to really know what will work best for you is to test. 

Fortunately, testing isn’t hard to do. There’s a simple method to test different versions of button copy, or anything else on your sign up form. It’s called an A/B split test. 

An A/B split test basically lets you show two or more versions of your sign up form to visitors. The two variations rotate dynamically, so half of your visitors will see “Version A” of your form, and the other half of your visitors will see “Version B.” 

When enough people have seen both versions of the form to produce statistically valid results, then you can tell which version of the form (or button) converts best. 

See this tutorial for step by step instructions for how to set up a split-test. Or check out The Ultimate Guide to Email A/B Testing if you want a deep dive into how to test.

If your first test fails, don’t be discouraged. Just try something different. Sometimes it takes a few tests to find the perfect call to action. And you can always learn from a test, even one that doesn’t win. 

Persistence will pay off: What would getting even 20% more email subscribers mean to you? And that’s 20% more subscribers without having to get any additional traffic, or create any new content, or doing anything extra at all besides the test. Your form will just generate 20% (or 50%, or even 321%) more results for you. 

Where to place your call to action

Where you place your CTA could impact how many email subscribers you collect. Why? If nobody can find it, then there’s no way you’re going to collect their email address.

Here are some highly visible CTA places you can put your CTA:

At the top of your website

AWeber customer has a call to action you can’t miss. It’s right at the top of every page on their website, and the button is fire engine red.

An example of a call to action placement at the top of a website

In the sidebar of your blog posts

Did you notice that every AWeber blog post has our email sign up form in the sidebar? 

AWeber Newsletter signup on side of blog posts

As a pop-up message

The Content Marketing Institute has a pop-up appear once you begin scrolling through one of their blog posts.

CTA pop up placement example

In the middle of your blog post

Check out how SocialBee includes a lead magnet to capture email addresses in the middle of their blog post.

An example of how places their call to action in the middle of a blog post

Call to action phrases to try right now

So are you ready to improve your call to action button copy? Want to swap your current call to action with something new? Here are 20 call to action phrases for inspiration:

  1. Gimme
  2. Snag this offer now
  3. Don’t miss out
  4. Let’s go
  5. I want free _____
  6. Let’s do it
  7. Get it
  8. Get the guide
  9. Send me the goods
  10. Get the discount now
  11. I’ll take it!
  12. Enroll
  13. I can’t wait any longer
  14. Join the tribe
  15. Yes, please!
  16. I’m in
  17. I’m here for it
  18. Try it 
  19. Save my spot
  20. Get the tips

How will you use these call to action best practices? 

We’ve given you a lot of ideas for how to write call to action button copy and how to use cta button copy best practices. Hopefully, you’ve got a few ideas for what to write. Give it a try and tell us about the results you saw!

And if you want even more ideas for how to create better button copy, see this post on how to create killer CTAs for your sign up form. 

Get Started with AWeber Free

Additional reporting by Monica Montesa

The post 10 Call to Action Best Practices to Get More Email Subscribers appeared first on AWeber.

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