Marketing Glossary / Call to Action

Illustration of an individual using their laptop highlighting the buy now, learn more, and sign up buttons.

This comprehensive overview will define a call to action (CTA), the various types of CTAs that are best suited for different advertising and marketing objectives, the key advantages and challenges associated with them, and methods to gauge a call to action’s success.

Why are CTAs important?

If customers are not presented with an effective CTA in an email, ad, and on a website or social network, they may be unclear about what action they must take next to buy or learn more about the product or service promoted in the online campaign.

Online customers are busy, and are easily distracted by other ads or copy on a website. That’s why using easy-to-read and spot CTAs can significantly increase a customer’s likelihood of buying something or taking an action that generates more leads for a sales and marketing team.

The best CTAs can also boost an ad or email campaign’s click throughs and conversion rates, as well as the business’s overall sales and return on investment (ROI).

Different types of CTA formats and designs


Are commonly used in lead generation or brand awareness CTA ad units, as well as email copy, ecommerce pages, and landing pages. CTA buttons direct customers to click and buy a product or service, download a report or whitepaper, watch a video or learn more about a topic in a blog post.

Illustration of a featured ad on LinkedIn.
Illustration of a sponsored message on LinkedIn.

Contextual links

These are often the “clickable text” part of copy in an email CTA or calls to action in message ads, blog posts, sponsored content, landing pages, or web pages that entice customers to click through to another page.

Banner and video ads

These text-basedimage-based, or video ad formats are examples of call to action advertising, used to prompt customers to click through to learn more, fill out a web form, download a report, or complete some other action highlighted in the copy.

Illustration of a video ad on LinkedIn.
Illustration of a lead generation form on LinkedIn.


Small windows that pop up over a web page or social media post – asking customers to fill out a contact form or survey – often appear after a customer has clicked an initial CTA. Users may also need to click on a secondary CTA, like “Submit,” to complete the lead generation form process.

Slide-ins or Carousel ads

These slider-style carousel ad units are frequently used for brand awareness, lead generation, and driving more traffic to and within a website or app.

Illustration of a lead generation form on LinkedIn.

1. Be brief, specific, and actionable

Effective CTAs are often brief, using less than three words. Most CTAs also use a specific prompt with action words, such as “Request Demo,” “Sign up,” and “Buy Now.”

No guesswork is involved in understanding what the marketer is asking customers to do.

The CTA included in the in-feed ad screenshot is “Register Now.” It’s effective because it is brief and specific, and the desired customer action is clear.

Illustration of an in-feed ad on LinkedIn.

Illustration of an in-feed ad highlighting a webinar on LinkedIn.

2. Create a sense of urgency

Using “now” or “today” in a CTA gets customers to act immediately because it creates a sense of urgency or scarcity.

In the screenshot, the CTA “Register Today” makes customers feel like they need to act asap, or they may lose out on the opportunity to register for the event.

3. Focus on the target audience’s goals

When crafting a CTA for an ad or marketing campaign, focus on the target audience and what they want to know, do, and read.

A hypothetical example: a marketing team recently polled its prospective customers and discovered that many face cloud-based collaboration challenges within their organization. Their customers’ goal may be to learn how solution providers can help fix their problems.

As illustrated in the screenshot of a dynamic ad, the ad copy and CTA, “Request demo,” must reflect that goal. It should also offer a simple way for customers to get in touch (by clicking or tapping on the CTA) and learn how this company’s products can help them.

Illustration of a dynamic ad on LinkedIn.

Illustration of a promoted ad on LinkedIn on a mobile device.

4. Make sure the CTA button meets the campaign’s objectives

Be sure to include a CTA that serves the campaign's goals. Let’s say that a marketer’s ad or email campaign aims to generate more leads for their sales organization.

The screenshots show how the “Sign up” CTA can prompt customers to pre-register for a webinar (left) or provide their contact information to request a free product trial (right).

5. Consider the CTA’s surrounding marketing copy

The microcopy surrounding a marketing call to action can make the CTA click more enticing and comfortable for the visitor.

There are also two CTAs in this ad. One CTA asks customers to “Start your free trial,” using a yellow button on the middle left side of the image, to catch the user’s attention.

The other CTA is only two words: “Sign up,” which appears underneath the image in blue as a secondary way to get users to click through to fill out the free trial form.

Illustration of a promoted ad highlighting a free trial on LinkedIn.

Increased leads and conversions

When a marketing or ad campaign uses a CTA in the proper context, it can help to boost a company’s leads and conversions.

Optimizing conversion-based CTAs (e.g., “Buy now” or “Complete purchase”) can help businesses achieve a similar lift in desired outcomes.

Improved customer engagement 

Likewise, a good CTA can result in higher customer engagement via video views, likes, shares, and comments on a social media ad or promoted content.

When writing a CTA for a social media network post or ad, consider the audience (e.g., B2B Buyers on LinkedIn versus consumer markets on other social media platforms).

The more clear and enticing the CTAs and copy in B2B ads are, the more likely customers will like, comment, or share the ad with their colleagues for a report download, event registration, or blog content.

Test CTAs to measure their potential success – using data to back up why a marketer uses certain words or designs and whether they will result in the highest ROI possible.

  • Clickthrough rates: How many clicks were received on specific ads, emails, or ecommerce buttons with a specific CTA
  • Conversions: The percentage of people who bought something or completed an action (e.g., “Sign up” or “Download”) after clicking a button or ad unit with a CTA
  • Engagement: Including shares, likes, and comments on ads or content with CTAs
  • Pageviews: How many people visited a landing page or content page after clicking a button or ad with a CTA
  • Bounce rate: How quickly people left the landing or content page after clicking a CTA
  • Impressions: How many times the ad with the CTA in question was seen
  • Leads generated: From content downloads and event sign-ups in an ad, email, web page, or landing page with a CTA
  • Open rates: Percentage of emails opened using a specific CTA in the subject headline
Illustration of three individuals sitting down at a table and working together.
Illustration of two individuals sitting down together and high-fiving each other.