Be impeccable with your word, from The Four Agreements by Don Miguel Ruiz

Effective CTAs: The Difference a Few Words Can Make in Your Click-Throughs

Be impeccable with your word, from The Four Agreements by Don Miguel Ruiz

The Four Agreements by Don Miguel Ruiz is one of my favourite books of all time, mostly because it reinforces something that’s deeply ingrained in me–the fact that our words have incredible power.

‘Be Impeccable With Your Word’ is one of Ruiz’ Four Agreements, and this is an important lesson for life in general and in marketing. Choosing to use one word over another can mean the difference between changing your personal reality or,  in the case of marketing, a click-through and a click-away.

While working on some banner ad copy for a client, I noticed that they had several versions of calls-to-action roughed into the banner designs. They were:




It got me thinking: what is the real difference between changing one small word on a button for another? What kind of impact can it have on your click-through rate and essentially your sales? The answer: A LOT.

How do you know which words are the best ones to use?

There are a few general guidelines to help you choose the right words for your call to action.

Use active verbs

Active verbs like ‘SAVE’, ‘CLICK’, and ‘GET’ inspire the web visitor to act. In fact, verbs are the most effective kind of word for inspiring action, and have been shown to get the most shares on Twitter, while adverbs get the least (Science of Social Media, Dan Zarrella).

On a side note, Stephen King also openly despises adverbs. Perhaps that’s why it’s so hard to put his books down, and may have something to do with his best-selling status. (His book, On Writing, is also a great one if you want to perfect your grasp of the craft.)

Use clear language

Tell the web visitor exactly what they will get if they click through. Example: a button that says ‘CLICK TO GET $1 OFF NOW’.

Your call to action is not a place to be vague, artsy or ambiguous. A counter example to the one above might be ‘DO YOU LIKE SAVING MONEY?’. Get to the point! The same is true for most copy on the web.

Test a few different options

Now, to refine your words even further, you can try A/B testing (by using an A/B testing app), which literally lets you use two different CTAs at once (on two separate pages) and measure which one is more effective. This method is especially important if you’re comparing the examples I first listed in this article, which all follow the general guidelines of good CTAs, but differ just slightly in their composition.

You can also experiment with your email subject lines and see which ones inspire more people to open the email. Use a couple different variations of your subject line for the same email (you should be able to do this easily in your mail program) and see which one has the highest open rates.

A compelling example

Dustin Curtis tested a few variations on a simple call to action with goal of getting more Twitter followers. He found that by altering a few words, making his language more active, and being extremely clear about what he wanted the visitor to do, increased his click-through rate by 173%! Unfortunately, Dustin deleted his original post on his experiment but you can read some more details here.

For in-depth tips on how to conduct A/B testing, check out Smashing Magazine’s Ultimate Guide to A/B Testing.

Now, go forth and choose your words… but choose wisely.

choose wisely




About the author: JessicaGrey

I'm a copywriter for web, print, radio and video. Contact me to get content that effectively communicates the benefits of your product or service.

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