So What Exactly is a Call to Action?

Grok has a nice description of "Call to Action". I've actually never heard it articulated before either. He uses a good example of how guests at a hotel are prompted to take action, or guided to their possible next steps. He goes on to say...

It is absolutely okay to ask your visitors to take action. In fact, you must ask them. Because if you don?t, all you can do is hope they?ll figure out what they are supposed to do next and then actually do it. Without well-considered, well-placed Calls to Action, you leave a lot more to chance.

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"Call to action" means "Do what I say"

Oddly enough, people usually do what they're told. It's a subtle nudge of sorts, designed to make people click (or take the desired action). At my last employer, we found that homepage teases (like the headlines on msn.com's homepage) were more effective if it told users to do something. For example "Find a restaurant near you" got more clicks than "Restaurant Guide."

From a writing perspective, calls to action are usually written in the active voice. So it's a lot more lively to read. I guess that's an example of captology in action.

Warning: self-link

Take it one step beyond just a call to action and persuade people to take action. From my column on Persuasive Navigation:

A call to action tells users to do something -- Apply Now, Find Out More, Buy This, Sign Up Now -- whereas persuasive navigation gives people a reason to do something. The phrase "apply now" gives the user no indication why he should apply, why he should apply now versus applying later, and why applying is better than any other options.