More… on calls to action

13 minute read

A great call to action won’t save an otherwise dull or uninspiring campaign – but with compelling text and images in place you’ll want to make sure your call to action is also up to scratch. Here are some considerations when designing and including the calls to action in your email campaigns.

Although not always the case, a call to action is a key component of most email campaigns. In many cases, after a successful delivery and opening, getting the reader to complete a next step action is the primary campaign objective, and it’s completion is the measure of success. So if your call to action is the culmination of your effort you’ll want to maximise your chances of successful conversion. So go on… check out our great holiday deals. 

Call to action

Tracking action

Assuming a successful delivery and open, a common objective and application of the call to action is to click through to additional online content. This click through can be tracked in your email platform as an analysis metric. It’s worth bearing in mind that when calculating performance metrics like click-through and click-to-open rates, different systems may take a slightly different approach with multiple clicks. uses unique clicks (multiple clicks of the same link are not re-counted) as this gives a more realistic measure of performance.

Redirects to online content can also be tracked via standard web tools such as Google Analytics. However this will not give the level of granularity (for example the subscriber details and time of action) that is generally available from within your email platform. Simple link clicks may not be the only campaign objective. A call, visit or other action may also be a valid campaign objective. If so, consider how you might also trace these goals back to your email campaign. Online purchases are a good example. These will be traceable via your eCommerce system but you can also set up commercial goals within your campaigns in order to trace each purchase back to the campaign from which the action originated. If you need real quantifiable evidence of campaign success then measuring ROI in this way is as close as it gets.

By the way – most systems give a choice of whether to open a redirect in the same window or whether to open the content in a new window. Some use the convention that links to other levels of their own site content redirect within the same window but those to external sites open in a new window. Choose which best suits your purpose but then be consistent.

Text links

Text links are quick and simple to create – just select the text that you want to appear as the trigger point and then link this with the redirect URL to be used. Most systems allow you to style your linked text but we’d recommend sticking to blue and/or underline. This is extremely popular styling and as readers of online content we’ve become attuned to look for and identify text links in this format.

Text links

The advantage of a text link is that it will generally be visible, even if the images in your campaign are not displayed. Keeping your unsubscribe link as a text link might therefore be a good idea, along with any other call to action links which are completely critical for your email objective. However, text links also have drawbacks. They can get lost within the text, especially in longer, more wordy emails. They can also be a bit fiddly when an email is viewed on a mobile device, especially if the campaign content is not responsively optimised for mobile viewing.

Graphics links

A common alternative is to use graphics (an image) as a call to action. Linking images works in the same way – identify the image and then associate it with the URL of your choice. This potentially gives you a much larger and more flexible area of your campaign to use as your call to action – so mobile users may find this easier. It might seem obvious but it’s important to make any call to action images clear that they are exactly that. The cursor will generally change when hovering over a linked image, but it’s still worth making the nature of a call to action image obvious and adding a clear instruction of what you’d like your reader to do.

Graphics links

A note of caution – it’s possible that your images may not be displayed so including a primary or otherwise critical call to action purely as an image might get lost. It’s worth having a backup. Large images also increase the HTML footprint of your campaign. This can have downsides in terms of delivery or loading speed, so always make sure you use the best image format for your purpose and optimise its size and quality for email.

HTML buttons

A dedicated HTML call to action button is the best option. Well designed call to action buttons are generally easy to identify and to use. They are accessible even if images are not displayed, have a small download footprint (so they’re ideal for mobile) and are customisable, allowing you to add your own completion instruction. In a call to action button is one of the content types that you can add into your ‘components’, and you’ll find styling options for things like justification, size and text and background colour.

HTML buttons

Of course you don’t have the scale of graphical possibilities that an image link provides, but all things considered an HTML call to action button is a good option – you can always include your image as well if you want to create more visual impact.


It’s generally good practice to make your call to action easy to find and easy to interact with – it’s especially important for mobile device users. For either an image or button, choose a high contrast colour scheme that makes it clear where to click. Green, blue and orange are popular background colours which invite interaction. It’s perhaps no surprise that many psychology studies report that green is typically seen as a safe and approachable call to action colour while red might introduce hesitation or reluctance to proceed. However green and blue are also calming and reassuring – not ideal if you want to invoke a sense of energy and urgency.

call to action buttons

Go with your brand styling but make sure your call to action is sufficiently easy to see and interact with. Try balancing colour contrast with size to find the optimum combination for your message and brand.

Also try the ‘squint test’ – if you can visually blur your campaign but still easily identify your primary call to action then you’re on the right track. It’s also a useful exercise for website design.

Squint test

One thing – continuity is important. If you invite subscribers to click through to additional online content make sure your original email message and your landing page provide a continuous visual and message experience. Echoing the email message or using the same graphics and styling on your landing page will reassure your email visitor that they’ve arrived at the correct place.

Landing page continuity


The point here is to be specific. Your call to action instruction should be clear and simple. It might seem obvious, but tell people what you want them to do. A good call to action is instructive and compelling. Actionable language (buy, order, download, sign up, add to cart etc) with a sense of urgency or deadline (now, hurry, offer ends etc) works well. Make sure the benefit of taking the action, and taking it now, is clear, either in the call to action itself or, because you’ll want to keep your call to action button short and sweet, in your supporting text.


Opinion varies, but many feel that placing the primary call to action early in the body of the email content works well – before interest wanes. If so, and especially if your email is more lengthy, experiment with repeating it again at the point of your natural conclusion. Many other examples show that a call to action near to the end of the message works well too. The implication is that this allows the body of the message to do its job – capturing attention, developing interest and generating desire – before the invitation to act is presented to the reader. If you’re not sure, use a split-test to determine which call to action placement works best.

Single or multiple

In many cases just a single call to action that aligns well with your primary campaign objective is the best option. Multiple calls to action can be confusing and don’t necessarily increase the quantity or the likelihood of action being taken.

However, multiple call to action links are commonly used in newsletter or online catalogue type campaigns. Here you can use multiple links to direct interest through to further online content. This approach suits emails where browsing behaviour of multiple products or services is the objective. Your email campaign will give enough to act as a point of reference and keep the detail online for those who need more.

If you do have multiple calls to action in your campaign, an interaction analysis (in we refer to this as a ‘heat map’) is a really useful analysis which shows the relative levels of engagement with each link. Understanding how subscribers are viewing more complex content layouts and interacting with multiple links will help you to plan the optimum order and layout for future campaigns.

Heat map analysis