Choosing The Right Call To Action: What Do We Need To Ask Of Our Subscribers?

When you're creating your calls to action, don't ignore the user experience. Columnist Paul Ford has some tips for ensuring that your recipients respond well and engage with your CTAs.

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It’s no secret that personal inboxes can fill up extremely quickly on an average day. Friends, colleagues and marketers are all battling to share valuable real estate within your inbox. Large-volume senders need to recognize this when deciding what to ask of their recipients when they send them a message.

Any calls to action (CTAs) within a sender’s content ask something from the reader. It’s best to make sure that these CTAs are clear and limited in number to avoid overwhelming your readers.

When you sit down to map out and design your email campaign, there are several notable things to keep in mind about calls to action:

Be Accurate

First, when looking to direct a reader of your email to take an action, one word to avoid these days is “click.” There is considerable growth in the number of people who use smartphones and tablets to read and interact with email.

And, of course, we “touch” these screens; we don’t “click” them. Sometimes senders forget to stop and think about how their recipients are actually interacting with their content. By analyzing your recipient’s’ behavior, you can create better informed copy decisions in your emails.

Be Explicit

It’s also important to be clear about what you want your readers to do, regardless of whether they are “touching” or “clicking.” There shouldn’t be any ambiguity concerning the content being promoted and the CTA that will access that deal or information.

If you want your reader to click on a promotional offer in order to visit your site and buy that item, say that. If you would like your reader to share a deal/story/update with friends via social media, say that.

And when choosing these CTAs, make sure that they directly correlate to your subject line and the body of the post. You don’t want to confuse your recipients by providing conflicting CTAs or by including too many of them.

Our data science team analyzed about 17.7 million emails to see if there was a correlation between the number of HTML links in an email and click rates. As seen in the figure below, clicks significantly decrease as the number of HTML links in an email increase.

This tells us that senders should be more thoughtful and deliberate in how many links/asks for further action marketers include in their emails.

Figure 1: SendGrid’s data science team analyzed 17.7M emails to see if there was a correlation between the amount of HTML links in an email and click rates. In the figure above, clicks significantly decrease as the numbers of HTML links in an email goes up.

Figure 1: Our data science team analyzed 17.7 million emails to see if there was a correlation between the number of HTML links in an email and click rates. In the figure above, clicks significantly decrease as the number of HTML links in an email goes up.

Be Succinct

Another reason to be mindful of how many links you include in your email is that too many links (and those that are bloated by adding click tracking) can increase or overinflate the size of an email. With Gmail, oversize emails have been known to be “clipped” so that only part of your email is shown, as below:

An example of a clipped message in Gmail.

An example of a clipped email message (via Gmail).

I mention this browser in particular because Gmail has been known to “clip” or limit how much of an email your recipient sees, especially for emails that exceed 102 kb. This tends to occur when images are linked — commonly with CTAs.

And since there tend to be more CTAs in marketing email than transactional, this has a higher likelihood of affecting your promotional sends.

Many marketers tend to eschew making their CTAs just images (in case images are disabled) and instead provide a text link along with their HTML. While this is a safer bet, it also has the potential to create some problems.

Some marketers tend to add tracking parameters to their CTA links, which can bloat your links (especially if your ESP [email service provider] includes additional tracking links) and increase the size of your email send.

Be Branded In Your Efforts

In addition to needing to be as explicit as you can with your CTA copy and remaining mindful of how many CTAs you include in your post, it’s important to make sure that your CTAs encourage your recipients to interact with your brand in multiple parts of your message.

As Litmus’ Chad White states in his book, “Email Marketing Rules”:

[blockquote](Readers) see the logo in your header, the headlines, and any image in your email… Make the most of their interest by making as many of these elements as clickable as possible. [/blockquote]

So be strategic with how you brand your CTAs (align them with your site colors and with your site’s tone and voice), and be sure to make your logos actionable, as well.

Overall, the idea of choosing CTAs for your email message is another great reminder for marketers to take a step back, reflect, and really try to think of the user experience of receiving content. Don’t overwhelm your recipients with too many asks — make the most of these clickable opportunities by being explicit, branded and strategic.

Opinions expressed in this article are those of the guest author and not necessarily MarTech. Staff authors are listed here.

About the author

Paul Ford
Paul Ford is a serial entrepreneur, technology evangelist, innovator, strategist, and startup advisor with two decades of experience at IaaS and SaaS organizations. As Vice President of Product and Marketing, Paul drives SendGrid’s overall product strategy and marketing efforts. Prior to SendGrid, Paul served as the Vice President of Ecosystem Development at Softlayer Technologies. Paul mentors other entrepreneurs via his involvement in TechStars, 500 Startups, Tech WildCatters, SeedCamp and Wayra. He is also one of five “Entreprenuers in Residence” currently supporting the White House and Department of Homeland Security’s efforts in growing the economy and creating more American jobs.

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