Everyone has experienced a situation where they found themselves paying for goods or services online after barely 10 minutes on the page.

As a digital marketer, you can understand that what is at play is the call to action. However, knowing what it entails is different from knowing how it works.

One would think that the call to action only entails the physical attributes of your website or pages such as color, size, width, and effects.

However, the psychology of CTA goes beyond these and tends to work on the psyche of the prospective customers.

Understanding this psychology will boost your optimization of it and help you leverage on its ability and increase your power as a marketer.

This is why we have gone ahead to demystify this concept and give you tips to optimize this marketing strategy.

But, before we go ahead, let us explain the concept of the call to action.


A call to action (CTA) is a set of content in advertising that is aimed at obtaining an immediate response from prospective customers.

It is a marketing strategy that is only deemed successful when the customers are pushed to act based on the product advertised.

If calls to action are not enabled on sites and pages, visitors would be clueless about what to do next after looking through the page.

Most times, it appears at the end of the page as a sales pitch so that customers will know what next to do.

Unfortunately, many business owners fail to effect a call to action and sales pitches. This could be because of two main reasons:

  • They believe that clients know what to do when they are interested in knowing more.
  • They fear that calls to action are unpleasant and may drive the prospective customer away.
  • Some of them already activated referral or effective lead generation, which also has some similarities to call-to-action in terms of creating awareness of their businesses to convince prospective clients to patronize them.


Calls to action are used mostly in sales; for instance, a “Buy now” sign.

Although this may be effective when selling some products, however, expensive products may require a call to action that is a process.

This is because it may take a series of cajoling and persuasions to make the customer patronize you.

Also, you can use calls to action as a means to expand your email list and your followers on social media, such as “Follow us to get more details.”

You can also use this means to increase traffic on your site, such as “Click here to read about…”.

Some Call to Action Phrases includes:

  • Like
  • Call
  • Share
  • Sign up
  • Subscribe
  • Buy
  • Follow
  • Click here for
  • Register
  • Order
Source: Sproutsocial

Figure 1: Call to Action buttons  Source: Sproutsocial

One technique to use while creating a call to action is to infuse a sense of urgency and fear of missing out. This will push them to take action immediately before the offer runs out.

Some of these phrases include:

  • Offer valid while stock lasts
  • Limited products in stock
  • Offer expires on (insert date)
  • Buy before (insert date) at a special discounted price.
Source: leightoninteractive.com

Figure 2: Forms of Call to Action  Source: leightoninteractive.com


Calls to action, as we earlier stated, are created to appeal to the psyche of the prospective customers.

Thus, knowing the psychology of CTA will help you develop effective ones and achieve more results.

There are four psychological parts to the call to action. They are:

  • Anticipation
  • Expectation
  • Reward
  • Focus

1. Anticipation

Anticipation is a sensation that gradually builds when you are waiting for an event to occur.

The event could be positive or negative and works based on your knowledge of its occurrence.

Thus, you know it will happen, but you do not know when.

The anticipation begins as soon a person logs into a site. While they are reading or watching, anticipation is building as they know that a particular benefit awaits them at the end, or their curiosity is being satisfied gradually.

For instance, if you wrote a blog on “how to deal with a divorce without failing at work”, the title already gives a certain level of anticipation, which grows gradually as you continue reading through.

Thus, you can build anticipation by using examples, videos, and photos that will give your reader an inkling of what will come next.

Just like cliffhangers in books, advertising needs suspense of some sort that will make your readers anticipate what your brand hopes to offer.

While trying to build anticipation, timing is critical. This is because you should know what point you should build up to, how much information to pass across, and when to end it. Also, ensure that you give a presentation that tilts more to the positive.

Neil Patel says: “You should drive positive anticipation even further by creating copy that makes people agree with you.”

When you create a positive scenario for your users, you maximize the use of anticipation.

When you combine an appealing language, an impeccable page design, and a positive CTA, you undoubtedly maximize your readers’ anticipation.

2. Expectation

Anticipation works hand in hand with expectations. Every audience expects a catch or a set of rules after reading any content.

Consequently, it is safe to say that every reader expects a call to action attached to every post.

When these expectations are met, it means that the anticipation was well rewarded.

Our expectations influence the way we perceive people and events. This principle is synonymous with that of the perceptual set.

Perceptions are dependent on what you see and how you see it. One famous example is seen in the image below:

Source: Webfx

Figure 3: Perceptual set image

Source: Webfx

For instance, if you read from left to right, you will see letters “A, B, and C”; however, if you read from top to bottom, you will see “12, 13, and 14”. The figure in the middle could be seen as either 13 or B, depending on how it is being read.

In the same vein, visitors to your website are expectant of a call to action while they are going through your page.

If your page is advertising a product, they are expecting a “Buy Now” or “Add to Cart” sign.

Also, if your page is a signup page, they will be expecting a call to action telling them to “Sign up.”

In essence, every visitor to a page expects you to tell them what to do next, and satisfying this expectation will even boost the chances of them patronizing you.

While trying to live up to expectations to give a CTA, you should note that it should blend with the rest of the page while standing out.

Many times, you see a blinking sign on a page indicating that you should sign up or buy a product. If this is not done attractively, interest will be lost as soon as they start going through your page.

The best way to do this is by making use of bold and brightly colored indicators that still blend with the color scheme. Colors like red, green, and orange are vibrant colors that may seem inviting when used as a CTA.

3. Reward

At the end of heightened anticipation and expectation, a reward is in order.

This reward is more psychological than physical as it entails the satisfaction of the clients whether they agree to click on the CTA or not.

The human brain is enabled to act based on an expected reward, which goes a long way in satisfying you. Additionally, rewards are employed to motivate people to work when it is available.

While rewards are necessary, you must ensure that your CTA gives you the already planned result.

To make your CTA rewarding, you should make the button one they would want to press because of the build-up of your content.

Additionally, try to make it evident that the button was depressed when they click on it.

Also, your CTA language should be made up of short and concise statements that are rewarding languages. Your call to action statements should possess words like “discover,” “start,” “get.”

This is because these words have some excitement embedded in them that thrives on the client’s anticipation, meets up with their expectations, and moves them toward the reward.

Additionally, you could make promises to your readers by promising to give a little gift, whether it’s a free trial of software or a PDF download of material.

4. Focus

This is the most popular psychology of the call to action. It involves you devoting your total attention to the user.

Now, you may be wondering what this only covers the user’s experiences with the company, services, and products; however, it is not limited to these.

You can focus on the user by making sure the person is duly represented in the text.

This is easily done in your use of pronouns. For instance, using “You” is closer than making use of he or she or third pronoun,

Doing this will help your readers feel more comfortable as it seems that you are directly conversing with them, whereas using the third person may sound too formal sometimes.

Additionally, speaking in the second-person pronoun is valid for your readers; however, your CTA has to be written in the first-person language.

The process of focusing on the user works better by discussing with the reader using the second pronoun while your CTA allows them to choose if they would want to act accordingly.

Additionally, one has to be careful while trying to ensure that a call of action is followed.

You need to understand that the choice lies in the hands of the user and sometimes be wise and friendly in the introduction.


No matter the sphere of business you find yourself in, know that you are in constant competition with lots of other websites, probably selling the same product.

These websites all thrive on giving their readers the call to action no matter what it is. The secret to your readers replying to your call to action lies in the reason you give them to act.

Thus, a compelling call to action has to do with your use of psychology. Here are some ways you can utilize psychology to make a compelling call to action:

1. Repeat Yourself

Humans are creatures of habit; thus, patterns and themes appeal to the human brain.

The brain scans these materials to process it faster to understand the information passed across.

Therefore, leveraging on this feature of the human brain involves you repeating information and using the same phrase recurrently.

Kit Smith calls this process “priming the user with repeated phrases.”

This principle is aimed at increasing a person’s sensitivity to a specific stimulus via initial exposure to the same stimulus.

For instance, If you want people to subscribe to your newsletter, you should make use of the phrase “save money” while delivering your content. It should be used in the title, body, and the call to action button.

As a result of the repetition, the brain had subconsciously attributed saving money to clicking the CTA button even before the call to action was proposed.

However, if the recurring phrase is not something you can’t work with, the targeted SEO keyword can stand as an adequate replacement. Thus, a fruitful search with the typed phrase will yield the product, incentives, and the benefits that come with it.

By the time, the visitor gets to the call for action, he/she would have associated the sacred the page with the phrase that was initially searched.

2. Appeal to Their Sense of Urgency

It is not news that most traders sound as though they are always on an emergency, or the goods will run out soon.

This is a marketing strategy that incites the fear of losing out and being left out. One famous phrase goes thus: “offer valid while stock lasts.”

This makes some clients purchase materials that they may not use all in a bid to get it before it is out of stock.

This technique is known in advertising as scarcity marketing. Some phrases used include:

  • Last chance
  • Going fast
  • Offer valid while stock lasts.
  • Offer expires

The scarcity of the product is highlighted, thus making the consumer click on the call to action i.e., buy it immediately. Additionally, you can motivate buyers or subscribers based on exclusivity.

No one will say no to an opportunity to hear the latest news or get the newest products before others.

Thus, you can also ask your audience to “click here for exclusives” or “subscribe to join our mailing list.”

With such an enticing factor or package, you will receive much traffic on your page, as well as the need to update your CTAs daily to give updated info.

3. Be Benefits-Driven

Clients who surf through different brand pages take their time to pick the best values at reasonable prices.

Another way to leverage on CTA is the ability for you and your product to add value to your client’s life.

Most times, users are hardly impressed by the “what.”

They are instead after “how it can solve their problems.” A call to action that incorporates the value of your product will prompt clients to patronize you.

Consequently, you should phrase your call to action based on the value the product is adding.

For instance, instead of saying, “Get our dieting app here,” you can say, “shed those extra pounds in a day” here.

Therefore, the way you phrase your point has a part to play in how compelling your CTA will be.

4. Risk Management

High value and low risk is everyone’s dream package for a product.

Therefore, you can use this to arrange your call to action. For instance, if there is a money-back guarantee on your product, your call to action should indicate it.

Additionally, using “free” to your call to action also makes it appealing. No one wants to pay extra for something they can get for a particular price.

Therefore, if your prices are fair enough, you should flaunt them on your call to action.

As much as possible, try to be positive and avoid negative news that may dampen your sales. Always remember to Hype the benefits and downplay the risks involved.

5. Mind Your Online Space

When creating a website, one should take into consideration the benefits of the color scheme and the special effects used. Human emotions are mostly invoked by colors – each color with different moods.

Choosing a color that will outline the CTA button is very important as the color blend and how your website looks can affect the way clients see you.

The popular CTA color is green, which is good. However, you can try something else on a monochromatic background where different bold colors can blend in.

Additionally, try avoiding a basic design as much as you try to avoid a complex one. The call to action should be evident and easy to access. Get help with front end designers when running your page to prevent minor errors that could lead to loss of clients.


The Psychology of the call to action is practical when the timing is taken seriously.

One has to know when to deliver the CTA while trying not to disrupt the client as he or she is reading the content.

Additionally, a good CTA should not be complicated as your client may lose interest if the processes to follow are too much.

Visibility of the call to action is also vital; this is because if there are too many distractions, one would hardly know the next course of action.

Everything You Need to Know About the Psychology of the Call to Action

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