How Do You Get People To Click? The Psychology Of Calls To Action

How Do You Get People To Click? The Psychology Of Calls To Action

Understanding the psychology of consumers is core to successful marketing. Effective marketing revolves around understanding how consumers think, reason, feel, make decisions and behave. If you understand what makes people click, you'll be better placed to give your customers what they want. 

A key factor that separates successful businesses from unsuccessful businesses is how well they understand the underlying principles behind their customers' psychology. 

Understanding these principles means you can harness consumer psychology to improve your marketing. For this blog, let's focus on the CTA (Call to Action) - perhaps the most important one. This topic can get quite complicated so we are going to break it down to help understand how you can get people to click on those vital CTAs. 

What is a Call to Action (CTA) and why is it so important?

A Call to Action is the element in the digital marketing process that drives conversions and seals the deal. Unsurprisingly, marketing people are constantly trying out new ways to improve the performance of CTAs' and increase conversions. A CTA instructs visitors to go to the next step in a conversion funnel. That could be a sales decision or a decision to move one step closer to becoming a customer or consumer. This can involve:

  • Purchasing a certain product
  • Subscribing to a newsletter
  • Filling out a form to get a free ebook
  • Getting additional information of interest to your site visitors etc.

The following article by Ringblaze contains two CTAs at the bottom. After you click them, you'll open a window that will help you get additional information by completing a form. This is a straightforward, practical CTA that tells you what to do next. Functional CTAs like this are mostly used for website conversions, email campaigns, in-app purchases etc.

An effective way to get people to click is by using a CTA that stands out and draws attention. This could be a well designed graphic or intelligently placed button, banner, custom QR code, link etc. In addition to a neat design, a good CTA will appeal to human instincts like a quest for knowledge, anticipation, a sense of reward or just appeal to the curiosity that all humans have. Let's start by looking at design principles.

Call to Action designs that get people to actually click

When it comes to designing a compelling CTA, important elements are:

  • Size
  • Colour 
  • Shape
  • Positioning
  • Copy and microcopy 

Size of a CTA button

Predictably, the bigger something is, the more noticeable and more clickable it becomes. Also, human brains like buttons so a big button that stands out is a tempting call to action! Trial and error have shown that the following sized buttons work best: 

  • 600 x 200px for CTAs in emails and blog posts
  • 1200 x 200px for a regular webpage
  • Minimum of 44 x 44px for mobile devices

Colours and shapes that get people to click

Colour and shape can also influence your visitors' moods. The human mind is wired in a way that allows certain colours and shapes to subliminally create different moods and emotions, without a person consciously realising it. Use these colours to induce the following moods and emotions:

  • Red — Power, confidence
  • Green — Peace, calmness, growth
  • Black — Professionalism
  • White — simple, clean
  • Blue — stability, trust
  • Yellow — Warmth, Joy, positivity
  • Orange — Friendliness, energetic
  • Purple — luxurious, creative

Among common shapes, use:

  • Triangles — suggests excitement, urgency, warning
  • Circles, ellipses — suggests mystery
  • Abstract and unusual shapes — suggests a depth of meaning, uniqueness and duality
  • Rectangles, squares — suggests security, courage, discipline

Bear in mind who your audience is and the action you want them to take. For example, if your target audience is creative professionals like designers, you might want to use abstract shapes combined with black or dark purple. On the other hand, if you are trying to sell insurance you might want to consider using secure, safe rectangular shapes with yellow or blue.


So where are you going to place your Call to Action? A study from Nielsen Norman Group's UXPin team suggested that there are certain, predictable patterns in how the human brain scans the content on web pages. Usually, the brain uses an “F pattern to scan blog posts (a high level of content that requires scrolling). If the brain is dealing with a page with a lower level of content that doesn't require scrolling (for example a landing page) it uses a “Z pattern to scan the content.

These scanning patterns follow the written structure of the letters “F and “Z and placing a CTA along one of these lines should help attract your visitors' attention. 

Copy and microcopy 

The text you use inside a CTA itself (the ‘microcopy') should be clear and simple. You should use action words like “Try, “Save, “Start, “Seize, “Explore - words that tempt people to click.

It also helps to showcase social proof below your CTA button - something that highlights your successes. This could be a link to your customer testimonial video, inspirational quotes from your clients or a sentence quoting success rates, for example: “Over 9,000 companies increased their ROI by 158% with our … Well-written copy can also make all the difference - polishing your writing skills can dramatically improve the click-through rate for your CTA. 

Understanding the psychology of Calls to Action.

It's good to understand some of the basic principles behind human psychology that can help you create winning CTAs for people to click on. The human brain tends to be wired to expect and anticipate certain things. So, when visitors get to your landing page they have an expectation that there will be a Call to Action at some point and their mind is subconsciously searching for it on your landing page. 

So just give your visitors exactly what they expect — a journey that intuitively takes them to a CTA. There are three main processes at work here:

  1. Selection — The brain chooses what to focus on according to sensory data - this is mostly a visual process.  
  2. Inferring — The brain uses past memories and experiences to inform what it does next. In this case, it recalls that it is likely that there will be a CTA somewhere on the page and subconsciously starts looking for it. 
  3. Interpreting — these two processes combine and the brain starts to get ready to take action.

We are also wired to be curious — this is how we constantly learn and develop. Your brain wants to click on something because it wants to know what happens next. The desire that drives this whole process is the satisfaction of discovery — we want to ultimately get some reward in terms of gratification. We've invested time and effort to get to a landing page and we expect to get something in return.

That reward could be a free ebook, a demo, a 5-day free subscription - anything that feels like a reward. Your CTA should satisfy that desire. Give your visitors a glimpse of what they'll get after they click on a CTA. Try using sentences like:

  • “Discover the secrets of how to design interiors like a PRO
  • “Get more conversions by following this ULTIMATE FORMULA in our FREE guide
  • “Join a CLOSED community of creative professionals to learn the secret tricks that get you … “


It is important that your CTA gives a glimpse of the rewards that wait on the other side. Your visitors should feel on the verge of discovery as they explore your landing page and head towards a CTA. 

Some final words

An effective CTA is the trump card of every effective digital marketing strategy. It should create and retain subscribers or customers for your product or services. The principles we have outlined regarding your CTA's psychology, design, size, position and copy will help them make that important decision to click. 

Your content should appeal to your visitors' natural sense of anticipation and expectation. If this is well designed, your site visitors will be really curious to know what happens after they have clicked on your CTA. They will find it impossible to resist!

by Dennis Vu | 27 Sep 23

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