Creating great calls to action (CTAs) is more than possible, yet so many links in brands' marketing emails remain unclicked. Many of those emails are never even opened in the first place.

Over 100 billion business emails sent and received every day, according to The Radicati Group's Email Statistics Report. Marketers can cut through that clutter by focusing their efforts on strong CTAs. By doing so, they can drive customer engagement and boost revenue.

Placement advice isn't 'one-size-fits all'

Where you place your CTA depends on the length of the email. For shorter emails, a bold CTA high up in the email body tends to work best. In longer emails, however, it can pay to integrate it in multiple places, which gives the reader several opportunities to engage.

The key is to make sure that you're clearly showing recipients what they need to do, without creating distraction.

Also important to keep in mind is the number of CTAs. That number will ultimately depend on the goal of your email.

If the aim is to encourage people to sign up and drive revenue, then just one CTA is necessary in most cases. However, if you're trying to get users to interact in multiple ways, it can be helpful to add different options for doing so—such as through email, Twitter, Facebook, or even the company blog.

Your customers prefer short and sweet

What a CTA should do is inherent in the term itself. Effective CTAs clearly indicate what action the recipient should take. The body of the email highlights benefits; the CTA closes the deal.

A short and sweet CTA is best. You should also provide clear directions for the next steps. Phrases that are often employed in CTAs include "Shop Now," "Learn More," "Request a Demo," or "Register Now."

The only time additional information should be included is if it actually adds value or reduces anxiety for the customer reading the email. One way to make the click less nerve-wracking for the reader is to include a customer testimonial next to the CTA as evidence, or guarantee, of credibility.

For all CTAs, a direct correlation is a must between the content of the email and the destination of the link you want clicked. For instance, don't make readers click on a "Register Now" button and then send them to the homepage; instead, send them directly to the sign-up form.

Design is more than just aesthetics

Many marketers are undecided about whether to use a text link or a button for the CTA. When considering which to use, look beyond the aesthetics and think about how your customers will view the message. It's important to take into account the type of device your customers are using, because images show up differently—or sometimes not at all—on different devices.

Design the email to accommodate the majority of your customer base.

The most important aspects of a CTA are its visibility and functionality. Accordingly, employ workarounds that give the email the right look and feel: It's preferable to build the CTA in HTML, rather than using an image, because doing so will mean the majority of subscribers will be able to see it. Also include a text link for those reading on devices that support only plain text.

If you plan to include multiple CTAs, it's helpful to make it clear which among them is the most important.

Try not to use the same CTA in every email marketing campaign. Aim to use a unique and interesting CTA that puts a new twist on more common phrases. For example, an uncommon CTA might read "Join other fanatics like you today" or "Start receiving the care you deserve now."

* * *

The CTA is the strongest, most important element of any email, so take time to consider its placement, wording, and design. Don't be afraid to be creative to make your brand stand out, create urgency, and build excitement.

The CTA can significantly increase email engagement and conversion, so it's important to plan your campaign thoroughly and consider the true power behind effectively mapping to those three elements.

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Paul Ford is VP of product and marketing at email delivery and transactional email service SendGrid. Its customers include Pinterest, Foursqare, and Spotify. Paul is a serial entrepreneur, tech evangelist, strategist, and startup adviser.

Twitter: @PaulFord

LinkedIn: Paul Ford