How to write call-to-actions in different languages

Web pages are optimized for directing visitors into taking a certain action. There is a lot of psychology behind what to put into call-to-action buttons and what color they should be. Having an international focus adds another dimension to that. Not only do you need to focus on creating clickable call-to-action buttons or blocks, but you must think about what to put in them and how to translate them. In this blog, we will discuss the influence language has on the efficacy of these call-to-action buttons. 

If you want to see the influence language has on different call-to-actions, take a look at one of the worlds’ largest online retailers: Amazon. The table below shows their call-to-action button for signing up with their Amazon Prime service, which gives you many extra's when shopping with them.  

Call to action in different languages

As we look at the different content within these buttons to lead visitors into signing up for a free Amazon Prime trial, we notice the following: 

  • Some use only uppercase letters, some do not.
  • Some languages make it personal, as in ‘start my trial’. 
  • Some do not even specify that it is free.
  • Some are a lot shorter than others.

How to write the right CTA for international users 

The example above tells us that there is no straightforward way of just translating an English call to action and assume it would work well in other languages too. Depending on your visitor's language, they may or may not be triggered by certain nuances in the CTA. Be aware of this when you internationalize your website. 

Trying to reverse-engineer the translation process and write CTAs that can sound natural in another language might not be the best option. For example, the literal translation of a CTA like ‘Learn how our tool can optimize your work processes’ would never be on a German website. It would sound very unnatural for a German user. Also, CTAs with passive verbs are tricky to translate and would turn out to be far too long in the German language.  

Aside from problems that might arise when translating CTAs there are also cultural differences that you need to consider. With French people, you must be careful how you phrase words. What you are selling needs to be true. We see this in the example above, the trial is free and it lasts for 30 days. The same applies to the German translation. Germans are known to being risk averse and want to know everything in advance. And that is exactly what they are getting in this call to action. With one click of a button they are informed that they are: 

  • Starting a trial.
  • It's from Amazon Prime.
  • The trial starts today.
  • It lasts for 30 days.

It is not neccesary to put in so much details in a Spanish call-to-action. Spanish people tend to be very loyal to brands they identify with. In other words: there is no need to be super-specific. They will trust in the fact that Amazon Prime can be tried out for free and do not need to be bothered by all the specific details. The same goes for the Dutch. However, since they are being known as cheap, the small detail of adding the word free to the CTA makes it a little more interesting and appealing to them.  

What to do with translating call-to-actions? 

Think of a tone of voice that resonates well with your company. Then make sure that you hire a professional to translate your website or CTAs. This can be someone local or a translation company. Make sure the quality is up to standard. Many translation companies do not use locals for their translation work, which is a huge miss in translating effective communication. Cultural aspects need to be considered. It is not about changing your corporate identity or the way you come across to potential clients, it is about adopting a different communication style to accommodate your foreign readers. Once you follow that strategy, you will be successful in directing any reader in any language into a certain action!  

Need help?

If you feel overwhelmed by these elements or want to get information from a local professional within digital marketing in the European landscape, we will be happy to assist you.

We have helped over 300 North American companies to get a foothold in the European market. Whether you need detailed market research, website localization, or help with advertising campaigns, EuroDev can help you to reach your target audience here in Europe.

If you’re interested in more detailed information or the opportunities for your brand in Europe, then please contact us

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