Effective Calls-to-Action

Effective Calls-to-Action: How to Get Users to Take Action

“Read this entire blog post to receive $1 million.” If this were true, I’d spend my entire day reading and re-reading this blog post. However, this is not the case. Now that we’re on the topic of motivating people to take action, I’d like to share a few tips on how to create engaging and effective calls-to-action for your marketing campaigns.

What is a Call to Action?

An effective call-to-action (CTA) is an essential component of any digital advertisement. In a nutshell, a call-to-action tells your audience what you want them to do after they click on your ad. The simplest and often most effective call-to-action is the timeless “Buy Now!” It’s clear, concise, and to the point – there’s very little room for misunderstanding on the audience’s part. The more information you can provide your audience with your CTA the better. Nobody likes it when they expect one thing to happen and a totally different thing happens once they click. This is why it is critical that you are painfully clear (and transparent) when it comes to crafting an effective CTA.

An effective call-to-action tells your audience exactly what to expect when they click on your ad. In most cases, this results in members of your target segment clicking on your ad. Furthermore, an effective call-to-action also discourages the wrong users from clicking on your ad. Naturally, it is important to understand what sort of phrasing or messaging potential customers will respond to within your industry. However, the following tips are equally valuable when it comes to crafting an effective call-to-action.

Effective Calls-to-Action Start with a Strong Verb

When writing an effective call-to-action, it is critical that you’re clear and concise. You don’t have a ton of space in your ad to get your point across. In fact, you should limit your calls-to-action to 35 characters or less. It’s important that you cut the fluff and get to the point.

Here are a few examples of how to open an effective call-to-action with a powerful verb.

  • Do you run an e-commerce website? If so, start your CTA with verbs like “buy,” “shop,” or “order.”
  • If you’re promoting a newsletter or white paper, you may want to try verbs like “download” or “subscribe.”
  • Want someone to request additional information, you should try phrases like “fill out this form for…” or “find out how…”

Let’s backtrack to the white paper example. If you’re a marketing agency looking to promote your latest tips and insights, you want to ensure that your audience knows how to access the white paper. If your CTA is something like “our current white paper is available,” you likely won’t get a great click-through rate. This is because your audience may not know where or when they can expect to gain access to your white paper. However, you can hit a home run with a CTA such as “download our white paper today!” This second option is far more direct and informative, which in turn will likely improve your click-through rate (CTR).

Employ Words that Bring About Emotion or Enthusiasm

Effective Calls-to-Action Emotions

One key goal of any sort of marketing is to invoke some sort of emotion. This is especially true in the world of B2C marketing. If your CTA is enthusiastic, then your audience will be enthusiastic too and will get hyped about your product and/or service. Take an effective call-to-action like “Buy now and save 50%.” Let’s be real here, who wouldn’t be psyched to save 50%?

For an individual looking to book a family vacation, a CTA along the lines of “plan your dream vacation today!” will get them excited about the idea of a family trip and make your audience eager to click on your ad. A minor element that separates awesome CTAs from the rest is the use of exclamation points at the end of your CTA. Including an exclamation point prokes that sense of enthusiasm that we’ve been talking about. They literally make your CTA pop and gives it a little extra kick.

Give Your Audience a Reason to Take the Desired Action

In other words, what’s in it for them? Will it help them improve their golf swing, increase their net worth, perform better in bed? This element ties in heavily with your value proposition, or your unique selling point (USP). Your USP is quite possibly one of the most important components of attracting and gaining new leads. So creating an effective call-to-action/USP combination is a great way to increase inbound clicks to your website. An effective example of this would be something like “call today for a free estimate!” Not only have you state the desired action (call now), but you have also provided a reason for the user to take action (free estimate).

Make the Most of FOMO to Write an Effective Call-to-Action


This is a personal favorite of the various CTA tactics when it comes to incorporating an effective call-to-action. Fear of missing out – aka FOMO – is a powerful motivator. When your audience thinks that they might lose out on an opportunity that is time-sensitive, they’ll be wicked quick to hop on the opportunity.

One of the most effective uses of FOMO in your CTA is to mention a sale or promotion that won’t last forever. You likely get a plethora of emails with this sort of messaging all the time – I know I sure do! We’re talking about messaging like “Shop today! Sale ends Monday!” during the holiday season. It’s tough to shy away from a prompt like that, especially during a time-sensitive, high-pressure type of situation (e.g. Christmas shopping season). Similar to inspiring enthusiasm as we touched on earlier, provoking FOMO in your CTA is a surefire way to earn a few extra clicks.

Know Your Devices

Developing an effective call-to-action is critical. However, you need to consider customizing your CTAs based on the device your audience is using. Google views laptops and tablets as the same type of device since the screen sizes are relatively the same and people use them for search in similar situations. For instance, a person sitting on the couch at night sees a TV ad for a product that piques their interest. They will likely grab their laptop or tablet and do some additional research.

However, mobile devices are a different story. Mobile devices have different user behavior and search intent compared to laptops and tablets. This difference means that you need to adjust your effective calls-to-action based on the user’s type of device. Laptop and tablet users are typically still in the initial research stage and not quite ready to commit. However, users searching on their mobile device (eg smartphone) are often looking for instant gratification or fast results.

Let’s take Jim for instance. He’s walking down the street and sees an advertisement on a bus driving down the street. Jim proceeds to take out his phone and quickly search for what he saw before they forget about it. This search will likely result in a phone call to complete the desired action, rather than browsing a website. This situation highlights the importance of creating CTAs tailored to generating phone calls for ads that appear on mobile devices. You could try something like “call now to get started” or “call today for more information.” This should help guide your audience to take the action you want them to take.

Make Mobile CTAs Even More Effective

There are two main ways you can make this tactic even more effective:

  • Google offers the option to set a mobile preference for your ads. This allows you to designate certain ads to only appear for searches conducted on a mobile device. Thanks to this option, you can refine your CTA to generate more phone calls.
  • You can also enable call extensions. These allow you to display your phone number alongside your ads. This option is available for all devices and I encourage you to take full advantage of it. One awesome feature of call extensions is that Google automatically adjusts how your call extensions are displayed on mobile searches. Instead of showing your phone number, a “Call Now” button will show. This allows for one-touch dialing. This is what Google calls “Click-to-Call.”

Don’t Be Afraid to Get Creative!

Fresh calls-to-action and effective calls-to-action. An old-fashioned A/B test is a great way to figure out which CTA’s work and which are total duds. While tried and true calls-to-action like the ones we’ve previously discussed are always a safe bet, you never really know how they’ll perform until you actually give them a go.

Pay-per-click (PPC) is most certainly a game of trial and error, which can make it quite frustrating. Your CTAs are no exception to this fact. Something could look perfect on paper or may sound great when a colleague recommends it, but the only way you can know for sure whether it will work for your situation is to test it out. Your target audience may not respond well to what you consider a “surefire CTA,” which is enough to make you go insane. You need to test different CTAs and it helps if you get creative on occasion. If your target audience isn’t responding well to your ads, it can’t hurt to think outside of the box. Check out this post on creative and non-kosher CTAs if you’re looking for some extra inspiration.

Use Numbers Whenever Possible

Consumers respond nicely to numbers, such as pricing, discounts, promotions, incentives, etc. Numbers help us determine whether it’s worth splurging on items we want desperately but probably aren’t essential to our everyday lives. So when the opportunity presents itself, why not appeal to your target audience’s inner desires?

Effective Calls-to-Action Numbers

It’s always a great idea to include pricing in your ad copy alongside a CTA. When users see your pricing information in your ad and decide to click through to your site, you know that they’re still interested in the product/service you’re offering. You now know that you have a valuable click, which means a better shot at generating a conversion. On the other hand, if you don’t include pricing in your ad copy, users may click through to your site, excited about your offerings, but get scared off by your prices. This is a far less desirable situation. This typically leads to wasted ad spend and who wants to deal with that?

Try experimenting with your pricing information in your CTA. The same goes for any other sort of numerical information. Take a CTA such as “Shop today for TVs under $300!” You not only show users how much they will pay for a TV, but you also hit on the FOMO element – sneaky stuff, ‘eh? If you’re running a special promotion for shopping, you could try something like “order by Sunday for 1-day shipping.” Maybe you operate an auto collision shop and you’re looking to incentivize your audience with a discount. Your CTA could go something like this – “Book today! 15% off your next visit.”

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