There are a few key basics that every PPC text ad needs in order to rank well and generate clicks:
- A compelling headline
- Relevant keywords
- A relevant display URL
- A call to action
This post focuses on the last requirement. The call to action, or CTA, is the language that tells the searcher what to do – in other words, giving them a reason to click. (Aside from increasing your traffic, a higher click-through rate will also improve your Quality Score, which in turn will lower your costs.)
The default call to action is something like "Buy now!" This may be better than no CTA at all, but it's not very good. It's too familiar, too general and too pushy.
So what's a better call to action? It's good to remember that your CTA doesn't have to be a direct sales push – there are many other soft offers that can push someone to click through to your landing page. Let's take a look at some unusual CTAs and what you can learn from them.
Caveat: I don't know the actual CTRs of these ads; they're meant to be taken as inspiration for more creative creative. If you test different CTAs and find that generic, pushy language performs best in your particular market, more power to you. But don't settle for generic until you've tested.
#1. Show Off Testimonials
In a recent search for "cupcakes new york," these were the top ads:
The CTA in the top ad ("Read the rave reviews we got!") really stands out. First of all, it sounds like a real person, not canned marketing jargon. Secondly, it gives you reason to believe that this bakery is a cut above, since they're bragging about reviews of their great cupcakes instead of expecting you to just take their word for it. I've seen a lot of studies suggesting that customer reviews and testimonials have major influence over online buyers; I know that I always look for them before I buy from an unknown vendor.
This ad isn't perfect. I would have bumped the full call to action down to the second line, and made the first line more of a complete thought. But it's definitely stronger than the second ad, which has no CTA at all. And notice how the fourth ad resorts to the generic "buy/save now" language.
#2. Be Specific About Savings
A search for "K-cups" (the little cups used in single-serving coffee machines) returned the following ads.
The one that really stood out to me has a CTA that's not only very specific but very unusual. Several of the ads say how much you can save per box, but accordingly they kind of run together. This ad switches it up by saying "Lower your cost per cup" instead of "Save blah blah" – indicating that you'll get recurring, not one-time, savings. It partially compelled me to click out of pure curiosity, because I couldn't imagine what they were actually selling. (Turns out they are plastic caps that allow you to refill and reuse your K-Cups with your own ground coffee.) Again, avoiding the "buy/sell" language paid off here.
#3. Make Them Use Their Imagination
Here's a really interesting ad (displayed in response to "wedding planner boston") that only sort of includes a call to action. Instead of telling the searcher to call or sign up or buy, it asks them to "Imagine the spectacular setting of the Boston Public Library…"; this is both original and compelling. If I were getting married in Boston, I'd think that sounded pretty great. Note that the ellipsis at the end really makes a difference – it almost makes it feel more like travel writing than a crude PPC ad. It somehow both pulls you in and encourages you to keep fantasizing about your fabulous future wedding.
#4. Show Off Your Customers
This one is similar to #1, but the ad calls attention to an impressive customer list rather than reviews.
I didn't even know who Jim Rice was (sue me), but a lot of Boston people would recognize the name (he's a Red Sox player), so it's an eye-catching approach.
As a side note, whoever is doing Dr. Melki's PPC campaigns probably needs a lesson in negative keyword discovery. This ad displayed in response to a search for "engraving boston" – I highly doubt anyone searching for "engraving services" is really looking for Lasik surgery. (Google can fly pretty fast and loose with its broad matches.)
#5. Appeal to Their Sentimental Side
This ad manages to describe the product and implore you to pamper your pooch at the same time: "Prevent joint pain" applies to both the bed and to you, if you buy it. As such it's sort of half a call to action, with the full call to action being "Love Your Dog!" I'd categorize this as a soft CTA since it's not directly commanding you to buy, buy, buy. I can see this working well on fawning owners, especially of older dogs.
#6. Make a Bonus Offer
Another way to stand out from the other sponsored links is to offer something additional beyond what the keyword phrase represents.
A search for "carry-on bags" turns up this ad from REI, which wisely infers that people looking for carry-on luggage are preparing to travel! Accordingly the company advertises "Friendly Expert Travel Advice" along with this brand-name bags. This is probably a draw for the type of people that like to obsessively over-prepare for trips as well as spend too much on their luggage. ;)
#7. Provide Instant Gratification
The beauty of shopping via the Internet is that it's fast – you don't have to leave your house. The crappy part is waiting for your stuff to arrive. So offers that emphasize speed can be effective.
This ad intuits that someone searching for "lawyers" doesn't have a lawyer and may just need advice – hence the offer is for live legal advice online, very appealing for people who just want a fast answer and aren't sure who to call.
Here's hoping these creative CTAs help you move beyond "Buy now" in your own PPC ads.