Hook, Line, and Sinker: 7 Tips for a Killer Call-to-Action


Read to the end of this blog post to receive $1 million!

Oh, if only that were true. I’d probably read through more than once. However, now that I have you thinking about the proper way to motivate someone, I’d like to share some tips on how to craft a clear and engaging call-to-action (CTA) for your marketing campaigns.

What Is a Call to Action in Marketing?

In marketing, your call to action is the part of your advertisement that tells your target audience what they should be doing once they click on your PPC ad and hit your website or landing page. The simplest example of a call to action is "Buy now!" The more information you can provide your potential customers with your CTA, the better it will be for all parties involved. You can let your audience know what to expect when they click on your ad, and you can help dissuade the wrong users from clicking by means of a clear and direct message. While it is also important to understand what industry-specific phrasings or messaging your potential customers would respond well to, the CTA tips below are equally valuable.

calls to action

Image via Boris Lechaftois

1. Use a strong command verb to start your CTA

It’s all about being clear and concise with your CTA. You don’t have a ton of space in your ad to get your point across, with the character limit set at 35 characters per description line, so it is important to get straight to the point. Let your audience know exactly what you want them to do, and don’t dilly dally – start the CTA with the desired action.

  • Run an e-commerce website? Start your CTA with words like “buy,” “shop,” or “order”
  • Promoting a newsletter or white paper? Start your CTA with words like “download” or “subscribe”
  • Want someone to request more information? Try “fill out a form for…” or “find out how…”

Let’s go back to that white paper example. If you’re a marketing agency promoting your latest tips and insights, you want to be sure to that your audience understands exactly how to access that white paper. If your CTA read something like “Our latest white paper is available” you may not get a great click-through rate, as folks might not be sure where or when they can expect to get their hands on it. A call-to-action such as “download our white paper today!” is much more direct and informative, which should help improve CTR.

2. Use words that provoke emotion or enthusiasm

You want to be able to elicit a strong response from your audience as a result of their enthusiasm. If your CTA is enthusiastic, then your audience will be enthusiastic too. Take a CTA like “buy now and get 50% off!” – not only are you providing them with a massive benefit, but who wouldn’t be thrilled to get their order for half off?

For someone looking to book a trip with their family, a CTA such as “plan your dream vacation today!” will excite them about the notion of a family trip and make them eager to click on your ad. A small, yet effective element here is adding an exclamation point to the end of your CTA in order to provoke that enthusiasm. It makes your CTA pop, and gives it a little extra kick.

marketing call to action guide

Look how much more exciting exclamation points make everything

3. Give your audience a reason why they should take the desired action

In other words, what’s in it for them? Will it help them do their jobs better, lose weight, or save money? This will tie in heavily with your value proposition, or unique selling point (USP). Your USP is arguably one of the most important pieces of acquiring new leads, so creating a nice USP/CTA mash-up is a great way to increase clicks. A good example of this would be something like “call today to schedule your free consultation!” Not only have you stated the action you want the user to take (call today), but you have also provided them with a reason why they should take that action (a free consultation).

4. Take Advantage of FOMO

This is actually one of my favorite tactics when it comes to a successful CTA. Fear of missing out, otherwise known as FOMO, is an extremely effective motivator. When people think they might lose out on an opportunity that might not come around again, they’ll be mighty quick to hop on the bandwagon. One of the best uses of FOMO in your CTA is to mention a sale or promotion that your company is holding, and which won't last forever. You probably get emails with this sort of messaging all the time, I know I sure do. I’m talking about messaging like “Shop today! Sale ends on Monday,” perhaps during a three-day weekend. Or even “buy now while supplies last!” during the holiday season. It’s tough to ignore a prompt like that, especially during a time-sensitive, under-the-gun type of situation (e.g. the Christmas season). Similar to provoking enthusiasm as we discussed earlier, provoking fear of missing out in your CTA is sure to get you some additional clicks.

call to action tips

One is the loneliest number that you’ll ever do

5. Know your devices

Creating a killer call-to-action is important, that’s no secret. But I also urge you to consider customizing your CTA based on the device being used by your audience. Google considers desktop and tablet as the same device, as the screen sizes are roughly the same, and people use them for search in similar scenarios. An example of this would be a person sitting on the couch at night, who sees an ad on TV for a product they’re interested in. The next thing they’ll probably do is grab their laptop or tablet and search for more information on it.

However, mobile devices tend to have different user behavior and search intent than desktop/tablets, making it prudent to tailor your CTA based on device. Users who search for something on their desktop or tablet are typically still doing their research, and are not quite ready to commit. But users searching for something on their mobile phone are often looking for “instant gratification” or fast results. Someone could be walking down the street when they see an ad on a moving bus, and whip out their phone and quickly search for what they saw before it leaves their brain. Their search will also likely result in a phone call to complete the desired action, rather than browsing a website. My advice is to create a more phone call-centric CTA for your ads that appear on mobile devices. You could try something like “call now to get started” or “call us today for more information,” and that should help guide your target audience to take the action you want them to take.

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

  • Google gives you the ability to set a mobile preference for your ads, which allows you to designate certain ads to only appear for searches completed on mobile devices. With this option, you can focus your CTA on generating more phone calls.
  • You can also enable call extensions, which allow you to display your phone number alongside your ads. This option is available for all devices, and I strongly recommend that you take advantage of it, but Google automatically adjusts the way your call extensions are displayed on mobile searches. Instead of your number appearing, a small “Call” button will be display, allowing for one-touch dialing. This is what is known as Google’s “Click- to-Call” function.

mobile calls to action

Google’s Click-to-Call button appears on mobile searches

6. Don’t be afraid to get a little creative

It’s important that you keep your CTA’s fresh, much like you should with your ad copy in general. A good, old-fashioned A/B test is a great way to identify which CTA’s bring you clicks, and which CTA’s bring you frowns. While your tried and true calls-to-action like the ones we’ve already discussed are always good to use, you really never know how they’ll perform in your account until you actually use them.

PPC is definitely a game of trial and error (which is why it can be frustrating!), and your calls-to-action are no exception to the rule. Something could look great on paper, or may sound great when a colleague recommends it to you, but the only way you’ll absolutely know for sure if something will work for your account is if you test it out. Your target audience may not respond well to what could be considered a “surefire CTA,” which is enough to make you pull your hair out. I recommend not only testing different CTA’s, but being creative with them too. If your target audience isn’t responding well to your ads, you might as well try to think outside the box a bit!

creative call to action examples

Elisa Gabbert shared some examples of creative CTAs in a blog post if you are looking for some additional inspiration, while Dan Shewan examined what makes some call to action examples so effective in a separate post, so do your research!

7. Use numbers when possible

We consumers respond well to seeing numbers such as pricing, discounts, promotions, incentives, etc. It helps us to determine whether or not it’s worth splurging on items we desperately want, but probably aren’t essential to everyday life. So when the opportunity arises, why not appeal to your target audience that way? I am always a big proponent of including pricing information in your ad copy in general, and that includes your CTA. If a user sees your pricing information in your ad, and decides to click through to your site, then you know they are still interested in the product or service you are offering. Now you know you have yourself a valuable click, and an increased chance at generating a conversion. But, if you don’t include your pricing information in your ads, someone may click through to your site, excited about your products/services, but then get scared off by your prices; now you have yourself a less than desirable situation. This leads to the dreaded wasted spend in your account, and who wants to deal with that?

Try experimenting with your pricing information in your CTA, as well as any other applicable numerical information. A CTA such as “Shop today for TVs under $300!” not only shows a user how little they will pay for a TV, but it also hits on the FOMO element as well (pretty sneaky huh?). If you are running a special promotion for shipping, you could try something like “order by Sunday for 1-day shipping.” Maybe you are an auto body shop looking to incentivize your audience with a discount; your CTA might look something like “Book today! 15% off your next visit.”

Honorable mention: Use crappy language

This doesn’t make the top 7, as it can be a little risqué, but it can also be pretty effective in catching someone’s eye. I don’t always recommend trying this, as it can be tough to pull off, but sometimes using negative words can motivate a person to change something they are self-conscious about. For example, if I was on Google looking to lose weight and saw a call-to-action such as “end your crappy diet today,” I might just want to click. Sure, it’s a bit brash, which is why I recommend using this technique sparingly, but it definitely commands attention.

Another example might be if I was looking to fix the brown patches in my lawn. If I was perusing Google and saw an ad with a CTA like “your yard sucks, let us fix it,” not only would I probably chuckle, but I would also probably click – just to see exactly what that lawn company could do for me. You’re walking a fine line with this technique, but it can pay off.

Do you have a preferred call-to-action, or perhaps one that surprised you with how well it did? What about one that you were hoping would perform well but ended up bombing? I’d love to hear about it, so feel free to sound off below!

MORE: 17 Best Practices for Crazy-Effective CTA Buttons






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Oct 12, 2014

Great post! It is great information. This is the most effective way to learn and know these 7 tips for a killer call to action. This is very helpful and useful for marketing. I will definitely share this article to my friends. I learned and many great insights here. Thanks for sharing this article. 

Billy McCaffrey
Oct 14, 2014

Hi Jeremy,Thanks for reading, and thanks for the feedback! Glad you enjoyed it.

Tobias Garamond
Oct 16, 2014

Yeah, let's continue to turn our lifes into a world of exclamation marks!!!Thank you.

Billy McCaffrey
Oct 20, 2014

Thanks for reading, Tobias!!! I couldn't agree more!!!

Oct 16, 2014

Thank for your tutorial about 7 tips for a killer call-to-action. It is very interesting and I will try what you described here. I hope it can be successful.

Billy McCaffrey
Oct 20, 2014

Glad to hear it, Sudarto! I would love to know what works for you and what doesn't.

John Fitzgerald
Oct 16, 2014

Some great ideas there Billy! My CTR for my campaigns hasn't always been great and I have often wondered if the wording in my ads needs to be improved or changed. I haven't doen the A/B test either, but will put that into practice straight away. Have shared this on my Social Media!

Billy McCaffrey
Oct 20, 2014

Thanks for reading, John. A/B testing can be extremely beneficial to your account performance.Thanks for the share as well!

Oct 16, 2014

"Fill out a form for" is the worst call to action I've ever seen.  Please, please let me fill out your form can I? can I? can I?Seriously? 

Simone stewart
Oct 16, 2014

Being a newbie to the world of Internet marketing, I am so delighted to have this information. Would you mind looking at my website and see how I could improve it? I would love the feedback.
Thanks again for a great post.

Devon Marquis
Oct 16, 2014

Wonderful article - very useful and informative.  It seems that all of these are great advice.  However, I must agree with Rob who commented previously that "Fill out a form" isn't a very good CTA line.Also in #6, in the "Spice It Up" column, in the 2nd row, the CTA line "A healthier life starts now!" seems to contradict with the sentiments outlined in #1, where the recommendation is to use a strong CTA verb and have a clear CTA in general.Other than that, superb article.  I have yet to try the A/B testing.  I've done some research on it and it makes a ton of sense to run various ads, tweaking one thing at a time - it's almost like a science experiment from high school - testing "variables" with "controls."Thanks for the article Billy!

Billy McCaffrey
Oct 20, 2014

Hi Devon,I appreciate the feedback, and thanks for reading!

Mohammad Umair
Oct 17, 2014

Hi Billy.This is a wonderful and helpful write-up. It would have been even great if you had used actual CTA examples as images rather than random images.

Oct 18, 2014

Please take this article off, I don't eant that everybody knows... ;)

Justin Lanigan
Oct 20, 2014

Great post. Call to action is one of those seemingly small things that have a huge impact on conversion.

Oct 22, 2014

Great post! I'd also mention that CTA buttons (on your website itself) should be clear and stand out -- through color, format, etc.

Billy McCaffrey
Oct 23, 2014

I couldn't agree more, Isabelle. You want that button to pop!

Omelia C Thornton
Jan 02, 2015

I really enjoyed this article. I receive a decent amount of foot traffic to my website and initiating a call to action really helps move people to action.

J.T. Smith
Oct 30, 2015

I love the idea of saying "your (object) sucks, let us fix it." In my mind, it is a lovely humor appeal and makes you seem like an authority on whatever you are promoting.

Dec 03, 2015

I was looking for some call to action for my new blog, you share some good ideas, I am going to try them out now thanks. (ps thanks a $1 million)

Jan 25, 2016

CTA improved!!!

Loved the article.

Dec 29, 2016

Thanks, good article.

Tahira Qariem
May 17, 2017

Berliant post and it is very usefful for me a beginer seo learn thanks so much for sehring

Bo Tipton
Jun 30, 2017

This call to action really surprised me. It is one of the better converting CTAS I have used.

"Are you ready to get off the broke Merry-go-round that is your life then change things NOW by Clicking Here."

I used one day having fun and was surprised at the reaction to it.

shane paulsen
Oct 29, 2017

Very Good post. I have a website design website and i was wondering if the phrase "Let People find your business today" would work. Please give me your thoughts on this?

Jayant Gosain
Dec 16, 2017

Oh well, that was pretty good. Using negative words actually works great for health and fitness. Never Experienced the lawn job though.
Thanks for sharing.

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