The CTA—or call to action—should be one of your main tools in the quest to overcome ad blindness. As we’ll see, an effective CTA can help your ad stand out from all the other distracting elements on the page, giving it a better chance of being seen and interacted with. But what makes for a good CTA? How are they written? What are the CTA best practices?
In this post, we answer these questions and more.
What is a CTA?
What is a CTA, really? Some marketers seem to add them as an afterthought—they might throw in a Buy now! because they know that ads are supposed to have CTAs. But there’s more to the CTA than that. Yes, every ad needs a CTA, but if your goal is to optimize click-through rate (CTR), the very worst thing you can do is to mindlessly slap any old call to action onto your ad. As we’ll see, context matters.
To get the technical jargon out of the way, the CTA is part of your ad that tells your target audience what they should do once they click through to your landing page. As we’ll see, a good CTA follows a basic formula. A bad CTA deviates from this formula.
Let’s consider the above CTA: Buy Now!
In terms of combating banner blindness, using this CTA is like going into battle with a flintlock pistol. It fires, but slowly, and your opponents are probably using something better. In other words, this CTA works, kind of, but your competition is probably using something more effective.
A compelling CTA not only lets the reader know what your ad is about – it also dissuades people who aren’t your target audience, saving you money.
How does it do this?
A CTA tells the customer what you want them to do, and it tells them what they stand to gain by doing so.
So, in terms of a formula, we get something like this:
Action you want the reader to take + how doing so will improve the reader’s situation = effective CTA
A good CTA has these two components. If it’s missing one or the other, it’s inadequate.
A powerful CTA achieves three things:
- It lessens banner blindness. The CTA cuts through the noise on the page and gets the reader to think about the benefits of clicking the ad.
- It increases click-through rates. A targeted, concise CTA gets people to click.
- It discourages people who aren’t your target audience, saving you money. As we’ll see in the next section, you can be very specific with your CTAs. This ensures, as much as possible, that only your target audience will click the ad.
A weak CTA contributes to ad blindness.
Think back to our earlier example: Buy Now!
This call to action certainly lets the reader know what you want them to do. You want them to buy your product. That much is obvious. But there’s a problem: the customer probably doesn’t care about you or your company. The customer cares about themselves and how your product can help improve their life in some way.
Many marketers have no trouble telling the prospect what to do, but they forget the other half of the equation. What does the reader stand to gain by clicking through?
Without a strong CTA that tells the reader what you want them to do and what they stand to gain by doing so, your CTR will suffer.
CTA Best Practices
In this section, we’ll explore several CTA best practices. If you follow these principles, your ads will pop, and prospects will be more willing to engage with them. What’s more, following these best practices can help your ads outperform those of your competition.
We’re about to delve into the following principles:
- Strong verbs. Learn how strong verbs can set your CTA up for success.
- FOMO. Learn how the fear of missing out drives prospects to take action.
- Enthusiasm. Use enthusiasm to attract your target audience.
- The benefit. Make sure that FOMO and the benefit of taking action are aligned.
Let’s get started.
#1 – Start Your CTA with a Strong Verb
When creating a CTA, one of your primary goals should be to write in a clear, concise manner. Ad platforms don’t give you a ton of space to work with, and you’re competing with other on-page elements, to boot. With only a few dozen characters at your disposal per line, you have to make your case in a concise manner. Therefore, your first job when writing a call to action is to tell the reader what they should do if interested.
Start the CTA with the desired action, and make sure it’s relevant to the offer you’re leading them to.
For instance, if you own an e-commerce site, and your ad leads directly to a product page, then you would use a verb such as:
But that same shop owner, running traffic directly to their product listings, wouldn’t use irrelevant verbs like:
- Sign up
Too often, marketers use verbs carelessly. If your goal is to drive sales, then your CTA should be aligned with that goal. That way, you’re more likely to get people clicking through who are primed to make a purchase. The last thing you want is to use an irrelevant verb like “subscribe” if your immediate goal is to drive sales.
The person may click through, and they may find your sign up form. But so what? You’ve just spent money getting an email from a person who may never buy a product from you. Your goal was to drive sales.
However, if you’re instead promoting a newsletter, eBook or white paper, then using a verb such as ‘download’ or ‘subscribe’ makes a great deal of sense. You’re priming the reader to take the action you want them to take by ensuring the verb matches the intent of your ad and the offer on the landing page.
Similarly, if you’re trying to get a prospect to request more information, you would use verbs such as:
- Fill out
- Find out
- Learn more
A coach or consultant certainly shouldn’t use a CTA like, Buy now! The prospect viewing the ad would be a top-of-the-funnel lead, and they would not be ready to convert. The consultant’s goal would be to get these leads to join their newsletter, consume their high-quality blog content or watch their helpful videos. In other words, to build a relationship. The CTA, therefore, would need to match that intent.
#2 – FOMO
FOMO, or fear of missing out, is a principle of marketing rooted in scarcity. FOMO, if used appropriately, is a stellar way to spur your prospect to action. No one likes missing out on a good deal. If the lead thinks they’ll miss out, they’ll take action.
You can use FOMO in the benefits half of your CTA to give it an extra pop. Examples:
- Shop today! Get 20% off women’s strapless tops, today only!
- Get exclusive access! The first 100 early adopters get 20% off!
Even the implication of scarcity is enough to motivate.
#3 – Use Words That Provoke Positive Emotion
Of course, you don’t want to focus on scarcity so much that your CTA sounds dour or negative. Always keep the spotlight on the benefit the prospect stands to gain by taking action. Note that, in the above two examples, while the CTA implies that the prospect may lose out if they don’t take action, the overall message is positive.
There’s an air of enthusiasm that permeates the call to action. It’s saying, Hey, if you take action now, you can get this great thing!
You can use verbs like ‘get,’ ‘snag’ and ‘secure’ to give your CTA zing. These zippy verbs give the CTA energy and imbue them with enthusiasm. The end result is an ad that stands out from its surroundings and demands attention.
#4 – Don’t Forget the Why
When crafting the CTA, don’t forget the benefit. What will your product help the prospect do? Lose weight? Make more money? What is the benefit?
The benefit you allude to in the CTA should relate to the offer on the landing page. So if you sell women’s strapless tops, the benefit in your ad’s CTA should relate somehow. In the above example, the CTA calls attention to the fact that strapless tops are currently on sale.
If a lead clicks through an ad, but the landing page feels unrelated, they’ll leave.
#5 – Know Your Devices
People are using mobile more and more, and this is unlikely to change anytime soon. Consider that desktop and tablets share similar resolutions, and many services, such as Google, consider them to be the same for display purposes. After all, people use them with similar search intent. For instance, if someone sees an ad on television, they might use their laptop or their tablet to get more info on the product. They probably wouldn’t jump to their phone for this search if their laptop, desktop or tablet is nearby.
But if you know that people are looking for information about your product or service on mobile, you should absolutely customize your CTAs to that traffic whenever possible. Instead of asking them to click, use something like, Call us! The first 20 callers get our early bird discount! This more targeted CTA is relevant to the device they’re using, and it will help you cut through ad blindness.
In this post, we explored the call to action and why it’s a crucial part of your toolkit for overcoming ad blindness. We covered several best practices that, when used consistently, can help you outperform your competitors. It’s our hope that this concise guide will help you craft effective CTAs that steer targeted traffic into your sales funnel so you can see ever-higher ROI.
As the Founder and Creative Director at Ten26 Media, Jason works directly with business leaders to create digital advertising strategies that improve return on investment on Google, Facebook, LinkedIn, Instagram, and more. During his downtime, you can find him exploring Colorado with his wife and dog, hanging with friends, or playing football.