Get inside your customer’s head: A guide to writing irresistible calls to action
Contributor Jacob Baadsgaard looks at common search motivations and different types of calls to action you can use to motivate people so they can't help but click.
Often, when we think of optimizing our call to action (CTA), we immediately think of landing page buttons and tweaking colors.
However, your landing page CTA isn’t the only marketing CTA that matters.
To get people to your landing page, you need them to click on your ads, which means you need a smart call to action in your ads.
This is particularly important for paid search advertisers in situations where you can’t include imagery to convince people to use your business. To get online searchers to act, you are completely dependent on your paid search copy, including that all-important CTA.
But how do you create the right text ad CTA?
Should you go with an old standby like “Click Here!,” “Buy Now!” or “Sign Up Today!” or something more specific, like “Get Your Free Consultation Today!”?
The answer is… it depends.
As with any online marketing campaign, picking the right paid search CTA is all about getting inside a potential customer’s head. You need to understand the “why” behind a search and how to create a CTA that uses that “why” to get them to click.
Fortunately, you don’t have to be a psychic to figure out someone’s “why.” Every search tells you a lot about what they’re after. All you have to do is use the information to figure out what CTA will give your potential customers what they’re looking for.
In this article, we’re going to take a look at a couple of common search motivations, the “why” behind those searches and different types of calls to action you can use to convince people to click on your ads.
Let’s get started!
Often, people search online because they want something, they have a goal in mind and are searching for a way to accomplish that goal.
For goal-oriented searches, you want your CTA to be the next natural step in a journey toward achieving a searcher’s goal. If your CTA matches what they already want to do, it will be easy for them to click.
Of course, the urgency of a particular goal or search can vary, so you’ll need to adapt your CTA accordingly. Let’s take a look at a few examples:
Example: Low-urgency searches. A search for “free online exercise classes” tells us a lot about a potential customer: They want to exercise at home, and they want to do it for free.
Normally, a word like “free” is a turnoff for paid search marketers. After all, it doesn’t make much sense to pay for clicks from people who don’t want to spend money.
But with the right CTA, it can be a great way to bring in new business. Most of the time, people who are searching for “free” things are trying to minimize risk. Typically, if something works, people are willing to pay for it, but most of us like to try before we buy, so a CTA like “Try it free for 30 days” can be a great way to match the intent of a “free” search.
In addition, a search like “free online exercise classes” is low-urgency, so a call to action like “Sign up today” or “Subscribe” may be a bigger commitment than people are ready to make. For a low-urgency search, you want a low-key CTA that makes them feel that clicking will be easy and risk-free.
Example: Medium-urgency searches. Now, let’s take things up a notch. Someone who types in “best tile saws for granite” isn’t looking for general information or a free trial. They are a lot further down your marketing funnel.
At first glance, the keyword “tile saw” might make you think this is a product search, but someone who searches for “best tile saws for granite” and clicks on a product advertisement will probably read about the product, check out a few reviews and then hit the back button.
Then, they’ll probably click on the next product and go through the same process again. They aren’t looking to buy; they are in research mode.
While sending medium-urgency and intent searches to hard-sell pages like a product page isn’t a bad idea (You can always retarget them as they make their way through their decision-making process), it often isn’t the best CTA for this type of search.
Instead, it’s usually better to pick a CTA that matches the research intent behind their search. For example, an ad like this would probably get a much better response rate (and lead to more sales) than a product ad:
Unlike a product ad, this CTA actually makes life easier for someone who is trying to do some research. As a result, a potential customer is more likely to click, come to trust the advertiser and ultimately make a purchase.
Example: Urgent searches. Finally, we have urgent searches like “locksmith near me.” Most of us don’t think about locksmiths until we really need one, so if someone is searching for “locksmith near me,” they’re probably ready to make a decision and buy right now.
In this situation, the best approach is to choose a CTA that reflects the potential customer’s urgency:
Unlike our previous ads, this is a mobile ad because most urgent searches happen on mobile devices. Researching a purchase is easier on your home computer than your phone, but if you’re locked out of your house and need a locksmith, you probably don’t have access to your PC.
Even if your potential customers aren’t stuck outside in the cold, most urgent searches happen on phones, so it’s important to optimize calls to action for these types of searches for mobile.
In particular, click-to-call buttons can be a handy alternative type of CTA for urgent searches, especially if your business offers a service like locksmithing that is best addressed over the phone.
Feelings are a major motivation behind online searches.
Often, people feel an emotion like fear, loneliness, compassion or excitement about something and search online for a way to channel those feelings.
While a feeling-oriented search may include a goal, the priority behind the search isn’t price or efficiency, it’s meeting an emotional need. For feeling-oriented searches, you need a CTA that “feels right” to convince people to click.
To show you what I mean, let’s go through a few more examples:
Example: Feeling connected. Most of the time, someone who searches for something like “adopt a stray kitten” isn’t looking for a sterile page with cat pictures or information about a cat shelter. Instead, they are looking for an emotional connection.
When someone wants to feel emotionally connected to a company, product or service, calls to action like “browse our huge inventory,” or even “order today and save” can actually be a turnoff.
These calls to action can be useful in other situations, but they are cold and emotionless, not exactly what a future kitten owner is looking for.
For emotion-oriented searches, calls to action with an emotional appeal like “meet our furry friends today” tend to work a lot better than money- or logic-based calls to action:
When your target audience is looking for a feeling of connectedness, the best way to get them to click is an emotional appeal that lets them know that you share their feelings.
Example: Feeling comfortable. Let’s face it, people are tired of dealing with businesses. Businesses are cold, impersonal and in many cases, hard to work with.
If someone uses words like “custom,” “unique,” “personalized” or “intimate” in their search, you can bet they aren’t looking for a CTA that’s focused on volume discounts.
If your target audience is looking for a personalized experience, it pays to use ad copy that makes you sound human and approachable.
For example, informal writing can be an easy way to make people feel comfortable:
With a headline like this, a potential customer would expect to “call now” and talk to a helpful, engaged specialist who cares about creating the perfect ring, not a bored, dry salesman trying to earn a commission.
This ad also includes copy like “has your back,” “get a ring as unique as her” and “any metal, any stone.” These all indicate flexibility and a general interest in the customer’s happiness — which can do wonders for making them feel comfortable clicking on your ad.
Example: Feeling safe
Finally, a third thing people are looking for when they search online is a feeling of safety. Making a purchase, picking a provider or submitting a form online is a bit risky, so people want to feel confident in their decision.
For example, if someone is searching for “best orthodontist in Metropolis,” they’re probably not going to trust anything a business says about themselves. What orthodontic clinic would tout itself as the third- or fourth-best clinic in the city, even if it’s true?
But pictures and testimonials from real clients? That’s a lot more believable.
Often, we relegate social proof to our landing pages, but if used correctly, it can be a powerful CTA for your paid search ads:
The ad above isn’t focused on getting clients to schedule an appointment. Instead, it combines the medium urgency of the search with social proof to convince people to click and schedule an appointment.
A CTA like “Read Lois’s story” is ultimately a lot more compelling than “Schedule now.” Rather than asking the searcher to take a leap of faith, this CTA encourages potential clients to check out Metropolis Orthodontics’ results and decide if the clinic is worth a try.
Now, you can use this tactic with any client testimonial, but it works best when your source is well-known. After all, if Metropolis’s star reporter got her smile at Metropolis Orthodontics, the clinic must be good!
Dialing things in
A good CTA is almost like mind-control. It’s such a natural next step for your target audience that they can’t help but click on your ad.
Okay, so even the best CTA won’t get everyone to click, but a good CTA makes clicking on your ad the easy, obvious decision. To make that work well, though, you have to really understand your audience and the intent behind their searches.
Once you know the “why” behind a search, it should be fairly easy to come up with one or two calls to action that use “why” to convince people to click.
It can take a little testing to get it right, but ultimately, this approach will produce much better results than simply choosing what you want people to do and hoping that they want to do that, too.
Finally, if you really want to make the most of your calls to action, your CTA needs to be closely connected to the content of your landing pages. After all, it doesn’t make much sense to create a compelling CTA that points traffic to an irrelevant landing page.
But when you have the right text ad calls to action, the right landing page experience and a great landing page CTA, your campaigns can be almost irresistible.
In this article, we’ve gone over some of the most important search motivations and ways to address them with your calls to action. Regardless of what CTA you choose to use, the important thing is to start with the intent behind the searches that trigger your ads.
The better you understand your searcher’s intent, the easier it will be to identify a compelling CTA.
Opinions expressed in this article are those of the guest author and not necessarily Search Engine Land. Staff authors are listed here.