What Is a Call to Action? (Click Here to Find Out)

By Chris Loren| 5 Min Read | March 12, 2021
What is a call to action

Pay per click (PPC) advertising only makes sense when it’s driving towards a specific goal. 

You want people to download a demo of your software, or you want them to call for an estimate for your company’s rocketship repair services. You start with the goal and then you build the ad campaign around that goal. 

So how do you drive people to take action and fulfill your ad’s purpose? That, my friends, is where the mighty call to action (CTA) comes in. Simply put, a CTA is how you tell people to do the thing you want them to do. Refinance your home today! Get your 6 lbs. of broccoli here! Etc. 

Still confused? Below I’ve listed some CTAs and some things that are definitely not CTAs. 


  • Call for a quote. 
  • Like and subscribe. 
  • Click here for the best prices on hoagies. 

Not CTAs:

  • We have the best prices on hoagies. 
  • 5,000 cars at dealership prices. 
  • What do you want for dinner tonight?

Do you see the difference? One group is clearly telling the viewer what to do. The other group is making statements or asking about food. (Sorry, I am very hungry right now.) 

Some of the most important characteristics of a successful CTA are as follows: 

It’s Visible on the Ad 

You need people to be able to see your CTA without having to search for it or click into anything. 

Any nonsense that gets between your potential customer’s eyes and your call to action is going to deter them from staying interested. If you’re selling tickets to Jurassic Park, maybe somebody will click through six pages until they get to the place where they can buy the tickets, but let’s be honest. Nobody is selling tickets to Jurassic Park because we’ve definitely learned our lesson about trying to open up an amusement park filled with genetically crafted giant lizards. Anything less exciting than Jurassic Park needs the CTA right there on the ad in plain sight. 

It’s Written as a Command or Action Phrase 

Tell people exactly what you want them to do. Spell it out for them. 

If you want somebody to download your survey, tell them to download the dang survey right here. It might seem aggressive to be telling people what to do, but I promise you that you’re not offending anybody. I mean with your CTA. I can’t say for certain whether or not you’re offending people with other things you’re doing. 

It Suits the Rest of the Ad 

I see PPC advertising as a ballet of two equally important parts. 

The front end of the ad is what sets up the interest. Hey, are you looking for cheap limo services for your LARP event this weekend? Why yes. Yes we are. That first part of the ad is what catches our eye. It lets us know that we and the ad are on the same page, figuratively speaking. We’re sharing the same concern, like part of our roof just fell off and we don’t know what to do about it. Or it lets us know we’re sharing an interest, like ‘90s cartoon-styled playing-card decks. 

The CTA is the punchline or the solution to that first part. Hey, we know about roofs! Call us about your roof! Separately, these two things are mostly powerless. Together, they are the mighty force that drives people to your business. 

It Focuses on One Thing and One Thing Only 

A good CTA focuses on one goal. 

If you want people to contact you for carpet samples and also to check out your current Halloween sale on bathroom tiles, you need to make two separate ads. By cramming both CTAs into one ad, you’re diluting the power of each of them and making your ad less successful. 

While many of us come equipped with two eyes, we usually just want to use both of them to focus on one thing at a time. Likewise, your ads should only be giving me one focused CTA. I know that analogy is a bit of a stretch, but I’ve already used up my bank of Jurassic Park and hoagie mentions. 

The beauty of CTAs is that they’re already a big part of our lives, though we don’t often think about them. For instance, a little while ago somebody I work with said to me “Do you feel up to contributing some content to our website? Write a blog about CTAs!” 

And I was like “Woah. Meta.”

But in all seriousness, if you can master the CTA, you can turn your PPC advertising into a great investment. There are other factors, like researching analytics to make sure your ad is reaching the right people, but those things are beyond the purview of this blog. 

Still feel like you need to learn more about CTAs? Scroll up now and re-read the entire thing!

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