How Accurate is Your Call to Action?

Every pay-per-click (PPC) ad needs a call to action so the person viewing the ad knows what to do when they land on the page, especially because you are paying for this traffic.  If the call to action is not clear, visitors will leave your site without converting.  Depending on your goals, the call to action can be anything from purchase online to learn more about a particular product.  However, there is a certain degree to how descriptive the call to action can be and thus how effective an ad will convert.

Let’s say you are a B2B company selling computer software and your desired conversion is for visitors to download a whitepaper.  Your landing page contains a short description of the whitepaper, an image, and a form.  The headline above the form reads Download this Whitepaper, while the button to submit your information says Submit.  Upon filling out the form, visitors are taken to a thank you page with a link to the whitepaper.   Overall, this conversion process is straightforward, but how will you write your PPC text ads to entice visitors to download this whitepaper?  Take a look at these 3 ads, all pointing to the same landing page, but each using a different call to action.

Read the Free Whitepaper

I anticipate being taken to a page that contains the whitepaper.  I realize I will have to click another link to bring the whitepaper up, but my expectation is that I will immediately read the document that the ad has stated.  When I get to the page and see that I have to fill out a form to read the whitepaper I get frustrated and leave.  Though the call to action did not lie to me, it left out a part of the conversion process. That’s a weak link in your conversion path.

Download Free Whitepaper

This call to action is very similar to the previous one, however, it is slightly more accurate as the headline repeats the call to action in the ad.  The same issue exists, though, as my impression is I will be able to download the whitepaper without having to fill out a form.  Unfortunately, I do have to fill out the form so again, there’s a disconnect between expectation and reality, and another potential lost connection.

Sign Up for a Whitepaper

I click this ad knowing I will need to submit personal information in order to read this whitepaper.  The call to action and the subsequent landing page are in line with each other and there is no form of trickery.  I fill out the form and proceed to read the whitepaper.

Other Considerations

Several other factors could sway me for or against signing up for the whitepaper.  Perhaps I don’t mind filling out a form to download the whitepaper because the description on the landing page whets my appetite.  Or the form has too many fields, prompting me to leave the site, even though I knew I would have had to provide personal information.

As a PPC specialist, ad click-thru-rate (CTR) comes into play as well.  I would have to see if a certain call to action is showing me a higher or lower CTR than another; generally the higher the CTR the less you are going to have to pay per click.


The call to action should not only tell visitors what to do, but it should also be accurate.  If you want visitors to sign up to read a whitepaper, tell them so in your ad.  Remember that visitors want to know exactly what they are supposed to do.  As an advertiser, you are weeding out irrelevant clicks by making the call to action that much more specific.  Not only will you gain more conversions, you’ll save money on irrelevant clicks.

The call to action is your chance to tell potential visitors what you want them to do.  Make sure you are making an accurate statement.

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5 Responses to How Accurate is Your Call to Action?

  1. Interesting post. I’d say in the scenarios above, it would make sense to split-test both creatives and see which ones are most efficient in achieving your objectives, i.e. volume of leads and CPA

  2. Good post. I agree it’s really important visitors know what they should be doing when they see your ads and this really will avoid unnecessary clicks as well. Thanks.

  3. Robert Brady says:

    While I agree with your comment about the “Download Free Whitepaper” copy on a semantic level, I believe that many people do expect to give up some type of information to get the free download. I would guess that “Download Free Whitepaper” would actually outperform “Sign Up for a Whitepaper” simply because downloading is a one-time transaction with immediate gratification, while signing up suggests an ongoing relationship (that they might not want).

  4. Good point, Robert, and I certainly understand the rationale. And even though I prefer the “Sign Up” call to action because it tells me exactly what I need to do, I understand the psychology.

    My argument is that I want to give a potential visitor the most accurate description before he/she clicks. Ultimately, though, the number of conversions will determine which call to action is working best.

  5. Dom Calisto says:

    It’s a toughie. There will always be a drop off with visits from ‘Download Free’ and users avoiding ‘Sign Up’ in the first place.

    It also depends on what the LP is like with the Sign Up process as well. Anything with more than 2 fields is eugh.

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