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Making Your Digital Ads PerformRegardless of whether you are putting an ad in your eNewsletter, or creating a Facebook or Google ad, or placing an ad in any other digital media, you will want to maximize the return on your advertising investment. The difference between whether your ad gets your viewers to take action instead of just reacting with a shoulder shrug, is strongly determined by your ad's call-to-action ('CTA').

A CTA is an icon or text statement that encourages the viewer to take a specific desired action, and for online digital ads, the CTA can be clickable. Creating highly effective CTAs that get viewers to react are the ones that best obey the principles of what we call the 3 C's: Content; Character; and Co-Placement.


To be effective, the content of an ad's CTA should do two things:

1) explain exactly what you want the viewer to do; and 2) give them the motivation to take this action.

In other words, "do this action because you will get this benefit."

Here are some suggestions for effective CTA content:


  • Use action words. Words like "buy," "shop," "order," "download" or "subscribe" make it clear to the viewer what they should do.
  • Create urgency or scarcity. People tend to be more motivated by loss than by gain. So, for example, a CTA that creates the fear of missing out by showing a limited time offer, can tend to get a stronger reaction.
  • Give benefits and social proof. The clearer the benefit, the more motivated the viewer will be to take action for your CTA.
  • Use numbers. Using simple numbers like "10% off" or "available for just the next 2 weeks" can boost the effectiveness of your CTA.
  • Personalize your CTA. Studies have shown that simply changing "See our prices" to "Show me my price choices" can have a positive impact on your CTA's conversion rate.
  • Compliment the content of your ad. In a sense, your CTA can be thought of as the final instructions for your ad. So if your ad copy already clearly provides your benefits, then your CTA can be simply about the action they should take, such as "Schedule my appointment" or "Buy now!"

The following are several examples of effective CTA content:

"Book today! 15% off your next referral."
"Try our new service and get $25 off!"
"Call today to schedule your free consultation!"
"Don't miss out! We're just a phone call away."
This week only, get 10% off adding a 2nd service!



The character of your CTA is determined by its design. As with content, this is an important element for the effectiveness of your CTA. As mentioned earlier, most broadly, the design can be a button with text on it, or it can be text displayed on a hyperlink.

For a button style CTA, you can vary color, size, shape, text font, etc. You will want the button to coordinate with the colors and style of your ad, and of course, you will want the button to clearly stand out to the viewer. In general, try to use bright, eye-catching colors for your CTA buttons, but don't get too fancy, as it may distract from the clarity of the simple message of what the viewer needs to do and why. There are free online tools available for creating CTA buttons, which you can find by googling "free online CTA button generator."

For hyperlink style CTAs, depending on the media, you can vary the displayed text's font style, font size, color, bolding, italicizing, etc. And to communicate that it is a hyperlink, you can use underlining, blue color, an ending arrowhead, etc.

Something else to consider is the responsive design of your CTA. Viewers seeing an ad on their mobile phone are more likely to react to a "call now to get started" CTA. Whereas on a tablet or desktop, they can be more likely to react to a "Download a free report sample" CTA. Including your CTA in your responsive design can have it automatically recognize and adjust when viewed on a mobile device versus on a tablet or desktop.



Where you position your CTA with respect to your overall ad copy also impacts its effectiveness. Here are some points to consider for where to place your CTA on your ad:


  • If what you are advertising is fairly simple and straight-forward, your CTA is best going near the top of your ad. But on the other hand, if your proposition is more complex, then your CTA is better near the bottom of your ad.
  • It is fine to have multiple CTAs on a single page, but they need to be consistent and not conflict with each other.
  • Be sure to leave enough blank white space around your CTA so that it clearly stands out.
  • A place to consider for a CTA on your website is on an exit popup, which gets displayed when the viewer's browser recognizes that the viewer is about to exit your webpage.

On a final note, when considering our 3 C's for your CTAs, keep in mind that developing CTAs for your ads can be a trial and error effort to enable achieving your best conversion rate optimization.



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