Is Your Call To Action A Spanner Or A Monkey-Wrench?
Is Your Call To Action A Spanner Or A Monkey-Wrench?

Is Your Call To Action A Spanner Or A Monkey-Wrench?

As marketers, words are one of our primary tools for communicating with customers. Every marketer knows this, but have you ever paused for a second to think about how you use these tools?

We all grew in up in a society saturated with marketing messages and advertising, so a lot of marketers absorb these messages by osmosis and spit it back out into their sales copy or adverts without really thinking about what they are trying to communicate and why.

There have been many great books written about how to use language more effectively to communicate with an audience, and the consensus of including benefit messages is now on the radar of many marketers when they write ad or sales copy. What I would like to talk to you about today is one specific element of the ad or sales message, the call to action.

Book now


We have all seen a button like the one above. In one sense. it’s totally fine. It does the job of letting people know how they can complete the purchase or booking of the service they want. In another sense though, it is a missed opportunity. Moving our focus from websites to adverts, this becomes doubly true. The call to action button, like all of your ad text, should be a reflection of what the user will actually GET from completing the purchase, or signing up for your service.

Dr Karl Banks from Conversion Rate Experts expressed this really well in a podcast he appeared on for Web Payload, which you can listen to here. The main point of Karl’s argument about using words correctly was this:

If you have a button on your site that says register now, then actually the word ‘register’ isn’t what the visitors gets, its what they have to give. It’s a commitment. It’s giving details, there are no benefits, so if you can re-word ‘register now’, to what they actually get out of it then you will almost definitely get a significant improvement. Depending on what your site is, this could be “Download your free report now” or “Get started now” or in “10 seconds you have have access to …” etc.

The host of the podcast then went on to ask Karl if the use of now in a  call to action was a secret word which almost guarantees more sales or sign ups, to which he replied:

A secret is a bit strong but it’s good. Again there are 2 levels there is the word then their is the function, the underlying function of it, in the same way you would go into a mechanics workshop, there are all these tools on the wall, but each tool has a certain function. It’s easy to forget when you are writing words that each phrase or word has a specific function. Its not about it being a magic word but its about the visitor knowing there will be instant return rather than a delay.


So it works best when there is a possibility on when it wouldn’t be instant so when you say “Download now”, they know they are not going to have to go through a huge rigmarole to get what you are offering. Actually it’s not an over-statement to say that hardly anyone who does copywriting knows that each word is a tool in the mechanics workshop and each word has a specific function, so there are no magic words in the same way there are no magic tools. You would only get out a monkey wrench if you need something that the specific monkey wrench will do. You don’t get out a hammer unless you need something that needs hitting. In the same way there are a lot of very effective words but only effective when there is a particular job they need doing.

When thinking about the limited space of an online text or display ad affords a marketer, then it can be easy to think that it is too difficult to try and incorporate a more meaningful call to action than “Book Now”. However, the other side of this is that you don’t have the partial opt-in that a website has by the time a user chooses to arrive on it (via search, social or whatever channel took them there), so in some ways it is even more important to make use of the call to action to let your potential customer know what they can get by clicking on your ad, rather than simply instructing them to do so.

Looking at the examples below of ads related to hotels in New Orleans, the top ad has a strong price message, but the second ad is much more instructive about the 50% saving a customer will GET. This is a much stronger way to position a benefit than simply stating a low price. The ad also creates urgency in its call to action by informing the user that the offer is time limited, so it compels them to act much more than a flat “book now”, or “find out more” message would.

hotel search ads


In the following ads which appeared for a “flight centre” keyword search, the site links actually contain stronger call to actions than the main body of ad does. This is definitely a missed opportunity to communicate to the potential customer what they will GET from clicking on the ad!


book now text ad



As with most things in life, Apple do this very well. Their branded search ad for iTunes tells the user exactly what they will receive and tells them how quickly they will receive it- instantly. Who could ask for more than that?!?


itunes search ad


If you need some help creating ads with stronger call to actions, why not give the PPC team at Reef a call, or let me know your thoughts on this issue in the comments below.

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