Can Calls to Action Be Targeted to Increase Conversions?

Calls to action (CTAs) are a fundamental tool of digital marketing. In fact, they were a fundamental marketing tool long before digital marketing was a thing. The CTA is designed to encourage people to make a decision on marketing information they have just absorbed. So here’s a question for CTAs in the digital marketing arena: can they be targeted in any way to increase conversion rates? In a word, yes.

Most of the discussion around CTAs within the SEO realm is general. It is not until you get into the depths of conversions and click-through rates that you start wondering how CTAs can be targeted. But do a deep dive into your analytics data and it eventually becomes clear how important they really are.

The CTA Thermometer


Pay-per-click (PPC) experts know that there is a direct correlation between user intent and conversion. They measure the various stages of the conversion cycle in terms of temperature. Thus, you have what is known as the PPC or CTA thermometer. Both terms refer to the same thing. Your choice is a matter of preference.

A person who arrives at your website as the result of an organic Google search arrives with the coldest possible intent. That user may or may not find the information on your website relevant. They could either be window shopping or eager to purchase something. The user might even be a curiosity seeker who hasn’t come to your site for any particular reason.

On the other hand, a visitor who lands on your site after clicking on a remarketing pay-per-click ad comes with very warm intent. This is a person who knows why they are visiting your site. They are intending to buy, whether it’s from your site or another. Either way, their intent is warm. They plan to buy something from somebody.

How the Thermometer Applies

By now you are probably wondering how the CTA thermometer applies. The principle is pretty simple. You want to match your CTAs with the intent of the users visiting your site. Someone with a cold intent isn’t necessarily looking to make a positive decision. It would be unwise to try to hit that visitor immediately with an invitation to become a registered user of your site. That is too much, too soon.

A better CTA for visitors with cold intent is something like a coupon code or a free offer. Infographics and links to podcasts work very well as CTAs for cold intent. As user intent warms, your CTAs can be more aggressive.

Most online advertisers run different types of PPC ad campaigns at the same time. Some are generic campaigns just designed to drive as much traffic as possible to the advertiser’s website. Others are more targeted campaigns hoping to get warmer users to a dedicated landing page. CTAs should reflect that. Advertisers should be using different CTAs at various locations on their sites.

The Ad Fraud Wild Card


Modifying and targeting CTAs to account for audience temperature should be a normal part of PPC advertising. But there is a wild card here: ad fraud. What is ad fraud? Fraud Blocker describes it as purposely clicking on or displaying a digital ad without any intent to visit the linked website or purchase anything. There are many reasons for doing it:

  1. Driving Revenue – Fraudulent ad platforms that exist for no other reason but to perpetrate ad fraud do so to drive up revenue. They earn money with every click or display. So, to boost both, they utilize things like click farms and click bots to continually hit ads.
  2. Harm the Competition – Some companies actually perpetrate click fraud in an attempt to hurt the competition. They know that click bots and incessant manual clicks deplete a competitor’s digital marketing budget.
  3. Inflating Impressions – Some types of ads do not directly boost revenues for scammers. Instead, they fraudulently inflate impressions. The higher the volume of impressions, the more a scammer can charge for their services.

These are just three of the possibilities for perpetrating ad fraud. The reason for pointing this out is to suggest that advertisers should be sure ad fraud isn’t an issue before they start looking at CTAs. A good click fraud protection software package should do the trick. Weed out the fraud first, then target your CTAs.

Outside the PPC Realm


Most of what this post has discussed relates to CTAs in the PPC advertising realm. But truth be told, effective CTAs are not limited to paid advertising. CTAs can and should be embedded in blog posts. They should be included in informational articles, product descriptions, infographics, and so forth. The more CTAs a website offers, the greater total opportunities there are to convert visitors.

With this in mind, a CTA doesn’t have to be a direct statement encouraging someone to do something. Not every CTA has to say something like ‘click here to learn more’ or ‘buy now’. In fact, there are lots of ways to embed CTAs without directly challenging customers.

A small dialog box where customers can voluntarily sign up for a newsletter is a CTA. Website visitors don’t necessarily see it as such, but SEO and digital marking experts do. Why? Because a person consciously making the decision to sign up for a newsletter has taken that first step on the road to conversion.

Match CTAs to User Intent

Leaving ad fraud out of the equation, website traffic can be divided into numerous categories based on user intent. You have cold users, warm users, and hot users. Different CTAs can be used to move people in each of those groups further along the conversion journey. The key is to match CTAs with user intent.

Doing so isn’t necessarily easy. It takes patience, time, and a good understanding of one’s target audience. But when it’s done right by a skilled marketer, matching CTAs to user intent can increase conversion rates dramatically. So yes, CTAs can be targeted for better conversions.