You’ve launched your website. You avoided the most common website design mistakes and you keep your blog content fresh and interesting. You built and segmented your email list with care, and your social media is on point. So why aren’t you making more sales?
It could be that you’re not asking for them, or not asking clearly and in a way that prompts a response. If you’re like most, your website lacks what marketers call a “call to action” on its main page. You may not have calls to action anywhere else, either, and that’s a problem.
What is a call to action?
“If you don’t ask, you don’t get”
Human psychology being what it is, people are more likely to do what you want them to do if you let them know what you want them to do. Maybe you’d like them to join your email list, listen to your latest podcast, share your social media posts to build your audience, or buy something from you. In each case, you’ll need to guide your visitors’ behavior by asking them to do something.
This act of asking for the sale is the call to action (CTA). CTAs are important because most of us encounter so much information each day that it can all run together. The experience of visiting a site or following a blog can be like walking into a big grocery store and forgetting what you came to buy—especially if the website is cluttered with information or hard to navigate.
Even though you may think it’s pretty clear that you’d like visitors to your customized kids’ clothing site to place some orders, or that you’d like visitors to your email signup landing page to sign up, you’ll get better results if you ask. Before you can do that, you need to know what you want to accomplish with each piece of content you create.
What’s the goal of your content?
Whenever you create content for your business, whether it’s a page on your website, a blog post, a video, a social media post, or something else, it should include a call to action that lets the reader or viewer know what you’d like them to do next. Your calls to action will depend on your goals, your business, and your audience.
For example, let’s say Snappy’s getting into the vintage jewelry business and selling exclusively online. Here’s how he might use calls to action in his content.
CTAs on your website
Snappy’s goal is to have visitors starting browsing products in his online shop. The landing page may have some information about where he finds his jewelry and how he researches its history and prepares it for sale. There will definitely be high-quality close up images of some of the best pieces. There will also be a button that stands out: Explore the Collection. That’s the call to action to go to the online items – the next step that the history and the gorgeous pictures are leading up to.
CTAs in blog posts, videos, podcasts
This is where the calls to action can be highly focused. Let’s say Snappy’s building a loyal YouTube audience that eagerly awaits his latest videos on styling prom and date-night outfits with vintage jewelry. The call to action at the end of each video could be Visit the Prom Shop Now and a link to the shop page that features a selection of pieces that will appeal to—and be priced for–teens and young adults.
Maybe experienced collectors are another segment of Snappy’s business. The blog might cater to these customers with individual posts about unusual or valuable finds, a little backstory on those pieces, and highly detailed photography of each piece. Here, the call to action could be Shop Our Collectibles Now, linking to a shop page with rare, higher-priced pieces for vintage jewelry connoisseurs.
CTAs in other content
On those shop pages, a “buy now” or “add to cart” button is the call to action. Make it bigger than the other text so it’s impossible to miss. Email newsletters can include seasonal calls to action, such as Shop the Halloween Collection Now or limited-time calls to action like Get These Deals Before They’re Gone. Snappy’s social media posts could be as simple as individual photos of new pieces with a link to their sales pages to Snap It Up Now. Or maybe he’s using social media to get more people to Join the Email List or Read the Vintage Jewelry Blog. Whatever he wants his audience to do, he’s asking clearly.
What are some CTA best practices?
Remember, the call to action is a deceptively simple piece of copy that moves your visitors to take action, and fast. The ‘fast’ part matters, because typical site visitors spend a whopping 10-20 seconds on the site and read no more than 25% of your copy. Your CTA must catch visitors’ attention immediately and get them to do something that allows you to stay connected – usually joining your email list or subscribing to your blog—so you can build a relationship with them. Here are four simple ways to improve your site’s CTAs for more conversions.
1. Add a call to action to your site’s homepage
Just by having a call to action on your homepage, you’ll be ahead of most websites. In 2013, a survey of 200 B2B companies with fewer than 100 employees found that 70% had no call to action on their homepage. Calls to action are what help businesses (and blogs) establish relationships and trust with potential customers—and one simple way to do that is by asking for further contact.
For many businesses, the goal is to add subscribers to the company email newsletter. For bloggers, the goal is typically getting folks to subscribe to the blog. In both cases, you’re collecting email addresses you can use to reach potential customers later on with giveaways, surveys, and promotions.
For some businesses, the goal is to get visitors to call or email so you can answer their questions and discuss what they need. This is especially true for consultants, designers, and writers who sell customized solutions, rather than service packages or physical goods. In these cases, the call to action can be a simple “Contact Me” (or a more compelling variation – see below) plus a phone number and email address above the fold on the homepage.
According to that same B2B survey, though, 68% of sites don’t have the company email address on the homepage. This lack of easy-to-see contact information is madness, and now that I’ve mentioned it, you’ll probably notice it all the time as you navigate the web. Unless your business is already wildly profitable and your brand is ultra-exclusive in-the-know-only cachet, make it easy for potential clients to contact you.
2. Create calls to action that serve you and your audience
Seth Godin, the entrepreneur, author and blogger, has a call to action on his blog that offers a benefit for readers: “Don’t Miss a Thing.” Subscribers get Godin’s new posts in their inbox and avoid the fear of missing out (FOMO). They’re happy to keep up with his ideas, and Godin’s email list keeps growing.
Meanwhile, over at Copyblogger, the goal of the blog is to get visitors to try out their free marketing training, so that’s the call to action you’ll see in the sidebar next to each post. As with Seth Godin, they’re gathering email addresses and offering something in return, although in this case it’s a freebie rather than blog updates.
3. Make your call to action fresh and compelling
Bland “Sign Up!” and “Join Now!” CTAs are better than nothing, but there’s a lot more you can do to motivate visitors to take action.
Productivity expert Carson Tate has an email opt-in on her homepage with the CTA, “Step One: Enter your info to get expert tools and coaching.” Taking “step one” makes me feel like I’m accomplishing something already, and I would much rather get expert tools and coaching than sign up for a general newsletter.
The pop-up CTA on the Knitpicks yarn and fiber arts website takes a different but equally creative approach. For crafters, it’s hard to go wrong with “Why, hello there! Be the first to know about special offers, new yarns and inspiration galore!” This one hits a lot of the right notes in 16 words. There’s a friendly greeting, a cure for FOMO (fear of missing out), the promise of deals, and creative ideas — much better than “join our list.”
4. Make your call to action easy to see
You don’t need to make your CTA huge or tacky.
The simplest approach is to eliminate visual clutter that distracts visitors from your CTA and make sure the CTA is “above the fold,” an old-school newspaper term that now means an item is at the top of a web page so visitors can see it without having to scroll down. Be selective about what occupies your above-the-fold space.
When I launched my professional website, it had icons for all my social media channels displayed above the fold, next to my email and phone number. During a site critique, the reviewer asked me what the point of my page was. Did I want prospects to contact me or to follow me on Twitter? As someone with bills to pay, I decided to move the social media icons below the fold so they didn’t distract from my call to action, which was for clients to call or email with their project requirements.
It’s not only freelancers who indulge in CTA overload. A promotional-product retail site I shop at has, as of this writing, two online chat tabs, one giant phone number, one coupon code link, a Shop Now button, and a field to enter a promo code all above the fold – plus a blinking light GIF. It’s hard to know where to look or what to do first. A competitor’s site, by contrast, is promoting a seasonal sale with one large button. There’s nothing pulling the viewer’s eye away from that big sale button above the fold.
By making your CTAs easy to see, interesting to read, and appealing to potential customers, you should see better results from your marketing efforts. For more insights on creating compelling offers and tracking your marketing efforts, check out our post on boosting site traffic.A good CTA uses simple wording to encourage readers or viewers to take immediate action that will benefit them. Click To Tweet
Respect your audience’s time and make the call-to-action process easy for them. Keep it simple, think about what you want each piece of your business content to do, and you should start seeing better results from your marketing efforts.
It wouldn’t be right if we didn’t end this post with our own CTA, so here goes…
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Casey Kelly-Barton is an Austin-based freelancer who enjoys writing about business development and marketing, e-commerce payments and fraud prevention, and travel.