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8 Tips For Creating Effective Calls To Action (With Real Examples)

Cat Fyson

by Cat Fyson on 16th August 2013

Call To ActionThere’s not much point in creating content if it has no objective. Just because you need to avoid the hard-sell (otherwise you’re just writing sales copy to be frank), you still want your content to produce results.

For the different objectives that you have, you will need unique conclusions that not only sum up your content, but cause your visitors to take action – whether by sharing your content on social media, commenting on it, or purchasing your product or service. These are your calls to action (CTA), and you will need them if you expect your content marketing strategy to produce results.

It’s easy to get bogged down in using the same or slightly varied CTA’s which do not inspire your visitors. Below are 8 tips to help you avoid this, with some great examples of calls to action that work.

1. Defining Your Goal

Without your goal in mind, it’s easy to pluck out a generic call to action which is unlikely to produce the results you want. It is also easy to be too blatant in your objective – by straight up asking your visitors to comment or share your post, there is no heart in your intention and so your visitors will not be inclined to ‘get involved’.

In my first example, a blog post from the makers of arguably the best TV show to ever grace our screens (Breaking Bad), the CTA is clear – they want you to look at their gallery, a perfect supplement to the post about San Diego Comic-Con. Perhaps their goal here is to keep you on their site longer, but really by offering extra content, they are showing themselves as a trusted source for Breaking Bad nerds, like myself.

Breaking Bad Blog

2. Laying The Groundwork

It goes without saying that your CTA needs to be related to your content – if you’re a car insurance company writing a post about the best ways to secure the contents of your car, then you want your CTA to be along the lines of stories from visitors about how they protect what is in their cars.

People will notice very quickly if your CTA is unrelated – and it will look a lot more hard-sell than you intend.

3. Inspire Action

There are many different styles of writing your content – but it really boils down to the fact that you can merely inform, or you can entertain and inform. No one expects you to write jokes, but if your content is dull as dishwater; your visitors won’t even get to the CTA, let alone feel the need to prescribe to it.

To inspire action, you need to be inspiring. Be passionate about what you write about, and give your visitors a reason to trust your knowledge and opinions. If you gain their trust, they are much more likely to abide to your sign off.

4. Invite Opinion

No one is going to share their thoughts within an atmosphere that doesn’t encourage them to. Too many blog posts fall into their own trap of empty comments by being too simplistic with their CTA – ‘Leave a comment’ is not enough – why should they leave a comment?

This example from Glamour magazine has received a few comments because it asks the readers a question – it gives them something specific to comment with, making it much more likely for someone to bother sharing their thoughts.

Glamour

This example below from Laura Ashley is great too, because it also adds some personality to the CTA by referring to a member of their team.

Laura Ashley

5. Be Social

Many blog posts out there will encourage you to Like them on Facebook or Follow on Twitter – my instant thought to this is “why should I?” – you need an incentive (as James recently discussed).

Whether you create a hashtag on Twitter related to the piece of content (for example #protectyoursatnav) to encourage visitors to tweet about to share their tips, or let your readers know that you have a current offer on Facebook related to a policy on car contents, there is no point in shamelessly promoting your social media channels without giving people a reason to click through to them.

Sharpie did a blog post about 4th July, sharing ideas and links to tutorials on using their pens to essentially draw the American flag over things. At the end of the post, their CTA refers specifically to the occasion, but also promotes their popular Pinterest page. Above that, it tells you why the page is worth a look.

Sharpie

It’s a shame that they don’t link to a 4th July specific board – the upside to Pinterest is that you can create boards around specific content to help promote it, something that more brands should certainly take advantage of.

6. Rewards

There are several different things you can offer your readers within your CTA. Here are a few examples:

Discounts – Want your visitors to comment on your post? Offer a voucher code if their comment makes it past moderation (this avoids spam). To receive the voucher code, they must leave the email address.

Downloadables – If you offer an easy to download PDF user guide or whitepaper, you automatically have provided your visitor with a valuable tool. By doing this you become a reliable source for them.

Tesco Books wrote a blog post about trying to break the world record for longest chain of paper dolls. They encouraged their readers’ involvement by offering an easy to use paper template and entry form – giving parents something for their kids to do and to be part of.

Tesco Books

Links to relevant content - I am not talking about the ‘Relevant links’ list that many posts have – although they are helpful. Instead, I am referring to leaving a link at the end of your blog post which points your visitor to a relevant page on your site where they can receive more information.

This is particularly useful if this page has reviews on it. For example, if you publish a blog post about cleaning your car, you can then refer to a page on your site which sells car cleaning products – this will appear less sales-led if customer testimonials support the products.

7. Language And Clarity

As with the rest of the content, the tone of your CTA needs to be useful, practical and fun where appropriate. If it is technical and sales-led, it will be a huge turn off for your readers.

You also need your action to be irresistible, so make it short and simple. It should not be a whole paragraph long. Whatever you do, do not try and inspire multiple actions as this is just confusing to a reader and will likely put them off from performing any of the proposed actions.

8. Put Your CTA’s To The Test

With any style of marketing, you will need to experiment to see what works. It’s incredibly important to do this with your calls to action, because you may come to the realisation that encouraging social network interaction is no good, as your users might not even use social networking sites (yes, there are people online who don’t have a Facebook account!), or when offering whitepapers or other additional resources, they perhaps can’t be downloaded. You will need to change tact.

However, don’t give up easily on any technique because they did not work on one post – it takes time to build an engaged audience, and they will all respond differently.

With these tips at your disposal, you can start brainstorming the best calls to action for your content.

What do you think are the most (and least) effective calls to action? Let me know in the comment section below.

Image Credits

Social Media Keywords from Bigstock

Cat Fyson

Cat Fyson

Cat works as a Content Marketing Executive at Koozai. Having studied an NCTJ accredited course at University, she has gained valuable skills in creative copywriting, press communications and research. She is an avid blogger and has a keen interest in popular culture and technologies.

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22 Comments

  • Amal Rafeeq 16th August 2013

    Well, that’s a comprehensive guide Cat. You laid it out very well.
    Thanks a lot :)

    Reply to this comment

  • Katherine Kotaw 16th August 2013

    Nice post, Cat. You found good examples to make your points. Another point I would add is to maintain the same tone in your CTA as you do in the blog post yourself. If you write in an informal, chatty style, your CTA shouldn’t switch to dictatorial (ACT NOW!!). The reverse is also true. If you’ve written a serious post, don’t write a CTA that sounds as if you’re chatting about movie show times with your best friend.

    Reply to this comment

    • Cat Fyson

      Cat Fyson 16th August 2013

      Thanks for commenting Katherine. I completely agree, your CTA has to be natural and fit with the content.

      Reply to this comment

  • Britten Thompson 16th August 2013

    Great blog. You offer some great tips. I think tip three is the most important one that people often miss – you need to be informative AND entertaining. It’s great to be an expert in your field, but people won’t really listen to you if they’re bored after just a few sentences.

    Reply to this comment

    • Cat Fyson

      Cat Fyson 19th August 2013

      Hi Britten,

      Thanks for your comment and glad you enjoyed the article – I completely agree, if you can’t entertain your readers, they’ll go elsewhere.

      Reply to this comment

  • Laura Hampton 19th August 2013

    Hi Cat,

    Firstly, I appreciate your approach on this one – I would like to credit invention of the ‘Tweet to Action’ to you after your tweeted me directly to comment on your blog (which in itself is a powerful CTA – making people feel their opinions are valuable to you).

    I think one of the most important points you make in this whole article is that a CTA can be anything from a purchase to a download or a simple tweet. I think too often webmasters think they have to have a strong CTA like ‘buy now’ but actually there’s an awful lot of value in encouraging people simply to engage with your brand more. That way, when they do come to need your services, you’re the go-to brand because they now view you as approachable, trustworthy and as a brand that shares.

    A guideline I use when crafting CTA’s, particularly when I’m blogging, is to think of the content as if it were a spoken conversation. Would I ever say to someone ‘Buy this great product now!’. Probably not. Would I say to someone ‘This great product is now available in our store, take a look’? Yes. For me, crafting CTAs that are natural and engaging is the key to conversion – and of course, as you say Cat, at the root of that (and all things digital marketing in my opinion) is high quality content.

    Thanks for sharing.

    Laura

    Reply to this comment

    • Cat Fyson

      Cat Fyson 19th August 2013

      Hi Laura,

      Many thanks for commenting. You make a very good point that brands do often feel their CTA needs to be hard sell – but that approach does not fit well with good content marketing, and it certainly will very rarely breed results.

      The conversational approach really is key. I like to ask questions in my CTA’s (as you will notice on this article as an example) to try and garner discussion, but it can work for other brands too.

      Reply to this comment

  • Doug Roberts 20th August 2013

    Hi Cat. Nice article.

    Completely agree, Defining your goal is key – and then remembering what that goal is when you’ve put that page together and come to add the CTAs. You’ve got to stay focused.

    I’d also add “know your audience”. The better you understand your visitors, the easier it’ll be to come up with a CTA that works.

    A little bit of empathy can go a long way. Simply barking random commands at people isn’t going to persuade everyone…

    Reply to this comment

    • Cat Fyson

      Cat Fyson 21st August 2013

      Hi Doug

      Knowing your audience is definitely a good point – if your audience are not involved in social media, then a CTA asking them to tweet their thoughts via a hashtag campaign is not going to be an effective CTA.

      If you expect results with your CTAs, you have to appreciate the effort it takes to complete them, and make it as easy as possible for them to do so.

      Many thanks for your comment!

      Reply to this comment

  • Claudia Dieterle 20th August 2013

    Good tips for creating effective calls to action. I think the important points on a website are to give the visitor as quickly as possible all necessary information about the product or service you are offering. The following points are important in general: to arouse interest, make curious, offer a solution to a problem, etc. The CTA should tell clearly what happens when clicking on it.

    Reply to this comment

    • Cat Fyson

      Cat Fyson 21st August 2013

      Hi Claudia, many thanks for your comment.

      CTAs have in the past been bright, glaring buttons that almost scream at you what to do. Now you need to be more tactful and creative, but still clear – it’s less about sales and instant results, and more about building community engagement and nurturing your audience.

      Reply to this comment

  • Thad James 21st August 2013

    What a great article. Too many times, the CTA is too strong (buy NOW or the world will end) or non-existent. Starting with a plan will help everything else fall into place. Brand engagement will drive customers when they get to the Call To Action. Thanks for the info!

    Reply to this comment

    • Cat Fyson

      Cat Fyson 21st August 2013

      Hi Thad!

      Thanks so much for your comment. I agree that often the CTA is often too strong which can be off putting. It should feel informal, otherwise it will scare people off!

      Reply to this comment

  • Chris Jones 22nd August 2013

    A very useful guide for the beginner and a reminder for the more experienced, good stuff Cat.

    Reply to this comment

    • Cat Fyson

      Cat Fyson 22nd August 2013

      Hi Chris!

      Many thanks for your comment – I’m glad you enjoyed the article. That was my very intention so it’s great to hear I’ve succeeded!

      Reply to this comment

  • Maggie 22nd August 2013

    I find the most effective Calls to Action to be genuine and simple. Personally, I am most likely to respond to a CTA that invite to be part of a “tribe” so to speak. A community of inspired people who’s insight and experiences are likely to benefit my life and work. Thank you.

    Reply to this comment

    • Cat Fyson

      Cat Fyson 23rd August 2013

      Hi Maggie,

      I completely agree – if you start creating a complex CTA it can leave mixed messages or seem like work.

      CTA’s that work for me are those that ask a question, inviting my opinion – particularly if the question goes beyond just saying “What do you think of this?”.

      Many thanks for your comment!

      Reply to this comment

  • Asher Elran 26th August 2013

    I think that defining the goal is the most important part. You can only get positive results if you know exactly what you want.

    Reply to this comment

    • Cat Fyson

      Cat Fyson 27th August 2013

      Hello Asher

      Many thanks for sharing your thoughts – I completely agree and I think this applies to a lot of things in life!

      Reply to this comment

  • Eliza 2nd October 2013

    Very good tips here, Cat. When I write my copy and CTAs, I always keep in mind that people hate ads (I hate ads too). So, instead of trying to flog something, it’s best to simply tell your readers about something they may need or like. Talk to them and you’ll get results.

    Reply to this comment

  • Cat Fyson

    Cat Fyson 2nd October 2013

    Hi Eliza,

    Many thanks for your comment! I completely agree, as soon as you try and flog something you have likely lost your reader. It really is more about engaging with your reader and encouraging them to engage back.

    Reply to this comment

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