In content marketing, specifically blogging, it’s no secret calls to action (CTAs) are critical components for effective lead generation. Using a database of more than 50,000 blog posts, social media scientist Dan Zarella discovered posts including the words “comment,” “link” and/or "share" received more comments, views and links than posts that did not.
For your blog, HubSpot advises content marketers include CTAs both in the sidebar and on every individual post, encouraging readers to download content, follow your company on social media, subscribe to your blog or join your newsletter/blog digest email. Additionally, you should also include what I call “written” or “plain text” CTAs—the kind without graphics, hover effects or buttons—within the body of your blog.
Incorporating CTAs into blog posts sounds easy enough, but, unfortunately, many bloggers can be somewhat awkward with incorporating plain text CTAs. You know the type: They’re the ones who write an entire post about tips for effective Facebook content, then tell you to download a lead nurturing strategy eBook at the blog’s close. Or the ones who break paragraphs in two merely to inject inbound “Read More,” “Click Here” or “Contact Us” hyperlinks.
Awkward, right? The good news is there are ways to gracefully incorporate CTAs into blog posts to drive traffic (and conversions) without that awkward just-hit-puberty-flying-solo-to-the-homecoming-dance feel.
In a blog about penning persuasive copy, Brian Clark advises writers to “Never allow readers to question why they are bothering to pay attention.” That same advice applies to CTAs. Your CTAs, no matter the format or content they’re promoting, should always convey value for the reader. Perceived value is the opposite of awkward—it’s intriguing.
The purpose of any good blog post is to inform, educate or entertain through its duration, and then get the reader to take action. So why would you add a CTA after the first paragraph? Effective blogs aren’t written in the journalist's go-to inverted pyramid style—they’re written so readers can easily scan and locate relevant, digestible information. Using a CTA too soon in the post is like interrupting a perfectly normal conversation when your internal dialogue becomes verbal—it directs readers far away from the pertinent information in the blog, so reserve it for the end. (And try to keep that internal dialogue internal, wallflower.)
Asking a question is my favorite way to end a blog. I like it not only because it encourages praise on a job well done (which, honestly, who doesn’t love?), but also because it invites professionals with varying viewpoints to provide feedback, all while serving as a CTA. If your goal is to get readers to convert rather than comment on your blog, HubSpot suggests asking a compelling question, followed by a short response.
From blogs to social media posts, in content marketing, just about everything should be KISS-able. Good copy is simple and short. Not buying it? Brian Clark illustrates the fact with one of the most recognizable quotes in the English-speaking world: To Be or Not to Be? And just three words (comment, link, share) made the difference in Zarella’s CTA study. Or you could think of it like a love confession from any romantic comedy: The more straightforward the confession, the more likely the protagonist is going to get that kiss.
Sure, there are reasons for wanting to keep your graphic CTAs standard from post to post. Perhaps you have a new piece of content you’re really trying to push, or maybe you’ve set up smart CTAs to deliver a personalized experience to individual visitors. But when it comes to plain text CTAs, there’s no excuse for any two CTAs to be the same. Think what it is you want readers to do with the information you’ve provided, then tell them to do it. For example, if you created an incredibly useful social media sizing cheat sheet (shout out to LunaMetrics!), you want readers to link to your website, not add to the cheat sheet.
How do you take the awkward-ness out of incorporating CTAs into blogs? Share your expertise in a comment!
Known as Hawkeye for her near superhuman copy editing abilities, Lisa Gulasy applies her unique experiences in agency and journalism to manage strategy and day-to-day engagement of client social media profiles and assist in researching and writing blogs, press releases and advanced content. Find her on Twitter and LinkedIn.
Photo Credit: Novel Novice