Taking Action with Calls to Action: A Definitive Guide for Beginners

Around 70% of small businesses don’t use a call-to-action (CTA) on their sites. This unfortunate habit means they are all missing out on the opportunity to:

  • Give users an easy way to contact you
  • Help convert readers into customers
  • Direct users to another page on your site

Adding CTAs to your pages will help you and your users achieve online goals by improving the overall user experience. Not sure where to begin? Let’s start with the basics…

What is a Call to Action?

A call to action (CTA) is a promotional message on a web page that encourages readers to take action. For example, “Buy Now” or “Call Us Today” are two kinds of CTAs. Of course, it’s not enough to say “Buy Now” and expect people to do it. You have to put real thought into your call to action strategy. As a general rule, CTAs must:

  • Lead users through the buying process
  • Use direct, simple language
  • Be relevant to the content

Leading Users through the Buyer’s Journey

Simply put, CTAs are used to convert readers into customers. A good CTA will guide readers through their buying stages:

  • Awareness
  • Interest
  • Desire
  • Action

The first step is to capture the reader’s attention through awareness. Who is reading the page and how does the topic relate to them? Does it pose a problem that they have?

When you have their attention, garner interest by showing them that you understand their problem and have the solution. Make your case with reliable, persuasive information to lead them into desiring what you have to offer.

Finally, once the reader believes they can’t live without your company’s product or service, your CTA will help them take action.

Sounds pretty powerful, doesn’t it? That’s why CTAs are one of the most important tools in your content marketing strategy.

Not Forcing the Issue Too Soon

There will be time when readers aren’t interested in purchasing right away. For instance, a user may want to read more of what your blog has to offer. To cater to these readers, use the CTA to bring their attention to another article that is relevant to what they just read. This strategy will help garner brand trust among your visitors.

Dissecting the Language of CTAs

Now that we know what it’s for, let’s find out what CTAs do by breaking down the term “Call to Action.” A call in real life is loud—it grabs a person’s attention. However, the attention span of a reader on the internet is not very long. More often than not, skimming is going to be the main form of reading. Therefore, your message should be simple and to-the-point. An example of a good (but generic) CTA format runs as follows:

“Want to Learn More About [Fill in the Blank]?

Contact [Your Company] Today at (555) 555-5555”

Some companies make the mistake of thinking the only way to get someone’s attention is to harass them, but CTAs should not pushy or spammy. No one wants to feel like they’re being pressured into doing something. This sentiment brings us to the last part of the term: action. For a CTA, that action is two fold. Obviously, the CTA’s wording should include an action (e.g. learn, discover, start, become) that the user will be able to accomplish when they click the link or fill out the form you’ve provided.

The second action is the click itself: CTAs should be “clickable,” or entice the reader into clicking on the link you’ve provided. It has to stand out, but still match the tone of your site and the audience you are trying to target (i.e. if the language of your site is upbeat and peppy, make sure your CTA is as well).

Staying Relevant to Content

If your CTAs annoy readers, they will be less likely to take action. Even if your CTA is natural and inviting it can look spammy if it’s the same on every page. It’s important to mix-it-up when creating a CTA. They can change from page to page based on the user’s needs and the page topic. There are many CTA variations, so don’t be lazy about it.

For instance, if your main content is about how to better utilize your time with a product, but your CTA is about how cats love string, your readers aren’t going to know how they relate or how to get to what they need. Why did they bother reading about something when there’s no easy way to act on it? Logically connecting the page’s content to your CTA’s content will provide your readers with an easy way to navigate to the described product or service.

Updating Older CTAs

This tactic is especially useful on older pages where the CTA is irrelevant or out-of-date. If information on your site has changed, it’s a good idea to go back and update old CTAs to reflect that new information.

Taking Care Where You Link

Where you link or don’t link to in a CTA is very important. It will determine the next step your readers will take. CTAs promise the reader that if they take action, then they will be rewarded for it. It has to have a clear, consistent path with an attainable result.

The most important thing to remember when linking a CTA on your site is to not link to pages that are irrelevant to your CTA. Don’t leave readers without guidance. Doing so can make readers feel lost or that they are in the wrong place.

One common mistake companies make is asking customers to contact them and then linking back to their home page. If they are adamant about buying from you, they may go ahead and continue looking, but more often than not, they will click away. Avoid losing customers by linking to the described product.

No matter what your company’s online goals are, CTAs are an important addition to your site. They guide readers to where they need to go and inspire them to take action.

Next Up: CTAs Ain’t What They Used to Be: How Mobile Has Changed Everything