Attention all marketers, salespeople, bloggers, YouTubers and pretty much everyone else doing something on a website: if you’ve never heard of a call-to-action (CTA) then please drop whatever you’re doing and grab your notebook.
You might not realize it, but you encounter CTAs pretty much everywhere you go online. They’re one of the most basic principles of marketing and are what direct people towards whatever goal you are trying to achieve with your online content. Without including a CTA, you risk missing an opportunity to further engage your audience when they are the most interested in your website.
But fear not! By thinking about and strategizing how to effectively use CTAs, you’ll be setting up whatever type of content you create to be the most successful.
A call-to-action is exactly what it sounds like. It is something – whether a sentence or image – that prompts a person to do something else. It’s what guides people along the journey that you are trying to create for them, whether that ends with a subscription, comment, purchase or any other objective you may have.
Where Have I Seen CTAs Before?
There are way too many types of CTAs to list but here are some of the major ones that you’ve most likely seen:
Blog posts will typically ask readers to leave a comment in order to generate a discussion with the audience based around the post’s topic. After you’re intrigued a reader with your content, ask a provoking question that will make them want to jump in and add an opinion.
Rather than cramming all information into one page, sites will typically present visitors with basic information and then direct them elsewhere to discover more.
YouTube: “Please Like, Comment & Subscribe”
Pretty much every YouTube video ends with the host asking you to subscribe to his/her channel, like the video & leave a comment below. Really fancy YouTubers will even include other videos from the channel to watch. If a sponsor is involved, you’ll also be asked to use the sponsor’s service and use the YouTuber’s promo code.
It might not seem like it, but your email address is the hottest commodity a company can ask for. Rather than relying on you coming back to a website, having your email allows companies to send news, offers and more content. This is why most websites will typically have a form encouraging you to submit your contact info.
Why Should I Use a CTA?
Very rarely will people create something with absolutely no intention of that content doing anything for its creators. This is not to say that we’re all sneaky and only trying to offer something in order to trick people into benefitting us; however, there is something that prompted you to write that blog post, record that song or film that video.
Take a good look at your website and think about what you would like your visitors to do. Do you want them to discover another blog post? Subscribe to your newsletter? Buy your product? Donate to your charity? Once you’ve identified what action you’d like people to take, it will be fairly straight-forward to determine what type of CTA you should create.
While it is possible to not include CTAs and hope that people will perform an intended action on their own, you’d be surprised at how much a difference simply asking will make. Not only will it make the process easier, it’ll also ensure that they’re performing the right action.
Have Any Other Tips?
By now you should have a good understanding of what a CTA is and why they’re important. Here’s a few more pointers on how to make them more effective:
- Be relevant: Make sure that your CTA speaks to whatever content it is next to. An article about cancer research should have a CTA linking readers to where they can donate; it should not have a signup form for gossip about Kim Kardashian.
- Less is more: Don’t overcrowd your site with banner ads, pop-ups and dozens of other CTAs. At a certain point, they’ll all just blend together. Ideally a page should have one CTA that directs people to exactly where you’d like them to go.
- Understand your visitor: If it’s a post about a version update to your software, chances are the audience will primarily be existing customers. A CTA offering a discount on your software would be wasted on them because they’ve already made the purchase!
Ultimately, it’s all about guiding people on a journey; so be a great tour guide! Think of who you’re speaking to, how they got there, and where they’d most likely want to go next. As the saying it goes, it doesn’t hurt to ask!