Either through sterling inbound marketing strategy or pure luck, you’ve attracted visitors to your website. They’ve clicked through your content, read your blog, and finally settled on a landing page, where they’re presented with an offer. Like Indiana Jones in The Raiders of the Lost Ark, these visitors have to decide whether to pick up the golden idol.
A call-to-action involves far less boulder-dodging than that hidden temple, but you get the idea. When they see a CTA, your visitors have to make a choice—either they can step forward and accept your offer, or they can click away from it. It’s your job to not only provide them with the priceless item they’ve been searching for (the solution to their problem), but also compel them to take it.
What Is a Call-to-Action?
In the inbound marketing methodology, a CTA is defined as a button, image, or in-text link that you place on your website to convert prospective customers into leads via a form on the subsequent landing page.
Just as its name suggests, a call-to-action prompts visitors to take some sort of action. CTAs need to be visually striking, and they must clearly demonstrate the value they offer to compel the reader to click. CTAs should be easy to see and located in places where the eye falls naturally as readers scan your website. You can include them on site pages, blog posts, sidebars, and even emails. Wherever you place CTAs initially, you should always be testing placement to get optimal conversion results.
For example, blog posts are an excellent place to use CTAs because they bring in organic search traffic, including many people who have never been exposed to your brand. Typically, you would place a CTA at the bottom of every posts, but long posts can include in-text CTAs as well.
Here's an example of an in-text CTA:
If you're interested in learning more about how to use CTAs as a part of an inbound marketing campaign, you can download our free ebook How to Create an Effective Inbound Marketing Campaign.
How Do I Write a CTA That Earns Clicks?
The key is that every element of the CTA needs to accurately reflects what you’re offering. It can consist of one short message ("Download Our Offer"), a short headline with a supporting subhead ("Download Our Offer—It will solve your problem!"), or some variation on that theme. They usually provide just enough information to convince visitors to take the next step. It’s not enough to make your audience an offer; you have to ask them to take it.
For example, I might say:
- Watch Master of None on Netflix.
- Read David Foster Wallace’s novel, Infinite Jest.
- Donate clothes to your local homeless shelter.
- Adopt nine golden retriever puppies à la Melissa McCarthy in Bridesmaids.
- Get a stylish fedora to go with your satchel and trusty whip.
As calls-to-action, these statements have a few things in common. In addition to being one of my resolutions for the New Year, each line begins with an action verb, ends with an interesting object, and is quite brief. While we probably won’t be creating these CTAs for VIEO's website anytime soon, they’re all concise and convincing enough that I just might follow through with them as resolutions.
Thankfully, effective CTAs are fairly easy to write. No matter what offer you decide to make, they all boil down to the same general formula:
- Start with a powerful action verb (e.g., Download)
- Have a clearly-defined value proposition (e.g., Facebook Checklist)
- Use straightforward language that accurately reflects your offer
- Create the shortest, sweetest sentence possible, ideally five words or less (e.g. Download Our Facebook Checklist)
- Pair the right CTA with the right content
Choosing the Right CTA: Remember the Buyer's Journey
When you write a new blog post or publish a new site page, think about the topic and goals of the content. Does the CTA you're using on that page align with where most visitors will be in the buyer's journey?
With a few exceptions, the people reading your educational blog post are not ready to purchase your products or services—but that doesn't mean they won't take a step toward that relationship. That's why you include a CTA that offers a logical next step after the content of the post, like an ebook that digs deeper into the topic. Likewise, those visiting your services page are more likely to be considering a purchase, so that page is a better fit for a CTA related to a free demo or consultation.
If you're interested in reading more about the design and function of CTAs, take a spin through these posts:
As you add concise, effective CTAs to your content, don't forget that they should be a part of a larger, cohesive inbound marketing strategy. As it happens (wink, wink), we wrote a detailed guide about exactly that!