One of the most popular stories from SmartBrief on Social Media this past week was 5 Signs Your Call-to-Action Needs a Makeover from Hubspot Blog. The author made some really good points about why your call to action might be failing and what you can do about it better monetize your blog. Something basic and important not covered in this article at all, though?
Many bloggers don’t have a call to action.
Before I start dishing out advice, I’d like to mention again that if you run a hobby blog or journal, none of this is relevant. Having somewhere to go to write can be a great thing. Even if you only want more readers, though (i.e., you don’t care about making money with your blog), not having a call to action is definitely holding back your site from growing. I’ve talked extensively in the past about having a ultimate goal for your blog, but that goal means little if your readers are in the dark about it.
What is a Call to Action anyway?
When I first started blogging, I had no idea what a call to action was or why I should care about having one on my blog. I saw all these bloggers, some even in the same niches as me, succeeding to the point where they could quit their day jobs and just blog full time. I wanted that. I love freelance writing, but being able to support yourself through a blog is pretty awesome. I knew that they were making a lot of money from advertising, affiliate ads, and the like, so I thought I could just post content, add some links, and start watching the money roll in. What I didn’t have was any kind of call to action.
A call to action, sometimes referred to as a CTA, is exactly what it sounds like – encouragement for your readers to do something. This can be at the end of your post, within your post, in a pop-up, or even just on the sidebar. The most direct monetization technique is a CTA for someone to buy your product. Usually, this involved a landing page of some sort or a store front. But a CTA can be something different instead. It depends on the goal of your blog. For example, if your goal right now is to build readership, your CTA might be to like your page on Facebook, become your friend on Twitter, or sign up for your mailing list. If your goal is to foster community, your CTA might be to leave comments or join the forums. If your goal is loyalty, your CTA might be to get people to subscribe to your RSS feed.
Your CTA can be the same language or image at the end of every blog post, or it can change from post to post to fit your unique content. You can also have more than one CTA with every post, though keep in mind that the more actions you ask a person to take, the more diluted your encouragement will be. If you ask someone to do one thing, they’ll probably do it. Ask them to do five things and they might leaving without doing any.
Why You Need a Call to Action
Readers who come to your site likely do so for one reason – they want to enjoy your content. Some sites have the added benefit of a community of readers who are extremely active, but for the most part, your blog posts, podcasts, videos, etc. are the main draw to your site. They aren’t thinking about your goals for your site.
And very rarely does someone put two and two together without you telling them what you want. Once they know what you want, they’re happy to support, seeing as they love your content, but they have to be encouraged. They have to be told to act.
Think about this – if you read a random blog post that you enjoy from a blogger you’ve not come across in the past, how likely are you to subscribe to their RSS feed? You might, if you truly love the content, but most of us will just click the back button and the site will pretty much disappear from the face of the earth. But what if the site has a prominent header encourage you to subscribe? Or, what if at the end of the post there’s a note that you can subscribe to the RSS feed by following a certain link. Because you’ve been reminded, you’re much more likely to actually take the step and subscribe. At least, I am.
The Half-Assed Call to Action
You might be thinking to yourself, “But I have a call to action on my site, even though I didn’t really realize that’s what it was. Why am I not a blogging millionaire yet???”
Simple. You have a CTA by accident. It’s a half-assed CTA, and your readers probably don’t even notice it.
For example, let’s say that, like the above example, your ultimate goal is to gain more loyal readers, and to do that you’ve realized that it is important to have RSS feed subscribers. That’s all fine and well, but an RSS button on your sidebar isn’t a CTA. It’s actually white noise for most readers. Readers will only notice your RSS button if 1) they are actively looking for it because they’ve decide on their own that they need to subscribe to your feed or 2) it’s extremely creative in some way (exampe: on a gaming website I once owned, we had an RSS button that looked like Yoshi). Otherwise, you have to point it out.
Your CTA has to be the focus of your blog if you want actually see results. No, that doesn’t mean that you have to compromise with the quality of your blog posts, but you have to think about how each post connects with the reader and highlights whatever it is you want them to do. Don’t expect the reader to just figure it out.
The bottom line? Some people post incredible content and suddenly the money starts to flow. I have one word for those people: lucky. For the vast majority of bloggers, you have to actually conceptualize marking/branding and monetization strategies.
If you want to learn more about getting your readers to take action, definitely check out the upcoming blogging track at NMX. We have sessions for beginners, as well as intermediate and advanced bloggers. Learn more here.