In this episode we're going to concluding your blog posts with calls to action. We'll cover why you need calls to action, the different types of actions, and how to write call to action copy.
If you've listened to the previous episodes in this series, you know that even when you break something into components, when you start researching those, you open up a new world of detail that you may not have known existed.
In this episode you'll learn:
- Three resources to learn more about writing calls to action
- Why you need calls to action in your content
- What the different types of calls to action are
- How to write call to action copy
- Review the top 3 resources for calls to action
- Download the call to action checklist
- Customize the checklist to suit your needs
Links and resources mentioned in this episode:
Hey everybody, Dave Ziembicki here form StrongStart.fm. My mission is to help you design, automate, and outsource the technology of your online business.
In this episode, we’re going to talk about conclusions and calls to actions for your blogposts. We’ll cover why you need calls to action, the different types of calls to action, and how to write a call to action copy. This is part of a series that started with episode 15 describing how to become great at every part of online business. That episode talked about taking a big topic, in this case, building the perfect blogpost and breaking it down into component parts.
As always, I’ll be providing a checklist of all the best practices that we’ll cover in this episode and that checklist will be available over on the show notes at StrongStart.fm/021. If you’ve listened to the previous episodes in the series, you know that even when you break something into components, when you start researching those, you open up a new world of detail that you might not have known existed.
This is one of the reasons why I recommend this approach. I’m in this game for the long haul, just like I assume you are, and the key is lifetime learning. My approach of reading the top three resources that I can find on any topic serves really two purposes. The first is to increase what I know and then maybe even more importantly, it’s to increase what I know that I don’t know. Now, what I mean by that is that I’ll never likely be a truly great copywriter. You know, there’s too many other things that you also need to be proficient with in this business.
But one of the reasons I spent so much time in this series of episodes on breaking down the blogpost process is to learn just how much there is out there on all of these different topics so that I can choose which ones I’m going to do myself, automate, or outsource. Knowing what I don’t know means that I know there are rules, best practices, formulas, and so on for topics like headlines, or in this case, calls to action. That’s a powerful concept knowing what you don’t know. It means, not being ignorant.
It means that I can converse with someone in the field that I might hire. It also means that I’ll be a better judge at the material that I get back from my team or anybody else that I ask to do work for me. So as an example, when you look at this series of episodes that we’ve talked about where we started all the way back at research and then we talked about keyword research and headlines and copywriting and images and graphics and things like that. There’s going to be aspects of those that I’m going to outsource.
There’s going to be certain parts like probably writing the headlines and writing the body text, you know, the core of the content that I’m going to try and learn to just get better and better at doing myself. I mean, that’s a core part of a business that relies on content is you know, the expert or the principle, basically writing the bulk of the content. So there’s going to be some areas within this whole overall workflow that I’m going to take the time to really learn in some depth and then there’s going to be a whole bunch of other ones that I’m either going to do through automation or outsourcing.
Again, by digging in to each of these topics and some detail, you can figure out which route you’re going to take with that topic and then for those ones that you are going to get better at yourself, you can go through the resources that I provide in the checklist and make sure that you’re following all those best practices. So now let’s get into the details of this episode.
Now, at this point in our blog authoring process, we’ve got our draft nearly complete. We’ve done our research, we did the keyword research, we spent time creating a great headline, we wrote and structured our copy, we found and optimized images, and now we’re getting ready to close out the post with a strong call to action.
As I’ve mentioned, whenever I start diving into the details on any of these given topics, I usually find the top three resources that I can provide and pull all the best practices and lessons learned that I can out of those. In this case I’ve got three blog posts, no books to read this time even though there are plenty that are out there on this part of copywriting. So I’ll link to them over on the show notes at StrongStart.fm/021. But it’s basically three blogpost, one from CoSchedule, one from Copy Blogger and one from Printwand.com and these are three really good articles about writing proper calls to action and again, I’ve pulled out the essence of these articles and built that into the process that I use and then I’m detailing in this episode.
The first question I ask is, “Why do we need calls to action?” Really, there’s several reasons; first we want to compel our readers into taking some action with our content that will benefit them, right? So if we’re in this business of content creation for the long haul, it’s definitely not all about us, the authors, it’s about our readers and our audience and the benefits that we’re trying to provide to them through this content that we’re creating.
Generally, we don’t want people just to read or listen to our content and then do nothing. You know, we want them to read, listen, learn, put it in to action and go actually realize the benefits that we’re trying to provide to them. Second, you know, being that we are online business owners or aspiring online business owners, we want to help our customers through our paid products and services.
Then third, since we’re providing valuable yet free content on our blog posts, we want our calls to action to bring the reader into a mutually beneficial relationship and basically start that process of building the know, like, and trust factor with us through our free content, moving them in to maybe some entry level offers or paid products and services and then on into whatever our flagship programs are.
Now, there are also a number of different types of calls to action and generally, you want to pick a single call to action per piece of content. And then a call to action is really two things, it’s the action you want the reader to perform and then it’s the language you use to try to compel them to do it. Before writing the call to action copy, you need to think pretty deeply about what you want to ask your readers to do. So you don’t want to go all the way through this process that we’ve been outlining in this series of episodes and then at the end, start thinking about what’s the action I want the reader to take?
When we were up at the top talking about the end-to-end flow, one of the things we talked about in the blog planning process was to be thinking about the action you want your reader to take from the very beginning. In some cases, your call to action may be simply that you want the reader to read another piece of your content. It might just be a link out to another post, or a podcast, or a video that you’ve done. In other cases, you may want them to take a survey or a quiz. Many times you may want them to download a piece of content like a lead magnet or a content upgrade in exchange for their email address.
Since we’re talking about blogposts in this series, my assumption is we’re towards the beginning of our relationship with our readers or what we would call at the top of the funnel. Now what about those of us with an audience already? I still recommend using only one call to action for your blog post and mostly targeting it toward new readers. But in terms of the entire page of your blog site that the reader might be looking at and that the reader sees, you can have a few other calls to action in say, something like your side bar.
So if you want to have a different thing in your side bar for maybe users or readers who have been to your site several times, that’s where you might list a different piece of content. If you have an eBook or you have some kind of other free content or a membership or anything like that, that can count as a second call to action that might be more appealing to people that have already read several pieces of your content and where you’ve built up more of that relationship with them.
The idea would be to keep the blog post focused on the top of funnel readers, the ones that might have just found you off of a search engine or somebody that shared another piece of your content and then have one or two other calls to action outside of the blogpost, it would appeal to those returning or warm visitors.
The next topic is, what are the different types of calls to action? Well, there are a multitude of different actions that readers can take. Most of them fall into one of four categories. The first is asking them to consume more content, second is asking them to provide more information in return for something. The third is asking them to perform a specific task, and then the fourth is purchase a product or service.
The first, consuming more content, is the classic, “if you like this, then you might also like that” type of approach and that’s great for building that no like and trust factor with your audience you know? You just gave them a free piece of content and then your call to action is, “Hey, here’s another one that you might find valuable.” You’re not really asking them for anything other than their attention but still, attention is a valuable commodity so you don’t want to take that for granted. For this type of call to action, you might link to another blog post, a podcast, or a video that compliments the topic that they just read about.
The second one is asking them to provide more information. In this category comes with a bunch of different things like email opt-ins, quizzes, surveys and so on. The idea here is that you could ask the reader to provide more information. Sometimes in return for something like a content upgrade or sometimes just for some educational purpose or entertainment value like quizzes or surveys. Now this is stepping up the relationship a bit because you’re asking them for more than just their attention. You're asking them to type in an email address or provide a little bit more personal information.
The third is performing a task. So your call to action might ask the reader to actually do something. So an example could be “try this new recipe” or “go try this new exercise routine” and again, this is stepping up the relationship a little bit more because it’s asking for more than attention, just ask the reader to go actually do something.
Then the fourth is the big one, purchase a product or service. That’s what we’re trying to build up the relationship to our audience at the level we’re trying to build it up too. We’re asking for attention, we’ll be asking them for some information and then we’ll be asking them for money in exchange for some value that we’re going to provide them.
Again, if you think about it from a relationship perspective, if this is a blog post and this is sort of top of funnel type of content, in most cases you're not going to go straight from blog post to “hey, buy my $2,000 program” or “join my $100 a month membership site”. The idea of the blog and content marketing and provided that free value is to begin building that relationship with a reader, with the audience that you’re trying to attract. Generally that’s what your free content is going to be for.
Now that we’ve talked about why we need calls to action and the different types of calls to action that there are, the next topic is how to write call to action copy. Now one of the resources that I’m looking to over in the show notes at StrongStart.fm/021 is the article from Copyblogger. In there they break calls to action into three parts. They talk about the headline, the offer, and the visuals where the visuals could be a link, a button or just whatever form the call to action takes.
The key to the call to action headline is the same as with her blog headline, we want to emphasize benefits not features. This is a trap I fall into all the time. Even on a key piece of content like my epic list of productivity tools, I pretty much just called it that. Now, are there any benefits in the headline epic list of productivity tools? Nope, no benefits in there, just features, it’s an epic list, it’s about tools. It doesn’t really connote to the reader where the benefits that you're going to get out of looking at a really long list of productivity tools.
Instead of just saying download my epic list of 140 productivity tools, what if I said something like the right tools can save you two hours of time a day. The benefit is saving two hours a day, the benefit is realized by leveraging the choices that I’m going to provide in my content. Again, referencing Copyblogger, the idea is to show the reader how they’ll be better off in terms of either health, wealth, relationships, success or peace of mind. Basic psychological drivers.
So for the productivity tools, it’s going to be pretty much in that success category. If you find two hours a day, maybe you’re going to use that time to work on your health, work on your business, the wealth angle or just the overall sense of success because you’re going to be able to get more done in a day. After the call to action headline, the next part is the offer. This is what you want them to do and what they get in return.
Now here are the offer, can actually talk about features, which back up the benefit of the headlines. Also here, because this is the point where you are asking them to do something, that’s where you want to be really careful with your choice of words, you want to use strong verbs like “download” or “join, learn, discover”. You know, those types of words. You want to start out that actual call to action with those types of words.
So here’s an example to follow up the headline: “Download my epic list of productivity tools to get the best options to choose from.” If you put those two pieces of copy together, the headline and the offer, we have two parts now. “The right tools can save you two hours of time a day. Download my epic list of tools to see the best options to choose from.” Now that isn’t exactly a stellar copy but it’s way better than just download my list of tools, right? We’re following the guidance there, we got a headline that starts with some benefits and then we have the actual offer, which is “download something and in return, you’re going to get this list of choices that’s going to help you achieve the benefit of the headline”.
Two sentences at the end of what might be a 2,000 word or more long blog post are extremely important. These could be the difference between 0 opt-ins to your email list or a 10% or even higher rate. Even though in this long running process that we have here for writing a great blog post, there is still really important stuff here at the end of writing our first draft. That’s really, again, this call to action, what do we want the reader to do with the knowledge that we’ve just given to them in the post?
With the headline and the offer out of the way, the third part of the call to action is the visual forum that your call to action takes. Now, if you’re simply asking the reader to go to another piece of your content then a basic hyper link is fine. Although it would be better to format it somewhat distinctly. For whatever reason, a yellow box with call to action text and link inside converts very well for a lot of different people.
Not exactly sure why that exact form is the case but I’m sure you’ve seen it in a lot of the blogs that you read. There’ll be sort of a yellow box, sometimes with red text or sometimes the black text inside of it that basically says, “Hey, click here to download a free pdf,” or, “Click here to go do whatever the call to action is”. Now, if your call to action is some form of opt in, then the visual is going to be dependent on your technical platform. You know, namely the plugins that you utilize inside of your WordPress site.
In my case, I use OptinMonster for all of my opt ins. There are a lot of other plugins that are out there, Sumo and thrive and some other ones, you know, lead pages with their lead boxes are basically that you generate an opt in form. Most of them let you show that form in several different ways. It could be a clickable link so it still could just be a hyper link in the article but instead of that thing automatically giving you a download, it could instead pop up a light box or something that has a name, an email address field that you can fill in.
One that I use a fair amount is basically a clickable image. I’ll create up some kind of banner or image that talks about the lead magnet or the call to action and then when you click the link in the image, it pops up that light box form. The link could also go to a full screen or a full page, landing page. Within most of this options, the last piece of copy to think about is the text of the button. Now, as simple as this may sound, there could be very different conversion rates between just using the terms “download” or “submit” or “get your free download”.
Now, there’s no single answer as to which is better, eventually split testing different options is going to be the only way to know for sure what works better for your specific audience and for that specific piece of content and offer. Now that said, unless you’re already very consistently creating good content, I really wouldn’t spend too much time on split testing just yet. That can get fairly complicated and you’re likely to get much higher bang for the buck out of improving your call to action headlines, your offers, the actual content that you have than messing around with button colors or button text or anything like that.
But it’s a good thing to keep in the back of your mind, this mentality of always testing things. So what you might do is for a couple of weeks, with all of your content, use a fairly similar text and button and all of that kind of stuff. Then after a couple of weeks, maybe switch it up a little bit and use a different term so it’s effectively sort of a poor man’s way of doing split testing where you’re not really running scientifically valid tests or anything but in general, if you change something on five blog posts and then for the next five, you do something a little bit different, you see a difference in conversation rates, you know, it may have had an impact there. But again, I wouldn’t read too much into it since it’s not really statistically valid testing.
There’s a few other factors to consider before we wrap up the topic of calls to action. At this point, we’ve been talking about the call to action being at the end of your post. Now, it doesn’t need to be. When I say only have one call to action in your blog post, what I mean is, one action you want the user to take. How many times you put that call to action in your blog post really depends on the content itself, the length, and a few other factors that we’ll talk about.
In fact, just like anything else in marketing, you know, it often takes several exposures or interactions to compel a reader into action. So you may well want to put the call to action toward the top of your post and then again at the bottom or maybe even sprinkle it a couple of times throughout the post and using the opt in tools that I’ve mentioned, most of them let you do that in different ways. So at one point it might be just a hyper link in the box and another one that might be an image that pops up a light box. You could alternate those things so that you’re not always showing exactly the same thing to the reader.
Putting your call to action at the top also shows your reader pretty early on that you’re going to be asking them to do something. It also gives them an easy path if they’ve scanned our article and already know they want to take the action. You know, if you have written a killer headline and your subheadings elude to some value or free thing that you’re going to provide them at the end of your post, that may be all you need to read in order to move to the next step especially for your readers that have a read a lot of your content and already have that know, like, and trust factor with you.
In some cases, you want to give them that chance very early on to go get the free piece of content or to opt in. You know, there are several people that I follow online that I know their content upgrades are always going to be good. One podcast I listen to a lot is Amy Porterfield’s and pretty much in every single one of her podcast episodes, there is some kind of content upgrade that she provides as part of that and I know they’re going to be high quality.
So sometimes if I’ve listened to the episode and I want to go grab that lead magnet or that content upgrade, I’ll just head straight over to the post and look for it. If it’s all the way to the bottom and you’ve got to scroll and all these kinds of things, you just put a tiny barrier there to somebody that is really eager to opt-in and download.
So generally what I do is I usually put the call to action toward the top or at least mention that there is going to be a call to action and some kind of benefit or content upgrade or something like that and then I put it at the conclusion of the post as well. In the case of the podcast if you remember, at the top of this episode, I mention that I will have a checklist that I will provide just like I do with all of my blog posts. So in the podcast form, I just mentioned it at the top and then provide the details that at the end of the post. Again if it’s a blog, I’ll put it in multiple locations.
Generally, as a call to action in almost all of my content, I try to include a content upgrade. If you are not familiar with that term, it’s basically something that enhances or provides additional value on top of the content itself. So in this case, the content is the podcast episode but the content upgrade is the checklist that I provide that captures all the stuff that we talked about in a forum that is easy for you to use, so you don’t forget what we’re talking about here and that you can build it into your authoring process.
Now when you think back to the call to action types, this is one of those ones where it’s an “ask for more information” type of call to action because I basically provide the checklist in exchange for these are going to my show notes and entering their email address and then in return, they get to download a PDF of the checklist. Now here’s where we’re going to get a little bit meta with this topic which is my call to action for you on the topic of, calls to action.
First, for every piece of content regardless of whether it is a long form blog post or a ten second Instagram story video, think about the action you want to read or listen or take at the end of that piece of content. Second, make sure you include a clear call to action in every piece of content and third, make sure you use a wide range of calls to action across all of your content. You want to make sure that a lot of them are just to provide additional value to the audience and a relative few are asking for more information or outright purchases.
If your audience feels like they are going to pitched every time they consume a piece of your content, they’re not likely to come back to your content. It’s far better to surprise them with extra free value on a frequent basis and then every once in a while, ask for more information or ask for the sale. And finally, be sure to head over to the show notes at StrongStart.fm/021 to download my free checklist that helps you delight your audience by writing better calls to action, faster. Notice what I did there? A benefit then the features, just saying.
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