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Best Blogging Practices: Creating Effective Calls to Action

By October 30, 2015May 13th, 2019

What is a CTA?

Effective calls-to-action (CTAs) are one of the most useful tools in your marketing toolbox. A CTA is a button, image, or link strategically placed to encourage prospective customers to take a certain action, that action being to click on the CTA. When we say CTA, we’re referring to the entire package of content – text, graphics, and button – that make up a composite design.

Today we’ll examine best practices for the CTAs you put in your blog posts. EVERY blog post for your business should contain a CTA for an offer related to the topic of the article. This is one of the most potent best practices for blogging you can use.

To gain the highest conversion rate for your offer, take the time to plan for the most compelling call to action. Overall you want to make it visually appealing with copy that makes your blog reader want the offer enough to click on it and then give up some information about themselves. Below are some techniques that will help you increase conversions.

Best Practices

First, determine your purpose: What are you asking the reader to do (beyond clicking on the CTA and filling out the form on the landing page), and what will make them want to do it? Consider the type of offer you have and where on the buyer’s journey the visitor is likely to be (for more information about the buyer’s journey, check out our blog post here). CTA buttons like “Buy Now” or “Get a Free Trial” require a higher commitment from the reader than buttons like “Shop Now” or “Download our Free Ebook.” If the post, and thus the offer is for buyers at the decision stage, a higher commitment is appropriate; but don’t ask a casual reader who’s just discovered you to commit more than they’re prepared to.

Design:

  • Size: Make it large enough to stand out, but not so large as to scream too loudly or aggressively. Some businesses have a standard size or set of sizes. We use two widths, one for the sidebar on web pages and one for blog posts; height is determined by the text and graphics.
  • Color: Use contrasting colors which fit in with the overall design of your blog. If you decide to stay with your blog colors, at least consider using a bright contrast for the button and border.
  • Images: Using images or vector art is a good way to make your CTA attract attention. Photos, icons, and vectors catch the eye and give a quick visual idea of the offer to your reader.
  • Placement: Locate your CTA in a spot that’s easy to find and follows the flow of the eye. Because your offer relates to the post, it usually makes sense to place your CTA at the bottom of the post where the reader will logically end up. If the information contained in the post turns out to be valuable to them, they are more likely to click on the related CTA than they would be before they read it.

Content:

  • Clarity:  Make your CTA easy to understand and clear: be sure to state exactly what the reader will get if they click on the CTA.
  • Benefits: Describe the offer in as few words as possible and use compelling verbs and adjectives. Bulleted or numbered lists are easier and faster to read than dense text. You can describe the benefits in more detail on the landing page.
  • Whitespace (negative space). Crowded text makes the CTA more difficult to see, so readers might pass over it without paying attention. Bulleted or numbered lists are easier and faster to read than dense text. Equally important is space around the CTA.
  • Trust: Avoid the use of negative words, and employ text that makes the reader comfortable. Anxiety-calming info such as“100% privacy – your information will not be shared” works better than “100% privacy – we will never spam you.” The word “spam” has enough negative vibe that it cancels the value of “100% privacy.” Statistics, simply stated, can validate the benefits and show you can be trusted.
  • Images can be photographic or vector-based, depending on your audience and the design of your website. Just make sure that text stands out over the background.
  • Graphics, such as arrows that point exactly where you want them to focus, can improve click-through.

Button:

  • Keep it brief. A couple of words are ideal, certainly no more than five. If extra information is needed, such as the length of a trial period, or the version of software they’ll be downloading, place the info just above or below the button in smaller text. Include extra information only if it adds value to the offer or clarifies user expectations.
  • Action-oriented: Use action verbs like “Download” or “Register.” And NEVER use the word “Submit” in your button. It might be the least effective word you can use in a CTA button.
  • Urgency: Create a subtle sense of urgency with words like “Now” and “Today,” but be careful not to be too aggressive; this can reduce your conversion rate. Encourage your readers to act immediately, don’t give them any reason to pause, and never mislead them in any way.
  • First person:  It may seem counterintuitive if the rest of your blog post uses the second person, “you.” Michael Aagaard of ContentVerve conducted an A/B test of “your” vs. “my” and found that use of first person “my” increased conversions by about 25%.
  • Commitment: Some CTAs imply a greater commitment on behalf of the visitor, especially if you’re asking them to spend money when they click on the button. Low commitment CTAs generally work better, but don’t make a prospect think they will get something free if you are, in fact, going to ask them to spend money.
  • Color: Green and orange have been found to perform better for CTA buttons than blue or red. But you do need to keep both your site design and the overall CTA design in mind and use a contrasting color to make the button stand out. For example, if your website is mostly green and orange, you might want to use a red button.
  • Placement: The most prominent position will depend on your overall design. Just make sure the button stands out and can be easily seen in the highly scientific “squint test.” Stand back from your monitor and squint your eyes to see what’s most visible on the page. If the button catches your eye, you’re good.

Look around the web and you’ll see that there is no one perfect way to design a CTA. Best practices are guidelines, not hard and fast rules. The most important principle of designing a CTA is to make it attract positive attention. In a blog post, you’ve got a head start since the reader is presumably already interested in the topic. Capitalize on that interest with an effective CTA that moves them further along on their buyer’s journey.

Utilizing all the blogging best practices is easy when you use a marketing and editorial calendar. Keep track of all your blog titles and marketing ideas in one convenient location

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Larry Levenson

Larry is passionate about inbound marketing and is a HubSpot Certified Trainer. He's learned the "secrets" of leveraging HubSpot to make marketing hyper-effective and customizes that information to help our clients meet their goals. Larry lives in Prescott, AZ, and when not at work, he is hiking or hanging out with teenagers as a volunteer with Boys to Men USA.