Developing a Call to Action Strategy for Success

Chuck Forbes - November 6, 2018

I recently attended a conference and helped lead a marketing discussion around SEO and content tips. While most of the discussion was a presentation, we encouraged the group to ask questions on the spot so we could pause and discuss outcomes versus holding ideas to the end and risking someone forgetting the full purpose of their question.

While I was walking through a PowerPoint slide listing tips for content writing, a gentlemen stopped me on the bullet point below:

  • Ensure Calls to Action are prominent and high up on the page

He asked “Why would you want to place the call to action high up on the page when that’s not how a user reads?” I asked him to clarify his question a little further and he continued with, “People read content from the top to the bottom. So I would think the more natural place for a Call to Action would be at the end of the content, when the user is finished reading. Aren’t they then ready to convert?”

You see, the question was really a cover for a theory that this gentleman had developed from following another marketing tip: Do not write content for search engines, write content for users. If I hold this tip as the ‘holy grail’ for all content I produce, I could see how this opinion of where the call to action should be placed can come to fruition. For that reason, I enjoyed answering this question more than the person who asked it, probably knows. The reason I believe this gentleman had not discarded this question from his mind yet, is because he was taking the ‘write content for users’ tip too literally. Much like economics, digital marketing questions are often best solved by taking a rational, expanded view of human behavior.

Here is where you should place your call to action…

People Do Not Read Everything. By placing your Call to Action at the bottom of your content, you are assuming that people will read every word on the page. Over the years our increased synergy with technology has made humans care more about time, or as some would say, they work efficiently. People do not always need to read the entire piece of content on the page to know quickly if the page relates to what they are looking for, identifies with their beliefs or entices them to purchase. Placing your call to action after the content is taking an unnecessary risk that everyone will read it. Instead, a better and less risky option to capture as many conversions as possible is to place the call to action prominently at the beginning of the page so the users who only need to consume a small amount of content to convert have their eyes on their next step from the start and the users who want to read your entire page know where to go afterwards to convert. If the users who read quickly and convert do not see a call to action quickly, you may lose them to another page or worse, another site.

But why are we debating two different opinions on where your call to action should go? Like a good economist, a good digital marketer would just say do both! If you step back a little further from the two opposing positions of where to best place a call to action, you will see the best solution is to combine instead of eliminating. If the call to action is high up on the page, it is trying to serve the purpose of making sure every user sees it upon landing. If the call to action is at the bottom of the page, it is trying to serve the purpose of not being to be too much of a hard sell, but flow with the user so they can decide their next move after they read everything. Drawing defenses for either side will do you no justice because the only thing we proved is that users are all different and will consume the content differently – so why not place the call to action in both places, hopefully leaving either group satisfied with a good experience?

From most of the conversations I have had with other digital marketers, call to actions are treated more as a best practice rather than a strategy. Where you actually place your calls to action depend on many variants that can change over time. Your call to action strategy should include research that answers deeper questions about your audience:

  • How long to do they consume content for?
  • How reluctant are they to give personal information?
  • Are they likely to need to think about their decision further before converting?
  • Do they engage at a greater rate when we include multimedia more frequently in our content?
  • If they are doing research on other brands, what is that experience like?

Your call to action does not have to be the same when you place it in different places on your page. For example, my website could have a form fill at the bottom of the page, but a “Buy Now” call to action from the top of the page brought the user to the form. I could also have a shorter form fill in the upper left of my page on the desktop version of my site, along with a hyperlink in the middle of my page description that flows with the copy, but also sends the user to the same form at a different time in their journey, and the list goes on.

Remember in the opening I mentioned how I would rather have the participants in my discussion stop me from speaking to ask a question than hold it to the end? The reasoning behind that is not because I enjoy the suspense of never knowing when I could have to stop and start again in my presentation, it is because I am there for the people listening. If at any moment those people would like to enhance their experience by asking a question (that hopefully I can answer) then it should be easy to do so. Having them write it down until the end and then listen to another 30 minutes of more insights from the discussion, increases the chances that the person will not ask the question at all. Your call to action strategy should think in the same way. Based on your audience and your plan of what actions you want them to take, place your forms, buttons, hyperlinks, images, etc. where it makes sense – but do not limit yourself. A user will be less likely to convert on a site where they had a hard time finding the call to action than a user who may have seen it a few times, in different ways. The call to action you revise may not be the final point of conversion, but if it is a step to the final point – it is just as important.

A call to action strategy will give you the opportunity to ensure that your content flows and at any time your audience may easily convert.

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