What if Your CTAs Are a Turn Off

Every once in a while I come across an article on content marketing that makes me cringe. It seems that even the experts don’t understand the concept.

After a decade plus of generating revenue through content marketing, I can tell you the points mentioned, which included adding CTAs, making the reader take an action, getting subscribers, are absolutely unnecessary. Some are helpful, though they were about getting your content seen. Most are flat out compensation for crap content or ineffective marketing.

The need to keep them clicking or give them an action to take or relying on a CTA are indications the author did a poor job with their content (either the subject itself or how it was written) and getting it in front of the right audience. If your content hit the mark, the reader will choose to take an action without prompting.

Good content which addresses your audience's question, provides a solution, and shows your authority will compel action. If it doesn't, you may need to rethink the effectiveness of your content. ~ @tsomedia Click To Tweet

The negative effect of CTAs

Calls to Action (CTAs) in content has a drawback as well. It can limit social sharing and backlinks. I will generally advise clients against linking to content which includes CTAs, especially if they are obvious. Unless my client has a high degree of authority and experience, that link could result in a lost sale (the last click wins).

While it may be seen as a positive if you received a backlink to an article with a CTA, you’ll still likely have lost more links than earned. While I don’t have a concern about losing clients through links to content with strong CTAs, my content is designed to be educational and informative.  For me, to link to an article which includes a strong CTA (making it promotional) is a huge no. I will only link to (or share via social media) content aimed at educating and informing.

Think about the real world comparison.

Would you ever refer someone to a possible competitor if you knew they used hard-sell tactics? That you could lose your customer. Hell no! You wouldn’t expect referrals if you did the same either. So why include a hard sell in the form of a CTA within your content? Good content doesn’t need it. Authoritative brands don’t need it.

If you feel a CTA is necessary, add one in a non-promotional way.  Try “we’d love to chat” or “if you have questions” used with “drop us a line” or “contact us” linked to your contact form. More than being less promotional, this softer approach is more inviting, more relationship-based, and you’ll likely see an increase in conversions.

“Keep them clicking?”

Internal links shouldn’t exist to “keep them clicking.” They are designed to provide an opportunity for the reader to dig deeper if they want to learn more. Good content can stand on its own. Internal links designed to keep your reader clicking will have them clicking off your site. Your reader wants answers.

If they cannot find what they need in the content you provided, they’ll bounce. Period. And Google will take notice of POGO bounces (If you follow this link, you’ll see it perfectly addressed what I was after and it doesn’t try to convert me. It still earned a backlink and I bookmarked the site for future reference – Those are conversions. Additional links on the page gave me an option to read more and the subscribe box is unobtrusive to a point that I failed to even notice it on the first read — damn good content marketing.)

If your content hits the mark, it will compel others to read more. That is the sign of good content marketing. Keep them clicking is a ploy used by poor content marketers to keep readers on a site. ~ @tsomedia Click To Tweet

The Bottom Line

Well-written (hire a professional content editor if necessary), valuable content which shows authority in addressing a subject matter does not need a hard CTA.

Rather than talking to experts adding gimmicks, let’s get back to basics and talk about what makes for good content. Let’s focus on quality writing (hire an editor if necessary). Learn how to use social media marketing and building the right audience to get your good content seen.

If your content isn’t hitting its mark and you feel the points addressed in the above-referenced article are advisable, let’s chat. (See what I did there? A soft, friendly CTA!)

Robert Nissenbaum is a brand, content and social media marketing consultant at Tactical Social Media with more than a decade of experience.  He is a national speaker and is the Lead Marketing Wrangler for WordCamp Seattle.  An avid sea kayaker, when not online, you can find him on the water.  You can find him on Twitter at @rnissenbaum.

If you want to be seen, go expose yourself!

I caught this article on outbound links and SEO in my Facebook feed. It instantly hit a nerve.

Can we just stop writing for SEO?

We have been so brainwashed about content – when we need to post, how often we should post, how we need to create it to show in searches that we have forgotten WHY we need to publish content.

Honest answer, please?

Why do you publish content on your blog? On Facebook, LinkedIn, Twitter, whatever your flavor of social media is today?

Too often the first answer is something to the effect of the “I need to be on the first page of Google” reason. The second is usually about showing up in feeds. Both are essentially the same reason – to be seen.  The problem with this approach?  The point of your content is to provide answers, information, something of value to the reader, not to get you noticed.

If you want to be seen, go expose yourself!

Back in the day that meant cold calling, networking meetings, and after-hours business events. Today it means the same, only doing it via social platforms.

Get involved in groups, interact with the content of others. Make yourself visible. Give others a reason to WANT to read your content. Write it to provide value, show authority, to connect.  This way when they do seek out your content, they’ll read it, engage with it, and potentially share it. This game of creating and publishing content and focusing on getting it to show up is ineffective (Facebook’s whole reach thing).

As a salesperson with more than 30 years experience, I can tell you the best sales are when the customer buys, not when they are sold. From a content perspective, if you continue to try to shove content down your audience’s throats, they likely won’t read it, let alone convert. Drive them to WANT to read it and they will! They are also more likely to share it and to consume more of your content.

To be clear, I am not saying a piece of content showing at the top of page 1 in a Google search or a social feed will not convert. I’m pointing out that it’s not why we should be creating content or optimizing for as a priority.

All of my content is designed to provide value. Probably 90% of the content I publish has ‘SEO’ as an afterthought, if at all.

  • I write to provide value.
  • I write with the goal of keeping content moving and easy to read.

WHEN I get you to my content, you will read it.

Everything else is secondary. I know you chose to read my content and I know I provided value, you are more likely to comment on it, share it, link back to it or otherwise send signals, direct and indirect, to Google, that it should be ranked.

Search ranking is the indirect result of good content and social networking.

Write to answer questions, inform, educate, provide value. Network to drive views. The rest takes care of itself if you do these effectively. (FYI – this is the method I use for myself and clients to drive 20%+ reach and engagement levels on Facebook.)

Yes, you can optimize for SEO to your heart’s content and will likely show in SERPs. At that point, I need to ask, for all of your work, what is your CTR? Do people actually ‘click’ when you show in a search? Do you even know?

The same applies to social feeds. If you optimize for ‘reach’, is your content seeing engagement? Is it generating web traffic? Converting? Likely no…because the reader didn’t choose to see it, it was shown to them (simple human behavior – and yes, I know, there are ways to show it to them and get them to convert.

So about what started this little rant – outbound links and if they are good for SEO.

Here’s the thing. Many of the bits which are recommended for SEO optimization – all come down to good writing and presentation.

  1. Heading tags and small paragraphs – all about making it readable.
  2. Internal links – all about providing the reader with more related content.
  3. External links – all about citing sources, supporting claims, providing related content.

Remember those term papers we needed to write in high school and college? The elements above? They were required. Why? The reasons I listed. The teacher/professor needed to be able to read (and want to keep reading) what you wrote. They needed to know you understood the concept (authority). Outbound links provide you credibility. That credibility makes someone more inclined to share and link back.

Stop thinking in terms of SEO and start thinking in terms of your audience.

  • What does my audience want to read?
  • How will  I keep them reading until the end?
  • What will provide them the information they need?
  • How will I show my authority and understanding of the concept?]

Then go network. MAKE people want to learn more about you or your brand. Make them WANT to learn more and seek out your content.

SERPs and social feed ‘reach’ for your content is an indirect result of writing for your audience, which is a direct result of you creating its initial visibility through social interaction.

Next time you sit down to write, think in terms of your reader, not Google. Then go be social. Click To Tweet

Robert Nissenbaum is a speaker and you can find out more here.