What if Your CTAs Are a Turn Off

Bridget Willard

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.

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