Are Your Content CTAs Falling Flat? Here’s How to Fix Them

Kelsey Jones


September 3, 2018 (Updated: January 23, 2024)

Improve your content CTAs that are missing the mark

You may think you’re ahead of the game by having a call-to-action (CTA) in your content, but the fact is, if it isn’t actually converting readers, then it’s basically the same as not having one at all.

You’ll know your CTAs aren’t working if you aren’t seeing any click-throughs from your links, as well as little to no conversions from these offers on the specific content pages. Certain CTAs may work well in some places and not in others, so it’s important to review what pages your leads or sales are converting from to figure out what works best. If you have the same CTA on a landing page and a blog post, but no conversions on the blog post offer, then it’s time to change what you’re offering in blog posts.

If your CTAs meant to inspire users to convert aren’t working, it’s time to evaluate what you can change to make your words more enticing. From testing what you are offering users to simple yet powerful visual changes, you can start getting more conversions. Content is never created for no one to read, so testing ways to improve can end the frustrating cycle of publishing and promoting content only to see no activity. Here are some ways to tweak your CTAs to get better results.

Figure Out Which Content Goes Best With Each CTA

Learn which content works best with each CTA

Image via Pixabay by JuralMin

If you are offering a free e-book that is getting a good click-through rate (CTR) on your home page, but not on your blog posts, it’s easy to deduce that either the offer isn’t visible enough in the content, or it isn’t applicable to blog readers. We’ll cover the former later in this post, but as for user interest, it’s important to look at the actual content.

In marketing, it can be easy to get into a rut and make everything the same because it’s getting good results in one area. After all, you would think that people who visit the homepage of a website are the same audience who would read a website’s blog posts. While that is likely the case, the main difference is how and why users are going to specific pages on your site. These influences make all the difference in getting a higher CTR on your CTAs.

For instance, if I get to a tutorial blog post on your website from searching for a fix to my problem on Google, then my brain is focused on fixing that problem. If I see a CTA for an e-book about another topic, I likely won’t click through because I am currently interested in the issue at hand. This means that a blog post titled “How to fix your cracked iPhone screen” on my iPhone accessories e-commerce website likely isn’t going to result in a great CTR for a call-to-action about a free “iPhone app hacks” e-book.

Conversely, if I find an informative piece of content through Pinterest or in an informative Google search, I’ll likely be more interested in an informative e-book because I am in the research phase of the buying process. The e-book about iPhone app hacks may work better here, as it appeals to customers interested in the iPhone and buying iPhone accessories on my website.

To start the process of better targeted CTAs for your content, create a mind map or spreadsheet of your main content topics or categories and what offer would work best for each one. Then you can begin the process of creating and tweaking CTAs to make them as enticing as possible for each audience.

How Wording Changes Click-Through Rate

I mention tweaking CTAs because it often isn’t enough to have a good offer; your offer also needs to be presented in an appealing way. The same offer can seem boring or uninteresting, depending on how we phrase it.

For example, take these two CTAs for the same online course:

“Join over 50,000 art lovers who’ve graduated from our online mosaic beginners course: Sign up for free now.”

“We have a free mosaic beginners course online: sign up now.”

The offer is the same, but the first example used the power of social influence (“join over 50,000 art lovers”) to make the offer more enticing.

If audience size doesn’t work for your business or offer, there are other aspects of an offer you can include in your CTA:

  • FOMO (Fear of Missing Out): “This free course is only available for one more week before it’s sealed in the vault forever.”
  • Future Value of The Material: “Businesses who attend our conference see an average revenue increase of 20% in the first 12 months due to what they learned.”
  • Insider Information: This information has been shared privately for years with our million-dollar clients, but we’re giving it to you for free.”
  • Your Own Success: “We’ll implement the same strategies in your business that we used to get to a six-figure monthly revenue from social media.”

These types of CTAs are much more appealing than even powerfully worded plain offers, like “Attend the largest podcasting conference in the United States” or “Read this e-book by a New York Times bestselling author” because they focus on how they can help the user instead of the product itself. This is the difference between “Buy this bestselling book” and “This book will change your life in XYZ ways.” When users are converting, whether it’s sharing their email address or making a purchase, they want to know how that action will impact them. By focusing on that angle in your CTAs, you’ll make your offers hard to resist.

Visual Elements for Calls-to-Action

Words make the biggest image, but did you know that even the background color of your CTA box could make a difference? Surprisingly, it’s true. Many marketers find that when they A/B test different colors of CTA boxes or buttons, one usually has a higher CTR than the other.

A compilation of color tests published by ConversionXL found that an orange CTA button almost always had a higher click-through rate. Other tests found that brighter colors or white text versus black were higher, as well. While color shouldn’t be the main focus of conversion rate optimization (as the article also points out), it’s just another layer of your CTA that you should be aware of.

Besides color, design elements go beyond the “orange versus blue” debate and can play a major part in your CTR. Different designs will appeal to different audiences, depending on their preferences. For instance, a more modern design will work better for industries that see themselves as forward-thinking, like engineers and those in the technology sector. Conversely, real estate agents might like a more traditional look.

Of course, these are just generalizations for the sake of an example. It’s always important to A/B test a few options to see what your audience likes best. Tools like Optinmonster or Optimizely make this fairly easy.

Change Your Offer

If you’ve tried all the pointers above, like matching the offer to the type of content, rewording it, or changing the design and you’re still having issues with getting a higher CTR, it may be the offer itself.

Just because an offer seems good to you and your team, it doesn’t mean it’s a good offer to your audience. Here are a few reasons why your offer may not be appealing to your audience:

The Offer Isn’t Good Enough

Because we are so attached to our own content and products, any discount or free content may seem like we are giving away a Powerball’s worth of value to our audience. However, users aren’t as attached to our content or products as we are. As a result, a 10% discount could seem like an irresistible offer to you, but it might not be enough for your audience to actually decide to make a purchase.

The Topic is Outdated

No matter what industry you’re in, it is crucial to stay relevant. Your digital marketing efforts should be as up-to-date as possible because that’s what is getting to your customers the fastest. They can instantly go onto your website and order a product or download an e-book, versus having to deal with ordering through the phone or getting a booklet in the mail.

As a result, all information needs to be what your target audience is talking about right now. For instance, if a web design firm released an e-book on “the value of building a mobile version of your website,” it would be sorely out-of-date because responsive websites are what Google and most marketers recommend (not separate versions).

The Topic is Uninteresting

Along the same lines as the above, if the topic of your offer just isn’t interesting, no one is going to download or buy it. If users can’t think of a reason why they need something, they aren’t going to spend their time with it. It’s important to set the ‘why’ in your CTA copy, but before that, marketers should also spend a few moments considering whether or not this offer is actually something the target audience is interested in.

Go outside of the marketers who are creating the offers and ask actual customers or users what they’d like to buy or download. The answers may be surprising and offer an angle that you haven’t thought of before. Many marketers will offer free products, discounts, or gift cards to current customers for their input. Depending on the size of your customer base, a small “gift card budget” of just a few hundred dollars can go a long way toward getting valuable input into what types of offers drive conversions.

Offer is Confusing

To lessen objections to buying something or to giving an organization their contact information, offers must be as clear as possible for users. Copy must be clear, concise, and plainly stating the offer’s value. If the offer seems too complex or the steps to complete a CTA seem too intense, it will scare users away. VentureHarbor compiled some case studies that found in most cases, shorter forms are better.

However, in some cases, the form fields themselves made a difference in conversions, as well. Even if a form is short but asks questions users don’t want to answer (such as business revenue level), it may still affect conversions negatively.

No Sense of Urgency

FOMO was mentioned earlier, but users need to know why they need your offer right now. Whether it’s a product, a piece of content, or a service, if it’s not needed now, why would someone interact with it now? People are constantly overloaded with offers online at home and at work, and without properly making your case for why your offer is urgently important, it’s going to fall by the wayside.

To do this, focus on how it relates to what is currently happening in your industry, how fast someone can see results from the offer, or what could be saved or improved. People never want to miss out on something that can improve their lives or business.

To figure out if your CTAs need a change-up, look over your CTR data from the last 12 months and find a few CTAs that are performing well and a few that aren’t. Consider the variables: What pieces of content are they on? What are they promoting? What has been the historical performance of this CTA? This baseline data can help you begin to sort out what is working and what isn’t. Include this review in your quarterly or monthly to-do list of your content marketing initiatives to help you stay on top of it.

As with most areas of digital and content marketing, it’s imperative to stay agile and be flexible with the content and offers you are creating. If something is no longer working, it’s time to test it or create something new. Without constant innovation and creation, your offers (and by extension, your calls-to-action) will get stale and users will move on to something more interesting or useful.

Author Image - Kelsey Jones
Kelsey Jones

CopyPress writer

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