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Blogosphere Trends + Effective Calls to Action

You might be saying, “I’m a blogger, not a sales person. I create content. Why would I need to worry about calls to action?” But if you are, I’d encourage you to adjust your thinking. Making money from your blog, growing your business, and getting readers to interact will be next to impossible if you can’t effectively motivate your audience to take action.

Still skeptical? Take a look at Darren Rowse. His latest video on making money online encourages bloggers to build products, and for good reason: according to his blogging income breakdown, 40% of his February income came from ebooks and another 9% from membership sites such as Third Tribe Marketing and ProBlogger.com. Certainly these revenue streams would not have existed if he’d never asked anyone to buy his ebooks or join these sites. He is successful, in part, because he’s great at creating effective calls to action.

Even if you’re not selling anything (yet), you still want your audience to take action by commenting, interacting, sharing, Facebook “liking” your post, watching your videos, attending your events, etc. These things all grow your blog and your community. So let’s get into some tips that will help you create successful calls to action on your blog, no matter what your goal. To give you some examples of these tips in action, I’ll use blog posts about the last month’s most-blogged-about stories, according to Regator (they are, in order: Japan, Libya, SXSW, Charlie Sheen, March Madness, AT&T, Elizabeth Taylor, St. Patrick’s Day, iPad 2, and Rebecca Black).

1. Be clear

Example: Social Times’s “10 Ways To Help Japan Through Social Media
In this example, the goal is to get readers to take action to help Japan. There are several options, and each is presented in a clear, simple way: “Watch this video,” “If you have received information about someone in Japan who was affected by the earthquake or tsunami … add this information to Google’s Person Finder,” and so forth. Calls to action are no place for subtlety or word play. Be direct and straightforward.

2. Solve a problem

Example: Save Darfur’s “Protecting Civilians in Libya: How You Can Help
One of the number one tips given here on ProBlogger is to be useful, and it’s possible to be useful even when making a call to action. In this case, the readers of the blog are activists who are likely looking for ways to make a difference. This post asks readers to “take action by writing a letter to the editor” but also explains how to take that action, going as far as providing a sample letter to the editor. Don’t focus so much on your own desire to have readers take action that you forget to be helpful.

3. Know when and where to ask

Example: Mashable’s “Join Mashable for Two Days of Events at SXSWi
Here, the call to action (to register for one of the blog’s SXSW events) is placed in the headline, in the RSVP section, and at the very end of the post. There’s no wrong place to put your call to action, but putting it at the end of your post often works better than putting it near the beginning because they’ve finished reading your post and are ready to act.

4. When the goal is interaction, offer some options

Example: The Smoking Jacket’s “Smoking Poll: Would You Watch Two and a Half Men if Charlie Sheen Returned?
You know that most of your readers are lurkers, but how do you lure them out to become an active part of your community? Asking them to vote in a poll or take some other similarly simple action is a good way to help them get their feet wet. In this example, the bloggers directly asks readers to vote in the poll and state their case in the comments.

5. Create visual interest.

Example: Mental_Floss’s “The mental_floss Guide to the NCAAs (The West)” [March Madness]
Drawing attention to your call to action is imperative. After all, if no one sees it, no one will act on it. In this example, Mental­_Floss tries to get readers to follow its Twitter account but rather than putting it in the sidebar or using a standard Twitter button, it has created an impossible-to-ignore, colorful button at the bottom of the post itself. Use bold text, colors, buttons, or large fonts to draw attention to the action you want readers to take. Facebook “Like” buttons and retweet buttons are so ubiquitous these days, many people tune them out. If those actions in particular are important to you, find a unique way, such as the one in this example, to present them.

6. Provide an incentive.

Example: The Consumerist’s “Make Your Voice Heard On The AT&T/T-Mobile Deal
I hate to break it to you, but very few readers who aren’t your mom will do what you ask out of the sheer goodness of their hearts. You’ve got to make it a win-win situation. In this example, The Consumerist wants readers to share their opinions but sweetens the deal by letting its audience know that those who contribute will have an opportunity to have their “voices heard” and possibly be chosen for inclusion in press materials. Before you ask others for anything, ask yourself what they’d get out of it. If the answer is nothing, don’t ask until you’ve found some value for your audience.

7. Set a single goal

Example: PopWatch’s “Elizabeth Taylor: What’s your favorite role? ‘National Velvet’? ‘Cleopatra’? ‘Virginia Woolf’?
Determine what you want your post to achieve then make a single call to action. Don’t ask for too many things at once. If you want people to buy your ebook, ask for only that. If you want them to attend your seminar, ask for only that. In this case, the post’s goal is to get readers to share their opinions via a poll and the post’s only call to action is that. Set a goal for every post.

8. Use deadlines

Example: For the Love of Dog’s “Photo Contest: Bizzy go Braugh” [St. Patrick’s Day]
In this post (which, by the way, features a dog in a leprechaun outfit, including beard), the blogger makes it clear that readers must take action by sending in their caption by March 23. Deadlines create a sense of urgency that makes people want to act faster. Use one if it makes sense with your particular call to action.

9. Keep it simple

Example: Digital Photography School’s “Buy Captivating Color for a Chance to Win an iPad 2
You’re a blogger, so I don’t need to tell you how short people’s attention spans are these days. The easier the action is, the more likely they are to take it. Compare the example above, wherein people are automatically entered into a contest to win an iPad 2 simply by purchasing an ebook, with an iPad contest post on another blog (for the sake of keeping things positive, I won’t name it), which required readers to follow a particular Twitter account, tweet a long and very specific message, find the exact URL for that tweet, then come back to the blog and post the URL in the post’s comments. It’s obvious which call to action is likely to be more successful. Don’t complicate things.

10. Ask for what you want

Example: TV Squad’s “Watch Stephen Colbert (and Taylor Hicks!) Sing [Rebecca Black’s] ‘Friday’ With Jimmy Fallon
I saved the most basic tip for last and it applies to all of the examples above as well as every call to action you make: ask for what you want. This example post ends with “Tell us: Whose version of Friday do you like better?” It is a specific, simple call to action. Don’t assume that readers will comment, that they will tweet your posts, that they will buy your products, or that they will take the actions described in your posts if you never ask them. Be clear, direct, and make it a win-win and you’ll see results.

Now I’ll follow my own advice. My call to action: If you’re a ProBlogger reader who has never commented before, take this opportunity to introduce yourself and say hello in the comments today. I’ll check back all week because I’d love to meet more of you guys.

Kimberly Turner is a cofounder of Regator, a site that curates the best of the blogosphere, as well as an award-winning print journalist. Reach her on Twitter @kimber_regator and get free widgets for your blog from Regator.

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Comments

  1. Good 10 points – although I would do some points before others nevertheless its accurate and clear information.

    • Gregory C. says:

      I would personally put “Set A Clear Goal” out in front, but don’t you think the post is to be taken as a whole and not as some sort of ranking?

  2. Hi Kimberly,

    This is a great article and I love how you provide links to good examples! Very nicely done!

    You are right that #10 is probably the most important point of all. You need to be let your readers know what you’D like them to do. You can do that be using design elements that draw the attention to buttons to be clicked etc. but the most effective is to straight out ask your audience to do so. That in combination with offering value in return – a reason why they should take the action – seems to be the most powerful combination. The incentive doesn’t always have to be gifts like books and other free stuff. Often times it is enough if you can simply give your loyal audience a good reason why you need them to take action – why it would help you (or help you help them even more).

    Thanks for sharing!

    • Definitely. Not every blogger has the resources to give out prizes constantly, but there are a lot of types of rewards, including just being useful. Thanks a lot for reading and for your comment, Philipp.

  3. Great post Kimberly! All this 10 points are great but I like the # 8 i.e Using Deadlines. I’ve discovered that this really helps in time management in achieving my goals. Thanks for sharing…

  4. Great post Kimberly! All this 10 points are great but I like the # 8 i.e Using Deadlines. I’ve discovered that this really helps in time management in achieving my goals. Thanks for sharing

  5. This can be termed as a manual to awesome call to action!

    Yes Call to action is important and to make ourselves master in the same before hand is to practice call to action in every post we write. We need to drive the readers to what we are discussing, that’s a way to implement call to action in stealth mode and no need to mention engage the readers more.

  6. Claudia says:

    Good one Darren, got me commenting and I am definitelly a lurker cause my blog is about yoga so I just come to learn here… I recently posted a simple survey as well, do people think the popularity of ashtanga yoga is increasing with a simple Y/N/M answer, and I was surprised by the response, it is really nice to see the action, I love it when there is interaction!

  7. Kerry says:

    Good morning! Nice to ‘meet’ you. What a great post. I agree, it’s amazing how simply asking for what you want can bring terrific results.
    Have an awesome day:)

  8. Chris says:

    Thanks for sharing these case examples. I just started my blog and tips like these really come in handy.

  9. Daniel Roach says:

    Dig the post, Kimberly. And you’re right, bloggers need to learn how to sell, not just educate and entertain. I’ve built an entire coaching practice and product line around how to turn a blog into a business because I see too many people getting discouraged when they don’t see a real pay off from their blog.

    Trouble is, they never asked their readers for that payoff. They don’t ask for sales. They don’t ask for subscribers. Most of the time they’re too afraid to.

    • I think it’s a combination of being afraid to and not realizing the importance. A lot of bloggers feel that it’s their job to create great content and that the money will somehow follow. Thanks for your comment.

  10. Rison Simon says:

    My favorite is keeping it simple. People do have a very small attention span. I have seen blogs which hosts contests where you need to retweet a sponsor post and post the link in the comments. Not only are such contests fake engaging but also they do not provide any value to the reader. I think the primary objective of the blogs should be to provide value to the readers, right?

  11. It’s great advice Kimberly and I think it is the genesis for The Third Tribe way of thinking. Yes, be useful. Yes, create interesting and helpful content. But there is nothing wrong with asking for the order.

    Thanks for writing this Kimberly!

  12. AE Thanh says:

    Another important point is to have as few call-to-actions as possibly. The best is to have just one. More than one and you might not get anything at all because you confuse your prospect.

    Also, the easier it is to do, the more likely they will do it. So make it simple!

  13. Your call to action worked perfectly. I’m part of a team who works on a magazine project back in a small city named Saltillo, Coahuila —on the northern side of Mexico—, not to much blogger aware actually, but we think we are making a good investment at the time, just before everyone starts to blog.

    Saludos!!!

  14. Well it’s necessary to stick to our basics when implementing a plan. That will avoid complication in the process of execution.

  15. Pedro says:

    Some bloggers still have prejudices against selling stuff… which is kind of odd, when you think that everyone buys stuff! So what’s the wrong with trying to match the interests of the audience with your personal skills? None, of course.

    As long as it’s promoted in a spirit of honesty and usefulness, there’s nothing wrong with developing commercial content that people might feel enticed to buy!

  16. Joel Wright says:

    Kimberly, this post is on point with exactly what I have been thinking about lately. A call to action and how to do it with style and swagger.

    And I find it strange that I picked today of all days to start speaking up and commenting on blogs and found your post! I think it was your post that made me do it!

  17. You have to eventually create your own products and/ or find ways to monetize your blog like paid membership. It’s hard for non-bloggers to understand that blogging is a business and a real way to support yourself financially.

    And don’t be afraid to ask others for help when needed.

  18. Chris says:

    Wow! This is hands down of the more useful and engaging posts I’ve read in a long time! Kim hit the nail on the head with all of her points and they really got me thinking on ways to better monetize and profit from my blogs.

    It’s become obvious to me that it’s so much easier to rank blog content than it is a static site. It stands to reason that the flexibility of a blog is the way to go! Thanks for an engaging post, Kim.

    • Thanks for your kind comment, Chris. I’m really glad you found it useful. Monetizing is something that doesn’t always come naturally to bloggers (I speak from experience) so it’s worth taking the time to really think about how you can make it happen.

  19. Michael says:

    Exactly, without a call to action, everything else is pointless. It’s all about that CTA. I can understand, though, how some people just blog for the sake of blogging and don’t want to be worried with that type of stuff, but for the rest of us, it’s all about what we’re aiming to do and what type value we want to give, writing an ebook can simply just be another type of value that we can add to the world.

  20. Paul Osborn says:

    That went right on my wall. Will definitely be reading this again before posting.

  21. Guy Hogan says:

    This is something I know I’m not good at. So, this article and the list is a big help.

  22. Anton says:

    Really great post Kimberly!
    Using topics that nearly everybody can relate to, makes the article easy to understand and much more exiting to read !

  23. Wonderful Points. Some bloggers don’t use this tips because they don’t see the potential of a blog to sell and, the most important, be known in the blogosphere.

  24. SGill says:

    Wonderful Post. Calls to action are certainly important for reader engagement.

    I’ve been a regular reader of this blog for a long time, Never commented!

    This post definitely helped! Good one!

  25. Very good point. It’s easy to assume people will just do things on their own, but they do need a little reminder now and then. Nice article!

  26. Angeliki says:

    I am definitelly a lurker as well! First time commenting here!
    What a great post and all points were spot on.

    • Thanks for speaking up, Angeliki! I’m glad you enjoyed the post and that you’ve taken the time to comment. Hopefully, this is just the first of many comments.

  27. Natasha says:

    Great advice! I’m still in the planning, building stages of my blog and hope to launch my revised website and blog in 2 weeks.

    Definitely going to use this advice.

    Thanks!

  28. thanx for sharing the important part of blogging.. very nice article and it will help all bloggers and make competition even tougher…!

  29. Aaron Elharar says:

    Hey Kimberly, really really great post! This post reminded me of something I wanted to do on my blog and I wanted to see if you had any tips for me. I have a new blog and I want to do a daily contest where readers share info to get in the contest (in this case they share a good deal they found online) and I’m going give a prize to the best one every day. My prize will be like a $10 amazon/iTunes gift card or something.

    Have you seen anyone else do something like this successfully? Or would you have any tips in general?

    Thanks in advance!

    Aaron

    • Hi Aaron. Sorry for the delayed response. It’s been a busy month.

      Prizes can be a great incentive. My advice would be, since yours is a new blog, not to rely too heavily on them because while prizes can be a great reward for readers, the real reason they’ll be coming back over and over is your content. Be sure you’ve built up a healthy archive of great content to keep them reading, and use prizes as occasional rewards. You may find, if you can build your readership enough, that they’ll share great online deals and other knowledge just to get the reward of contributing to the community and sharing their wisdom.

      I don’t have any data to back it up at the moment, but my instinct would be that for that kind of contest, it would be better to do it less often–maybe monthly–and to give the prize to the reader who shares the most useful information in the comments. I think you’d probably get more engagement that way.

      Hope that’s at least a bit helpful. Good luck with the new blog!

  30. Judkis says:

    I just started a blog,but I almost know nothing about it.
    I wish i could learnt something from your advice.Thanks!

  31. Jule Gamache says:

    I am a college student and I recently started a blog about my experiences. I just found Problogger and these tips are excellent! I definitely plan to consider them in the future. Thanks!

  32. Stan Rosen says:

    Hi Kimberly,

    Your clear ‘call to action’ article awakened my senses to realize just what a new blogger needs to be successful. Thank you. It was like finding a gold nugget.