Why You Need To Get CTAs Out Of Your Content

There seems to be this misguided belief, one continually pushed by the so-called ‘experts’, that your content is a sales tool. It isn’t.

The idea that one should use, or needs to use, hard CTAs and pop-ups (or giveaways) to join your list, or similar tactics to ‘convert’ represents a lack of understanding of content marketing.

To be clear, I am not telling you to skip the CTAs or remove your email subscription links. It’s those ‘in your face’ ones which have become an issue. At best, they are good short-term gains. At worst, they will turn off your reader.

It’s human behavior

We do as asked
We do to get something.

When you ask your reader to take an action, they usually will. Offer them a deal or a free download, Hell yes they’ll subscribe. Sadly, you’ll likely never hear from them again. Check your email marketing open and click-through rates. How good are they? I’ll bet, if the list was built by asking for sign-ups or by offering freebies, it isn’t great. Why?

Simple human behavior.

When we do because we were asked or to get something instead of because we wanted to, we don’t assign value to the action.

Or we have already received it.

We value what we work for, want, and seek out. If your reader subscribes or continues to move through your website BY CHOICE, they value what you offer. 

They will return.
They will engage in time.
They WANT what you have to offer.
They will become profitable clients.

Your goal should be to compel action to click through or subscribe or to take an action through your content.

Resorting to hard CTAs and reasons to click are ploys used by poor content marketers to compensate for ineffective content.

If your content doesn’t, you may need to rethink the effectiveness of your content (and hire someone to help).

Sorry, I bounced

Hard CTAs within content marketing may provide a short-term gain, and perhaps for some, they have long-term value. They come at a risk. Back to human behavior.

A few weeks ago I caught a post on Facebook. The author was venting (OK, bitching) that ads in YouTube videos (the ‘commercials’ part way through and unskippable) where ruining the experience. They are not alone. There is nothing more I dislike then watching or reading content only to be interrupted and forced to sit through or click to escape a pop up before I can get back to the content. Sorry. Not happening. Next site, please.

You did your job and I landed on your website. Then you went and interrupted what I came there for trying to get me to join your list? Trust me. I am not subscribing. What you did was rude. At least let me finish reading to see if I actually WANT to join. And yes, I do subscribe to lists. Why? Good content. Authority and real value. What I have never done is subscribe via a pop-up.

Worse, I have left sites where I would have subscribed, where there was good content which offered real value, thanks to a pop-up.

There is more than one way to convert

Contact form submissions, list subscriptions, or other internal actions are only one form of conversion. Most content marketers do not consider that backlinks are a form of conversion. They are a clear indication your content had real value. And those backlinks serve to increase traffic to your website through referrals and an increased likelihood of showing in SERPs.

How likely are you to link to an article which could annoy your reader, or worse, possibly cost you a potential client?

Backlinks aren’t the only ignored conversion. Social shares, returning visitors, and time on site count. Hard CTAs and requests will limit these as well.

Focus on your content, not conversions

Good content will convert. It doesn’t require a hard sell. Bad content won’t, even with a hard sell. Focus on creating valuable, helpful, well-written content. Focus on getting it in front of the right audience (effective social media marketing).

The results will speak for themselves if you concentrate on the end game. Hard CTAs, pop-ups, and other assorted tricks are short-term solutions in a long-term game.

This, of course, does not mean you should eliminate all CTAs from your content.

Soft CTAs are encouraged

This goes to my focus on visibility and accessibility. Once on your site (the visibility piece) and having read your content, make it easy for your reader to subscribe or reach out or share your article. A lack of accessibility to subscribe and/or share buttons means those who choose to convert might not.

If you agree, we made sharing easy thanks to Warfare plugins (affiliate link) and subscribe for more great content in your inbox:

This article was adapted from ‘What if Your CTAs are a Turn Off’’ by Bridget Willard.

2 replies
  1. Amy Hall
    Amy Hall says:

    I agree with you wholeheartedly with the soft CTA’s. And what do you tell people that don’t have a stable of good content built up yet because their blog is new? Should they crank out some blog posts to build up their content and showcase their expertise?

    • Robert Nissenbaum
      Robert Nissenbaum says:

      Amy, my advice is simple. Don’t crank out content, but do get started. You are better off with fewer longer, more in depth pieces. Adding content slowly will also allow time to build a mailing list to send out new content. The process still needs to be organic.


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