Turn passive readers into active customers with a call-to-action

By Brittany Taylor


How to capture passive readers and turn them into loyal fans (and customers!)

Let me introduce you to the CTA and show you how it can transform your content

by Brittany Taylor

published January 9, 2016

updated July 6, 2018

Your blog is beautiful. It’s well-written. It’s getting more and more pageviews as the months go by. Why, you ask, does anything need to change?

Before I answer that question, I want you to sit down and maybe grab a hunk of chocolate. Got it? OK. I know you like seeing that upward trend on your Google Analytics graph, but honey bun, pageviews don’t mean anything unless they number in the zillions.

If you have a big check coming in regularly for display advertising, that’s one thing. But for most of us, our businesses blog exists for a reason: to generate new customers and (whoop whoop!) revenue. If that’s why you’re hitting publish every week, a call-to-action is the element your blog posts need to capitalize on every single reader’s captivated attention.

Keep the chocolate close and read on:

What is a call-to-action?

A call-to-action, or CTA, is something—a phrase, a graphic, a question, an opt-in form, a “buy” button—that instructs readers on what to do after they finish reading a blog post. An effective call-to-action is:

  • Explicit. Confused people are people who give up and close the window before they take action. Be clear about exactly what they should do next, and don’t fall into the trap of supplying options. Pick one CTA and stick with it.
  • Encouraging. This one is all about tone and word choice. Be friendly, not aggressive or demanding. You don’t want to be known as the used car salesman of online businesses.
  • Simple. The more steps you give readers, the less likely they are to follow through. Pare your CTA down to the most basic elements, whether it’s a comment, a giveaway entry, a social media follow, or an opt-in form completion.

Sounding familiar?

CTAs aren’t just blog things. In fact, they aren’t just publication things, either. They’ve been around in advertising for a long time. Infomercials use them (“Call now for a special early bird rate!”). Grocery store circulators use them (“Buy a dozen oranges before January 31 and get another dozen free!”). Lots of people selling things use them.

Blogs are able to wield them particularly effectively not just to hawk products or get readers to sign up for newsletters, but also to build community. They do it through the comment section, which is a long-standing element for all blogs, big and small. Sure, you can turn yours off. But with your comments left on—and with the advent of social sharing buttons—you can encourage readers to interact with you. That way, your message doesn’t end when your blog post does. It continues and evolves through conversations held both on your blog and off.

Sounds good, right? I know! But 70 percent of small business websites still aren’t using them, per Small Business Trends! That’s just silly.

Get passive readers to take action!

Don’t be silly, be smart. Calls-to-action can be used in endless ways. These are 21 of my favorite tactics for online business owners to try on their own blogs.

  • 1
    Leave a comment. A strong comment section on a blog speaks to an engaged community of readers and customers.
  • 2
    Join a Facebook group. Private, invitation-only Facebook groups are the mastermind tools of choice for online business owners this year. They offer an easy-to-use platform for interaction.
  • 3
    Pin an image. Pinterest is the ultimate visual bookmarking website. Of all the social networks, it also boasts the highest and longest-lasting referral traffic base.
  • 4
    Use a unique hashtag. Hashtags on social media platforms including Instagram, Twitter, and Facebook are effective at drawing readers into business-centric promotional campaigns.
  • 5
    Enter a giveaway. The best way to get readers to do something is to offer them something else for free in exchange for a vote, a comment, a follow—just about anything is fair game. Honestly, who doesn’t want a prize?
  • 6
    Subscribe to a newsletter. A robust list of email subscribers is a great way to qualify leads for future purchases. The next time you launch a product or service, they’ll be the first to know (and often the first to buy!).
  • 7
    Download a freebie. Want to make people love you? Add unexpected value for free. Think: worksheets, how-to guides, short e-books, checklists, and other printables.
  • 8
    Sign up for a webinar. If your blog post offered a taste of great information or advice, chances are good potential customers will want to hear more. A webinar is a sales platform with high return-on-investment that can help you nurture these leads.
  • 9
    Support a Kickstarter campaign. If your dream is one that requires a lot of cash up-front, Kickstarter—and your built-in blog audience—can help you achieve it. But only if you ask!
  • 10
    RSVP to a social party. One of my favorite social media trends to date is the rise of the social party. Typically held on Instagram, Periscope, or Facebook, it’s a digital-first event that allows a community to get together virtually and have a blast.
  • 11
    Purchase a low-priced offering. Give your readers a taste of your products and services starting with the least expensive option. An e-book or set of worksheets for a few bucks is easy to justify from a customer’s POV.
  • 12
    Book a consultation. If you offer free consultations (or plans to roll the cost into other packages, if purchased later), encourage readers to book one now to discuss a very specific problem or seasonal topic.
  • 13
    Reserve one of a limited number of spaces. Scarcity is an effective action-driver. Try hosting a workshop or a live webinar with very limited availability.
  • 14
    Vote for you. Hey, awards can be a big deal! If you’re nominated for one, ask your readers to help you get the prize you deserve.
  • 15
    Watch a video. Confession: I am not a video person. But millions of people around the world are. Periscope, Blab, Vine, YouTube, and Vimeo are all platforms that are great for captivating audience attention.
  • 16
    Buy via an affiliate link. Hello, passive income! If you’re quoting an industry dynamo, interviewing an influencer, or just name-dropping favorite books and tools regularly, consider signing up for affiliate compensation so you can get a little kick-back. Just make sure to disclose all affiliate links!
  • 17
    Leave a review. Sites like Yelp are huge—duh, right? If you’re a local business, encourage readers to boost your reputation locally by leaving you a favorable review.
  • 18
    Add you to their blog roll (or subscribe via a blog reader). Subscribers are loyal people. Give them the option and if they love you, they’ll read everything you have to say. Before you ask, try it yourself to make sure your RSS feed is working properly. Some do, and some don’t.
  • 19
    Follow you on a social media platform. Online businesses are expected to have a social media presence. You don’t have to be everywhere, but if you are active—and especially if your blog advises readers on social strategy—you should be encouraging your readers to follow you elsewhere.
  • 20
    Offer a recommendation. My must-read blogs are the ones where the writers are fallible, real people. You know, like me. My favorite writers admit when they need help and solicit advice from their readers (who come up with AWESOME suggestions!).
  • 21
    Help you brainstorm. Have you ever been thisclose to throwing your laptop at the wall and giving up because you have no freaking clue what your audience wants? Try asking them, and do it periodically.

Boom. Twenty-one ideas, no excuses!

About me

Brittany Taylor

My name is Brittany, but my friends and clients call me "Britt." Online small business owners hire me to create content strategies and write their blog posts, email newsletters, and social media updates. I work with bosses around the world from the marshes of Charleston, S.C.


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