When it comes to getting your visitors to take action, whether that be a sale, download, request, or call, it's your content that is going to either make it happen or leave people blowing in the wind like a sagebrush through a ghost town. If there is anything that all the years of marketing research has proven it's that people need to be told what to do if you expect them to do anything at all.
Think about it. If you're not telling your visitors what to do next, how can you expect them to do it? Sure, they can guess, make assumptions or "figure it out on their own". But, for anybody that's doing anything new, directions are a God send.
I recently spent 2 hours putting together a desk that should have taken me 20 minutes. I'll be the first to admit that I'm generally more destructive than constructive when it comes to these kinds of things, but with a little help (a.k.a. reading directions), I can usually get the job done. But, on this particular desk, the directions actually didn't help. Not even a little.
The desk had two pieces: the main desk and a small side table. Both look nearly identical, only the size is different. The directions started you out building the small table...but they didn't make that clear. I spent at least 30 minutes putting together the larger desk with the small table instructions, wondering why things just weren't making much sense.
Once I figured that out and moved on to building the desk with proper directions, I found several pieces that all looked similar, but with subtle differences. The directions didn't make those distinctions, neither verbally nor visually. Luckily, I was able to stay calm and keep the cursing to a low mumble that my kids couldn't hear!
Your content should work like directions. It needs to inform and make clear what the next step is. Giving your visitors clear directions doesn't have to be difficult. You don't have to re-write all of your content, adding in long prose of "here's what we want you to do next". All you have to do is some simple re-working of key areas.
Action Words: We often tend to write passively. We talk in terms of how things are, not in terms of what we are doing, what we've done, or what we want to do. This makes our content stagnant.
Instead, use words that convey action. Tell visitors how you achieved your knowledge or skills. Tell them how they will benefit from your product or services. Give them examples of the results they will see. And, most importantly, give them some calls to action.
Calls to Action: Using action words is never more important than ensuring your work calls action into your content. These are the directives that you provide to your visitors that lead them down the path to the conversion.
If you are not providing these directives, or are providing the wrong directives, you won't be getting the response you want from your visitors. Keep in mind that there are multiple paths to the goal. Customers need to see your products before they can buy them. They also need to know product details. Trying to move your customers to the conversion too quickly simply won't work.
Use your calls to action to lead visitors down the path of information they need to take the desired action. Some may need to see product reviews, others need to read more about your company, and still others might want to read more about what you offer. Provide calls to action to whatever your visitors might need... because they may not even know they need it.
Textual Links: Adding calls to action directly into your text is simply the best way to get visitors to heed them. Your navigation is important, but sites often put too much faith in the navigation getting the visitors to the information they want. If the visitors know where they want to go, and if they are willing to take the time to click through the navigation, then that approach would work. But, why force the visitor to disengage from your content to hunt through the navigation for what they want? Not a good idea.
That's the biggest problem with not using textual links. You're forcing your visitors to figure things out instead of providing them the directions they need right there where they are. If they are reading about your team's experience, then link to your "About Us" page. If you mention a related product, link to it. If you discuss a significant achievement, place a link to the page that provides more complete information about it.
Visitors are curious. Providing links helps them satisfy their curiosity, which in, turns gives them more satisfaction that you have "what it takes" to provide what they need.
A website that's not getting any action is a dead site. Conversion rates will be low, and bounce rates will be high. Using action words, calls to action, and textual links gets your visitors to "put out". But, unless your content is willing to provide the goods, you may not even get to second base.
This post was inspired from The Princess Bride themed presentation I gave in early 2010 at SEMpdx's Searchfest titled Inconceivable Content: The Dread Pirate Robert's Guide to Creating Swashbuckling Content, Pillaging the Search Engines, and Commandeering a Treasure Trove of Conversions. If you enjoyed this post you also might enjoy other posts inspired from the same. Search for "inconceivable content" on this blog to find them all.
Stoney deGeyter is the President of Pole Position Marketing, a leading search engine optimization and marketing firm helping businesses grow since 1998. Stoney is a frequent speaker at website marketing conferences and has published hundreds of helpful SEO, SEM and small business articles.
If you'd like Stoney deGeyter to speak at your conference, seminar, workshop or provide in-house training to your team, contact him via his site or by phone at 866-685-3374.
Stoney pioneered the concept of Destination Search Engine Marketing which is the driving philosophy of how Pole Position Marketing helps clients expand their online presence and grow their businesses. Stoney is Associate Editor at Search Engine Guide and has written several SEO and SEM e-books including E-Marketing Performance; The Best Damn Web Marketing Checklist, Period!; Keyword Research and Selection, Destination Search Engine Marketing, and more.
Stoney has five wonderful children and spends his free time reviewing restaurants and other things to do in Canton, Ohio.
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