20 Mistakes that Will Undermine Your Call to Action and Cost You Sales

image of number 20 in fireworks

Okay, show of hands.

Who else is wondering how to turn website traffic into actual sales?

You’ve seen the statistics showing businesses that build content marketing plans experience a boatload more leads than businesses that don’t. You’ve bought into it. You believe it works.

But, for some reason, it’s not working for you.

Looking through your stats, you realize your site isn’t capturing the leads you’ve been promised.

What gives?

I have an idea of what’s going on, and it’s completely fixable …

You are not alone

As content marketers, we spend a lot of time obsessing over increasing traffic. It’s the sexy thing to do.

However, the number of leads fails to match our expectations because we don’t spend enough time creating a killer call to action.

A call to action is the most effective tactic to convert random traffic into loyal readers and paying customers.

The most profitable sites use this tactic to convince readers to sign up for a newsletter, download an ebook, attend a webinar, or purchase a product.

This is the difference between a highly profitable website and a failed marketing initiative. Yet most screw it up.

Dozens of call to action mistakes can doom your efforts to convert traffic into leads or sales.

Below, I’ve gathered 20 of the most common …

Don’t make these beginner mistakes

1. No Call to Action

You spend countless hours guest posting, in social media, and formatting your website for search engine optimization purposes.

But your effort is wasted if you don’t ask your readers to take action. They may come to your site, read your information, and never come back.

Give your readers an opportunity to subscribe.

2. Below the Fold

When you visit the most popular sites in the world, you will notice that you never have to scroll to find the call to action.

The most valuable real estate on any website is the top third of the page. Too often, marketers waste that space with a large image of their logo or random images that distract readers from taking action.

The truth is, many of your visitors will never scroll down and view all of your content.

If you want to increase conversions, put your call to action at the top of your blog where every reader will see it. (Take a look at the Generate WordPress child theme for a very clear example of this.)

3. Not Authoritative

If you don’t speak with confidence and authority, your readers won’t have confidence to take action on your site.

Tell them exactly what you want them to do, and do so with conviction.

4. Not Specific

Your readers lead busy lives and don’t always have time to think about what you want them to do.

Your job is to spell it out for them.

If you want them to enter their email address, tell them in your call to action. If you want them to click a link, include the words “click here” in the link.

Always connect the dots for your readers so taking action is a no-brainer.

5. Too Much Self Proclaimed Hype

Unless a recognized third party says your blog is the largest, best, or any other superlative, leave it out of your call to action. The last thing you want to do is look like a used car salesmen.

Consequently, a great way to increase subscribers is to have an industry authority quote how much they enjoy reading your content.

6. Multiple Calls to Action

What’s the one thing you want readers to do on your blog?

Do you want them to sign up for your list? And click on ads? And buy your products? And go to your social media profiles?

When you have too many calls to action on your site, your readers become paralyzed by the choices and leave your site.

Pick one or two actions you want your readers to take, and build your design around that. Don’t leave readers confused about what they’re supposed to do next.

7. Puny Call to Action

If you have a call to action and no one can find it, you may as well have no call to action at all. Make it big enough so people can’t miss it.

I’ve never seen a website with a call to action that is too big.

Fix these intermediate mistakes and watch your list grow

8. No Social Proof

One of the most effective ways to get someone to take action on your site is to prove that others have done it too.

Here on Copyblogger, you can see how many of your fellow content marketers have joined the email list. Over 75,000 people can’t be wrong.

If you have a new blog with less than 1,000 subscribers, you should to omit this figure. But think about other creative ways to use social proof to lend credibility to your site.

9. No Benefit to Signing Up

Calls to action such as “Call for a free consultation” or “Sign up for our newsletter” don’t motivate your readers.

The words “free consultation” have come to mean “sales pitch,” and signing up for your newsletter is giving you permission to sell stuff.

Highlight exactly what your readers are going to receive when they take action. How will they benefit?

10. Too Risky

If your call to action involves a financial transaction, then offering a free trial or a money-back guarantee will boost conversions.

If something is free to download or subscribe to, mention that immediately.

11. No Urgency

People are extremely motivated to take action out of fear of missing out on an opportunity.

One reason webinars work so well at getting people to take action is because the software only allows for a limited number of seats.

You can create this urgency in other offers as well.

For instance, if you want more readers to download your ebook or free report, try offering it for a limited time only.

12. Colors Blend In

Pop quiz: Does your call to action jump out at your readers the moment they arrive to your blog? If not, you might want to rethink your color palette.

For instance, if your blog has a blue background, having dark blue text is a big mistake. The contrast is too close and most of your readers will have a hard time immediately finding your call to action.

13. No Credibility

If you are a brand new blogger, earning the credibility that will entice people to take action is difficult.

You have two quick ways to get around this.

First, put the logos of your biggest customers above your call to action. This shows that the market has validated your products and services. This expertise will extend to your blog.

Second, start guest posting on popular blogs immediately. Once you have a guest post on a popular blog, you can put their logo above your call to action following the words “As seen in.”

(A quick note: you will want to ask for permission to post third party logos on your site.)

Can you imagine how much more appealing your call to action will be if the words “As seen in Copyblogger” follow it?

14. Loaded with Jargon

Too many marketers load their content with industry jargon instead of writing in words their readers actually use.

If you sell software with a 128-bit encryption key, the only people likely to understand what that means are software developers and IT professionals.

Unlike English class — where you got points for using big words — simple words work best when trying to persuade someone to take action.

Advanced mistakes that keep your list from exploding

15. Wrong Offer

If your offer doesn’t interest your readers, how convincing the copywriting is or how beautiful your buttons are won’t matter. They won’t take action.

This sounds like common sense, but it happens more often than you can imagine.

Think about the number of websites with ebooks and software that never get downloaded.

The bottom line: The best way to create a killer call to action is to offer something your readers really want, when they want it, the way they want it.

16. Undefined Sales Funnel

You need to understand your sales funnel in order to make the most out of your call to action.

Typically, a blog is great for getting readers to sign up for a free report to build your email list. However, it’s not so good at selling expensive consulting services.

In many cases, your job as a content marketer is to build an efficient sales funnel that will convert your readers into subscribers, and your subscribers into customers.

17. No Empathy

Do you know what keeps your readers up at night? What do they desire more than anything else in the world?

Chances are it’s not exactly what you are offering.

For instance, Jon Morrow offers a free report called “52 Headline Hacks that shows bloggers how to create headlines”. But the headline on his call to action is “A cheat sheet for writing blog posts that go viral.”

Few bloggers dream about crafting the perfect headline, but every blogger dreams about a post that goes viral. And headlines are a key ingredient to making that happen.

Dig down deep into the soul of your readers and discover how to make their dreams come true.

18. No Tangible Benefit

If you’ve been selling products or services for any length of time, you’ve probably heard that you need to sell benefits, not features.

But now you need to take that a step further and create tangible benefits.

For instance, the benefit “get more traffic” can become “Double your traffic in 30 days.”

Or the benefit “save money” can become “save $932 a month.”

This allows your readers to vividly imagine a better life if they take action on your site. Just be sure you’re absolutely honest in your claim about what your product or service will do.

19. No A/B Testing

At least once a month, you should test your call to action to improve your subscription rate until you’ve deemed it good enough.

Test your headline, copy, buttons, location, and your offer to determine what gets more people to take the most action.

20. Never Studied Copywriting

Let’s get perfectly blunt here.

Although trying to create a killer call to action without studying copywriting is possible, it’s highly unlikely.

If you’ve never studied copywriting, you need to start right now. Use the free resources right here on Copyblogger, and pick up a couple of the most important copywriting books.

A scary fact

Every time a reader leaves your site without subscribing, you’ve lost a sales lead.

And you know what? You may never get that lead back.

A killer call to action can mean the difference between building a popular website and toiling with one that lingers in obscurity.

Review the tactics I’ve listed above and start testing them one by one until you’ve created a call to action your readers can’t resist.

What are you waiting for? Wasting time is literally costing you money …

About the Author: Greg Digneo teaches businesses how to capture traffic, increase conversions, and generate more sales leads. Click here to read his free report “The Ultimate Guide to Creating a Killer Call to Action.”

Print Friendly

What do you want to learn?

Click to get a free course and resources about:

Reader Comments (35)

  1. says

    Hi Greg,
    Thanks for the article…Been reading up on how to improve my business blog results and your “call to action” tips and recommendations are quite helpful!


  2. says

    Fantastic article Greg. I particularly like the way you broke it down into beginner, intermediate and advanced mistakes. Despite doing this for a number of years now, I picked up a few good tips from each section.

    I have a site right now that is clearly suffering from the “wrong offer” and I need to spend some time realigning my goals and finding out what my audience really wants to see my desired results.

    Thanks for sharing these ideas – great stuff.


    • says

      Hey Jon,

      Getting the right offer is the hardest part. Once you have that, then everything else falls into place.

      With that being said, you might want to create a video series, or ebook called “How to Make Your First Dollar Online in 30 Days.”

      That is probably something that your readers would eat up.

  3. says

    “Always connect the dots for your readers so taking action is a no-brainer.”
    I completely agree! You want to make it as easy as possible for someone to do business with you. Don’t give them the opportunity to get distracted or confused.

  4. says

    Hi Greg,

    I’d add: “Your content doesn’t lead to a call to action”.

    In other words, instead of just writing great posts, you write posts that leads to something you can offer. For example I just released an eBook called “101 Headline Formulas – Capture Attention and Get Your Message Read” and so I’ve been writing about headlines and attention in the last posts. And in addition to being content, they’re “sales pitches” for the free eBook, which I mention at the end (kind of like a landing page).

    I have a couple of other free things I offer and I always try to end a post with an offer that’s extremely specific to that post. And yes, it’s working really, really well 😀

    Anyway, thanks for a great list of things to check 😉

    • says

      Hi Peter,

      Writing blog posts that will eventually lead to an offer is a great way to grease the wheel, so to speak. Thank you very much for sharing this!


  5. says

    Perfect timing, Greg! I’m getting ready to launch my first product out of Teaching Sells (great course from the CopyBlogger folks – highly recommended, btw), and struggling with the sales page’s stickiness. This is going to be a huge help. I’ve already removed other calls to action. Now to complete the checklist.

  6. says

    21. (if I may), knowing what you really sell. For example, Disney doesn’t sell theme parks, they sell happiness. Craft your call to action (and the entire sales page) around “happiness” or “going viral” or whatever the reader really wants to get.

  7. says

    Good stuff, Greg. Every beginner and expert should be reminded of these mistakes on a regular basis.

    I’ve found that not offering any sort of tangible benefit is one of the biggest mistake rookies make — and it’s not that hard to do. Like you mentioned, simply saying something like “save x amont of $ a month” or “double your response rate in x amount of days” can create a huge incentive to take action… but very few people do the necessary research and take the time to actually do this.

    Anyway, thanks!

  8. says

    This is great content. I wouldn’t want to make these mistakes in my website. I need my sales soaring. Thank you very much.

  9. says

    15.b Wrong Audience. ITA w/ it doesn’t matter how great the writing or buttons – or beautiful the brochure or ad – if that good offer is being wasted on the wrong audience, it won’t matter either. See also Jodi’s comment – you gotta know what you’re selling and to whom – selling happy experiences works better when you’re targeting those looking to pay for a happy, family friendly experiences. FWIW.

  10. says

    Great post and a really useful list of calls to action. I’m about to revamp my blog page so this is an excellent checklist to refer to.. Thanks! I’m now going to subscribe to your free updates where I will no doubt learn more pearls of wisdom.

  11. says

    Printed this article and will refer to it often. My sites are very weak when it comes to “Call to action.” Thanks for the advice.

  12. says

    I think the most common mistakes most online marketers do is the first one–No call to action. Which is even worse than the rest of the mistakes given below the first one. What’s the use of them coming over to your site, reading your information, if they never come back, right?

  13. says

    After reading the post I have a lot to work on. Unfortunately I think my biggest problem is I get distracted creating flare which just takes away value from the call to action. Greg, thanks for the post, very helpful.

  14. says

    As a content creator and one who brings readers information, I find myself struggling with successful call to action phrases and methods to entice or convince readers to take that extra click and look at a product I recommend, part of the problem is my vastly diverse reader base and interest, the other is that I find so few products I actually endorse to make the call. Distractions are very easy, super focused sites that minimize banner ad sales to focus on selling the one or two products you truly create are important. Remembering that things like AdSense may earn you something, but take away from potential sales of your other primary products is also key.

    • says

      Hey Justin,

      With all of the gadgets and distractions, saying “no” is extremely hard. My recommendation is to pick who your ideal reader is and decide what you want them to do. Then build your blog around that.

      I hope it helps.

  15. says

    It’s so true about getting really deep about what the readers want so much that they can’t sleep at night. I have to do a lot more deep thinking about readers and prospects.

  16. says

    Greg – great list. Thanks for sharing

    What are your thoughts on “static” vs. “dynamic” call to actions via lightboxes or subtle pop-ups with specific calls to action used by companies like nudgein.com, hellobar.com, or kissingishghts for customer feedback?

  17. says

    Thanks for putting this together Greg.

    I’ve been plastering “free consultation” all over my website and social sites so I think it’s time to re-think ‘that’ strategy!

  18. says

    Try writing a shorter email and make the whole email a call to action. And make it interesting enough so your readers click the links. Your call to action must sell the link. Thanks for your other helpful tips.

  19. says

    The biggest mistake newbies make is having too high an expectation of their call to action. Taking a clear step back and analysing a call to actions potential is essential to proper implementation and targeting.

    Rome was not built in a day, after all.

Comments are open for seven days. This article's comments are now closed.