Your Site Needs a Call To Action

    May 16, 2005

The Web is task focused. The best websites get to the point. They ruthlessly eliminate waffle and happy talk. They focus on helping people complete key tasks as quickly as possible.

The Web is a selfish place. People don’t have time. They scan pages looking for something specific. Most people have absolutely no interest in links such as “What We Do” and “Who We Are”. They only care about what you can do for them.

Jeffrey and Bryan Eisenberg are among the smartest people I know when it comes to making websites work. Call To Action is their new book and it’s an excellent title. The primary focus of Call To Action is ecommerce but the key messages are important to anyone running a website.

“Virtually all websites have a persuasive purpose; to get someone to subscribe, to register, to inquire or to buy something,” Jeffrey and Bryan write. This is an absolutely central point for any web manager. Intranet, university, government or commercial website, the crucial measure of success is the actions that have occurred.

You might be a charity. What do you want your website to do? Let people easily donate money. Let people know how they can help out. You might be a government department. What do you want your website to do? Help people renew their driving license. Let them apply for a grant.

What are the three most important things that your website lets people do? Focusing on the task, on the action that you want people to take, is a great way of achieving clarity. It allows you to cut through the filler content and get a laser focus on the killer content.

When someone arrives at your homepage can they identify within 30 seconds your three most important calls to action? Or are they exposed to minor calls to action? If they are, the action they may well take is to hit the Back button.

“The days of web users randomly surfing to websites are ending,” according to Rand Schulman from WebSideStory, who is quoted in Call To Action. “Now, more than ever, people know exactly where they want to go on the Web.” It’s no accident that people have arrived at your website. Something they care about brought them there.

The right words will drive people to action; the wrong words will drive them to distraction. “The goal of content is to expose business value and articulate it in a way that matters to the customer,” Bryan and Jeffrey write. “Great copy persuades the reader to take action.”

Great web content is active. It lets you buy, subscribe, donate, apply, submit, contact, discuss, get help or support, or to get involved. Every time you write a piece of web content you should also write at least one call to action at the end of that content.

A link is a call to action. Links are the essential difference between web content and print content. Think carefully about your links. Are they clear and precise? Are they making the right call to action?

For your web content management solution, contact Gerry McGovern

Subscribe to his New Thinking Newsletter: