Bloggers: Do You Call Readers To Action?

I’m pleased to welcome author and blogger Victoria Grefer, here to share how to effectively use a “call to action” to leverage your blog!

Bloggers are always seeking two things: to generate traffic to their blogs, and then to generate further action once people have gone there. That might be an e-book purchase. It might be signing up to an email list. It might be a Twitter follow or Facebook “like.” We often sit there, struggling to find ways to convince people to take that next step, and we forget the most obvious solution to the problem:

blogging tips in letterpress typeAsk them to do so.

Let them know that they can further engage you and your work.

Give them a call to action!

I never really considered the idea of a “call to action” until I read Molly’s book “Blog It,” and then I started using them like she suggests. (That book was a real gem for me! I have recommended it on my blog and in my writer’s handbook, I found it so useful.)

While results have leveled off in the months since then, I saw a definite jump in hits per visitor and numbers of new followers when I started writing “calls.”

Still, what does it take to send out a successful call to action, as an author-blogger or any other kind of blogger? There’s a lot to consider. I don’t know that there’s such a thing as the “perfect” call to action, but there are definitely some tips I can give you to increase your chances of raising interest (or at the very least, not annoying your visitors. After all, that’s the last thing any blogger wants!)

  1.  Don’t make things difficult for your visitors. In other words, do as much of the work for them as you can. When you invite them to check out something else, provide a link to that location. Let them know where on your site they can find more information about you; don’t make them hunt. It’s hard to keep someone’s attention online, and if you’re inviting them to go to Google, they won’t make it from there to your final destination.
  2. Your call to action should be related to the content of your post. Let’s say my current draft is a post about character development. I might include a call to action inviting readers interested in characterization to check out my character category, where all my posts related to that topic are grouped for easy access. If your post really interested or helped somebody, you’re offering additional support. That’s being helpful, not intrusive. And it’s reasonable to provide readers a voluntary but logical “next step.” When your call to action is related to your post’s content, it won’t bother people who don’t have the time or inclination to follow up on your invitation. Speaking of which:
  3. You call is an invitation, not an order. Maybe some people will think differently than I do, claiming that strong wording and a confident tone inspire readers to act. Personally I try not to order people around because I resent being told what to do. I craft my calls to action so that they come across as invitations. I don’t want to imply that I expect people to take the next step or that I look down on those who don’t. That’s key: your call is all about the reader, not about you. You don’t want to make yourself a factor in the follow-through.
  4. If you’d like comments on your post, an indirect call to action will inspire people to share their thoughts. You don’t have to openly invite your readers to peruse and add to the comment section. As the blogger, you know what kind of insight you’re hoping your readers can provide you and each other. (I have learned more than I could possibly say from discussions sparked by my blog’s community). You should be able to identify a discussion question or two related to your post’s content. So ask the question. That counts as an invitation, and your readers will respond, hopefully (and rightfully) feeling good about giving back and contributing something to add to the expertise and experience you’ve shared with them.
  5. It’s not about you benefiting from those who heed the call. You will benefit, of course. But blogging isn’t about the blogger; it’s about community, and your calls to action should draw attention to how you can help your community by giving them more. If not, you should be inviting readers to share your post with others, so that a larger range of people can benefit. To paraphrase JFK: “Ask not what your readers can do for you. Ask what you can do for your readers.”
  6. Remember, your call to action can take many forms: You can craft calls to comment, to join a list serv, to share your post on social media, to explore other content on your blog, to download an ebook that’s free or on sale. Go back and forth between these, and don’t feel as though you need to include every kind of call on every post. You don’t.
  7. Sometimes, all you need to provide is a “related posts” list at the bottom. I’ve taken to doing this, and it’s proven effective to some degree. In my case, I publish daily on my blog, so people don’t always get to see every post when it’s new. Also, there are always new people dropping by for the first time. Linking to these posts in a list, sans long and obnoxious introduction, gives easy access to relevant material (remember how that matters?) for those who might want it. For those who don’t, it’s easy enough to ignore because it’s at the bottom and doesn’t interrupt the flow of the article.

Do you include calls to action on your blog? Have you ever felt self-conscious about leaving one? If you do like calls to action, where do you place them on your site and how do you write them (tone, length, etc?)

thecrimsonleagueVictoria Grefer is the author of the Herezoth trilogy (sword and sorcery fantasy) as well as the writer’s handbook Writing for You: A Novelist’s Guide to the Craft of Fiction. She is from New Orleans, LA. You can connect with her at her blog and her website. You can also catch her on Twitter and on Facebook.

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28 Responses to Bloggers: Do You Call Readers To Action?

  1. Lisa Orchard September 23, 2013 at 3:27 pm #

    Great post Molly! Very good advice!

    • Molly Greene September 23, 2013 at 3:36 pm #

      Thanks Lisa! Victoria did a great job for us on this guest post.

    • Victoria Grefer September 23, 2013 at 4:41 pm #

      I’m glad you enjoyed it, Lisa!!! 🙂

  2. Debby Gies September 23, 2013 at 4:46 pm #

    Always good advice but so overwhelming. As I prepare to get my book ready for publishing and learning more about marketing, I am trying to soak this all in. Right now my biggest dilemma is trying to figure out how to use mailchimp so I can get those calls to action for my new upcoming website.

    • Debby Gies September 23, 2013 at 5:43 pm #

      Omg, once again you are a lifesaver! Thanks for being such an outstanding, online citizen!!! 🙂 Looking forward to eventually getting to your book which I downloaded months ago but I’m getting there!!

      • Molly Greene September 23, 2013 at 6:03 pm #

        My pleasure! Best to you on your book and your blog.

      • Victoria Grefer September 26, 2013 at 5:35 am #

        Best of luck!!! Molly’s book is fantastic! I hope you enjoy it as much as I did.

    • Victoria Grefer September 26, 2013 at 5:28 am #

      Molly is great with Mail Chimp!!! How you found her articles on that? She is a real Mail Chimp resource.

  3. Molly Greene September 23, 2013 at 4:54 pm #

    Victoria, I want to thank you for your time and generosity in sharing this valuable post with us! Like you, I saw a significant increase in blog subscribers when I began to invite readers to subscribe. Calls to action can be used in many ways, and they work. Thanks again for the great tips!

    • Victoria Grefer September 26, 2013 at 5:28 am #

      thanks for hosting me, Molly!!! I had fun with the post: which was definitely inspired by all I learned from “Blog it!”

  4. Aniruddha Sastikar September 24, 2013 at 4:56 am #

    Great post, Molly. BIG Thanks to you and Victoria.

    • Victoria Grefer September 26, 2013 at 5:29 am #

      I’m glad you enjoyed it, Aniruddha!

  5. Clare September 24, 2013 at 11:22 am #

    On most posts I practically beg for comments and feedback with little response. I’m not sure what else to do… Frustrating!

    • Molly Greene September 24, 2013 at 4:35 pm #

      Clare, some of my posts get lots of comments and others do not. I wish I knew the secret but I don’t! Obviously controversial subjects will get more, and I notice posts where I ask a question and/or include multiple guests also get a lot of comments. Otherwise, I think it just takes time!

    • Victoria Grefer September 26, 2013 at 5:31 am #

      It’s really tough…. there are very limited things a blogger can do, but the tips Molly mentioned are big ones. Controversy is always good for traffic and comments, but as a rule I try to avoid controversy.

      Like Molly I’ve found my posts vary in how many comments they get. One thing to remember is that it might not be you at all: maybe people are just really busy, and can’t take time to leave a comment even if they want to.

      I don’t think it’s good to assume that we as bloggers are doing something wrong, necessarily. Just experiment, use calls, and keep plugging on: that’s all we can do.

  6. Belinda Pollard September 24, 2013 at 2:46 pm #

    I started adding a little email signup form to the bottom of every post, and I’ve got many more subscribers since then. Now that lots of people read blogs on their phones, they don’t really see the sidebar form. Having a simple version of it at the bottom of the post just makes it easy for them.

    But I still don’t know how to get the commenting invitation right. Some posts get heaps of discussion, and others get none — even though the post itself may have had lots of tweets etc, so people apparently liked it. I don’t really know what the secret is, but maybe it will become clear eventually. 😉

    Thanks for the post, Molly and Victoria.

    • Molly Greene September 24, 2013 at 4:40 pm #

      I do something similar, and that is to simply add a line at the bottom of every post inviting people to subscribe if they liked the article. Lately I’ve included an active link to the sign-up form in that line of text. Can’t say if the active link made any difference, but I know the invitation did.

      As for commenting, I tend to be a little more aggressive than Victoria in that I always ask a question at the end of a blog post and ask readers to leave a comment and share. Agreed, it’s hard to predict which posts will get a lot of comment traffic!

    • Victoria Grefer September 26, 2013 at 5:32 am #

      That is a really, really good idea!!! Putting the form in the body of the post is a great suggestion. I need to see if I can do that! 🙂 Thanks!

  7. Jennifer Ellis September 24, 2013 at 9:56 pm #

    Thanks Molly and Victoria. This is a helpful reminder. When I am finished writing a blog post I am often just glad to be done and don’t always remember to take the time to pose some questions, or don’t feel bold enough to do so. In conversation in person, I usually just stand back and smile when I am waiting for the other person to contribute – but that obviously won’t work for a blog. Yet some of the most interesting conversations happen in the comments sections of blogs, so thanks for the nudge to be a bit more active in seeking that input.

    • Victoria Grefer September 26, 2013 at 5:34 am #

      You are so right…. conversation works differently. And I”m like you…. I don’t really like projecting myself. But a little nudge works, and it’s really all a blogger needs 🙂 I love the way you describe that. It’s perfect!

  8. Anne R. Allen September 25, 2013 at 7:27 pm #

    “… blogging isn’t about the blogger; it’s about community” So true. Great post. So many bloggers don’t get this part!

    • Victoria Grefer September 26, 2013 at 5:35 am #

      A lot of bloggers don’t. But the successful ones do, I think. It really is key to attracting and keeping readers. Bloggers need to get something out of your post for THEM or there’s really no point to reading.

  9. Herb Silverman May 20, 2014 at 10:40 am #

    Dear Molly and Victoria:

    As a new blogger (my new blog will appear in the next 4 to 6 weeks,) your words were right on track. As I am learning very quickly about the whole aspect of blogging, your techniques will definitely play into my design and implementation going further.

    One question though; I am going to be doing my blog every week, so far, so there’s going to be a lot of “white space,” if you know what I mean. Do you have any advice regarding keeping the readers interested even though it’s going to be seven days at a time?

    • Molly Greene May 20, 2014 at 10:44 am #

      Hi Herb! I only blog once a week on Monday afternoons – and in my opinion, that’s enough. Readers are inundated with content and I’m not sure they really want to see new posts three times a week. SO you should be fine!

  10. Jyothi Muthusami June 20, 2014 at 9:08 pm #

    Thank you, Victoria and Molly, for the great advice. I’m planning on starting a blog, and am not sure if I should stick to one topic or write about different things of interest to me (and hopefully my future readers!) Do you have any advice regarding this?

    • Molly Greene June 21, 2014 at 9:26 am #

      Jyothi, try choosing 3 topic categories that mesh with the topics in your book(s), and see which get the most traffic and interest over time. Best of luck to you with your new blog!

      • Jyothi Muthusami July 8, 2014 at 9:01 pm #

        Thanks, Molly.