Originally, this post was going to be titled “A Brief Guide to Better Writing,” and it would have been a simple list of things everyone can (or should) do to improve the overall quality of their written content.
As I got going, I naturally did some looking around to see what others had already written on the subject, and I clicked on an article by Neil Patel titled “SEO Copywriting: How To Write Content For People and Optimize For Google.”
I normally enjoy reading Neil’s stuff, but in this case, the moment I moved my mouse to the navigation bar, the full screen overlay popped up, informing me that the answers to my real questions was there for my taking, if I but sign up for this or that offer.
Strange, since I was pretty sure that the answers I really wanted were now squarely behind the advertising overlay.
Annoying, but fair enough.
Of course, there was no little “x” to click and clear it off, though. Instead, beneath the form was the emotionally manipulative line that “No, I don’t want to be rich and famous by taking advantage of Neil’s services.”
Whatever. Just a click to remove it.
At least, just a click until a slide-in call-to-action showed up, covering more of the content I wanted to read.
From annoyed to frustrated, now. Still, not entirely unexpected.
Click the little “x” to remove – and then get an AUDIO ALERT!
A high pitched bell rang a couple times and a bell icon appeared in the bottom right, letting me know that there was yet something else – you know, besides the stuff I came to this page to see – that I could easily click on.
I get it. Neil really wants me to sign up for things.
But instead of doing just that, I bounced hard right off that page without actually reading a single line of the actual post.
I didn’t even get a chance to see all the other inevitable display CTAs and in-line CTAs. Speaking of which, here’s one of ours:
Getting back to the point, these types of CTAs have been used and reused in content marketing for some time now.
But is it really working if it immediately annoys your audience and encourages them to bounce off your site? Is it really effective content marketing if your calls to action are actually blocks to action? (“BTAs”? Trademark pending.)
I know I’m not the only one who has this kind of kneejerk reaction to this level of conversion desperation. Because you just know you’re in for the same kind of inconvenience on any other page on the site.
(Not really, but the dread of it is real.)
I can think of other times when this issue has come up. Once, while perusing some blogs on Content Marketing Institute, one of them was particularly inundated with this kind of constant conversion desperation.
That time, I ignored or clicked away all the popups and managed to read down to the comments. Based on what people were saying in the comments, I wasn’t the only one to be thoroughly annoyed by the intrusion.
The author responded with what amounted to: “We understand it annoys some people, but what can we say when the vast majority of our subscribers come from those popups?”
It seems that a lot of people are relying on these methods for their content marketing strategies, so the question has to be asked: are the possible conversions worth the possible bounces (and the bad taste it leaves in the mouth)?
Bringing the Rant to Something Useful
Content creation is, ideally, a way to bring people to your website and provide the answers and information they need.
But content marketing is all about strategies to convert readers into something more. It’s about getting a subscription, a purchase, or a follow out of them.
So on the one hand, you’ve got the purpose of your blog/website – to increase the number of readers, followers, and customers. On the other hand, you’ve got website elements that are just as likely to annoy your readers enough to send them away.
So where does the balance lie? The stats tell us that these types of CTAs are useful. But I just can’t see this as anything but an interruption in the user experience. Why not let them read your content first, and then give them an opportunity to sign up for something once you’ve proven yourself.
(Now, before we go further, it is important to say that the tools that allow these types of CTAs let you customize a lot of it so you can get the timing just right. But that’s something for a different blog.)
If you catch them after proving your worth, they may actually look forward to whatever you’re going to send them later. If you’ve given them the answers and information they want, they will have a reason to convert and be happy about it.
Would It Work For You?
So, should you immediately start looking into all those plugins that allow you to interrupt a person’s reading with a popup that “isn’t really a popup”? Or should you take your content marketing in a direction that’s more about readers than signups?
The answer, as it so often is in the world if SEO, is: it depends.
If your business plan revolves around getting more readers and more subscribers, then these tools may be a necessity for your content marketing.
On the other hand, if you’re trying to develop customers over a longer period, you may want to hold off on that kind of thing, especially if you are just getting started.
People are often more willing to go through a few extra clicks to get at your content once you’ve established a reputation. If you’re still fresh on the scene, they may not see the value in wading through unnecessary clicks.
Delivering on Expectations
So, despite my conscientious objection to any popups that interrupt me in my quest for… whatever I was searching for at the time, the simple fact is that the use of CTAs at the right time is an integral part of content marketing.
Just remember, your website visitors have certain expectations. If your content marketing is getting in the way of their expectations, then something has gone a little sideways. On the other hand, if you know your audience and understand what they’re willing to tolerate to get at your content, then a few extra reminders that you have even more to offer won’t hurt at all.
What do you guys think? Is this just the case of a marketer getting annoyed with something that he probably sees more than the average internet user? What has been your experience with this kind of aggressive calling to action? Let me know in the comments below.
Oh, and while we’re at it, here’s one more CTA. Go ahead and give it a click if you’d like: