Content is King, But Useless Without a Call to Action

- Monday, January 12, 2015

Content is a means to an end, which is conversion. As Bill Gates pointed out, “For the Internet to thrive, content providers must be paid for their work.”

As discussed in a previous blog post, the phrase “content is king” was coined by Bill Gates as far back as 1996 in an essay that borders on prophetic. But just like people tend to share content without actually reading it, marketers seem to have focused too much on the title than the actual content. Everyone’s so focused on content nowadays. They’ve forgotten they’re trying to sell something. The missing element? A call to action (CTA). 

Quality content gives you a fighting chance to be visible in the vastness of the Internet. It gets people to click on it and end up on your site. But without an effective call to action, they’ll quickly bounce off and forget you ever existed. While our previous blog post was informational, this article will focus on actions you can take. So let’s go ahead and break down the two parts of the equation.


Content remains key. And the basic elements noted by Bill Gates in 1996 are basically still the things to look out for today. Like many things, it pays to have a solid foundation.

  • Deep

This is a general term with many implications. Basically, your content must be something your target audience will want to read. This starts with knowing your audience. Then you must think, “What can I tell them about the industry that they don’t already know?” Relevance is key, and you must aim to address your audience’s needs and wants.

  • Up-to-date Information

“Extremely up-to-date information” were the exact words of Bill Gates. This has to do with being relevant to your target audience and providing them with something they don’t already know.

This point, as well as the previous one, shows potential clients just how much you know about your industry. If you provide quality content, they will start to trust you. It establishes your brand as one that knows what it’s doing.

Google’s top secret algorithm changes focus more and more on the content you provide. It has become extremely adept at ranking quality content higher in search results. At the same time, Google has also been waging a war with those trying to manipulate their algorithms, demoting or even blacklisting sites that use tricks like keyword stuffing, excessive link building, metadata manipulation, etc. – so called “black hat” or gray area SEO techniques.

  • Accessibility

Quality content is useless if no one sees it or if it’s buried in the midst of bad website designs. Your content’s distribution is important. Know where your target audience spends time, then place your content or links to them there.

Social Triggers’ Derek Halpern cited research led by Elizabeth Sillence that showed that regardless of content, 94% of people cited design problems as the reason they didn’t trust certain websites.

  • Use of Multiple Media Types

Even back then, Bill Gates knew that people would get bored if they just kept seeing text. Keep your audience on their toes by adding other types of content, especially the visual kind. But remember to stay relevant.

  • Engagement

“They need an opportunity for personal involvement that goes far beyond that offered through the letters-to-the-editor pages of print magazines.”

Even just the option to like or share your content goes a long way. Respond to comments as needed. Remind them that they can follow or like you (social media, RSS feed, etc.) for more useful information. Speaking of which…

Call to Action

This is the second half of the equation, and no less important. WiderFunnel founder Chris Goward puts it this way: “If Content Is King, Revenue Is Queen”. As he points out, “Content without conversions is just free publishing.”

Without a call to action, you’re stuck in Bill Gates’ 1996 when “interactive publishing is little more than a labor of love… based on the belief that over time, someone will figure out how to get revenue.”

Someone figured it out a long time ago, and it all boils down to having effective calls to action.

  • Have one

According to Column Five Media, over 90% of businesses don’t have Facebook or Twitter widgets, or don’t display their email addresses. About half don’t even list their phone numbers.

These are very basic mistakes. If you’re able to provide content impressive enough to convince your audience that they need what you offer, make it easy for them to do something about it. Otherwise, they’re likely to just Google it and end up with a competitor with better SEO and calls to action.

  • Have more than one

List your contact information at the top or bottom of every page. Have a “Contact us” tab. Buttons to like or follow you on social media should be ever present. Give them the option to subscribe, sign up, request a quote, etc.

  • Incentivize

Offer your audience something in return for taking action. Depending on the nature of your business, you could maybe offer a discount, a free eBook, a free quote, or other freebies (whether a product or service). Whatever it is, make sure it’s something of high quality and relevance to your target audience.

  • Make it Urgent

While some calls to action should be ever present (contact info, social media links, etc.), others should create a sense of urgency. After all, you can’t offer 50% of anything indefinitely without starting to lose money. This also encourages people to act on it now instead of putting it off for later then forgetting about it. 

  • Mix it Up

If your primary goal is to get people to sign up for your website, you may want to make your landing page focus solely on that. Put a big ol’ button smack in the center, with a short, clear explanation of what your business can do for them. Or.. have it as a pop up as soon as they land on one of your pages. Do the same for your email subscribers. Have only one call to action per email, and make it stand out. 

Posts on social media should also have calls to action when appropriate. For example, Facebook even lets you add a call to action button on your posts.

Whether creating and curating content, or placing calls to action, don’t forget that everything should be geared towards addressing the needs of your target audience. Unless you’re the marketing point person for a business, this may seem like a lot of work for an already overloaded business owner, and it is. Digital marketing can be a complex and delicate thing that can make the difference between success and a bad rep.

Leave it to the pros. AJAC Web Design offers complete digital media solutions and can handle part or all of your digital marketing needs. We can also work with you on a per project basis.

Get a quote today or contact us for more information.