By Mike Murray published September 1, 2013

Optimize Your Website Content with Calls to Action: Tips for Small Businesses

small business-websiteMany small businesses have a long way to go when it comes to providing the calls to action that are essential for driving conversions from their content marketing efforts.

For example, I regularly find websites that lack easy-to-find phone numbers; or they fail to display offers targeted at engaging prospects who may leave after a few seconds without picking up the phone or sharing their names and email addresses.

To document the issues I’ve come across, I randomly selected 200 U.S.-based small businesses from the ReferenceUSA database (including companies with fewer than 100 employees in such industries as construction, manufacturing, and professional services), and compiled my findings into the Small Business B2B Call to Action Study.

The study, presented by Small Business Trends, also includes a small business B2B call-to-action checklist, which details more than 30 conversion topics that small businesses should review and implement when optimizing their website content.

Here are some of the key observations on how small businesses are failing to benefit from calls to action:

small business-website content

  • 96 percent don’t feature any industry how-to guide or white papers on their home pages.
  • 70 percent don’t reference any notable calls to action on their home pages (other than a phone number and a “contact us” option in the navigation).
  • 72 percent don’t have any calls to action on their interior pages.
  • 82 percent don’t reference their social media profiles (text or images).
  • 27 percent don’t include a phone number on their home pages.
  • 70 percent of websites with a phone number don’t display it in a prominent place.
  • 68 percent don’t include an email address on their home pages.
  • 38 percent of websites with an email address bury it on the home page (often in the footer).

These findings are somewhat surprising, given that commercial websites have been around for
about 20 years — ample time to have begun to put best practices in place.

You can get excellent tips by reading Mark Sherbin’s CMI post, Are Your Calls to Action Missing These Proven Formulas? Among other ideas, he offers three steps based on conversion experts’ experience:

Step 1: Write copy that gets specific, touts benefits, and uses keywords

Actionable, specific language is the most important part of writing your call-to-action copy. For example, a specific call to action might mention the number of pages in an eBook or the length of a webinar.

Step 2: Design contrasting buttons and shallow navigation

Call to action buttons and banners should stand out through contrasting colors — but which colors you use may be less important than you think.

“Someone once told me, ‘I’ve never not clicked a call to action because it was deep purple instead of bright blue,'” Katherine Griwert of Brafton explains in the article. “Content marketers should consider other design priorities, like using brand-appropriate colors or creating a recognizable custom icon to pair with your CTAs.”

Step 3: Weigh your call to actions and prioritize them

Assuming your “Buy Now” command is your most important isn’t always correct. Your highest priority call to action should be paired with the content, depending on where your prospect is in the sales process.

For example, if your visitor reads an introductory blog post, chances are they are unfamiliar with your brand and not quite ready to buy. The call to action should point them toward more advanced content — instead of the contact page or shopping cart.

You can also get great pointers from Brian Massey in his article, Landing Page Basics: Making Your Content Marketing Convert.

In my small business call to action study, I found that typically nothing stands out on the websites. Even the “Contact Us” statement is often just another navigation option among many page elements (a different color or larger font would help call attention).

Occasionally, I saw a decent call to action like this one:

good call to action

I recommend that every small business take a close look at web content strategies and identify the priorities for improvement. Here are a few essentials to keep in mind:

1. Your content marketing strategy will be the most effective when you selectively use calls to action

It’s not a matter of cramming in as many conversion opportunities as possible. Ultimately, you want someone to call or email you through a form or simple email link. That’s what it’s all about. But how you organize a website and use content to convey your expertise will make all the difference.

2. Every call to action can’t be a priority

Most will be secondary elements (everything from signing up for an email newsletter to downloading a capabilities brochure). It’s challenging, but they must be fit well within website page design.

3. Emphasize a conversion opportunity up high

Some marketers say a call to action doesn’t need to be “above the fold” (first screen). Generally, something should prompt an action or draw a visitor deeper into the site. He should be able to quickly determine what you’re offering.

Here are a few suggestions:

  • Offer a free consultation.
  • Create a trial version of your product.
  • Invite the visitor to sign up for a demo.
  • Showcase an educational guide with advice on how to save time or avoid problems.
  • Make sure your phone number is very apparent on every page (don’t just add it in the footer near the copyright).
  • Feature a graphic with a coupon or special offer (don’t rely only on a navigation item that says “coupons”).
  • Promote an off-line seminar.

Different studies have repeatedly shown that small business executives are certainly interested in realizing the benefits of online marketing techniques, including social media, search engine optimization (SEO), and paid search.

For example, according to Content Marketing Institute’s study, B2B Small Business Content Marketing: 2013 Benchmarks, Budget, and Trends – North America, 57 percent of respondents planned to increase their spend on content marketing.

With careful planning, websites should give small businesses new opportunities to connect with prospects — implementing even simple website changes can make a notable difference in the results you can achieve.

What steps are you taking to make sure you’re getting more visitors to take some type of action after they arrive?

Small business executives looking to do a better job of showcasing their organization’s thought leadership and competitive advantages will have a huge opportunity to learn about content marketing strategies at the Content Marketing World Small Biz Summit. Register now for this exclusive opportunity, which will take place on September 12 in Cleveland, Ohio, in conjunction with Content Marketing World 2013.

Cover image via Bigstock

Author: Mike Murray

Mike Murray has shaped online marketing strategies for hundreds of businesses since 1997, including Fortune 500 companies. A former journalist, he has led SEO studies and spoken at regional and national Internet conferences. Founder of Online Marketing Coach, Mike is passionate about helping clients identify their best opportunities for online marketing success based on their strengths, his advice and industry trends. You can find him at his blog, Online Marketing Matters or on Twitter @mikeonlinecoach.

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  • Ann Smarty

    This isn’t just your average article. The call to action to have a call to action is a great premise to start out with, but you go further by showing us how to do it.

    • Mike Murray

      Hi Ann,

      I’m glad you enjoyed the post. Thanks for reading it.


  • Barbara Mckinney

    Great tips.The point of the call-to-action is to help your prospects navigate your site
    successfully, to have a positive experience with your company, and to bring them closer to a point where you can help them.Implementing it the right way will surely increase the productivity of your campaign.

    • Mike Murray

      Hi Barbara,

      Thanks for reading the post. I hope more small businesses at least take some steps forward rather than settle for a web site brochure.

  • Joe Costantino


    Nice post here with a ton of great information. With your permission I would like to use your name and some of your statistics in a blog post on the purpose of a call to action.


    • Mike Murray

      Hi Joe,

      Please use the stats – anything to help businesses think about what they could do better.

      Thanks for the feedback.

  • Micheal Bian

    Your article is great. i can say that all of the idea that you share is effective in business.

  • sean

    Good advice, often the call to action can get pushed out of mind in the website design process. As designers we hate the crassness of child-like large obvious buttons or numbers, but these things are proven to work!