Much of the focus in content writing advice these days seems to be on the importance of a punchy opening to captivate the reader’s attention and encourage them to continue reading. Arguably, however, the final words will be equally, if not more, important than the first.
When you were learning to write short stories at school, you undoubtedly came across the well-oiled advice that everything you write needs to have a beginning, a middle and an end.
This basic format for structuring stories is as old as storytelling itself. However, the ‘beginning, middle, and end’ adage is as equally applicable to short stories as it is to any other piece of writing you will produce.
Unfortunately, however, it seems as though somewhere along the way, in the digital age, we have lost touch with this fundamental principle that was drilled into our heads as schoolkids.
In online writing these days, the focus seems to be on having a loud, punchy opening that will grab the reader’s attention and convince them to keep reading until the end of the article. This results in online written content being rather top–heavy, expending all of its energy in the first few paragraphs.
The battle for user attention: how important is an opening?
In one sense, there is an intuitive logic to this approach, particularly given the fact that individual users browsing the web have a notoriously poor attention span. In this world filled with instantaneous dopamine hits delivered at the mere click of a button, humans are slowly losing the ability to focus for extended periods.
In fact, according to reporting by Time magazine, our attention span is so bad that its average reader takes a mere 15 seconds before navigating away from the webpage that they just clicked into! This is a truly staggering statistic given that Time produces some of the most compelling, well-written editorial content in the world.
It seems, then, that no matter how good the writing is, we are ultimately fighting a losing battle against the human mind in the digital age!
With all this in mind, it seems only natural that we would put a considerable amount of effort into making sure that the first few paragraphs are written as compellingly as possible.
The importance of the conclusion
However, while it is undoubtedly true that a good opening paragraph is essential to drive traffic to your website and keep the reader on the page, we should not let this detract from the importance of the final paragraph.
Arguably, we should not concern ourselves solely with capturing the attention of the users who are likely to navigate away from the page within 15 to 30 seconds. Instead, our focus should be on those who are likely to keep reading – and it is this demographic that is naturally less concerned with a punchy opening.
If we switch our focus from driving as many users as possible to a webpage, to focusing on those few users who stick around, the importance of the closing paragraph becomes apparent. In these circumstances, given that the closing paragraph will be your final word to the reader, it is all the more important to make sure that you can persuade them to click through to your website.
You call, I answer: what is a ‘call to action’?
In the world of online marketing, a critical part of a closing paragraph is the ‘call to action’ (CTA).
A CTA is essentially an invitation to the reader to take further action. Most often, the action that you will want them to take will be a visit to your website, leading to a subsequent conversion.
It is this need to drive further action, rather than simply ‘concluding’ the content above, that differentiates a CTA from a standard final paragraph.
Ineffective CTA etiquette
Buy now. Click here. Learn more. Sign up.
If you have spent any time online, these words will be familiar. Unfortunately, you are also likely to have learned to click away from any of these combinations of words.
Users have become savvy, developing a natural sense for when the writer’s objective is to ‘squeeze a few dollars out of them’. A bad CTA can send the reader in the opposite direction from the desired effect.
Therefore, a CTA needs to strike a fine balance between compelling the reader to take further action and retaining a positive perception of your brand.
Why the CTA matters
This means that there is a huge amount riding on the conclusion of the page. These last few words could mean the difference between successfully converting clicks into revenue – and leaving your potential customer dissatisfied with what you have put together for them.
With all that said, how do you create a compelling CTA that fulfils what it seeks to do?
A guide to crafting the perfect CTA
To help you write an effective conclusion that will drive users to your target destination without alienating your readers or appearing too pushy, here are some basic tips and principles to bear in mind:
- Use a strong, but not pushy, verb: Be clear and concise when writing a CTA. Don’t mince words, and get straight to the point. Choose the correct verb to make it clear what action you want your reader to take – e.g. ‘sign up’, ‘subscribe’, ‘book now’, or ‘give us a call’. These are all good examples.
- Provoke an emotion: Don’t be afraid to spark an emotion in the reader – e.g. excitement, curiosity, or a sense of urgency. A strategic use of grammar will give your CTA an extra kick!
- Be clear about what is in it for them: If you want your reader to visit your website, there needs to be something in it for them. This is the place to make your unique selling point clear. Lay out what sets you apart from the competition, and why they should click through to your website.
- Have a personality: Nothing drives users away like a bland CTA. Don’t be afraid to be creative or to let your personality shine through.
Crafting the perfect CTA seems like an art, rather than a science. However, you would be surprised at how formulaic they can be while still being successful. If you need further advice on how to command reader attention and drive traffic towards your website or blog, why not contact one of our content experts? By booking a consultation, we can help you to devise a well-planned content marketing strategy that will give you the upper hand in the battle for user attention.