Call for an end to ‘click here’ links in email

Since HTML's humble beginnings, the 'click here' link has been ubiquitous in both email and web copy. So common is it, that 'click here' has lost its meaning, in more ways in one. And that's exactly the problem with using it in email campaigns.

For the most part, we can't be blamed for using 'click here' liberally. At first impression, it seems like an unambiguous call-to-action (CTA), a direct request to do a good thing for our campaign's goals. However, if you're conscientious about keeping your copy as short and as punchy as possible, it may have become apparent that 'click here' are two words that you can almost always omit. For example, compare the following links:

1. To find out more about ABC Widgets' range, click here.
2. Find out more about ABC Widgets' range.

Which sentence is shorter? Which is really the more instructive CTA to you?

Moving towards more accessible emails

The redundancy of 'click here' is a side-issue for those using assitive technologies like screen readers - for the sight-impaired, having meaningful links is a priority. I recently trialled reading my email using the iPhone's 'VoiceOver' accessibility feature (Settings > General > Accessibility > VoiceOver) and found that it read out link text in isolation when a link is tapped. In this context, having 'Find out more about ABC Widgets...' spoken to you is by far preferable to 'click here'.

Designing accessible emails is more important than you may think - blindness affects over 25.5 million people in the US alone.

Click, tap, swipe or speak here?

Earlier, you may have noticed that we referred to 'tapping' on links in iPhone Mail, instead of clicking. If you consider the variety of settings in which online content is consumed, the assumption that we should only be clicking is a silly one. Tim Berners-Lee understood this all too well when he wrote the cornerstone document, 'Style Guide for Online Hypertext', where he recommended that we should:

Try to avoid references in the text to online aspects. "See the section on device independence" is better than "For more on device independence, click here". In fact, we are talking about a form of device independence.

Back in those days, 'device independence' largely meant creating content that was just as relevant to the reader on-paper as it is on-screen. Now, when emails are routinely read on devices that are navigated using taps, voice commands, shakes, swipes and styluses, 'click here' seems increasingly outdated.

Writing for the skimmers

Finally, if there's one thing that affects nearly all of us, it's a tendency to skim through email messages. Now, if you think of what's likely to stand out in a hastily-read paragraph of text, it's... You guessed it, the links.

When scanning for important tidbits, links like "View more cats!" are sure to have more appeal than, "For more cats, click here" (regardless of your feelings about cats). Jakob Neilsen's research has shown that eyes naturally fixate on links, so making them as meaningful as possible is sure to have a positive impact on campaign results.

None of the above is 'new' news - the call to cull 'click here' links has been going strong for over a decade now. Some really great reasons for avoiding its usage were brought together in the 2002 post, 'Why "Click here" is bad linking practice' - that's 5 years before the iPhone changed how many of us navigate emails. Nonetheless, 'click here' remains a mainstay in email copy.

So, next time you see a client asking subscribers to click here or there, are you going to call them out for it?

Posted by Ros Hodgekiss

12 Comments

  • Ben Carlson
    20th September

    I could be wrong, but have there not been A/B tests done where “click here” performs favorably to versions without that phrase?

  • Ros Hodgekiss
    20th September

    That’s really curious - I’d love to follow this up. If someone finds a study on this in their travels, could they kindly post it here? It would make a great item for discussion :)

  • Wayde Christie
    20th September

    I’ve read that too Ben, so my approach is a combo of Ros’ examples: Click here to learn more about ABC Widgets’ range. It gets the “Click here” up front (which is a good call-to-action), but it’s still a keyword rich, and relevant link.

    *I LOVE YOU ROS!!!*

  • Caleb
    21st September

    The best thing about this article is I was brought to it from this page: http://www.designfeeds.com.au/article/call_for_an_end_to__8216_click_here_8217_links_in_email

    See the irony?

  • Ros Hodgekiss
    21st September

    Ha, Wayde! we love you, too :D Thanks for the input, I’ve really got to find a good study to follow this up with!

    Caleb - I wish I could A/B test this one… Perhaps with a link-bait headline, like: ‘5 reasons why we shouldn’t use this popular CTA’, or ‘Boost your usability with this one weird trick ;)’

  • Mika Tuupola
    21st September

    Click here links are also bad SEO wise. In the webversion having click here links give Google points to words “click” and “here”. You would want to give them to “more” and “cats”.

  • Jonathan
    22nd September

    Yes. Yes. And yes.

    Fully agree with this. Good idea!

  • Nickolas Simard
    12th October

    Can’t you guys stop being so awesome all the time? It’s hard for us, commoners, to follow you! :D

    On a more serious note, I think you have a good point here, by shortening the links and texts and making everything more “skimmer friendly”... I receive enough emails per day without having to ready through everything!

    I’ll try to get this to my writers on future emails. Thanks!

  • Jane Johnson
    12th October

    Early adopters will always be looking for ways to optimise the user experience and avoid the clunkiness of the “click here” mentality in web design, but let us not forget those that are still new to the web - the silver surfers like my mum, who is only just starting out. They need help to understand what a ‘link’ is, to understand that it’s not just coloured text! Greater awareness of the demographic of our target audience should give us the insight to design materials in an appropriate way.

  • Kathy
    20th October

    i totally disagree until i actually see some testing metrics. a hyperlinked “click here” is much more direct than a color-emphasized CTA. also, i noticed you are using mouse over effect which doesn’t work in email.

  • Adam
    22nd October

    I’ve been examining this for a few weeks and have done some deep dives into our emails. Bizarrely, our legacy “Click Here” CTA’s are consistently performing very strongly, sometimes better than our main CTA.

    I’m trying to figure out why and believe that it’s either people with images turned off who click the most familiar looking link, or that people just love to be told what to do.

    I’m hoping to do some A/B testing on it in the coming weeks which should be fun and will be very interesting to see the results.

  • Amarilys Rivera
    8th November

    I would also add that the words “click here” can also been seen as spam words and be flagged by spam filters, thus decreasing deliverability rates. Showing the differences in using ‘click here’ and using other phrases to catch the eye definitely is a great tip. Here at KobeMail we advise our clients to avoid this phrase.

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