By Ros Hodgekiss on 19th September 2012
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?
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.
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on devices that are navigated using taps, voice commands, shakes, swipes and styluses, 'click here' seems increasingly outdated.
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?
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