10 Best Practices for Using Links in Emails

I recently received a question from a Marketo customer about best use of links in emails. Essentially, the customer wanted to know how and when to put links in an email communication to a prospect. Here is what you should keep in mind for your links when building emails for email marketing or for lead nurturing:

Email Link URL

  1. Links should be easy to identify and clearly labeled.
    • A link should be identifiable to the email reader by the color and because it is underlined. Example: Marketo
    • Don’t just say, “Click here” after a paragraph and expect a reader to click through. Instead, link key phrases that identify what a click of the link is going to render.Example: Read the new Marketo Lead Nurturing White Paper
  2. Links should go where they say they are going to go. This seems obvious, but mistakes can be easily made here. Before deploying an email campaign make sure to check all links to ensure they work and that they are going where the email copy describes.
  3. Structure your links properly throughout your email.
    • Contextual links – Use links highly relevant to the content, with the most important and relevant links at the top of the email, also linking to the appropriate product pages, promotion or thought leadership. By putting these at the top, or top-loading, these links are likely to increase click-through versus those hidden lower in the newsletter.
    • Bonus Content Links – These include offers outside of the contextual email content. This may be an offer in the banner of an email or an invite to a webinar in a side navigation panel. These should be clearly marked with the value of the offer clearly conveyed. At Marketo, we are typically more successful if we do only one bonus content link in a paper, though you need to test to see what is appropriate for your company.
    • Permanent Links – links that are always available in your communications, like forward to a friend, social network links and the unsubscribe, should be located in the same place in each email so email recipients don’t have to spend time searching.
  4. URLs should match the content being offered. You do not want to have a URL in your email that then directs to a page that is a different URL. This may look like phishing. You also want to make sure your URL clearly illustrates what the users will see when they click. Example: http://www.marketo.com/library/b2b-email-mktg-ebook.pdf

Phishing Link Example

  1. Don’t ask for personal or account information in an email or on the landing page if the link forwards to banks and other financial institutions. Institutions are dedicating time and dollar resources to educate consumers about what a phishing email may look like. One item they frequently mention is to ignore requests for account or login information in an email. Avoid doing this in your emails, as recipients may perceive them as phishing emails and mark them as spam. Also, make sure 3rd party links aren’t on spam lists prior to deploying your email.
  2. Don’t send emails without links. Adding links to your email campaign or newsletter helps to engage your audience and drive traffic to your site. Do not limit yourself to buttons and banners for links in your email.
  3. Understand what device will be used to read your email. If your email is going to be read on the web or on smart phones like the Iphone, you can have links a plenty. But if your viewers are looking at their emails on older smartphones or as text, you do not want to load up your emails with links as they may render the full link in the email, which often takes up valuable email space.
  4. Link content to more than just your email. If you create a landing page for an email offer, you must also connect it to other parts of your website or search engines and site visitors won’t be able to find it. Also, email readers who later look for the offer directly will end up frustrated as these pages aren’t linked to the website.
  5. Links should allow your reader to save time when reading an email. Links allow your reader to select which offer or detail they want to understand better or read more about, without distracting them with information that may not be useful. This means you can send shorter emails with links to important information like offer details, privacy policies and more that you do not want to take up space in your email.
  6. Use email links to understand which offers were most successful While many marketers simply look at email open and click-through rates, it is important to note which links were successful in capturing a reader’s interest. Analyze to ensure best results of future offers. Also, go one step further looking past the click-through into the engagement of the reader on your website after they click through a link.

In addition, Marketo customers or those using a sophisticated marketing automation tool should be sure to include links in their emails. This is because a lead in the Marketo database needs to either complete a form or click through in a link of an email to match their current lead record up with their web activity. By doing this you will get more out of your segmentation, personalization and lead scoring.