The great “click here” debate resolved

Should your links include the words “click here” or is this a tacky and redundant waste of Web page space, since everyone knows what to do with a link?

The click here debate has waged for years. But I think it’s less a debate than a misunderstanding, and it’s easy to clear up.

Let’s assume that I’m writing an article online and I want to link to my newsletter subscription page. There are three ways I can craft this link.

1. I can create a link that links to my free newsletter subscription like this. Here I’ve created a simple “descriptive” link. The content of the link is clear. It uses the common metaphor of the underline to indicate a link, so if you want to know more about my newsletter, you can click on it.

2. I can create a link where I encourage you to subscribe to my free newsletter like this. In this case, I’ve created a “directive” link. Not only does it describe the link, it uses command language to tell you what to do: “subscribe.”

3. I can create a link where I tell you you to click here to sign up for my free newsletter like this. Now I’ve created a “call to action” link. This describes the content of the link and uses directive language to tell you what to do. However it goes one step further and gives you explicit instructions for how to do it: “click here.”

Which link type is correct? It depends on how important it is that someone click on the link.

If you merely wish to offer additional information, a descriptive link gets the job done. This is the most common type of link on the Web. If people click, great. If not, no big deal.

If you want people to click, though, you need to move up to the directive link. This link tells people what to do and will almost always generate more clicks.

If the link is vital, for a sales letter leading to an order page, for example, then you should step up to the call to action link and use the words “click here.” This leaves no doubt about what to do and how to do it. The fact that people know to click a link is irrelevant. This is the same as telling a direct mail recipient to “mail this reply card now.” The more direct you are, the more response you are likely to get.

So there you have it. There are descriptive links, directive links, and call to action links. Deciding which to use depends on how important it is that you get a click. The debate is ended. Go forth and link away.

Oh, and click here now to subscribe to my free newsletter that gives you lots of tips just like this. :)

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How much choice do consumers want?

It’s standard practice to give consumers plenty of choice. Choice of products. Choice of offers. Choice of configurations, options, avenues of response, and more.

But in a world where everyone is offering so many choices, could fewer choices give you a competitive edge?

In a recent article about consumer choice, eMarketer asks analysts whether consumers want more or less choice. The answers come in many flavors, but the takeaway seems to be that choice comes with a cost.

In my direct marketing experience, less choice often works better than more choice. The fewer decisions you ask people to make, the more likely they are to actually make a decision. And I can tell you from personal experience that I don’t like too many choices when making buying decisions. Whether it’s picking out a box of cereal at the local mega food mart, selecting software, or buying clothes, less choice is better. Otherwise analysis paralysis can set it.

On the other hand, I like lots of choices for finding these and other items. I like the fact that there are hundreds or thousands of companies and products competing for my business because that increases the chances that I’ll find what I want. But when I come to the moment of truth, I like the choices to narrow dramatically so that I have what appears to be one clear choice.

What do you think about this? Is more choice or less choice better? Does it depend on the circumstances? How does this apply to direct marketing and advertising? Share your thoughts on this.

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Speedwriting: 12 tips for writing faster

Some writers have the gift of “speedwriting.” They are naturally blessed with the ability to write fast and turn out solid work without agonizing or extensive rewriting or editing.

Unfortunately, I’m not one of those people.

It’s not that I’m slow. I can move through projects at a good pace when I have to. But I simply can’t dash off copy with lightning speed and walk away as some do. Like this sentence, for example: I just now wrote and deleted three or four other sentences before typing these words.

Obviously it’s better to be a good writer than a fast writer. However, I think that just as you can learn to read quickly and maintain comprehension, you should also be able to write quickly and maintain quality. So I’ve been on a mission recently to boost my writing speed. This can help me be more productive, earn more, and have more time for other activities.

I’ve analyzed my writing habits and come up with solutions to boost my productivity. Here are a few of my ideas. Read more

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SEO Copywriting: How important is it to you?

For copywriters, every advertising medium has its unique requirements.

Direct mail requires you to know postal specifications. Radio advertising requires you to write exceptionally lean. E-mail marketing requires you to deal with the eccentricities of spam and e-mail design.

Then there’s the Web. And one of the requirements these days, according to many gurus, is SEO, search engine optimization. The idea seems pretty simple: to rank well, a Web page must use the keywords people are searching for. Of course, in practice it’s a bit more difficult. In fact, it can be an arcane art that seems to change almost daily.

There are varying points of view on SEO. Many copywriters embrace it. But some think it’s overblown. I have my own ideas, but I’m curious …

What do YOU think? Is SEO important to you? Do you think a copywriter should make SEO a priority when writing for the Web? Or should it be secondary to good on-page copy? How far have you gone to teach yourself SEO?

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Direct mail resources galore at USPS.com

If you create or use direct mail, you may know that the United States Postal Service has not always had a helpful website. There was a time when it was poorly designed and made finding information difficult.

But as the USPS feels the pressure to act (or pretend to act) more like a competitive business, they have shaped up their website nicely. Today usps.com is nicely designed and offers an easy-to-navigate treasure trove of resources for business mailers and consumer mail users alike.

Here are just a few of the key resources you’ll find when you click on the “business” button at the top left of the home page.

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