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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4 Responses to “The great “click here” debate resolved”

  1. Bobby Firestone on March 31st, 2008 2:36 pm

    Articles like this one always amaze me about how much tech savy people take for granted. I had a startling wakeup call to this one over the weekend. The average person really does need to be told what to do. If you don’t tell them where to click they will do everything except click on the link you want them to.

    Thanks for the reminder. Tell them what to do and they are more likely to do it.

  2. Ted Grigg on April 4th, 2008 8:05 pm

    I like your benefit title with the magic word “free” as well as directions to “click here” assuming you want more subscribers. This tells the readers exactly what you want them to do.

    This is the one I would use: ” click here to sign up for my free newsletter.”

    This is a good example of why a knowledgeable direct marketer knows more than the pure tech person when it comes to marketing online. Copy is critical to success, not just technical know how.


  3. Angela on March 5th, 2009 5:37 am

    Hi, i’m italian and i was by chance on your website reading this post. I was attracted by its title.
    Well, i concour that the way of talking with the target depends on the aims of your company. But, as reguards the online communication, i believe it should be able to make all users understand exactly which actions they must do and how.
    Not always users are able to use online services.
    So i believe that a “call to action link” is the best way to guarrantee that everyone undarstands what do and how.
    My compliment to you for the post, it was very interesting :)

    PS. excuse me for my english, please ;)


  4. Murlu on September 30th, 2010 9:09 pm

    Hey Dean,

    I really like your take on this because I rarely find articles that actually go into detail as you pointed out – most of the time, people will say just use SEO friendly keywords but after reading this it really makes sense to include ‘click here’.

    When it’s just the keyword you’re essentially hoping that people will be curious enough to click but adding ‘click here’ does wonders for the call-to-action.

    I do a bit of article marketing – this is definitely going into my future articles :)

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