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Wednesday, Sep. 26, 2007 at 11:40 am

“Click Here” Works (Better Than Other Generic Terms)

By Robert Gorell
September 26th, 2007

Marketing Sherpa recently tested click-through rates for anchor text links in email. They found that “Click to continue” works far better than “Continue to article” or “Read more”. But why?

Copyblogger‘s Brian Clark concludes, “Not only should you use actionable anchor text if you really want someone to click, but you should also tell people to take the exact action you want them to perform in order to get the best response.”

Sure, but there’s more to this story than just telling people to “click here” all the time. Absolutely. Keep in mind, though, that just because “Click to continue” won this time, in this particular context, doesn’t necessarily mean using “Click [whatever]” works best in all cases. Clark’s point about using “the exact action you want them to perform” serves as a solid guideline — and a strong place to start when deciding which verbiage to test.

Here’s what Jared Spool, CEO and Founding Principal of User Interface Engineering (UIE), has to say about links:

UIE research showed that when a link and its associated text comprised seven to twelve words, people could successfully follow the links 50 to 60% of the time, with the optimal length being 9 to 10 words. Jared quipped, “One of the things you do in a usability test is you try to use your psychic powers to get people to do things.”

However, he said, “It’s not just the size of the link.” Links should include trigger words or “they’ll fail. …You have to be careful what words you choose. A one-word link is fine if you know it’s a trigger word.

Whereas “click here” can work as a call to action — or anchor link, as it’s often used — these one-trigger-word links Spool’s referring to are called Points of Resolution (define), and the greater context has a lot to do with how effective they are. The context is what we call “scent,” and it’s up to you to provide your visitors with a scent trail worth following. As Spool explains, “when they are on the right track to finding their content—they follow the scent of information.”

As an aside, AdvertisingLab hints at one of our favorite factoids: Adobe ranks #1 for the term “click here“. (It is hard to resist even though you know the answer, isn’t it?)

Oh, and here’s a link to the Marketing Sherpa study, if you’re interested. (Just mind the persuasion gap with that extra free trial sign-up step they don’t warn you about if you’re not already a member.)

If the links on your website suffer from bad scent, don’t wait around as would-be customers politely excuse themselves. Test the verbiage, and see what converts best. We can help.

[P.S. -- Tim, does this answer your question?]

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Comments (25)

  1. If I’m understanding scent correctly, the Marketing Sherpa test was about how to make it easiest for someone to continue on the scent trail that had already interested them, no?

    My take on ‘click to CONTINUE’ working better than the ‘read more’ or ‘continue to article’ was that continue is an innocuous word, whereas a lot of people don’t like reading or think it’s work, and even if they are reading, don’t remind them that they are or will have to after they click. Likewise, ‘article’ brings the person’s attention back to the larger context of what they’re doing, as opposed to ‘continue’ which allows them to keep their head down and their brain engaged on the exact same track that brought them to the link.

  2. I’m confused tho, why you referred to ‘click here’ in the article and its title, rather than ‘click to continue’- the test was about which exact words worked better, so to alter it to ‘click here’, which wasn’t even tested, doesn’t make sense to me.

  3. Interesting to hear how “click here” works for some scenarios and and not others. I have experienced some interesting results when testing button text (CTA). Related to web page design, I have seen “click here” work better on busier pages (when there are several clickable elements). My guess it makes it stand out from other CTAs. Then on simpler pages, “click here” was not needed b/c the button was positioned as the focal point (area the eyes went to first).

    Enjoy when you posting links to other case studies too, checking those out now…

  4. Brian,

    Yes,”Click to continue” is what was tested, but the significance seems to have been placed on the direct action: The click.

    That being said, I’m glad you explained your reasoning behind why “continue” works better than “article” in this case. It’s possible that the other bloggers and I got too hung up on the active verb, but I’m still not convinced that it matters. (Not sure I’ll be able to convince a self-described “XNTJ” but I’ll do my best. :) )

    Here’s the point: Results from an “in-house” test like this can be both seductive and misleading. What’s interesting isn’t the exact combination of words themselves, but that they were able to achieve far better results just by changing a few words. Sometimes clients find that hard to believe, but it’s true. And, considering how we’ve been trained to act online, “Click _____” might as well be “Click Here”. That’s what I took from Brian Clark’s piece, and — if I read him correctly — I agree.

    The problem with case studies like this is that, if they look at them as anything but directionally interesting, people tend to revert to “best practices” thinking. (Stay away!) TEST your assumptions, then try another combination of words.

    Just because “Click to continue” beat the other two (generic) phrases means it’s better-than, not optimal — nor does it mean people reading about it should go changing all of their email or landing page links to “click to continue”.

  5. >>>Sure, but there’s more to this story than just telling people to “click here” all the time.

    And you also know I never said what is intimated in that sentence, right?

  6. Answer my question? As a matter of fact, it does. I particularly agree with your comment.

    “The problem with case studies like this is that, if they look at them as anything but directionally interesting, people tend to revert to ‘best practices’ thinking. (Stay away!) TEST your assumptions, then try another combination of words.”

    You’re exactly right. There’s no such thing as “best practices” when copying from others. There’s what works for you, your context, your customers. And what doesn’t.

  7. Brian (Clark),

    No intimation intended. I liked your piece, but it evoked the clamor we often hear from the “best practices” crowd. Now that you’ve had me look at it with fresh eyes, I definitely overreached. When I wrote that, I wasn’t thinking of what you said in the blog post, but of how it might be interpreted. Too bad I didn’t phrase it to reflect that, um, minor nuance.

    I’ll revise.

  8. Robert, just making sure… I was shocked at how many people didn’t seem to get that there are only limited circumstances where “click here” would be appropriate, but I think it’s my own fault for not elaborating.

    As for the “best practices” usability crowd, well, yeah… you had to see them huffing and puffing down the war path straight at me. :)

  9. Brian,

    Have you seen Jeffrey and I? We’re glad to do a little tackling and blocking for you.

  10. Bryan, I would choose to be on the same team as you and Jeffrey any day, but especially if a scrap was likely. :)

  11. If there’s a referee needed in the rumble, let me raise my hand, Bryan.

    As marketing optimization consultants ourselves, we advocate testing anything and everything. It can’t all be tested immediately, though, so it makes sense to start with all the ‘best practices’ we can find and then optimize from there.

  12. Now I’m confused. Didn’t you guys just promote an article about NOT using click here (or click to continue)? Instead the article indicated using a more descriptive phrase was better or maybe I’m just lost. It’s the same old thing – one day something is good for you, the next it is bad.

  13. Jessica,

    We’ve never recommended using “click here” in any broad context — and I certainly haven’t done so here.

    If you’d revisit the comments, you’ll find a bit more clarification on our dislike for “best practices” thinking. As Chris suggests above, they’re often helpful as a place to start, but thinking in rigid terms has the danger of skewing one’s perception of what’s important when it comes to testing. In fact, all that’s being recommended in this piece is that people TEST their assumptions.

    I believe you’re referring to Jeff Sexton’s article on persuasive links, which was a follow-up to this one. There’s been no change in our stance; only more clarification.

    Tomorrow, we’re announcing a contest in conjunction with two other respected blogs. Five winners will be selected to have us test link verbiage to improve conversion on their landing pages. We hope you’ll keep reading, and would love it if you entered.

  14. Thank you for your comment, Robert. Thank you also for clarifying the situation. I look forward to your contest.

  15. [...] a user a clear instruction on how to move on in their task is a good thing. Copyblogger and GrokDotCom [...]

  16. [...]  Click here for an interesting post on the power of using “click here”. [...]

  17. [...] 1.) "Click click here to read FAQ" — You don't need to have entered our hyperlink contest to know why that's off. [...]

  18. My take home is – “Click here to ” and sometimes “Click here to ” when I am interested to achieve some SEO points too.

  19. From SEO it’s useless, so I forgot the text. Now I’ll have to think once more about it.

  20. As if I needed something new to worry about from a rookie webmaster’s standpoint in regards to optimization. This is very good to know.. but I already feel like my plate is full. No doubt I will re-visit this advice down the road. Thanks for the info.

  21. agreed regarding it

  22. You are right, but most webmaster didn’t agree with that anchor text

  23. This is very good to know.. but I already feel like my plate is full. You don’t need to have entered our hyperlink contest to know why that’s off.

  24. not exactly! i think Specific action verb perform better than just simple click here.

  25. If you’d revisit the comments, you’ll find a bit more clarification on our dislike for “best practices” thinking. As Chris suggests above, they’re often helpful as a place to start, but thinking in rigid terms has the danger of skewing one’s perception of what’s important when it comes to testing. In fact, all that’s being recommended in this piece is that people TEST their assumptions.

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