Here are the linked phrases Marketing Sherpa tested, followed by the results expressed as a change in click-through conversions:
So, yes, “Click to continue” was the clear winner. But look at what it was being compared to! As calls to action go, those links stink*. I especially liked Brian “AdWords Man” Carter’s analysis:
“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.”
In other words, you’re comparing a relatively clear and non-friction-inducing call to action to two losers: one using a rather flaccid verb, and the other creating friction in the mind of the reader.
Copyblogger Brian Clark’s — not to be confused with Carter — statement that “…if you want someone to do something, you’ll get better results if you tell them exactly what to do” has to be understood within the context of his larger body of work. For instance, consider it in light of this quote from his most recent post:
“Persuasion is generally an exercise in creating a win-win situation. You present a case that others find beneficial to agree with.”
Basically, what he’s saying (and correct me if I’ve misinterpreted this, Brian) is that once you’ve provided readers with “a scent trail worth following,” and a win-win situation or offer, it’s best to clearly tell those readers HOW to take that next action — and make sure they know how to get that win!
That’s a far cry from the straw man Clark’s detractors so readily maul when deriding his perceived advocacy of “using ‘Click here’ all over the place.”
Looking beyond the straw man (define) to a more contextual understanding of Brian’s advice, what Future Now teaches is largely similar. The difference is that we explicitly state that HOW to take the action must be appropriately influenced by, and combined with, a (re)statement of WHY they should want to do it. In presenting the win-win proposal, we tell our clients to focus on the visitor’s win, not their own. (The JigsawHealth.com case study is a great example.)
See, Brian does this intuitively all the time; the gestalt of his writing agrees with this approach. Unfortunately, though, Brian’s too good a writer, and blogger, for the rest of us to, um, copy.
Here’s our best crack at a formula for persuasive links: imperative verb + implied benefit.
Instead of this:
You get this:
Notice that the call to action in #1 lacked the benefit to the reader, and that even though #2 stated the benefit for the reader, the imperative verb wasn’t congruent with the benefit like it is in #3.
We feel, and have usually seen with our client’s Websites, that the formula infused in the third example outperforms other options. And I personally believe that this formula offers a contextual understanding of Brian Clark’s advice.
But, hey, this is the web, right? Why not test it out? Next
Tuesday, October 2nd, Thursday, October 4th, we’ll announce details on how you can volunteer your site for a little free A/B testing on this very subject. Stay tuned!
[*Although generic, “Click to continue” is sometimes good enough. Use it sparingly, though, since it only works in limited contexts. For instance, if it's used repeatedly on a page that overtly links to similar content.]