This post is being republished from the Real Insights Archive.

Much of the objective of your emails is to encourage people to click. But your subscribers don’t actually click on your emails – they click on individual links within your emails. Figuring out what, how long and where those links should be can have a huge impact on the number of clicks you receive, and how successful your email marketing is.

What to hyperlink: In most email templates, the hyperlinked text has a sharp visual contrast with the rest of the body copy. It works in the same way that bold text does, and draws in the reader’s attention. I know we would like to think our subscribers read every word of our emails, but the truth is that many emails are only skimmed. When this happens, it may be only the hyperlinks that your subscribers even focus on. For this reason, what you hyperlink becomes critical. For example, if your objective is to promote an article that your CEO just published on the blog about lobbying efforts in your industry, you could hyperlink in several different ways:

Read our CEO’s perspective of the lobbying efforts on the Wainwright Bill on our blog.
Read our CEO’s perspective of the lobbying efforts on the Wainwright Bill on our blog.
Read our CEO’s perspective of the lobbying efforts on the Wainwright Bill on our blog.

Of these three, the first is the most commonly used, but it is also the weakest. If someone is skimming the email, the phrase “on the blog” does not include any indication of where the click will go. The second two are much better, and they show a decision the email marketer needs to make. If the subscribers are more likely to find the CEO’s perspective appealing, the middle example works well. If the hot topic is less the CEO, and more the lobbying efforts on the Wainwright Bill, then the final example is stronger.

How long should a hyperlink be: Let’s stick with the above example and assume that the email marketer believes the most powerful words in the sentence to be “CEO’s Perspective” and “Wainwright Bill,” but not “lobbying efforts.” Again, there are options:

Read our CEO’s perspective of the lobbying efforts on the Wainwright Bill on our blog.
Read our CEO’s perspective of the
lobbying efforts on the Wainwright Bill on our blog.

In the first example, the hyperlink-as-bolding principle is applied, and the trigger words are highlighted separately in the sentence. Both links would go to the same article on the blog. This emphasizes the strongest words well, but it suggests that the links will go to different places, which isn’t the case. It also suggests that the second link, to “Wainwright Bill”, will go to something with more detail on the Wainwright Bill. Fool me once, shame on you; Fool your subscribers once, they unsubscribe.

The second example is certainly more accurate, but starts to push the limits of acceptable length. If you can’t glance at the entire hyperlink and in an instant know exactly what it says – that is, if you have to actually read it to understand – it is too long. So neither of these options is ideal. A better choice would be to rewrite the sentence so that the most powerful words are clustered together:

Read our CEO’s perspective of the Wainwright Bill and lobbying efforts on our blog.

Where to place hyperlinks: Again, think about your subscribers skimming your article looking for the highlighted bits. The links connote importance. If they are clustered together, the suggestion is that this area contains the most important content. Conversely, if a section has no hyperlinks, skimmers are likely to disregard that content entirely. Where to place your hyperlinks is a function of where you want attention to focus. Once you have composed your message, skim it yourself to make sure that your eye falls naturally on the sections you feel are the most important.

Hyperlink analysis and testing: My favorite tool for measuring the impact of all these tactics is Click-View Tracking, visible underneath the thumbnail image of your message in the Track module. Go through your last dozen or so messages using Click-View Tracking, to see exactly which links pulled the best. Look for patterns in content, context, placement and link length, or anything else you can glean and put into practice with your next message.

Testing the content and length of hyperlinks is also something A/B testing is perfect for. If you’re torn between emphasizing, for example, “CEO’s Perspective” or “Lobbying Efforts on the Wainwright Bill”, split your list in half and try each. Why guess when you can learn?