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Sep 11, 2007
How To

Test Results: Simple Word Change in Email Hyperlink Raises Clicks 8.53%

SUMMARY: Can the wording used in your newsletter’s hyperlinks make a difference in clickthrough rates? The answer is yes.

Turns out that the right two or three click link words can lift your clickthroughs by more than 8%. Here are our notes on an experiment we did so you can try this easy test on your own newsletters.
MarketingSherpa conducted an in-house test last month to determine what words in a hyperlink are the most actionable. In other words, we wanted to know if a certain phrase could get subscribers to click through to an article more.

We've learned from our Case Studies research over the years that the wording on landing page buttons can have a significant effect on results. Is the same true for click hyperlinks? If you haven't tested this yourself, do so now. The results may surprise you.

How We Conducted Our Test

We were using the words "Continue here ..." as our call to action from our newsletters to the full articles on our Web site, but we hadn't tested the phrase. Then, someone made the obvious suggestion: "Don't you think you should test that?"

So, our research and editorial staff pored over numerous industry newsletters, noting the most-widely-used hyperlink phrases that were relevant to our brand.

After whittling away at the list, we had a trio of phrases to test against "Continue here ...":
o "Click to continue"
o "Continue to article"
o "Read more"

As MarketingSherpa readers know, the proper way to test a theory is to conduct either an A/B or multivariate test where you split your list into random segments (a.k.a. "nth name") and email different versions of the same newsletter to each. With all other factors being equal, you then watch what kind of lift or drop you get from the factor you're testing.

We wanted a big sample to create the kind of weighty results we could hold stock in. Hence, we split-tested each of the phrases in four newsletters: Sherpa Weekly, Sherpa Business-to-Business, EmailSherpa and ContentBiz.

One week later, we pitted the top two performers against one another in an A/B test across all of our newsletters.

Going in, we were interested in seeing how the *softer language* examples in "Continue here ..." and "Click to continue" would perform against more pointed call-to-action phrases, such as "Read more" and "Continue to article." And how would two-word phrases do against the three-word versions? Could one word in either direction actually make a difference?

Results From Our Hyperlink Test

As in many tests, not all of the answers to our questions were clear cut, but the most important ones were. For example, we discovered that the incumbent, "Continue here ...," wasn't doing our clickthrough rates any favors (well, so much for going with your gut).

Here were the differences in clickthroughs:
o "Click to continue": 8.53%
o "Continue to article": 3.3%
o "Read more": (-)1.8%

With these results, we had a strong feeling that the front-runner, "Click to continue," would win in the A/B test, and it did -- producing 3.5% more clicks than "Continue to article." Needless to say, we immediately switched the words in our link in all of our newsletters.

4 Lessons Learned

During our industry research and testing, we discovered a few things that we didn't know about email hyperlinks that we wanted to pass along. Here are our four big lessons learned:

Lesson #1. It's important to realize that the words used by your peers can be relevant to increasing your clickthrough rates. Doing a sector-wide comparison like we did might not sound like rocket science, but we're guessing there's a good chance your creative team has yet to do this.

Lesson #2. If you publish a content-based newsletter, avoid using "Read [insert any adverb]." We strongly believe that online readers skim far, far more often than they read. So, it makes no sense to sell your idea as an activity they've come to instinctively avoid. The results prove our instinct was dead on.

Lesson #3. If you redirect newsletter traffic so you can track clickthroughs, make sure you don't simply mirror the actual URL. Change the link into something that looks totally different. Not doing so can raise flags with filters and end up marking you as a possible spammer.

Lesson #4. Finally, you guessed it: Test! More importantly, think outside the box in terms of what *needs* to be tested. We're certainly glad we did.

Useful links related to this article

Creative samples from MarketingSherpa's email test:

Hotlinked list of all the vendors MarketingSherpa relies on for email and Web publishing related services:


See Also:

Comments about this How To

Sep 11, 2007 - kristina of says:
Thank you for doing your research. I am sending out my newsletter this week. I can't wait to try out your shared techniques in an effort to gain some end of the quarter sales.

Sep 11, 2007 - David Culbertson of LightBulb Interactive says:
The fact that "click to continue" was the winner shouldn't surprise us - if we remember we're not the target users. Obviousness can produce big results for web navigation. Most web designers would shudder at the suggestion of using "click" anywhere on a "modern" website.

Sep 13, 2007 - Joan Stewart, The Publicity Hound of The Publicity Hound says:
I am curious about how the test results would differ if you ran the test on text-only newsletters vs. HTML.

Sep 14, 2007 - Tad Clarke of MarketingSherpa says:
Joan, Thanks for the question. Actually, the text version in each newsletter includes the URL link to the article itself, not words, so there was nothing to test.

Sep 17, 2007 - John Friesen of Blue Giant Media says:
Just to point out, as I so often have and will again: 'nth name' is not a random selection. Therefore, while it may be that "click to continue" is the best in this test (my gut says it would also be best in a truly random test) you can't call your test statistically valid (unless 'nth name' was some form of wacky short hand for random sample.

Sep 17, 2007 - Alex Bainbridge of Travel UCD says:
Hi, I published some research about "click here" links the other day.... in summary, we determined that the more "modern" the company, the fewer "click here" links on a website. Traditional, offline, companies - who have websites - tend to have a higher percentage of "click here" links. The research can be found at this link:

Mar 13, 2013 - Chris Buckley of says:
Looking to find any updated stats on this, now that we're 5 years on and in the world of tablets and mobiles. Interesting to see if there's any difference.

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