The Importance of Links as Calls to Action

I enjoyed this conversion rate analysis by Dustin Curtis on the link he places at the bottom of his articles to his Twitter account.

It’s fascinating to see the results of this sort of A/B testing, especially when the results can be so dramatic.

Most of the time when you’re running a website you’re focused on the larger things — adding new content and features, increasing usability, improving page speed, etc. So little time is spent on the details, such as how a link should be written.

However, it’s clear that this is an area where you can receive the most return on your time invested.

Setting up a test using Google’s Website Optimizer or just adding some campaign tracking tags to the link URL is quite easy to do with a little practice.

One particular bone of contention for me has always been promos or ads where the call-to-action (CTA) link reads “Learn more” or “Read more.” It’s so weak; almost anything would be better than this.

So much time is typically spent making the banner look visually appealing compared with the content that is driving people to click through.

This issue of weak CTAs often arises for two reasons:

  1. The content author doesn’t really understand about writing for the web and how it is an interactive medium requiring strong, direct calls-to-action to be successful.
  2. The content is not seen by the author in context. It is written and approved in MS Word and then handed off to be added to the site. There’s no review of the content in-place where the author can see how well it works within the constraints of how it is being presented.

One solution to this is to write a web style guide that specifically explains how content should be optimized for web presentation (headings, links, lists, etc).

It’s not hard to do and has the added advantage of creating a common understanding of how content — which can often be so subjective — should be written for the web within an organization.