Email Marketing Best Practices: Embedding Links into Emails

Posted by bkloss | Email Marketing | Saturday 12 January 2008 8:16 pm

Email deliverability is a slippery slope. One such tricky issue concerns the use of bare or masked links in broadcast emails. Many claim that some browsers will break masked links. Other marketers claim that you must use the bare URL for subscribers who do not receive HTML emails.

At the risk of beating a dead horse, I want to set the record straight about embedding links in HTML emails.

The BEST/ONLY way you should link in a bulk email is to use anchor text. Never expose a naked link to the recipient when using a third party sender such as Aweber or Email Labs to send bulk email.

Here’s what I’m talking about:


Death by Spoofing a link in HTML emails www.iterationstation.com Death by Spoofing a link in HTML emails

Great Email Links with Anchr text The Greatest Blog Ever! Great Email Links with Anchr text

Both link to www.iterationstation.com. The first is a naked link and the second utilizes link text.

Email Marketers want to track click-throughs. In order to do this, hosted solutions will actually take your subscribers to their site from links in your email. Then, the provider initiates a 301 redirect to the destination you intended. This creates a huge problem for naked links because it appears that you are spoofing a domain. You claim to be sending subscribers to www.examplesite.com when in reality they are clicking www.examplesite.com going to www.youremailserviceprovider.com -> www.examplesite.com. Unfortunately, Thunderbird and other email clients don’t know that the redirect has occurred and often times will warn their users with a message that looks something like this:

Thunderbird Warning for Bare links

Yep, you guessed it, www.elabs5.com is the mail server of a third party email provider.

The use of anchor text creates an opportunity to strengthen the call to action for your link. Which is more compelling; a linked phrase like “Greatest Analytics Blog Ever” or www.iterationstation.com?

Now to dispel the concerns of those who believe that subscribers who do not accept HTML will not be able to click through the link text in your email. Most all third party senders use MIME compliant, multi-part emails. Simply put, your recipients who do not accept HTML emails will receive a text version with the links shown in parenthesis next to the link text. Check it out:

Becomes…

If you must display a naked URL in a broadcast email I recommend that you turn off link tracking in your sending platform to prevent spoof warning messages from occurring.

So, hopefully that clears things up. If you have any questions about linking in emails just leave me a comment.

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