We get asked about links in emails a lot. How many links can I have? How many links are too many links? We want to give people lots of choices to click on, right? Well, maybe that’s not the right answer. Let me explain.

First of all, we coach people that “the money is in the click.” Don’t depend on open rates as a measure of your email’s success. The clickthrough rate is the metric you really want to measure and celebrate. But… that doesn’t mean to include a bunch of links in your emails. Here are two reasons why:

  1. Statistically, the more choices you give a person, the less likely it is that the person will choose any of them. That’s right. As humans, we get overwhelmed with too many choices. When we have a couple choices, we’ll choose one of them. When we have three to five choices, we’ll still choose one of them. However, get up above five choices and it becomes increasingly unlikely that we’ll make any choice at all. Think about the last time you went to the ice cream parlor. You saw all those yummy buckets of frozen goodness there in the case and… what? Because we know our own tastes in ice cream, we immediately eliminate some. I eliminate the fruits and nuts, but give me ten choices of chocolate and I’m standing there for 10 minutes asking for samples. (Don’t judge.) But people don’t spend ten minutes clicking all of your links to sample your content, do they? Would you?
  2. From the perspective of the Googles and Microsofts of the world – the entities responsible for delivering your emails to their intended inboxes, many links make your email look promotional (at best) or spam (at worst), and they won’t drop it into the inbox. They’ll drop it into the promotions folder or the spam folder.  So… you’re damaging your own sender reputation AND not getting the results you want.

To keep your sender reputation alive AND get your emails to the inbox, you want engagement. You want people to 1) see your email and 2) click through your email to see your valuable content. While each of the reasons above are important, they are especially important when considered together.

For your best results…

When crafting an email, focus on the one thing you want that email to accomplish for you. Are you taking people to a blog post? Are you promoting an event and want registrations? What’s the ONE THING you want people to do when they open that email? And, if they don’t do that, what’s the second-best thing you want them to do? Two choices – two links, both focused on advancing the conversation and building the relationship with each of the perfect potential customers on your list.

Here’s your rule of thumb: try to keep links in emails to three or fewer. If you absolutely have to, you could go to five links, but no more than five, ever.

What’s a link?

Let’s clear up a few things right now. ANY link in your email counts toward your link count – even it’s the same link in multiple places in the same email. It’s hyperlinked text – so it’s a link, and it counts.

What a lot of people don’t seem to realize is that linking your logo image to your home page counts in your link count. Social media shares count. Social media follow icons are also links and yes, they count too. Even your unsubscribe link counts as a link to the giant corporations in charge of delivering your email to the inbox – and whether they will or not.

I’ve seen people craft emails with just a couple of links in the email body, but then add 4 or 5 social links, add links to every image (and don’t have too many images), and a link to their home page embedded in their logo. Fail! Those links all add up – and they impact your email deliverabiity.

One last super-important note

As I said above, when you are creating an email, what is the primary objective of the email? What is the one thing you want that email to accomplish for you? When you’re deciding what to link to, think about that. Is the purpose of your email to deepen a conversation in a particular subject area? Is it to get a registration for an upcoming event? Is it to make a sales offer?

I was on a coaching call with a customer the other day, and their email contained about five links. Not bad. However, when we dug in, the links were to vastly different things. One was to the home page of a somewhat-related offering. Another was to the Facebook page (but the hyper-linked text didn’t say anything about Facebook, so landing on Facebook when clicking that would be… unexpected). Two other links to two other things, and ONE LINK – just one of the five links – was to the thing they most wanted people to click on. All of the links were of equal weight, in the main body of the email (not tucked in the header or footer).

Guess what? That leads to a couple of things, neither of which is good. One is what we call “unsupervised thinking.” If they click the link that takes them to the home page of the somewhat-related thing, what happens? They get distracted. What happens when they land on Facebook through another link? “Oh, look, I have notifications.” And before you know it, you’ve lost them. The other thing that happens is “link fatigue.” How many links do you think people will click before they stop clicking? With emails coming in fast and furious, that answer is probably ONE. So if they click anything other than what you REALLY want them to click, you’ve probably lost them. See? Not good.

Links in emails – the short version

To engage the people on your list and increase your changes of 1) getting to the inbox and 2) getting valuable, trackable, relevant clicks, follow these two simple rules.

  • Keep the number of links in any email under five. Two or three is best. This includes any links on images or social links.
  • Focus your links on what will bring you the most value – don’t link to tangential things that take people off-track. You’ll lose them.

Want to assess your emails? Click on the image to take the self-assessment.

The money IS in the click, because clicks are trackable, can be used to segment your leads, and can trigger additional, meaningful content and conversation. Do everything you can to increase your clickthroughs, and it will really pay off.