Best of the Banter: Embedding links in email
by Donna Stryk, Moderator of the Online Ads Discussion List
One of the most common mechanisms used by Web sites to maintain loyalty and to keep its name in front of its audience is email. Specifically, email newsletters or updates allow sites to entice their visitors to return. This particular medium offers options such as creating an HTML message with all of the flash and branding of the actual site, or delivering a direct, concise message in plain text. Both options have their advantages and disadvantages, but in the case of the latter, it is still important that the site URL or any other URLs in the message are clear and clickable so that the email is easy to use.
On February 6th, Ian Leicht asked, "What is the best way to embed a link in email? Just include the ASCII text for the link? Create an HTML message with an actual link?" This is an important issue for several reasons. First, the customer has to know what you want them to do with the link and second, they have to be able to use it.
According to John Whiteside, whether or not a plain text link is clickable is, "actually the work of your email client, not the sender of the message." If you simply type the address, some email programs will convert that to a clickable link, while others will not forcing the user to cut and paste the link into their browser.
AdBanter.com's PR Pundit, Eric Ward, noted that the AOL email client does not convert text URLs to a clickable address. He said that in order to allow these viewers to click your address, you have to format the URL in standard HTML. Ward claimed that this href would be clickable across all email clients. Unfortunately, Gary Best wrote in saying that the href in Ward's email was not clickable within Outlook 2000. Best quirked: So much for a standard.
Another point that Whiteside brought up was that you might not want to use HTML messages if you did not get their approval when they signed up for the email updates. He said "It's likely that about half the people will be using software that can't read HTML, and among those whose software can, there will be some who don't want HTML." This opinion was reinforced by Antonio Romero who said that this, "is doubly true with recent concerns about people receiving hostile scripts in HTML email."
So, what is the answer? At this point, there does not seem to be a clearly defined rule of thumb. If anyone out there has research that would shed some light on the subject, we would love to read it. There is one alternative that came up on February 10th, which will probably inspire a thread of its own. Tony Wright mentioned a free service called Favemail that, "allows you (or anyone else) to put an HTML banner into a regular email." Apparently this feature is compatible with most email clients. The mention of this product has already prompted some questions from Whiteside and I look forward to reading how other members of Online Ads feel about this technology.
If you would like to read all of the comments and suggestions regarding this topic, please go to http://www.adbanter.com/wordsearch/embedding.shtml.
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