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So, first up, linking. What are some of the purposes of linking?

  • Linking should be used concisely to send traffic to a website: Keep it short, concise, and simple.
  • Avoid link stuffing: Don’t overwhelm your reader with too many links, with too many pieces of content that make them jump around. For example, if you have a short really well-written email, you want to have maybe one or two links. You want to filter your reader into the most important things in your email. Beware of this concept called link stuffing which is when you try to put as many links in the email as possible. It confuses the reader. It makes it harder for them to know where to click and to understand what’s the most important thing to click on. Thinking like blog posts where people put too many links in a blog post, then it just becomes a big link farm. Again, hone it down, focus specifically on just a few links within your email.
  • Optimize for particular goals such as call to action or conversion: You optimize the email. You hone this thing down. You get it to a place where it is sharp and sweet and concise and targeted so it provides a value add for your reader.

Optimizing clickthrough rates

Link formatting does matter. It is important to think about how you format a link so that it’s clearly identified to a reader. So that they know that, “Hey, this is something I should click on.” They know what it is. So, for example, underlining of text has long been the tradition and sort of the technology of linking things on the web. It’s underline and it’s a different color, generally it’s a link.

Now, that has changed quite a bit with regards to things like CSS or cascading style sheets. However sometimes it’s good to continue those same conventions because they are familiar to a reader. And if all your technology kind of gets stripped away if you’re formatting your CSS and so on, the link behavior of being of one color like blue text or underlined or a little bit of embolden will show up.

Here a few of the link formatting ideas.

  • Underline: You can simply underline the link.
  • Size: The size does matter although you don’t want to make it too big. You don’t want to make this sort of like massive link text and everything else around it is kind of small. You want to have it fit with the design that you’re trying to go for.
  • Bold: You can bold the text. You bold it a little bit or it’s just naturally bold because it’s a link that could be helpful.
  • Blue text: There’s a long history of web links being blue. And so, people will recognize that. If you look at your email client right now, I guarantee you there are links in your email client that are blue. That goes back to the history of the web. And people still recognize that and it’s one of those universally known style or formatting conventions that people automatically know that blue underlined text is a link.

Benefits of strategic linking

What are the benefits of strategic linking?

  • Strategy: First of all, it all starts with your strategy. Why are we including this link? What’s the outcome? What are we trying to accomplish? You know, do we have a specific, unique URL? Is this something that’s going to be measurable in addition to our other URLs so that you know that people actually went from the email to this particular web page. You can track that.
  • Actionable: That goes to the next point of actionable. You’re tracking, and you’ve picked the reasons why. And now you’re saying, okay, you’ve got your call to action, and you get people to link
  • Dynamic segmentation: This means showing links to specific people, specific readers. Remember the earlier example of the different individuals and their hobbies and interests. Dynamic segmentation means that you’re willing to provide them with links and content that fits exactly with their interests so that they get links and content that fits with what they want to be reading and why they subscribed in the first place.


For example, travel companies. If you fly on an airline, they’re going to send you emails all the time. It’s what they do because they have to sell airline tickets. However, if you go to a certain place all the time, this place to that place and you do round trip tickets and trips to that all the time, they’re going to know that. They’re going to realize that and they’re going to say, “Hey, guess what? We have special benefits for you because you keep going back and forth between these two hubs. Or, have you tried looking at these other places?” The dynamic segmentation and strategic linking means that they’re trying to target me as a reader or as a flyer so that they can provide me with things that are actionable and customized to my experience.

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Eric Stoller

Eric Stoller is a Higher Education Strategic Communications Consultant and Blogger at Inside Higher Ed. With a background in student affairs, academic advising, wellness, technology, and communications, Eric educates clients and audiences on digital identity development. As a blogger, he generates conversations, answers questions, and provides insight about a variety of tech topics, including Social Media Strategies and Email Marketing.

By the end of this topic, you should be able to:

  • Evaluate the role of email marketing in demand generation and lead conversions 
  • Evaluate marketing emails designs and their effectiveness
  • Appraise the performance of email marketing campaigns

    Data protection regulations affect almost all aspects of digital marketing. Therefore, DMI has produced a short course on GDPR for all of our students. If you wish to learn more about GDPR, you can do so here:

    DMI Short Course: GDPR

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      Applied Email Marketing
      Eric Stoller
      Skills Expert

      Communication expert Eric Stoller will help you to identify the attributes and features of an effective marketing email. You will recognize the importance of professional email design to retain brand reputation and subscribers, and will understand that testing is the basis of every successful email marketing campaign. Eric will then introduce the key metrics and statistics within email reporting, and will help you to identify methods for optimizing the performance of your campaign.