teleportThink of trav­el­ling through the web via hyper­links as a form of tele­por­ta­tion.  Now think of tele­por­ta­tion.  Specif­i­cally, if you really were tele­port­ing what would be your main concerns?

1) You’d want to make darn sure you KNEW where you were going

2) Upon “land­ing,” you’d want to ensure you arrived in the right place

Those are two of the most impor­tant things you can learn about craft­ing and struc­tur­ing your hyper­links, and they trans­late as:

  • Word links so peo­ple can fig­ure out where the link will take them, and
  • Match your head­lines, pic­tures, and page con­tent with vis­i­tor expec­ta­tions cre­ated by the hyper­link they clicked on to get to your page.  Let them know they’re in the right place.

And yet these are also the two most fre­quently vio­lated “rules” of hyper­link­ing.  E-mails fre­quently have call to action links/buttons that take you to a page that utterly fails to follow-up on the offer pre­sented in the e-mail.  Call to action but­tons meant to take you to a prod­uct page are often mis­la­beled as if they will place the item in your cart.  And so on.

Mas­ter these two basic lessons and you’ll have learned more than 90% of most Web users, and even most Web devel­op­ers and (sad to say) more than a few copywriters.

And yet, those are just the basics.  Another, per­haps more sophis­ti­cated, way of look­ing at this is to say that every link rep­re­sents a promise and every click rep­re­sents per­mis­sion.

The Promise

The promise comes from the expec­ta­tions cre­ated by the hyperlink’s word­ing or label.  You’ve essen­tially promised the vis­i­tor that,  if they click on the link, they’ll be tele­ported to the kind of con­tent they expect.  Which means that, on an emo­tional level, vis­i­tors will feel a site is “dis­hon­est” if a link “tricks” them by tele­port­ing them some­place unex­pected or unde­sired.  Ouch!

More fun­da­men­tally, this also means that you, as the copy­writer, have to craft links (and con­tent) that offer forth promises com­pelling enough to moti­vate vis­i­tor clicks.  There is no grav­ity to an online con­ver­sion fun­nel; noth­ing will “pull” vis­i­tors through to the next click or micro-conversion except their own moti­va­tion based on promised benefits.

joeisuzu1In other words, you can’t take vis­i­tors where they don’t want to go.  You can’t force the con­ver­sa­tion.  You have to offer to talk about what the prospec­tive cus­tomer wants to talk about — what SHE finds impor­tant.  Ignor­ing a topic of con­ver­sa­tion by not pro­vid­ing the appro­pri­ate link (or by fail­ing to pro­vide the right con­tent on the other side of a link) is like a car sales­man refus­ing to talk about the price of the car when asked.  It kills cred­i­bil­ity and trust.

The Per­mis­sion

The per­mis­sion is what you get when a vis­i­tor clicks on your link, and per­mis­sion is a copywriter’s best friend. Why?  Because the right hyper­link con­struc­tion can give you per­mis­sion to speak about things that you’d never get away with oth­er­wise.  Here’s an example:

You’re craft­ing an About Us page that focuses pri­mar­ily on a company’s his­tory while throw­ing in a few cred­i­bil­ity increas­ing fea­tures like a pic­ture of the actual office and the team of employ­ees, etc.  But what you might really want to do is openly brag about all the home-runs the com­pany has had – except that you feel a self-promoting tone might be “against brand.”

So you sim­ply use self-deprecating link that talks about “our brag sheet” (or some­thing sim­i­lar) that links to exactly the kind of self-promoting copy you knew you couldn’t get away with on the About Us page.  Why?  Because any reader who clicks on a link to your Brag Sheet has men­tally given you per­mis­sion to brag. Fol­low­ing that click, you can brag with­out look­ing like an ego­cen­tric jerk.

Sim­i­larly, you could link to that same kind of con­tent with an “Our track record” link placed most any­where else on the site.  Again, by click­ing on “our track record” clients have given you per­mis­sion to talk, at length, about the company’s suc­cesses.  Nor­mally you’d want to talk about What’s In It For the Cus­tomer and how you can help them, but the link pro­vides per­mis­sion to ignore WIFFM for a bit while you build credibility.

First-Date-ConversationTo give you another anal­ogy, this link per­mis­sion for some­thing like “Our Track Record” is kind of like a date explic­itly ask­ing: “So what about you? What’s your story?”

And if you pon­der that anal­ogy, espe­cially in light of con­text, I’m sure you’ll come up with even more lessons about link­ing, per­sua­sion, and online con­ver­sa­tions ;)

In fact, I’d love to hear your thoughts on that last anal­ogy. Tell me what you came up with…


  1. Charlie Moger on 01.14.2010

    Great way of putting it, Jeff. Don’t you think there’s a big trust piece to it as well? The more often you keep a promise the greater the visitor’s trust in you.
    .-= Char­lie Moger´s last blog ..There’s some­thing new com­ing soon =-.

  2. Tom Wanek on 01.15.2010

    Very good advice, Jeff. And if I remem­ber cor­rectly, Google AdWords even rec­om­mends that you match your ad’s promise to your site’s head­line for bet­ter con­ver­sions.
    .-= Tom Wanek´s last blog ..Coca-Cola’s Feel Good Video: Brand­ing Hit Or Miss? =-.

  3. Jeff Sexton - La promessa ed il consenso dei link - ideawebitalia on 01.31.2010

    […] The Promise and Per­mis­sion of Hyperlinks […]

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