You know you should be linking to products and services more. You've got that blog, sitting right there, collecting dust. You've got that newsletter, hanging out, waiting to make you some money. And yet you're not really sure how to do it.
Guru A does it one way, Guru B does it the other way, and your friends give you conflicting advice.
“If you do it like this, nobody will even notice it!”
“If you do it like that, you'll look desperate!”
“Stop linking so much – you look like a car salesman!”
“You have to link more – you're too shy!”
How about we make it nice and easy for you?
There are three basic ways to link in text. Each one has different pros and corresponding cons. They each have their uses, and they're all good in their own way.
Learn what they are and what they're for, and you can go forth and hawk your wares with charm, grace, and elan.
Linking to products via casual, inline linking.
A casual, inline link is one that does not disrupt the reading experience in any way. You say exactly what you were going to say anyway, you just happen to link a portion of the text.
If the sentence would still make sense without the link, you have a casual, inline link on your hands.
Here's an example:
Pay What You Can products are a great way to showcase your quality while keeping buyer commitment low.
See how the link was right there in the sentence? And if you took the link out, the sentence would still make perfect sense? That's a casual, inline link.
These babies are cool because they're quiet. They're subtle. They're not in your face. And, despite what the call-to-action brigade will tell you, they can and do make sales. They're just not so loud about it.
Casual, inline links are the secret handshakes of the linking world. Those who are interested will notice the link, and they'll click on it. Those who are not interested ignore it, but they do so largely unconsciously. They do not consciously think, “Hey, that was a link to their widgets. I think I'll ignore it.” No, their eye simply scoots on over it like it never happened. It barely registers.
DO THIS WHEN: You want to keep things low key. Maybe you've been really promotional lately and you want to cool things off a bit. Maybe you're actively promoting something else (like a launch) and you don't want this link to steal the limelight.
Inline casual links are also good when you actively don't want somebody to click. If you're linking to a source, maybe you don't want people to leave your site, or perhaps you're raising awareness of a product you don't actually want to sell yet.
DON'T DO THIS WHEN: You're actively promoting the thing you're linking to. You really want people to click. (For example, if you're launching something, that's not the time to be subtle. Screw quiet charm – there's money to be made here, people.)
Linking to products via separated asides.
This is when you separate your link from your regular text, usually with punctuation of some kind. It is a slight, deliberate disruption of the reading experience.
We'll do another example:
Creating your first webinar can be intimidating. (Creating your first webinar when you're not prepared, even more so.) Today, we're going to discuss a few simple ways to reduce your stage fright.
See how the link in parentheses interrupted the reading experience a little bit? That's a separated aside.
For our purposes:
A separated aside is one in which information is provided, but a call to action is not made.
It can be a parenthetical aside after your sentence or paragraph. (Like this one.)
Alternatively, an in-the-middle aside (like this one) lets you keep your sentence going.
You can also use a dash or hyphen – like this one! – and move right on.
DO THIS WHEN: You want to draw attention to your link, but you're not too invested in the click. You have a call to action somewhere else in the text and you don't want to confuse matters.
DON'T DO THIS WHEN: It's very important they click, like in a launch or promotion. Or when you're actively promoting something else. (i.e. If I'm promoting coaching and mentoring right now, and I happen to also link to a class, I don't want to draw too much attention to the class. )
Linking to products via calls to action.
A call to action link is a link that stands alone from the rest of your text, and it gives an actual direction. “Click here to find out more.” Or “Sign up here”. You're actively telling somebody what to do. If you are giving an explicit instruction in or around your link – click here, register now, sign up – you're using a call to action link.
Here's an example:
Click here to read our highest-traffic post. It's fun and fat-free.
See? I explicitly told you what to do.
A call to action link can also be an aside. You can put it in parentheses, or between hyphens or dashes, and that's often a nice, elegant way to do it. But the key part to remember is:
If you are telling them what to do, it's a call to action. Period.
Call to action links are perfect for when there's only one thing you want the reader to do today, and it's click that link.
DO THIS WHEN: You are actively selling something, launching something, or promoting something. Or it's important that they click. Or you're linking to an easy sell from within your blog or newsletter, like a cheap book or webinar that's directly related to your content.
Call to action links are also great for when there's something that might be unclear. If it's possible that they do not know they're supposed to click something, give them an explicit call to action and tell them what to do.
DON'T DO THIS WHEN: It doesn't matter if they click or not. You've heavily promoted recently. You've already called them to a different action within the text.
See? Three easy ways to start linking to products.
They're like Peter, Paul and Mary. They've each got their strengths, and they've each got their weaknesses.
Just pick the right one for what you're trying to do, and you'll be off to the races.