Destination Unknown--In a "shopping" e-mail, the destination is clear: click on the bike, go to the bike page on the site. For more general e-mails, people want to know where they're going before they click. Puleeeese do not tell me that your strategy is to "tease" them into clicking. People are busy and skeptical; be straightforward.
Fear of Commitment--Let readers know that their options are open (if that is the case) once they've clicked. For a free screensaver offer, I got a much better response from "Check it Out" than from "Download Now." Makes perfect sense, doesn't it? How do you know if you want the screensaver if you haven't seen it yet? If the copy makes the reader feel that clicking means a final decision (Subscribe), they will be hesitant to act. If the click provides access to more information, make it clear in the link copy (Tell Me More).
WIIFM--Apply this age-old direct marketing principle to your link copy to address the question on every reader's mind: What's In It For Me? That means presenting the click benefit, if possible: "Start Saving" rather than "Shop Now."
Augie Ray, owner of a successful specialty e-commerce site and retail store, provides another important consideration. "If all I went on were CTRs, I wouldn't bother sending out e-mail. But people who come to the store mention them so often, it has become very apparent--even without clicks--that we are keeping ourselves top of mind via e-mail, and that our e-mail is an important relationship builder." Augie suggests that we ask ourselves: If there weren't a single link in this e-mail message, what impression would I leave with the reader?
It's a great point. While we need to encourage people to click, we also need to leave a positive, lasting impression on those who don't.