Using Links in Text Messages — Is It Worth It?

Any time we discuss SMS, the question of whether or not to include links comes up, and for a good reason. Although having a link in a text message gives you an average click-through rate (CTR) of about 36% (Business 2 Community), there are some risks. Just like email providers used to block automated emails at scale, SMS, and specifically link sending, is closely scrutinized by cellular carriers.

Adding links to your SMS strategy can be beneficial, but it also runs the risk of getting blocked (whether the use case is legitimate or not). Having an identical link in hundreds (or thousands) of messages will get caught by filtering software and services, marking your message as spam or blocking it entirely, and preventing it from reaching your audience in the first place.

Linking Best Practices

We’re not saying, “don’t include links in your messages,” but when you do, you’ll need to take some extra precautions. Fortunately, you can do things to increase the deliverability of your text messages with links.

  • Don’t send a link every time
    • If you’re sending multiple messages over a period of time, you don’t have to send the link in each message. Referencing a link you already sent is a good practice as most people can review their message history and find it pretty quickly.
  • Only send links to people expecting a message
    • If your audience is expecting a link, then sending them one will ensure your response rate is high.
  • Monitor click-through rates and response rates based on carrier recipient
    • You may find that one carrier’s audience traffic behaved differently than another. If there’s a significant difference, that could mean deliverability issues with the link.
  • Check your number
    • Consider that your audience may prefer to call you rather than click your link, especially if the process is lengthy or complicated. Make sure the number you’re sending your SMS from routes back to your call center.
  • Make the target page mobile-friendly
    • There’s nothing more frustrating than tapping a link only to find that the page in question isn’t optimized for mobile. Make sure any link you send to your audience is optimized for mobile.
  • Use “deep links” if possible
    • If the purpose of your link is to get your audience to complete a form, make sure they pick up where they left off. That way, you’re not asking them to do something they’ve done before, like enter their email, or DOB.
  • Close the loop
    • If your audience has clicked the link and completed the required action, make sure they’re removed from any further messages.
  • Use emojis and ask questions
    • Keep things fun! Ask your audience if they have questions, and remember you need to support two-way communication to carry on a conversation.
    • Need an explanation on two-way SMS? Check out our blog!

 

SMS Link Tracking

In addition to following best practices for including links in SMS, you’ll want to track the success of your links to measure engagement. Unfortunately, this can be somewhat difficult because tracking links/UTMs are long, and you’ll quickly break the character limit for a text message.

The solution? URL shorteners. But this also comes with some obstacles to overcome. The common free options are the ones most targeted by phone carriers and are most frequently filtered out (Sorry, Bitly!)

For example, a large company specializing in boosting company reviews recently reported that one specific carrier was blocking all links with shortened URL links to Android and iOS devices. Their solution was to include a long URL as a separate follow-up message with a link preview (more on that below). But there are other options, like custom short domains with small alphanumeric codes. These will cost you more money but can also increase the chance of your SMS being delivered.

 

SMS Link Previews

Earlier, we quoted that including a link can boost your click-through to 36%, but Vodafone reports that SMS link previews can give you click-through rates eight times higher than messages without a preview.

SMS link previews give your audience a preview image, title, URL, and sometimes a description (depending on the device). It’s almost like being able to send a customized ad straight to a person’s phone, but there are character limitations.

Thinking about using SMS link previews? Here are some more things to consider.

  • Thumbnail/image continuity
    • Think about the image you choose for your link preview. You’ll want it to be consistent with your branding and with what your audience has seen before.
  • URL placement
    • Some devices (including iPhones) will only display a link preview if it’s at the beginning or end of a message. Avoid placing your URLs in the middle of your SMS.
  • Not all devices will render the same
    • For example, on iOS, the number you use to send will have to be saved in the user’s contact list to render a link preview

 

TL;DR — Yes, putting links in your SMS messages is worth it. But many will find that customization, reputation management, and engagement monitoring are going to be essential for any campaign of scale. If you’re a large enterprise or national service provider dealing with hundreds of consumers, choose the right SMS technology partner that can help you drive engagement.

See what Drips can do for you by scheduling a demo. Our team will design a customized solution that lets you use SMS and text messaging to build customer engagement.

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