Jason Premick at Aweber has posted the results of a split test he conducted on the use of buttons vs text links: Do Buttons Get Clicked More Than Text Links?
Jason measured how many clicked on a Read More button vs a Read More text link in one of their emails to subscribers.
What he found was that initially the button outperformed the text link by a significant margin (33% higher). He kept the test running, and over time the button was less and less effective. Eventually (after at least 40 mail outs) the text links wound up outperforming the buttons by a significant margin (53% of the time).
So a button is best at attracting click throughs from new visitors, but regular visitors seem to gradually tune out to them and focus on the text (just like readers tune out ads).
This test suggests a few things:
- First time visitors. If you want to catch the attention of first time visitors, buttons are better.
- Repeat visitors. If you are talking to a longer term readership (blog or newsletter), buttons will get more attention initially but if the message needs to be repeated it should revert to text.
It is a good clear test for email marketing. If you want to introduce new concepts or products to an existing readership, the most effective approach is probably a combination of a button for the call to action to introduce it, followed up by a text link if you are going to continue to present the call to action over time.
Thinking about this from the perspective of a website, you have first time visitors as well as repeat visitors.
For a Pay-Per-Click Landing Page, all visitors are first time visitors. So using a graphic button for your call to action seems far and away the best option.
For a Blog however, you are talking with a more regular readership. So graphic buttons will be good for introducing a new concept, but ongoing follow up should use text links.
And on your website pages? If first time visitors respond to a graphic button best, then your main entry pages (usually your home page) should reflect this.
Where you have pages focussed on repeat visitors however, maybe use graphics sparingly – for example, when you have something new to announce.
Naturally test this out on your own website to see what results you get with your visitors. The Aweber test is a good one, but as the saying goes, your mileage may vary.