Link baitHave you had this experience? You’re on a website, intrigued by what looks like great content in a tip sheet or a newsletter. You enter your email address to “get your copy” or maybe just “find out more.” Next thing you know, a “Thanks for subscribing!” or “Subscription confirmed” pops up.

Wait, what?! I subscribed to something?! That’s what I call bait and switch, which promises one thing and delivers another.

“These damaged promises make a person feel baited, annoyed, disrespected, disappointed, and duped,” says Kara Pernice in an article posted by Nielsen Norman Group this week. The article describes the “eyetracking” research that shows how people try to make their way through a website, the cues that lead them and some examples of what happens when links do or don’t match expectations.

Before making a link promise you can’t keep, Pernice advises, “follow this simple, two-step plan:

  1. write descriptive, true link text, and
  2. immediately display what the user expects to see — right on the link’s destination page.”

P.S. There’s another problem with inaccurate links in emails, too. Sometimes the link hides options. The retailer I blogged about last week, for instance, has an “unsubscribe” link. Although the daily emails were getting annoying, I didn’t want to unsubscribe completely. It was only after an email exchange with the GM that I found out unsubscribing brought up “too frequent emails” as a reason, which then offered a chance to change to a weekly delivery.

Do you think these tactics are by design or just by error? Do they annoy you enough to leave a site?

Image: “artur84” and