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How do I make a URL clickable in email?

I recently uploaded my first two videos on YouTube and I sent a web email to
a friend with the URLs in the body of the email. I expected them to be
clickable, but they weren’t. Yet, when I paste the URLs into a Word document,
they are. What am I doing wrong and how can I correct it? My operating system
is Windows 7 and I’m using my mail.com account.

In this excerpt from
Answercast #73
, I explain how hyperlinks are created and why they often are
coded automatically in email programs.

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Clickable links

So, you may not be doing anything wrong at all. What confuses people is
exactly how something becomes clickable.

If you just paste a URL into a message and do nothing else, it’s not
clickable. What you send is actually not clickable.

What happens is on the receive side. It’s the recipient’s email
program that says, “Oh, this looks like a URL. I’ll make it clickable.” Same
thing when you paste it into Word. Word is taking a look at it and saying, “Oh,
this looks like a URL. I’ll make it clickable.”

So it’s not something you do (or don’t do) that makes it clickable to your
email recipients – in the default case. It’s on their email program,
whatever that happens to be, to make it clickable for them.

Some will see it

In fact, you will find that if you send that same email to several people,
who are using several different programs, it will be clickable for some of them
and not for some of the others. That’s just the difference in the email
programs that they are using to view the email – not something to do with how
you sent it.

How to make a link clickable

Now, having said all of that, there is one thing that I’m going to suggest
you try.

If in your email program or in your email interface (Mail.com, in this
particular case), if you are sending rich text emails (in other words, if you
can do things like make words bold or italic or those kinds of changes), there
is typically a button that will allow you to explicitly insert a link.

It sometimes looks like a couple of chain links
together.

Look for that and click on that. What will normally happen is you’ll be
presented with a small dialog box into which you can paste that URL. You may be
able to paste other information as well, such as the text to be displayed that
when clicked goes to that URL.

So, you might say “My YouTube video” as that text. When you click
OK, what happens is your email program (in this rich-text
format) uses the HTML markup to actually create a clickable link.

It will display the text that you said should be displayed (in other words,
“My YouTube video”) and when the recipient clicks on that text, it will go to
the URL that you specify.

Must be rich text email format

Now, this only works in HTML, in rich text email. It only works in email
programs and interfaces that provide this kind of functionality.

If you’re doing plain text email, it’s not possible. We’re back to relying
on the recipient’s email program to recognize something as being a URL (or not)
and making it clickable at the recipient’s end.

But if you’re doing rich text email and if your recipient can receive rich
text email (which to be honest, most can these days), then this is a different
way of inserting that link that will increase the probability that it will show
up as something that is clickable.

Spam filters check for clickable links

One last caveat on that last one is that when something is clickable in an
email, your recipient’s email program may still disable it for safety reasons.
In other words, depending on the configuration of their email program, email
links may not be clickable by default.

They may have to take additional steps to say, “Yes, email from this person
is OK,” or “Yes, I realize that this email has links in it. I really do want to
click it.”

There may be an extra step involved. That’s because of spam; that’s because
of phishing attacks; that’s because of people that have misused this very
functionality that we’re trying to take use right now.

So, that’s something to be aware of. But, bottom line, in general, it’s the
recipient’s program that decides whether or not a URL you paste into your email
is clickable. If you’re doing rich text email, you can take some extra steps to
try and provide it as a clickable link if your email interface or email program
supports that.

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3 comments on “How do I make a URL clickable in email?”

  1. I find that I have better luck with email programs recognizing a link if I make sure “http://” is in front of the URL.

    (Or “mailto:” to make a clickable email address in the body of the email).

    Reply
  2. There will be a problem for some programs (Hotmail/Windows Live Mail that I know of) in that Mailto: does not work in Hotmall/WLM and you must open the mail program and start a new mail and manually enter or cut and paste the address into the To: window.

    While Microsoft had said they were working on it it also seems as if it is a security problem to them and it won’t be fixed soon.

    I have not tried it with other mail browsers or operating systems so I know nothing about the problem specifically.

    Reply
  3. Using Thunderbird, I was annoyed that links would arrive at my recipients unclickable. Now what I do routinely, is I make sure the http: part is present, then I highlight the future link, I press control L, then Enter and presto, the link turns blue and now arrives clickable.

    Reply

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