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Anchor links in Gmail and email newsletters

I usually recommend against using anchor links in email newsletters; the reason for this is twofold.

First, when someone is viewing a newsletter their attention span is probably extremely short. They probably want to get onto their next email, but something has triggered their interest in your newsletter. Why waste that interest on jumping them further down the email, this is your chance to grab their attention and hook them into your website. It may be your last chance before they click onto their next email and your website is probably a much richer web experience anyway.

The second reason is anchor links are just another thing that often goes wrong in email newsletters. They act unpredictable, and at the time of this writing, don’t even work properly in Gmail. I also remember a time when an anchor link would show a blank screen in Yahoo! Mail, although this has since been fixed.

Despite these reasons, using an anchor links in an email is usually not my decision to make, so I have to try and find a way to make it work. A regular anchor link like the one below will not work in Gmail.

<a href="#section1">Section One</a>

However this will work.

<a href="#section1"><span>Section One</span></a>

Like many email newsletter hacks and tricks it’s a simple one, but can be frustrating and time consuming when trouble shooting it for the first time.

8 Comments to “Anchor links in Gmail and email newsletters”

  • Me

    This fix DOES work in Gmail, but the downside is it breaks the links in AOL Webmail. It causes AOL to open a new window and just opens the mail interface to the home page. Which i think is worse than just not responding and allowing you to scroll down manually.

    If you can figure out how to make it work in both Gmail and AOL Webmail without breaking a third client… then that’d be something.

    • Ian Hoar

      That does sound like a nasty bug. I can’t honestly say I test for AOL, although I may give it a shot just to see if I can find a work around. Clients I usually test for are Outlook 2002 and up, Hotmail, Yahoo and Gmail. AOL has a pretty small user base, combine that with the percentage of people that will actually click on your anchor link and you have a very small amount of people. That said, I still recommend avoiding anchor links in emails all together for this reason and the ones stated above.

      Here’s some email client usage stats.


  • Roselo

    Hi Ian just want to ask you that in outlook mail does the span tags will

    • Ian Hoar

      Hi Roselo, span tags should work, but with Outlook it always depends on what you are trying to do with them, when I used them in links they worked fine. Someone has mentioned however that using them in links will break them in AOL Webmail, I have not verified this for myself though.

      • Mike E. Perez

        Unfortunately, I just tried adding the span tags to my anchor links, and Outlook still insists on opening the link in a new browser window. (I’m using Outlook 07)

        I share your opinion of anchor links, however, I believe the client really wants them.

  • meh

    You have a typo:

    ” It may be your last change before”

    It should be last ‘chance’. Just thought I’d let you know.

  • Visual Adrenalin

    Thanks, this worked beautifully in Outlook 2010.