Something’s been bugging me since…oh about 1998. It’s the “Click Here” link. At first glance, these two words seem innocuous and even somewhat informative but I’m here to tell you that they’re not. There are several excellent reasons to ban them (when used together) from your website vocabulary.
Firstly, a significant number of people visiting your website never click on anything. On a mobile device, one doesn’t click, one taps. And people using screen readers have other mechanisms for following a link. Secondly, the word “here” has no context, since it refers only to the page that the visitor is on currently. You’re forcing them to examine the text surrounding the link for clues as to where it will lead them. When the page has multiple “click here” links, all going to different places, well that’s just confusing.
Finally, “click here” makes the rather insulting assumption that the visitor doesn’t know how web pages in general and links in particular work. In the early days of the web, it might have been true that people didn’t know that blue underlined text did something special. In 2021 however, it is clear to just about everyone that specially stylized text indicates a link to another page. Just make sure that your links look consistently different from regular text and all will be well.
So…what text should be links?
Links should tell the visitor what to expect when the link is followed. This might be a literal description of the target page (“Registration”) or something experiential (“Sign up for a free consultation”). In the post Writing Hyperlinks, the Nielsen/Norman Group suggests that good links are descriptive, unique, and start with keywords.
First, the most helpful link text describes the page that’s being linked to. When writing links ask yourself, “What will the user get when they click this link?” Mention that the link opens a PDF if that is the case. (Media format warnings don’t have to be part of the anchor text itself, but can be appended — for example in parentheses or as an icon.)
Second, when users see the same link twice on the same page they assume that it goes to the same place. For this reason, if the second link refers to a different page make sure that the text is unique. Remembering this will also help you write more descriptive link labels and avoid generic links such as Read more, or Click here. (An additional reason to avoid Click here is that there are no clicks on touch-screen devices.)
Finally, the best links start with the most important words. Frontloading the link name helps users scan the page more easily: we’ve learned from our eyetracking research that people mostly look at the first 2 words of a link. Keep this finding in mind if you’re tempted to start all the links on the page with the same introductory text, such as Read more about….
Link text and SEO
Link text (a.k.a. Anchor Text) is highly relevant to SEO, as described in this SEO Learning Center page from Moz:
The simplest way to optimize anchor text for SEO is simply to make sure the anchor text uses descriptive keywords to accurately describe the page or idea you’re linking to. But be careful! In SEO, it’s easy to “over-optimize” your anchor text by over-relying on repetitive, keyword-rich phrases. In the real world, people don’t always link with the “perfect” anchor text, and it’s often best to mimic this practice in your own linking.
Rich anchor text simply means anchor text containing desirable, target keywords. These are often keywords you’d like to rank for. Again, don’t overdo your rich anchor text as this isn’t how people normally or naturally link, and could lead to Google seeing your content as “over-optimized.”
Anchor text matters greatly to SEO, as it can indicate to Google what a page is about. In fact, using anchor text as a ranking signal is included in several Google patents. Not using anchor text or using generic anchor text, such as “click here” is generally considered a poor SEO practice.
I’ll leave you with this thought provoking idea, also from Nielsen/Norman Group: A Link is a Promise.
Any broken promise, large or small, chips away at trust and credibility. A suitor asks you on a date but doesn’t show up. A parent says she’ll play a game but never does. A link on a website says Products & services but opens a registration page instead. These damaged promises make a person feel baited, annoyed, disrespected, disappointed, and duped. In short, nothing good. On the other hand, when a link does fulfill what it professes, people move through the site seamlessly and confidently.