Stop telling me where to click!

Sometime near the beginning of links on the internet, people decided that “click here” was a good way to get people to click there. If I had to guess, the reason for this is probably that at the beginning of the internet people didn’t know what links were, so you had to explicitly tell them to “click here”. The good news is that now it’s 20 years later, and people know what to do when they see links.

Here are some reasons you should change your “click here” ways…

People don’t read, they scan.

Links should pop out of the body text on the page. They should be a different color (preferably blue) and they really ought to be underlined. These are common methods of differentiating links from the rest of the text. The result of this is that links tend to jump out, and they should! The problem is, most people don’t actually read all the copy on the page. They read headlines, they look at pictures, and they catch links. If all your links say “click here”, there’s no context for what they’re about to click on. It’s not going to help the user experience, and it’s not going to keep people interested in your website.

Accessiblility actually matters.

For people with sight disabilities, screen readers read all the content of the screen out loud, and the devices can group things like headlines and links together to make the information easier to access. It’s the non-visual equivalent of scanning the page (see above). The problem is, the links will only be as descriptive for those users as you make them. If there are 5 links on the page and 4 of them just say “click here”, you’re going to have some extremely frustrated users.

SEO anyone?

Everyone seems to care a lot about having great keywords and meta descriptions, but too few people pay attention to the fact that all of that is just additional information to search engines. When you type something into a search engine, the weight of the results is in this order (more or less):

  1. more inbound links (links from other websites to yours gives your site more credibility)
  2. headlines
  3. links (this is what we’re talking about)
  4. everything else!

Using semantic links can actually raise your site’s search ranking if you have links that might help answer a search query.

So how do you write good links?

Keep your links short and to the point. Don’t fluff them up because it won’t help you as much as you think. Definitely don’t make entire sentences links. It’s confusing and unnecessary. Make sure your links are informative for what is being linked to, but don’t be repetitive, and don’t pander. Here are some examples:

BAD:  I love LimeRed Studio, click here to visit their website.
OK:  I love LimeRed Studio, visit the LimeRed Studio website.
BEST:  I love LimeRed Studio.

BAD:  To learn more about whatever, click here.
OK:  Learn more about whatever.
BEST:  Learn more about whatever.

BAD:  Click here to download the iPod Touch User Guide.
OK:  Download the iPod Touch User Guide.
BEST:  Download the iPod Touch User Guide.

Ok content creators! Get out there and give us some useful links!

3 Comments

  1. David

    Thanks for standing with the great Terrill Thompson and being an advocate for underlining links.

    As for “click here,” however, it depends on your audience. Your “Best” examples truly are sweet and concise, for web-savvy readers.

    But after all this time, some people still have trouble recognizing a link, or grokking that the link will give them access to additional information if they click it.

    When I go to the trouble of emailing useful links to my parents, they routinely ignore the links unless I explicitly say “click here.”

    So it would be eminently appropriate to have lots of “click heres” on, say, AARP.org. (Sadly however, AARP.org no longer even underlines their links.)

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