links should not say click here

Why your links should never say click here

One of the more tricky topics that many website owners may still not understand involves how to use links. At one time ‘click here’ was the universal way to direct users to a new web page. Times have changed, however, and this idea is now considered outdated. Here are reasons why it’s better to use more specific anchor text for your links.

Outdated web lingo

In the beginning of web design ‘click here’ was a helpful phrase for people who weren’t yet familiar with how hyperlinks worked. But those days are long gone, as ‘click here’ now threatens to make your website look like it’s stuck in the 90s and hasn’t been updated for a few decades. Since users already understand what links are and how to use to a mouse, there’s no reason to insult their intelligence by using the dumbed down phrase ‘click here.’

Why ‘Click Here’ is a weak CTA

Effective Call to Action (CTA) is the key to leading users through your sales funnel. The best CTA statements have specific directives such as ‘buy now’ or ‘learn more.’ But ‘click here’ doesn’t really tell the user anything about where they will be going or why they should go there. Furthermore, the word ‘click’ shifts attention to your mouse instead of the content, so in that sense it’s more of a distraction.

Focus on user behavior

Essentially all ‘click here’ means is ‘this is a link to somewhere.’ Even when you add qualifying text such as ‘if you want to learn more click here’, that’s still not as powerful as replacing ‘click here’ with a more relevant description that relates to the content where users will end up.

Why is this so important? Most internet users scan text quickly instead of reading text word for word like a novel. Time is a limiting factor, as finding information online can sometimes be a race against time. Many users aren’t reading text at all as they scan for appropriate links to where they want to go. If they see an article flooded with ‘click here’ links instead of descriptive links, they may just move on to the next website. In other words, you can’t expect online users to read all the text surrounding links to figure out where the links go.

Making links stand out

If you are worried that users do not see your links clearly enough, try using a link color that obviously contrasts with the rest of the text. Blue is the universal link color, but if for some reason you want the main text to be in blue then experiment with different link colors like red or green. Underlining also helps differentiate links from other text.

Alternatives to ‘Click Here’

There are plenty of far more effective anchor text choices than ‘click here’, which should be eliminated completely from your web content lexicon. If you manage a travel website, for example, and you want people to click to a page about Wellington attractions then make the anchor text ‘Wellington attractions’ or the names of specific destinations. In other words, give the user the benefit of the doubt that they know what a link does without telling them to click it.

Nouns often work better for deeper content pages while verbs work better for specific CTAs. If you want to direct people to your blog subscription page then use anchor text such as ‘subscribe to our blog’. But if you are directing the user to a product page, then use the name of the product as the anchor text.

Where to place links

One of the best ways to help the reader scan for links is to place the link at the beginning or end of a sentence so that it sits near a period, making it easier to scan. They shouldn’t have to read the entire sentence to understand what the link is about. If you think it’s relevant to tell the user more details about the link, such as file type or file size, you can put it in brackets after the link.

Stay up to date with web standards

W3C, which is the international organisation that sets web standards, advises not to use ‘click here’ for reasons already mentioned. Another key reason they don’t recommend the phrase is that it’s too mechanical. You want to keep your readers focused on your content, not reminders of mouse technology they are using to access your content.

Although W3C does not recommend using verbs for link text, verbs certainly work for certain CTA buttons such as ‘download now’. But when used in text, it’s best to keep verbs out of links. Instead of a link such as ‘get Microsoft software’ you are better off just making ‘Microsoft’ the link, so that readers are not distracted by mechanics of the internet.

SEO concerns

Perhaps the biggest reason to avoid ‘click here’ is that it is not an SEO-friendly phrase anymore. Search engines definitely evaluate link quality, which includes anchor text as well as where the link leads. Specific anchor text helps robots decide if the link is relevant or not. If the link is vague or meaningless then you may lose points with search engines over it. Using keywords as part of anchor text is helpful, but at the same time you have to avoid spamming keywords. Speaking of spam, if your page is flooded with ‘click here’ links it may be regarded as web spam.

Remember that SEO is not an exact science since search engines do not release all their factors for search rankings. Experiments, however, show that up to six descriptive words per link are reasonable. Too few words might not be descriptive enough and too many words might be too spammy.

Some examples

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By Aaron Enright

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