Summary: Text links within web and email copy should be brief, yet informative enough to stand alone and establish expectations, and should be placed with an understanding that many users will be scanning text.
In this article, we’ll discuss how to avoid “click here” and other common text link mistakes, provide tips for improving engagement and the rationale behind their use, and provide some examples of ‘do’s’ and ‘don’ts’.
1. Care enough about your readers to clearly label your links
What’s worse than a “click here” link? A series of “click here” links. If multiple links read “here,” “here” and “here,” the user has to go through the trouble of differentiating between each link, opening each one to see how it’s different. And if the user wants to return to a particular link, they have to remember which “here” it was. Ugh!
It’s important to label the links with something that specifically describes what the user is clicking to, or how it differs from the other links around it.
DON’T: If you missed last week’s 2021 Watershed Educators’ Workshop, you can check out some photos , and .
DO: If you missed last week’s event, you can check out a , or even view .
2. Don’t make the reader work for it
The text around the link might explain what they’re clicking, but if the user reads the link by itself, as they often do, they won’t have that context. Therefore, the user needs to read the text all around the link in order to understand the context of the link, thus standing in the way of the user taking the easy route of scanning for the link and clicking it directly. In short, the text should make sense when read out of context.
DON’T: Every weekday at noon, KBBL Radio plays a song from their in-studio performance archives, then offers it as a free download. You can download it .
DO: Every weekday at noon, KKBL Radio plays a song from their in-studio performance archives, then offers it for free as the .
3. Keep the focus on the message, not the mechanics
Much has already been written about why you shouldn’t use “click here” for hyperlinks. A quick Google search will produce plenty of articles on why it’s a bad idea. The primary reasons against using “click here” can be summarized by saying that it decreases overall usability, accessibility, and search engine performance.
But there’s another big reason to avoid using “click here” or similar links — it shifts the reader’s focus. The word “click” in your links shifts the user’s attention away from the message and onto their mouse. Your readers know what a link is and how to use a mouse. Calling attention to the mechanics is unnecessary and diminishes their experience. Not to mention, it’s likely that half of your audience is on a mobile device — so they’re tapping, not clicking.
If you want to use a verb as the link, look for something that’s aimed to the reader’s needs or goals. In the same way that “click” encourages users to think of their mouse or finger, a more needs-oriented verb encourages them to think of the goal and will help keep them engaged with the content.
DON’T: This presentation demonstrates the variety of options in creating roads that are safe for all users, regardless of age, ability, or mode of transportation.
DO: This presentation demonstrates the variety of options in creating roads that are safe for all users, regardless of age, ability, or mode of transportation.
DON’T: To join ABC’s free Insider Network and gain access to exclusive events and offers, .
DO: ABC’s Insider Network members get access to exclusive events and offers. for free today!
4. Try to use nouns as links, instead of verbs
Instead of saying writing something vague like “click here” or “learn more,” it’s better to make concrete and proper nouns in a sentence the link anchors. Nouns are typically best because they’re more immediate and focused and tend to give the reader a better idea of what they’ll get when they click or tap.
Unlike verbs, which are often vague and don’t give a clear picture of what to expect, nouns enable the user to easily scan the link text and quickly grasp where the link will take them without having to read the entire sentence or paragraph. Proper nouns are particularly useful, as they represent unique entities that stand out on their own.
As a note of caution, there is also a tendency to combine verbs and nouns together within linked text. While this approach can work, it may lead to links that are too long.
DON’T: The side-by-side animation shown here, from a 2009 U.S. Global Change Research Program report, Climate Change Impacts in the United States, illustrates the difference between a lower carbon emissions future and a higher carbon emissions future.
DO: The side-by-side animation shown here illustrates the difference between a lower carbon emissions future and a higher carbon emissions future. These maps and related information are from a 2009 U.S. Global Change Research Program report, .
5. Be brief
It’s best to keep your linked text brief. This not only helps keeps them easily recognizable as links, but it also keeps them special. Just as in print design, when too much text is highlighted, the advantages of highlighting are reduced.
DON’T: Select . New sessions will be released each week.
DO: To view select content from the recent Restoring Estaurine and Coastal Habitats Summit, with new sessions being released each week, visit and subscribe to .
6. Be specific
While it is best to keep linked text brief, brevity should never come at the expense of clarity. It’s important to make the text of your links as specific as possible. For example, if you’re linking to an article or book, don’t just use the noun “article” or “book”, or the verb “read” as the link. Instead, use the specific title or a brief description. This will give the user more detailed information about what they’re clicking and what to expect.
Relatedly, if you’re linking to an external file, such as a PDF, it’s helpful to include more details about the link in brackets (e.g. PDF, 1.2 MB).
DON’T: For in-depth metrics about shared micromobility across North America that demonstrate the industry’s growth and success, read our latest .
DO: For in-depth metrics about shared micromobility across North America that demonstrate the industry’s growth and success, read the .
7. End with a link
Whenever possible, try to structure your sentences and paragraphs so that the text links fall at the end. This makes the links easier to spot by readers that are scanning your content. Making links easier to find facilitates quicker action from the user.
DON’T: 2021 is going to be a landmark year for bicycle policy at every level of government. That’s why People For Bikes is launching on Twitter. Follow along for a closer look into our work and updates on the ground in Washington, D.C.
DO: 2021 is going to be a landmark year for bicycle policy at every level of government. To help you stay informed and give you a closer look into our work and updates on the ground in Washington, D.C., we’ve launched a new Twitter account, .
8. Find opportunities to highlight text that reflects your mission or brand
Collectively, the words you use when writing content say something about your organization, brand, or message. And if you’re highlighting certain words and phrases as text links, those words are more likely to be remembered by readers, even if only subconsciously, as being associated with your organization. So it’s best to choose the link text with this in mind.
9. Plan for the future
Whether it’s the result of a website redesign, re-branding, staff change, or some other cause, the destination of your link may someday change or (gasp) disappear. Having relevant text within the link will at least provide some meaning in these cases, and may even be enough for the user to find the new destination on their own.
Otherwise , we’ll have to just hope for a witty 404 Error page.
10. Consider SEO, printing, screen readers, and other accessibility concerns
Finally, there are a handful of other disadvantages to using “click here” or similarly vague text links.
SEO: Generic hyperlinks like “click here” hinder the Search Engine Optimization of the page.
PRINTING: Want to see a “click here” link instantly become completely meaningless? Print the page.
ASSISTIVE TECHNOLOGIES: Since terms like “click here” are irrelevant to many assistive technologies and aren’t descriptive enough for screen readers, they present
an accessibility issue.