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Avoiding the pitfalls of "click here" link text

Believe it or not, it's better to avoid using the phrase "click here" for link text. This may seem counter-intuitive, after all surely it's helpful to people? Here are a few good reasons why "click here" is not as helpful as you may think.

It's not helpful to people trying to find things quickly

As our Writing for the web article explains, to write effectively for an online audience we need to understand how people read web pages.

We know that people tend to scan web pages to quickly find what they are looking for, seeking specific words and phrases relevant to their interests. Once users have scanned a page, they will typically go back and re-examine those sections that seemed relevant.

Link text stands out to screen-scanning web users in the same way that bold text does. But if all your links say "click here" users are forced to read the text around the link to understand the context of the link and where it will take them. Suddenly "click here" is more of a hindrance than a help.

Informative image: A links list from the JAWS screen readerIt's bad for accessibility

Continuing the theme of helping users understand the context of links, people who use screen-readers and text-to-speech browsers to surf the net may choose to call up a list of all the links on a page for quick access.

As you can see, a list of "click here" links soon becomes rather meaningless - a list of descriptive links is far more useful under the circumstances.

Descriptive links are better for SEO

Search engine robots are a bit like impatient web users - they have lots of pages to visit and need to quickly determine the meaning of a page to know how to categorise it for search results. Search robots will scan link text, which is another argument for using descriptive text for links.

This doesn't mean you should use an entire heading, sentence or paragraph as link text. Search robots are clever and if you try to trick them in this manner you may find your site being penalised. Besides, remember the first point about helping people quickly scan your web pages? Keep your link text brief and meaningful.

Avoid patronising your visitors

A common argument for using "click here" is that it helps people understand what is a link and what they need to do. Let's consider this logically:

Links should be clear and explicit and this is commonly achieved with a combination of a clear and contrasting colour, bold type and underlining. Whatever combination is chosen, link styles should then be applied consistently throughout your website. If it's not immediately obvious what is a link and what is normal text then you should review your link styles.

If your text links are clear and obvious there's no need for "click here" because users know how to follow a link. Google is full of links, yet they don't use "click here" and they don't appear to suffer as a result!

It could also be argued that the phrase "click here" is presumptive, given that not everybody uses a mouse and the growing number of touch screen devices.

Tips for writing good link text

  • Be descriptive - links should make sense when read out of context.
  • Be brief - omit needless words and keep your link text simple.
  • Use plain English - avoid jargon and confusing acronyms.
  • Use sentence case - writing in capital letters isn't helpful either.
  • Make it clear what you are linking to - then your website visitors can browse with confidence.