Link text is more important than “click here”

Linking from your content is important – it builds credibility and improves useability, which combined equals more satisfied readers and hopefully return visits. Finding the right material to link to takes time and effort; effort that is wasted if no one bothers to “Click here”.

With nearly 3.5 million Google search hits, “Click here” is definitely an ingrained part of the world wide web. It’s not a good habit however to get in to.

Putting SEO to one side (there are for more qualified people to discuss link value than I), link text serves two very important functions:

  1. It tells readers where they are going and why
  2. Improves scannability and therefore helps readers decide to stay on your content

“Click here” obviously doesn’t give the slightest inkling where you end up when exercising your mouse finger, nor does it jump off the screen and say “Here I am, this is exactly what you are looking for”.

Good link text let's readers know where the link will take them, and why

Good link text let’s readers know where the link will take them, and why

So what is good link text?

If you have taken a quick scan back through the Mich-communication archive you will note I don’t exactly practice what I’m about the preach. It was my pursuit of best practice that got me started on this post in the first place.

In summary a well written link text is descriptive, short, covers your key words and shuns verbs such as click, read, find, search and follow.

Easier said then done.

Descriptive

First and foremost, links need to be relevant and easy to understand. The reader shouldn’t have to waste precious microseconds wondering where the link leads.

Take for an example one of my bad habits, linking from the name of the source, rather than the information.

This from my latest post on the etymology of slang words for sex:

As always, the Online Etymology Dictionary brings some sense to the discussion, explaining that the word was first used for copulate in 1788, probably from the 14th century meaning ”to shake, waggle”.

Does the reader expect a link to a full etymology of the word (in this case shag), or to the Online Etymology Dictionary. It would have been far better to link from ”first used for copulate in 1788”.

Short

Jakob Nielsen, who along with John Morkes highlighted the importance of scannability in their 1997 paper, Concise, SCANNABLE, and Objective: How to Write for the Web  suggests in later research that the first two words of any link text are what really matter. That’s not to say that links should only be two words, but that the link needs to grab attention and be immediately relevant for the reader.

It’s perfectly acceptable to link to the full title of an article or paper, as I have here, but in many cases its beneficial to highlight your keywords or main message instead, as I did with the second link.

Keywords

Link text should start with your keywords – that’s what you are highlighting after all.

Another poor example from my sex post:

In India it means to masturbate, while in Canada it’s a combination of wedding shower and stag night.

Readers are more likely to be interested in ”to masturbate” than ”India it means”

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