Click here to read this article

No matter where you go on the web today you see those little anonymous links: “click here“. You clearly see them, often marked with a different color (links as they are), but you don’t immediately see where they go. Instead you need to read the text before, no wait, after, Oh! That’s a nice image up there? Hmm… What was I looking for again?

It has been said over and over again; very few people actually read full articles unless they know it’s worth it. It’s all about trust. They must have previously gotten the idea that the article they are about to read is on topic, interesting, worth a read. It’s a tricky situation, before they have read the article they need to somehow already know that they are on the right track. The solution is of course good links.

A link tells you something about the page you’re about to visit. You get a quick two or three word summary, often from an author you have previously deemed trustworthy (after all, you’re reading her/his site are you not?). When you are on a trusted site and click on a link you know that the destination is a good one. Why would there be a link there otherwise? You also know roughly what the site is about, it’s summarized and underlined in blue right there. You click and you start reading.

Instead of the above scenario I see the same problem repeated over and over again. Instead of using good link text people use “click here” to name their links. You force me to read a lot more than I should need to. Damn you!

But not only do you annoy your users. Search engines use link text as a primary source of information about the site linked to. Who wants to be found on Google only by those that search for “click here”? Sure, Google sometimes act like a persistent human and reads the surrounding text too, but it also values those words less. What? I can’t use Google to find you? Damn you!

Many screen readers have an option to only show the links for a site. This is a useful feature if you are browsing, navigating, searching for something, but know it’s not on the current page. Since screen reader users are dependent on hearing things they navigate much slower than an average user and all ways of speeding up that process helps. On a page with the usual “click here” links, the generated list will be useless. The links are taken out of context and users are forced to read the whole site to see where a certain link goes. Why are you punishing them when it’s so easy to do it the right way? Damn you!

Sometimes the existence of “click here” links has to do with design. It’s very popular right now to remove the underlining on links. This makes links harder to see and you need other methods to show the user where to click. One of them is telling the user what to do in text instead: “I want you to buy my product, but you can’t by clicking directly, you need to click here”. “Click me” designers: Damn you!

And it’s so easy.

Link with the words that best describe the content you link to.

Now. No one is going to do funny things with their comment signatures or trackbacks will they?

33 responses to “Click here to read this article

  1. Some examples from W3C on how to write link text.

    Btw, one thing I thought about when reading this is, how should one handle “go back” or “try again” links.

    In some way it feels right to write it like that, but it also feels like there should be some better way.

    Without redirect I mean.

  2. @SNH: Good question. I think I would add another word to each one of them. “back to money transfers” and “try booking again”. Think that would work?

  3. Hehe thanks for this; I might have to pass this on if a certain client keeps sending me revisions INSISTING that I change certain snippets of content back to their intended: “For more details on X, ‘click here’.
    Seriously, how on earth do you think thats better?

  4. I agree with your point fully, but aren’t there certain situations where it becomes awkward not to use the click here? For example, “To read the full report, click here” What would you replace it with?
    “Read the full report” sounds a little demanding.
    “Here you can read the full report” – Is this much better than click here?
    Maybe, “The full report is available for download.”

    Those all sound more awkward than click here. What would you suggest?

  5. @Adam: I would use the first one. Decorating your important links with politeness will just make people confused. Keep it simple is one of my mottos :)

  6. A subject near and dear to my heart. Like Caroline (comment #8), I believe the source of poorly labeled links is often copy supplied by the client. Clients just love the term ‘click here’, presumably because they don’t realise how meaningless it is, both to readers and to search engines. I usually go through my clients’ text and change it so the links integrate more meaningfully into the flow of the copy.

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  8. @Emil: I think that’s a pretty strong argument: “Google! Your website will be better suited for indexing and being found by Google!” (reply: “.. .ah that’s important isn’t it, well ok…”)

  9. It’s called a call to action and it is used with purpose. Those people typing “click here” links know how to market better than the donkey that doesn’t.

  10. What about enabling “tool tips” and adding a small description in the link title?

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  12. Totally agree. In fact “click here” used as link text will fail accessibility validators like cynthia says. Some developers are getting to understand this so have improved an use better link text like “read more on subject” or “find out about subject here” but still a correct link text is neeeded for accessibility and better still extra information about the link in the title attribute.

    Still I think the “click here” link is going to be around for a while still

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  17. @Lazy: The people using “click here” may or may not know how to market better than Emil, but they do not know how best to market. A call to action is important, but “click here” is a very weak call to action.

    As a command, “click here” is beautiful in its simplicity, but it falls far short as a call to action – the trigger to launch the customer on the complicated path to conversion – because it doesn’t tell your email readers what you really want them to do.

    Nor does it answer that universal question all readers have that drives so many actions: “What’s in it for me?”

    You can read more about this in the article 8 Tips for a Stronger Call to Action.

  18. @Haruspex: Well put. There’s no value in people just clicking, you want them to buy stuff, place orders, or read up on some important topic. “Click here” surely is weak.

  19. Interesting discussion here.

    I have myself done quite a lot of A/B-testing with call to actions in link text (both images and in written language).

    From my experience, “Click here” is an extremely strong call to action that really drives clicks like nothing else.

    Of course you need to use it in combination with some other text like “to read the full entry – click here!” to imply what is hidden behind the jump though.

    The discussion of trust and how fooling your visitors into visiting pages that they really wasn’t that interested in is very relevant. “Trust” is however a very abstract word and very, very hard to measure why the real consequences of it can only be guessed at.

    My favorite example is Sweden’s largest online newspaper Aftonbladet.se that constantly fools its readers with bogus headlines that don’t match the article’s content. Still, it is Sweden’s largest online newspaper. Something worth thinking about :)

  20. @Niklas Olsson: Very interesting to hear that “Click here” performs so well in tests. Do I understand you correctly when you say that “read the full entry” performs worse than “To read the full entry – click here”? If that’s the case, it’s seems that the combination of both a descriptive text, and the words “click here” performs best? It might be just my web experience, but to me, the color and underlining of links is what screams “click here”.

    About trust and measuring: Maybe you could setup two pages, one with a click here-link to the second page, and another with some text. Then measure the time spent on the second page. If what you said about is correct, I would suspect that more people click through when you include “click here”, but they stay on the second page for a shorter period of time. Even though they clicked, they are not as sure why, and are more likely to click the back button when there. That’s my guess anyway, and my arguments for still staying away from “click here” text.

    The Aftonbladet (or any other big site) argument is a misleading one. It didn’t get big because of tricking people to click links they don’t want, do they? They got big because of other reasons, and are tricking people to get more ad impressions. A very different issue altogether!

    Thanks for your comment!

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