May 29

Why You Should Avoid ‘Click Here’ in Web Writing

Using “click here” is bad web writing style and should be eradicated from your Web site.

The primary reason why this common approach to hyperlinking should be avoided is that “click here” doesn’t help users. In fact, it hinders users. As we all should know, users don’t actually read Web pages. They use a unique skimming and scanning technique that searches for information rapidly. The user’s eye is trained to jump first to headings, boldface words, bulleted lists, and underlined hyperlinks that can provide clues to the page’s content and assist in the user’s overall goal of locating desired information.

While they do this, their finger is poised on the mouse button, ready for the brain to command the nerve to fire that will execute a click and jump to another page. This process is not unlike touch typing where fingers more instinctively and seemingly without thinking to accomplish the production of strings of letters into words.

So here’s the rub: “Click here” doesn’t have any meaning. So at best the user must stop, back up and actually read the offending sentence to determine what is hidden behind the “click here” hyperlink. That takes time and effort, running contrary to standard Web reading techniques. Thus, the “click here” technique makes it harder for the Web surfer both to read and to understand your content.

“Click Here” and Search Engines
Another reason to avoid “click here” has to do with search engine optimization (SEO). This is the process of helping search engines like Google, Yahoo and others correctly index and list your individual web pages in their directories. Search engines have robots that prowl the internet clicking on hyperlinks, looking for material to add to their databases. As they click, they keep track of the words that are part of the hyperlink. These underlined words are called the anchor or link text. Search engines use these words to help understand, rank and organize your content. The less meaning your anchor text has (and “click here” has none), the less relevant your listing may be on these search sites.

A Better Way to Hyperlink
The better way to create a hyperlink is to look for a descriptive phrase that suggests the content that the hyperlink points to. The user needs to know what information to expect when they click on a hyperlink. An emphasis should be given to using unique or specific words in the anchor text. Including a verb can be useful to trigger the user’s mind (Learn about Guerrilla Marketing) , but often isn’t necessary; in Web reading users understand partial sentences, phrases or lists including hyperlinks in the same way that “you” can be understood as an unstated part of a sentence in English. So Guerrilla Marketing information can be just as good, or perhaps a better way to construct the hyperlink. On the other hand, situations where clicking creates a dialog (Register for Ragan’s Advanced Writing & Editing Workshop) can benefit from a verb because it tells the users what to do next in a sales sense. In genernal, the shorter, more succinct the anchor text, the better (unlike the last example).

Experts Comment on ‘Click Here’
Yucca Korpela from Helsinki University of Technology has an excellent polemic on this topic entitled Why Click Here is bad linking practice. It provides further support for avoiding “click here” from experts including:

  • Web Content Accessibility Guidelines 1.0
  • Tim Berners-Lee, director of the World Wide Web Consortium
  • Jakob Nielson, of www.useit.com

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