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Is Your Link Text Letting You Down?

How do you use links in your blog posts? Bloggers link to other online resources for many reasons: to give credibility to a claim, to provide additional information, to give credit to another person or institution, to allow users to easily follow a natural progression or procedure, and so on.

You could say that in-text links allow us to apply a degree of functionality to written content. If they’re used appropriately, links can achieve their goals without confusing—or losing—the user. They can also support a good search rank for your content. If they’re used poorly, they can frustrate users, undermine your credibility, or create gaping holes in your site, SEO efforts, or sales process.

When we’re talking about in-text links—links that aren’t part of your blog’s buttons or navigation—it’s important to remember also that the links aid scanning. Well-used links can boost your posts’ readability, as well as reader comprehension. While some argue that a scanner finding an interesting link will simply click away from your site, ending their engagement with your content, I’m not so sure. I have the feeling that’s only likely to happen if the user is looking for something specific and their scanning suggests that your content doesn’t provide the answer.

If, as I’m scanning, the page content looks good, and the links seem interesting, I’ll go back and start to read the page content itself. Often, scanning is used as a means to gauge the page’s value and relevance to the individual, so if your links’ text, which jump out at a scanner, doesn’t help to communicate the content’s value or relevance, you’re missing a golden opportunity to connect with readers at first glance.

So let’s look at the link text specifically. I’ve noticed three broad approaches to using text links:

  • the minimalistic approach
  • a call to action
  • the descriptive approach.

The minimalistic approach

The minimalistic approach links a single word—maybe two—to the external content, like this:

You can read my article on tutorials here.

There’s a variation of this approach which links individual words in a phrase to multiple, related examples or sources of the information being discussed:

I wrote a short series of posts on blog content-related issues.

You guessed it—I’m not a fan of the minimalistic approach. Firstly, for scanners, or those using screenreaders, the word “here” isn’t exactly indicative of what we’ll get when we click on that link.

In the second case, readers may not even realize that different words are linked to different sources—a number of web developers and content creators (i.e. heavy web users) I’ve spoken to over time have said they’ve never noticed this technique in use, even though I see it often. Perhaps they’re just not realizing what they’re seeing when they come across these kinds of links?

A call to action

Once upon a time, when the web was young and users weren’t always sure what was possible, there was a school of thought that said every link should involve the words “click here”, as in:

Click here to access Darren’s article on ProBlogger’s October income.

A scanner scanning this page would only notice the words “click here” in the above sentence, so they wouldn’t know how relevant (or otherwise) this content was to their interests. We could link the entire sentence, but again, that makes it difficult for scanning readers to discern the important information in those first, split-second glances.

The words “click here” do form a call to action, and are certainly justifiable in cases where we want readers to take action:

For all the details on the Copyrwriting Scorecard, click here.

But in cases where you have no vested interest in the reader clicking on the link, I think it’s best to avoid “click here”. These days, when web users know what a link is, and what it does, this kind of link text can be boring at best, and patronizing at worst.

If you believe that the words “click here” do actually create impetus in the reader to take that action, you’ll use “click here” sparingly, saving it for links that make a difference to your bottom line, rather than verbally encouraging users to leave your site every time you reference another source (which may be often).

The descriptive approach

The descriptive approach indicates to readers—and to scanners, screenreader users, and search engines—what they’ll get when they click on the link:

Darren explained this point in his article on ProBlogger’s October income.

To me, this approach seems appropriate, at least in any case in which you want to link to another page—on your site, on someone else’s—that doesn’t impact your bottom line. You may also choose to use it as a softer, more subtle sales link in cases where the content in which the link appears isn’t primarily related to the product you’re promoting.

Text link composition

There’s one last consideration we haven’t touched on yet: the composition of your text links. If you’re going to treat them, at least in part, as scanning aids, you’ll want to keep links short and pertinent. Try to include the description or title of the linked document in the link, and if you’re not using the document’s title, include the most important words at the beginning of the link.

Let’s look at this in practice. Here’s an actual sentence I wrote naturally as part of a blog post critiquing infographics:

This one, revealing how teens use cell phones, hints at some of the informational problems that can arise when researchers focus on the form, rather than the function of infographics.

My immediate inclination is to link the words, “This one”, but of course that’s not very informative for scanners, since it doesn’t make sense out of context. I could link the phrase “revealing how teens use cell phones,” but that’ll make the words “This one” look weird in context.

What if I changed the word “one” to “infographic”? We could have a winner—although the words “This infographic, revealing how teens use cell phones” will make a very long link. This revised version provides a nice compromise:

This teen cell usage infographic hints at some of the informational problems that can arise when researchers…

This version would also work in cases where the nature of the linked content (infographic) wasn’t as important as what it was delivering (information on how teenagers use cell phones): it puts the information first—catching scanners’ attention—and the content type last.

Link text is important, don’t you think? Do you spend time honing your in-post links to communicate clearly with your readers? What tips can you share?

About Georgina Laidlaw

Georgina Laidlaw is a freelance content developer, and Content manager for problogger.net. You can find her on Twitter and LinkedIn.

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Comments

  1. I have just recently started blogging, and never actually thought about links from this perspective! I like this post. Thanks.

  2. Juan Felix says:

    Hi Georgina, Your Links Rock!!! – Juan

  3. BarnabyA says:

    Hi Georgina

    This is an area that I had not even considered in terms of requiring some further thought. I use links in pretty much all forms that you’ve mentioned (except the multiples) but have not being doing it in a planned/structured way but as a manner for adding explanation to my readers.

    I think I need to look at this whole are further and understand the “science” of it a little better.

    Thanks for sharing.

  4. Depends on your reader and your purpose. Some older readers, for example, still might be a little naive about what those blue underlined things are for. Or you may want to emphasize that the reader needs to go to a specific site to accomplish something (click here to register for this course…).

    I often use links as references, the equivalent of footnotes or in-text references in print articles. It’s an easy, fast way to refer readers to your sources, and it gets around clunky constructions like “As Oliver Boxankle, Professor of Underwater Basketweaving at Erewhon University, says….”

  5. Jon Sollie says:

    Holy Cow!

    Getting away from the usual “Click Here” may take a few
    extra moments, but you’ve convinced me that it’s time well
    spent.

    Many thanks.

    All the best,

    Jon

  6. A great article. Gave good idea about linking text in the article.

  7. Mel Menzies says:

    I tend to use the last two: the descriptive method and the text link composition, though there are occasions when a direct call to action (like Read On) is appropriate.

  8. Craig says:

    I had been using the “click here” approach but I’ve started using the more descriptive version of linking after studying how the blogs that I enjoy reading are linking out.

    I’m also linking out to other articles or posts at the bottom of my posts to reference where I got story ideas to show the development of an idea or comment into a story or post.

  9. Click here! I dont think I have any click here on my blog but to be honest I think I have done it a lot. I do get a bit confused when it comes to link text. I am getting better at it though and I am taking tips from pro blogger at all times. So thank you pro blogger! I am just a writer and business owner and am pretty new to blogging you know. But I am getting there!

  10. Christina says:

    Minimalistic approach and a call to action always works for me, the rest I have to try. Thanks!

  11. Lorenz says:

    Hm, good article – I’ve been using the “click here” method most of the time, because I felt it interferes least with the reading experience. But you may be right, it could just be better to embed the links in a different way – will give it a try!

  12. ShaynnaB says:

    Like all the tips and never really thought of all the different ways to add link. Thank you!

  13. Wonderful post! For our materials handling blog, we use text links to direct readers to a particular section of our product line. We also use text links to give credit to source articles and the like.

  14. Stella says:

    Anchor text should almost always be the 2-4 words you’d type into Google if you were searching for the info contained in the post you’re linking to in order to gain maximum SEO value as well as provide your readers with a succinct description of what to expect when clicking on the link. If you link using “Click here” or a use a long text link, you’re essentially telling the search engines that the page you’re linking to is a relevant result for the keywords “click here,” etc.

    That said, I’d tweak “Darren explained this point in his article on ProBlogger’s October income” to “Darren explained this point in his on Problogger’s income for October” and link “Problogger income” as well as linking only “teen cell usage” in “This teen cell usage infographic hints at some of the informational problems that can arise when researchers…”

    • Craig says:

      Stella – That would be a decent tactic if you’re trying to get those pages to rank for those specific search terms. When I’m referencing off-site content or a recent news story from my own site, I don’t really care about the search engine “allinanchor” factor. What I care about in those articles is “selling the click” and making sure that the reader knows what they’re going to get once they click through.

      That’s why I would still link the longer phrase “this teen cell usage infographic” as that’s a better description.

  15. Hey Georgina,

    I tend to use the descriptive approach and use targeted keywords (anchor text) in the link — especially if it’s linking to one of my own sites.

    Did you know that the number one google listing for the keyword “click here” is Adobe? Simple reason is “click here” is the anchor text that hundreds of thousands of sites use when linking to an adobe pdf.

    Regards,

    Cliff

  16. Jhay says:

    My linking style depends on the type of post I’m writing. If it’s a typical blog post that references to other blog posts, I just embed the links within the post.

    While for more academic posts, I link to the title of the references and use a lot of footnotes (via a plugin) to give it a more formal structure and to keep the references intact in case the reader decides to print the post.

  17. Unless you’re trying to optimize your websites for the term “click here” then I agree there is no real reason to use it as your link text! The most extreme example is probably Adobe, who still actually holds the number 1 ranking for “click here” due to them using it in reference to their applications.

  18. Ibuspro says:

    If you have an important link that you want a visitor to click then you should use link text that encourages that click. I don’t think click here does it anymore. Users are more discerning and want to know why they should click a link. I read somewhere that Google also rates links based on the likelihood that a reasonable visitor will click on that link.

  19. Noelle says:

    I’m a screen reader user, and the way I do my link text depends on what I’m linking to. When I link to something I’m reading, I’ll say something like “I’ve been reading this, and I really like it.” What I do with that is use “this” as my link text, and put it in a sentence like that. If I’m linking to just a site I like or something, I’ll either put the name of the site, or the URL