How to write a link and why you shouldn’t say “click here”

Do a quick Google search for the phrase “click here”, in quotes.

You get 615 million results. The first results being Adobe’s Acrobat Reader, then a thing called Click Here Labs, and then it goes on to a few other things — mostly generic widely-used stuff: QuickTime, PayPal, Java, and some unit converters.

This is because Google’s algorithm takes high consideration of what people link to and also how they write it.

A few years ago Michael Moore went on a campaign to have bloggers write the phrase, “Stupidest Person in America” and link that text to George W. Bush’s WhiteHouse.gov bio page. The result was that overnight a search of the phrase “Stupidest Person in America” ranked George W. Bush at the top of the rankings. This was the only confirmed time Google has ever manually “fixed” its search results so that didn’t happen anymore.

So when we link to anything, it’s not just the link itself but also the words in the linked phrase that matter. The reason all those generic pages for QuickTime, Acrobat, PayPal, etc. all rank highly for “Click Here” is because people write links like this (I’m italicizing the part that would be linked):

To download Acrobat Reader, click here

I’ve known some people so obsessed with this that they only link the word “here” and lose the “click” entirely. Which is a shame, because they lopped off the verb and were left with the completely void, vapid, and textually uselessly word “here”. Run into a crowded room and yell “HERE!” and see what happens.

When it comes to linking phrases, you should follow a few rules:

  1. Avoid generic phrases like “Click here for…”. Most of the time you can just remove that phrase and the rest can probably stand on its own.
  2. Start the linked phrase with a verb when possible. In instances of people’s names or in casual blog references, it may not be necessary. But as a rule, assume starting with an action is better, especially clear ones like, “Read”, “Watch”, “See”, “Download”, “Play”, or “Start”. Other lesser, but still good options might be “Learn”, “Connect”, “Feel” or “Live”. Some words, like “Learn” and “Read” can be stop-words to some audiences. A group of middle schoolers is likely not going to be thrilled about the word “Learn”, but a middle aged man doing his taxes will likely be more interested in “Learn about IRS designations for 501(c)3 organizations”.
  3. You should be able to take the linked phrase out of context and still understand what it’s going to do.
So for an example, something like this:

Barack Obama was elected as the 44th President of the United States and assumed office in January 2009. You can read more about the President here.

Would be better instead as:

Barack Obama was elected as the 44th President of the United States and assumed office in January 2009. Read about Barack Obama’s career.

This is because the phrase “Read about Barack Obama’s career” can stand alone as its own phrase. It would mean the same thing to everyone who read it: “This is going to be text about Barack Obama’s career”. And it passes along google Google juice to the linked-to site. So Google knows that the page linked to probably has some information not about “here”, but about “Barack Obama’s career”.

Those links for Acrobat Reader would be improved if they said, “Download Acrobat Reader” instead of “Click here to download Acrobat Reader”.

It’s not just better for your readers, but it improves search rankings for those that deserve it and makes your text better, too.

About the author

Justin Harter

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