Making link text good for the reader, good for accessibility, and good for SEO

It’s easy to create hyperlinks that say “click here”, or “find out more”, but you need to do better. Writing links that say more about themselves is better for your readers, makes your content more accessible, and makes your page more appealing to search engines.

Good link text tells people where they’ll end up

Let’s begin with the basics: Don’t write links that say “click here”. Why not? Firstly plenty of people will tap a touch screen or hit Enter rather than click. Secondly, it’s about as useful as a heading that just says “Read this”.

Link text needs to tell your reader where the link will take them (just like a heading tells them what they’re about to read), or what they’ll see if they follow it. Here’s a self-serving example:

As a web writer, you need to think about reading grades. It can pay to have a few expert sources on hand, too, like Content Is The Web.

Here’s the same example done badly:

Click here to learn about reading grades, which every web writer should know about, or here for a useful source of web writing advice, Content Is The Web.

Even though both these examples give the reader two links, and close reading tells you where the links go, only the first one works as good web copy.

Good link text is good for scan-reading

Your readers will probably only scan your content. Good web copy lets the reader get away with “light touch” browsing. The design of your page helps by making some things more prominent than others, and it’s no accident that links stand out. They continue the story, open up more detailed information, or let your reader make decisions. When someone’s only going to notice 28% of what’s on the page, they’ll see your link text. It has to be useful.

Good link text is good for accessibility

Assistive technology – a typical example is a screen reader – helps people scan, too. If a reader is using a keyboard to tab through your links or is scanning your page by setting a screen reader to quote the links and nothing else, each link needs to describe itself out of the context that you’ve given it in.

In the first example above, they’d hear:

Link: reading grades
Link: Content Is The Web

Even without the rest of the paragraph, this is still useful. But you’re not helping anyone with the link text in the second example, which would come back as:

Link: click here
Link: or here

Good link text is good for SEO

The algorithms that make search engines work are tuned to prefer pages that are obviously about a particular topic. That makes links that point in and out of pages important for SEO (search engine optimisation).

  • Links in: Descriptive links tell search engines what a target page is about. If all the links that point to this page contain the words “link text”, that helps the robots at Google and co. work out what it’s about.
  • Links out: Descriptive links out to related pages make it obvious what your page is about. By linking to other pages about web writing, and saying “web writing” when I do, I’m telling machines what I’m writing about. When people search “web writing”, I’m more likely to be in the Page One Club.

Writing good link text

There aren’t too many things you need to do to write good link text.

  • Make it descriptive. Never use vague text like “more” or “information here”, and never use raw URLs.
  • Cut out stuff about how to interact with the link (eg. “click here…” or “follow this link to…”). People know what to do with hyperlinks.
  • Don’t be so hard on text that conveys the sort of content the link will open (like “read about…”, “calculate the cost of…” or “pictures of…”). This can be useful.
  • Always check how it sounds out of context.

Related post: Don’t “click here” – 5 ways bad link text screws up your website
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This post is 695 words long, with an average reading grade of 6.5.

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