Actually, Don't Click Here!

Why are web content writers, designers and managers still using "Click Here" (or "Read More," "Learn More," etc.) as link text when it has been shown repeatedly it's just not best practice? yellow emoji, hand to chin, called the thinking emoji

Maybe it’s time for a refresher course on why using "Click Here" is just not a good idea. While back in the early ’90s (yes, this phrase has been around that long!), "Click Here" may have seemed like a good link to use, but it's actually not good at all for accessibility, usability, and SEO.

Accessibility

  • Users can configure their screen reader to listen to a list of links instead of reading the entire page. This is very helpful when searching for a particular link, kind of like a sighted person may do when they scan a page looking for something specific. When using this configuration, a screen reader reads only the link text and not the text surrounding the link. Therefore, the link itself must make sense out of context.

    Try this exercise. Close your eyes and repeat this phrase 5 times, out loud: "Link. Click here." Can you tell what information is behind each link? Are those links helping you find what you’re looking for? Are you just a little annoyed having to hear the same thing over and over?

  • Users of speech recognition technology can select links using a voice command like "click" followed by the link text. If you have five "Click Here" links on a page, which link does the speech recognition software select? I don't know emoji, shoulders are raised up, both hands are above the shouders

  • The W3C makes it plain that using ambiguous link text, such as "Click Here" is a no-no. Read SC Criteria 2.4.4: Link Purpose (In Context)

Keep in mind, automated accessibility checking software like DubBot, can scan your entire website fo all the instances of "Click Here" and other ambiguous link text so you can update and fix those links quickly.

Search Engine Optimization (SEO)

Think of web crawlers as being blind and deaf — since they are. They scour your website much like a hearing and / or visually impaired user would.

"When a search engine indexes your page, it strings together relationships of keywords to their URLs. Keywords are determined by both the link text and the targeted page’s content. If the link text is accurate for the targeted page, then the web crawler knows the link is legitimate and indexes the page for that keyword. If you use an uninformative phrase, like "click here," then the search engine will not make a close enough connection between the link text and the targeted page. This will negatively impact your page’s search engine performance because the "information scent" is poor. In fact, even deferring the keyword to the end of the link (e.g. "click here for product documentation") has the same drawback." ~ Mark Caron, UX / DesignOps Manager at Red Hat, "Don’t Use Click Here"

Usability

Using the phrase "Click Here" ignores other means of website navigation like screen taps (mobile devices - have you checked your analytics lately??), puff sticks and joysticks, keyboard navigation, or voice recognition. It also implies that those modes are not supported. 

As you skim the text–which most of us do–on a webpage, your eyes tend to go directly to the links on the page since they stand out against the non-linked text. And as you are focusing on the links, you are missing the text that leads up to or "puts into context" those links.

So if a link just says "Click here," you now have to go back and re-read the surrounding text so you have an idea where the link will lead and what you will find when you click the link. That’s a lot of work! Sure hope you find what you’re looking for. 

What To Use Instead

In the document "Style Guide for Online Hypertext," Tim Berners-Lee recommends that we:

"Try to avoid references in the text to online aspects. 'See the section on device independence' is better than 'For more on device independence, click here.' In fact, we are talking about a form of device independence." ~ Courtesy of Campaign Monitor, "Stop Using ‘Click Here’ Calls to Action (And Here’s What to Say Instead)"

And this! A simple example of creating a link that is accessible, usable and useful.

sample of correct and incorrect text link. the first example is of an incorrect link - it reads click here to watch the webinar with click here as the link. the second example is of correct use of text link and it reads watch the webinar with watch the webinar as the text link.
Image courtesy of Granicus Blog "Why Click Here Links Are Bad"

Let’s Recap

Maggie Vaughan, CPACC
~ friend of DubBot, A11Y practitioner in higher ed