By now you’d think everyone who posts content to the Web would know that using “click here” as link text:
- is real missed opportunity for search engine rankings, since anchor text can have a strong impact on your ranking.
- is sort of rude for people who don’t actually click (because they use a keyboard instead of a mouse to navigate).
- is a real impediment to accessibility
- is useless out of context because it doesn’t tell users what the destination page will be.
- slows users down.
- is a big mistake, according to Jakob.
But it’s still in use. Almost everywhere you go. Why is that? Why do people still use the phrase “click here” for link text?
When I’m describing a web page out loud, I’ll sometimes find myself using the phrase, “‘click here’ for more information”. So it’s something that my brain seems to fall back on, AND I KNOW BETTER. Here’s why I think this stupid phrase is still in use.
Writing for the Web isn’t second nature
Writing has traditionally been a narrative affair: you start at the beginning and finish at the end. You expect your readers to do the same. But writing hypertext is a very different thing. Links allow readers to meander around, starting in one place and finishing somewhere else. But who writes like that? Other than maybe Michael Joyce?
In my opinion, using “click here” is evidence that a writer isn’t quite yet comfortable switching between narrative and hypertext forms. Perhaps the act of sprinkling some links throughout is no more than an acknowledgment that this is the Web and, well, you’re supposed to do that sort of thing here. Having to actually think about appropriate link text and destination pages turns you from a writer into something more: a curator or docent. Think about it, with hypertext, you’re not simply communicating about the subject at hand, you’re also directing the user to things you think they should also be aware of. So the site is less of “here’s what we have, knock yourself out” and more of “here, let me give you a hand with that.”
So maybe the continued use of “click here” isn’t just the writer’s lack of understanding that you’re missing out on usability, accessibility, and improved search engine rankings (although it certainly is that); it may be, I believe, a symptom of the writer’s discomfort with the medium of the Web itself.
It’s a place holder
Think about it. When you’re writing, you’re probably focused on the content of the current page. You may be thinking about other stuff to link to, but maybe you haven’t gotten as far as identifying the specific page that stuff is on. Good link text allows the reader to predict the content of the destination page. If you don’t know what page you’ll be linking to, “click here” can function as sort of a place holder. The problem is, “link text tba” pretty much announces that you have unfinished business in a way that “click here” doesn’t.
You think your users are idiots
Okay, maybe that’s a bit harsh. Maybe you think your users are novices, and they need help identifying where to go. And they do. But “click here” doesn’t tell them where to go, it tells them how to go. And really, does anyone need that kind of advice?
You read a study that said it was okay to use
The hell you did.
There’s a Marketing Sherpa study (Simple Word Change in Email Hyperlink Raises Clicks 8.53%) which demonstrated that changing link text from the rather vague “continue here …” improved the click-through rate. Several articles have cited this study as evidence that not only is “click here” a valid choice, it’s actually a best practice. Wanna know the changes they tested for the study?
- “Click to continue”, which showed an 8.53% increase
- “Continue to article”, a 3.3% increase
- “Read more”, a 1.8% decrease
Notice that “click here” was not one of the tested phrases. So to say this study validates its use is just silly. Besides that, “continue here …” is such an awful choice for link text, I venture to say that ANY change would have been an improvement. (Except, obviously, for “read more”.)
What they should have done was to test link text that actually described the destination page, something like the title of the actual article. That would have put this debate to bed real quick.
Some people think “click here” works because it’s a call to action. But “click here” isn’t the call to action, the link is. Sure, if “click here” is tacked on at the end of your sentence introducing your registration form, users will probably click on it. But I’ll bet it took them more time to find what they wanted than if you had used “registration form” as your link text, because they had to read the whole sentence, not just the link. You could have used “zombies” as the link text, and in the absence of anything else, some users will probably have found the registration form. Eventually. But do you really want to make people work so hard to get there?
The Let’s-Make-a-Deal effect
It certainly isn’t outside the realm of possibility that you might see improved click-through rates by using a phrase like “read more” or “click here”. Who doesn’t love a mystery? But if you treat your users like contestants, they might not be your users for long if they don’t win (or find what they were looking for.)
All the cool kids are doing it
As long as popular sites like Amazon and Orbitz litter their sites with “click here”, people are going to think it’s okay to use. There’s a lot to be said for adopting Web conventions. After all, you want people to actually use your site, not spend a lot of time figuring out how to use it. But there are enough compelling reasons to avoid using “click here” that I think it’s time to retire this phrase, convention or not. So c’mon guys, cut it out.
Why do you think “click here” is so widespread? Do you still use it, even though you know better? And why is it so hard to stop?
(Thanks to @stellargirl for getting me to think about this topic in the first place.)