5 ways to create links that get clicked
How can you write links that get clicked?
Here are five ways to get screen readers to click your links:
1. Use the words in your readers’ heads.
Not the words in your head.
Web visitors found the information they were looking for 72% of the time when the words in their head — aka “trigger words” — appeared on the web page, according to a study by User Interface Engineering.
But when those trigger words didn’t appear on the web page, visitors found what they were looking for only 6% of the time. That means the ROI on familiar words, at least in this study, was 1,200%.
This isn’t the first time short, familiar words have trumped their opposites in research. High-frequency words (those that are used often and so are familiar) and short words are easier for readers to recognize and understand than unfamiliar or long words, according to classic research by linguist George Kingsley Zipf.
To use the words in your readers’ heads:
- Don’t use product names or other internal terms as links. Instead of “Rosetta Stone,” writes Stacey Wilson, president of Eloquor Consulting, call it “language learning modules.”
- Choose short words. They’re easier to process and understand.
- Spell out acronyms, abbreviations and initialisms, suggests Jakob Nielsen, principal of the Nielsen Norman Group. This is helpful for all users, especially for those using screen readers. Exceptions: Abbreviations like DVD that have become widely used words.
2. Front-load link text.
Web visitors usually read just the first two words of a link, according to research by the Nielsen Norman Group. That means the best links start with the most important words, writes Marieke McCloskey, a user experience specialist with Nielsen Norman Group.
So front-load your links with the topic word.
How professional chefs cook squash
Cook squash like a pro
And drop Read more and Learn more at the top of your links.
Read more about who we are
Who we are
Read the latest issue
View more videos
Visit the answers website
And if product or division named include the company name, drop it, Nielsen suggests. Instead of FedEx Express, FedEx Ground, FedEx Home Delivery, for instance, write Express, Ground and Home Delivery.
3. Place links at the ends of sentences.
That’s less disruptive to reading, writes Jan H. Spyridakis, professor at the University of Washington College of Engineering.
4. Don’t repeat link text.
When users see the same link text twice on the same page, McCloskey reports, they assume that both go to the same place. So if the second link refers to a different page, write a unique link.
5. Lead to the right place on the right page.
Make sure your link leads visitors to the right place, instead of leading them astray.
When web visitors do click, they should find the content they expect on the viewable area of the content page — without scrolling, clicking or tapping to display it. The page should confirm the visitor’s assumptions with a clear headline and an image that relates to the topic at hand.
And if your link says, “Three encouraging steps toward new antibiotics,” so should the headline of the page it links to.
“Any broken promise, large or small, chips away at trust and credibility,” Pernice writes. “The words in a link label make a strong suggestion about the page that is being linked to. The destination page should fulfill what the anchor text promises.”
Link writing resources
Learn how to:
- Avoid generic links
- Write links that aren’t too long or short
- Avoid overlinking
- Format links
- Write press release links
Sources: Marieke McCloskey, “Writing Hyperlinks: Salient, Descriptive, Start with Keyword,” Nielsen Norman Group, March 9, 2014
Kara Pernice, “A Link is a Promise,” Nielsen Norman Group, Dec. 14, 2014
Jared M. Spool, “The Right Trigger Words,” User Interface Engineering, Nov. 15, 2004
Jan H. Spyridakis, “Guidelines for Authoring Comprehensible Web Pages and Evaluating Their Success” (PDF), Technical Communications, August 2000
G.K. Zipf, Human behavior and the principle of least effort; Addison-Wesley (Reading, Mass.), 1949