The title, Click Here For Better Usability And SEO, is not intended to be provocative although some may instinctively question it.  The problem is one created by Google and it all relates to what is called anchor text. That is the text associated with a hyperlink to another web page and which causes the mouse cursor to change to a hand when hovering over the text.

We all surf the Web by following hyperlinks, often designated by a URL (Uniform Resource Locator) or more technically a URI (Uniform Resource Indicator)..  Google puts a great deal of emphasis on the anchor text associated with a hyperlink.  That is why, for example, the Adobe Reader Download website is number one in a Google search for 'Click Here', even though those words do not appear on the website itself. Very many other websites have links to this website with links that involve the words 'Click Here'.

The usual wisdom is that one should not use Click Here as anchor text because it gives little information on what the other web page really is about.  That is a pity because Click Here has a very clear meaning in terms of what action is needed.  In this article, we will explore how to get the best of both worlds.

Usability Comes First

Usability measures whether  a web page visitor can perform whatever tasks they might wish to do on that particular web page.  Unless they can do that, there is little point in visiting that web page.  That is why Stoney deGeyter gave an unequivocal Always as the answer to his question, When Is Usability More  Important Than SEO?

You would think most people would agree that the anchor text for hyperlinks should be very visible.  However Zach Dunn prefers the counter argument

He suggests it’s easy to be writing site copy and link to another location with a “Click Here for more” link at the end of the sentence. Although he is certainly guilty of it, he suggests this is an often unnecessary step. Since you’ve already written something, why not use that text for the link instead?  As argument he presents the following three variants.

click here examples

He then goes on to say, It isn’t natural to have a “Click Here” spacing out sentences. This breaks the flow of reading. Placing the link inline with the text is unobtrusive, and increases readability.  Option three is the only one whose content would remain unchanged if a link was not involved.

The problem with 'unobtrusive' is that some members of the audience may well miss it.  Website design should work for most visitors.  That includes some whose eyesight may not be as good as average and others who may be very new to all this and not understand how hyperlinks and anchors work.

Brian Clark is very much in the other camp: Telling Someone to “Click Here” Does Work

I’ve always been a big proponent of having actionable anchor text for links when I really want someone to click. From a copywriting standpoint, it’s a no brainer—it’s been proven time and time again that if you want someone to do something, you’ll get better results if you tell them exactly what to do.  Not only should you use actionable anchor text if you really want someone to click, but you should also tell people to take the exact action you want them to perform in order to get the best response.

If you need any confirmation that Click Here works well in making the sale, then just check out the website of Perry Marshall, the very successful expert on Adwords.  The calls to action on his sales pages always seem to involve Click Here.

Click Here Is Not Search-Engine Friendly

Even though Click Here seems to find favor among those creating calls for action, it does not get the same respect from those hoping to develop search engine friendly web pages.  Here is what Lisa Barone says on this.

Simply put, descriptive anchor text aids site usability. It tells visitors what’s on the other side of that hyperlink. It lets them know that if they click on the link at the bottom of your page they’ll be taken to a site or a page that discusses [X].

And what about the search engines? If you don’t include keyword-rich anchor text, how are they going to know what that page you’re linking to is about? They’re just going to assume you’re about clicking or reading, things that probably have nothing to do with that site or page.

So there is the dilemma.  Either use Click Here to encourage people to take the action or use some other text that works better for the search engines. 

Ann Smarty has recently summarized a thread at WebProWorld forums, which discusses methods to both encourage more people to click the link while making it user- and SEO-friendly.  She summarizes the pros and the cons of Click Here links:

  • People tend to respond better to this type of link (it is basically a call to action)
  • Most SEOs find them quite useless since they do not offer a search engine any information as to what the referred page is about
  • Click Here links are bad for accessibility and usability: screen reader users navigate through a page using the tab key, moving from link to link.  “Click Here” links give them absolutely no information.

Another problem that Smashing Magazine points out is that text links may be too small to be easily clickable.  To avoid anchor text being too small, they suggest using padding via CSS to create slightly larger anchor text areas.

A better solution, which was also mentioned in the Ann Smarty article, is to use images rather than text for hyperlinks. This gives maximum flexibility for usability and even has advantages with respect to SEO.

Click Here Buttons - Both Usability and SEO

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Using an image for the anchor to the hyperlink allows more text to appear to explain what is to be found by following the link.  The image to the right, for example, is a link to one of my blogs.

There are two attributes that can be added to the anchor for increased effect.  The first is to add a title.&#
160; This has zero value to the search engines but can provide a useful tool tip as the human visitor considers whether to click on the link.

The second is the ALT attribute.  This originally was available to give information to those people whose browsers were not displaying images.  The ALT text is used by search engines and has essentially the same value as the normal anchor text for a text link.  Since the ALT text is not visible to the human visitor, more words can be added including keywords.  It is likely that spamming a large number of keywords in such ALT  attributes will be counterproductive with the search engines.

Comparing image links with text links, image links are far superior.  They are certainly worth considering as a preferred way of providing links to other web pages.  They win both for usability and for SEO.