One issue of contention between many copy writers and usability specialists is the user of ‘click here’ within links. The use of these links is often promoted as they tell the user exactly what they want the user to do. Brian Clark makes this point in his article ‘Does Telling Someone to “Click Here” Actually Matter?‘. In the article he encourages site owners to use actionable links (the ones that tell the user what to do) if you really want to users click.
Compelling copy and careful labelling of links play a vital role in directing users towards performing the right action. There are also times when, particularly on marketing sites, encouraging users to perform a particular action out weights the understandability of the links. However, even in these cases there is no reason the call to action could not be both descriptive and actionable e.g. ‘click to buy’ rather than ‘click here’.
In the article he highlights a study by Marketing Sherpa he felt supported his point of view. However, this study compared click through rates for three terms (‘click to continue’, ‘continue to article’ and ‘read more’) none of which describe the content the link goes to. Also just because the user clicked on a link doesn’t mean that they were taken where they expected to be or didn’t immediately select the back button. This highlights why it is so important to be careful of any user research, questioning whether it applies in your particular case, looking at the method used and whether other interpretations for the findings apply.
The article also addresses the arguement that ‘click here’ wastes anchor text that could contain terms designed to boost search engine ranking. Quite rightly Brian rejects search engine optimization over the experience on the page. However, when search engine optimization will lead to more understandable links that describe what they link to the arguement can’t be easily dismissed.
In answer to the question posed by the article ‘does telling some one to click here actually matter’. The answer has to be yes. Actionable links may encourage users to select that link but it doesn’t mean they will go where they want to. Labelling something ‘click here’ tells the user nothing about the result of their action because ultimately any link could be labelled click here. However, this does not mean actionable phrases can not be included in descriptive links or that the label affects link performance.