Here’s a blog post about the word here. What we have here is an issue where here isn’t clearly defined. Here has lost all meaning here, and it’s hard to know where here is when here we use here to highlight things here, here, and here.
I know what you’re thinking. I’m going overboard to try to make a point. You’re probably right. But it’s time we banish the word here from our link text, here an now.
Let’s start by defining a quick term - link text. Link text is the text which appears on the screen for someone to select to follow a link. It’s been around since the dawn of the web. Unfortunately, it hasn’t been used correctly recently, and the problem only seems to be getting worse. This doesn’t only apply to websites; anywhere you might add links such as emails and documents should follow the same rules.
The goal of link text is to describe what’s on the other end of the link. If I’m creating a link to a page about little or fairy penguins, then the text little or fairy penguins should be the link text as is demonstrated in this sentence. This makes it clear to the reader what they will learn about should they follow the link. It allows the search engine crawler to get a better understanding of the world, as it now has more information about the linked page. And, more importantly, the page is now accessible.
Accessibility and link text
Many people use screen readers when navigating the web. They may do this due to their vision, to reduce eye strain, or to simply not have to look at a screen. Screen readers are remarkable tools, and include features such as the ability to read all the links on a page. This is similar to what a sighted person might do, quickly scanning through a page looking for links. When all the link text is “here”, “here”, “click here”, etc., then that’s all the user will hear from the screen reader.
Go back to the paragraph at the top. Notice the continuous use of the word “here”. Kind of annoying, huh? Think about how the screen reader user feels when that’s all they hear. And worse yet, they now know nothing about what the links are referencing.
Stop using here
OK, so what to do? Well, the answer is pretty straight forward - stop using the word “here” or similar for link text. Even if you don’t feel like making the change to make your page more accessible (which you should!), there are other reasons. It allows web crawlers to better index your sites for search engine optimization. And, it just reads better.
Let’s go through a couple of examples:
Bad link text
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Good link text
Azure Static Web Apps is a hosting service designed for full stack web applications. You can use the service to host static sites such as Hugo blogs, and even incorporate a database for full-stack dynamic sites.
Reviewing the examples
Once you notice it, you can’t “unsee” it as the kids like to say. Using “here” for link text makes sentences rather awkward. They carry on for longer than they should, and are just unnatural.
The paragraph with good link text is concise, with only two sentences needed. The link text makes it clear as to what the user will find on the other end of the link. And you’ll even find as you move away from using “here” you can incorporate more links in your pages, which is always a good thing. The original purpose of the web was to create an environment where scientists could easily navigate information, following hyperlinks from one page to the next. We should continue this tradition, allowing users to dig deeper into information.
Notice how I was able to add a couple of links to references in the paragraph above rather naturally.
Tips and tricks
OK, so you’ve decided to abandon “here” for link text, but are wondering how best to approach writing content? Accessible U from the University of Minnesota has a great page on creating appropriate link text. Microsoft Learn also has a full module to walk you through the basics of accessibility on the web, including link text. In a nutshell, if you follow these tips you’ll be headed in the right direction:
- Don’t display the actual URL unless the URL itself is important - if you wouldn’t say it out loud, don’t type it
- Don’t use “here”, “for more information”, “see also”, or other generic text
- Do use a few words to describe what resource you are linking to
- Do use natural language, writing as you normally would, and then find the text which would make for good link text
Using good link text provides numerous benefits. It allows for more natural language, for better search engine optimization, and, most importantly, makes a more accessible web for all. If you find yourself wanting to type “here”, stop, find the descriptive few words in what you wrote out before, and use those for the link text instead.