How to Create Links that People Will Click (and Be Glad They Did)

Two words: great links.

Two words – that’s all you get, really.  Studies show that web users generally will only read the first two words of a link’s title when deciding whether to click it.

Better get those words right, right?

A 2004 study from the Poynter Institute determined, "Most people…only read on if they are engaged by those [first two] words. For headings – especially longer ones – it would appear that the first couple of words need to be real attention-grabbers if you want to capture eyes."

One of the greatest characteristics of the internet is SPEED.  Everyone is in a hurry these days, and the last thing you want, when you go to a website seeking something, is to have your precious time wasted by some web designer’s idea of hospitality.  That means you really don’t have time to be cordially welcomed, told about how excited the business is about the announcement of the launch of their new gadget, how you will be able to find whatever it is you’re looking for, or told about how it’s now much easier and faster to do what you’re trying to do.  Tick, tick, tick.  Yawn.

To paraphrase the great Jedi Master, there is no TELL, only DO.

Instead of getting to the point – start with point.  A visitor to your website does not need context – the fact that they are there indicates they already understand where they are and why they are there.  Instead of wasting crucial time, make it as easy and fast as possible for the user to get where they need to go.  To do that, you must provide links that are intuitive and cue the user to the meaning of the navigation in those first two words.

Linking best practices:

  • Use plain, straightforward language [DOWNLOAD NOW]
  • Be clear and be specific [SEE MORE ITEMS LIKE THIS]
  • Use everyday words that everyone understands [PROCEED TO CHECKOUT]
  • Begin with the essence of the message [CHECK AVAILABILITY IN UTAH]
  • The words should be a call to action [CHANGE YOUR PASSWORD]

Linking mistakes:

  • Using generic, boring words [CLICK HERE FOR MORE STUFF]
  • Using made-up words, or obscure erudite phraseology [HUH?]
  • Beginning the link with indirect language [YOU MAY WANT TO CHECK OUT OUR REVIEWS]

Don’t put your company name in the link title – they already know your name because they are at your website.  Use those first two words to convey the essence of what that link will do for them.

Make sure your link title delivers on its promise. If the links says "buy now", and three clicks later you're still looking for the download button, that link title was a misleading failure.  “Now” means “now,” not four clicks, a form, and five minutes later.

Ideally, a link should be no more than eight words long.  For readability, most effective links are set off on their own, rather than embedded in the meat of a sentence or paragraph (unless you’re a blogger).  Don’t use marketing clichés in link titles – be fresh, be bold, but above all, be clear.

Put yourself in the customer’s shoes, and your links will take them right where they – and you – want them to go: the closure of the sale.

At eLegal.org, we know links.  Golf links, sausage links – but most of all, web links.  Our expert web designers and writer have a deep knowledge of how to design and write links that will take you to the next level of web dominance! 

Rob Boshard