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September 17, 2007

Click Here For More Information…On Something

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Over at Copyblogger, Brian Clark is arguing that Google has made people retarded (yikes!) and brainwashed them into using poor, action-less, wordy anchor text. Basically, he says that instead of using anchor text to tell users exactly what they want them to do ("click here", "read more", etc), today’s Internet marketers are trying to please the Google gods with their keyword use and confusing readers in the process.

Brian explains his frustration:

Another reader once chastised me for wasting anchor text with the words "click here," even though my primary goal for the link was to get people to click (shocking, I know). This is when I first realized that Google is truly making people retarded. Somehow, this person no longer saw links as navigation for actual people to use; they only exist to pass on "juice" according to an algorithm that no one fully understands

Brian’s main argument seems to be that site owners will always get better results if they tell users exactly what they want them to do. If you want them to "click here", then tell them that. Brian’s opinion is supported by some interesting data from MarketingSherpa that found using terms like "click here", "read more" and "continue to article" actually improve clickthrough rates as much as 8.53 percent.

Well, fine. Data is very nice, especially when it says what you want it to. However, I still don’t buy it. In my humble blogger opinion, there is absolutely no substitute for keyword-rich anchor text.

The truth is, using descriptive anchor text tells the search engines and your readers what the page you’re linking to is about. Both groups use it as a way to build relevance for key terms. It has nothing to do with inflating rankings or "tricking" the engines, using keywords in your anchor text is common sense and it’s probably one of the most important factors in your entire Internet marketing campaign. Unless the site you’re linking to is about "click here", there is no reason to be using that as your anchor text.

I think the problem is that some people seem to associate the term "keywords" with "keyword-stuffing" or "spamming". They hear about how important keywords are to search engine optimization and they think that’s their only use. But that’s not the case. Sure, keywords are important to your SEO efforts, but they’re also what users are looking for while navigating your site. If your internal links are keyword-rich, then they’re able to see that your site is relevant to their needs and they’ll be more inclined to click through to the rest of your site. If they can’t determine that in 15 seconds or less, well, then they are so totally gone.

This may be hard for the copywriters out there to hear, but not every visitor on your site is actually reading your perfectly-written content. Some, maybe even many, are just scanning your page looking for the terms they’re interested in. A link that reads "click here for more information" isn’t going to grab them because they didn’t read the paragraph above it. More information on what? They don’t know because you didn’t tell them. If the links uses descriptive anchor text like "Boxer Puppy Information" or "Puppy Adoption", then that skimmer is going to find that link and click through.

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]. Using "click here" as your anchor text is like searching the Internet using Google’s "I’m Feeling Lucky" button. Seriously, someone give me a flashlight and a map and tell me where I’m going.

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. Help the engines out by using terms that help build subject matter relevance.

No one is debating the value of using call-to-action words. It’s very important that site owners help lead users through their sites. But there’s a middle ground between stuffing your anchor text with keywords (bad) and assigning "click here" to every link on your site (also bad). And not to be a jerk, but if I see you’re using "click here" for each link on your site, I’m going to assume you don’t know what you’re doing.

The good news is you don’t have to choose. You can present a call-to-action without losing out on a valuable opportunity to insert keywords. The simple "click here" can be rewritten to read "click here for cute puppy photos", with "puppy photos" acting as the link. Action words and key terms can be combined to create a stronger punch.

If people get a little anchor text-obsessed it’s because it’s extremely important. It only takes a few seconds to rewrite that anchor text so that it best serves the users and engines. Why waste a valuable opportunity to be descriptive with keywords when you don’t have to?

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5 responses to “Click Here For More Information…On Something”

  1. Jon Kelly writes:

    I had the same reaction to Brian’s post today –ugh. Brian’s example (the Sherpa newsletter) is about the only instance where “click here” make the most sense. He should have been far more clear that he wasn’t talking about links within context (the vast majority of all links in social media, I would guess) but just the limited situtions where you are going for a “conversion” such as the Sherpa click through or to close a sale.

  2. Ro writes:

    Um.. Why not use both? That’s what I do, have an anchor keyword link in your article and make a link to the same content with the “read more” at the end of the excerpt and tag the “read more” one with nofollow. I could be wrong but that satisfies both requirements?

  3. Brian Clark writes:

    >>Over at Copyblogger, Brian Clark is arguing that Google has made people retarded (yikes!) and brainwashed them into using poor, action-less, wordy anchor text.

    You’re misstating what I said.

    >>assigning "click here" to every link on your site (also bad)

    You’re misstating what I said.

    >>Jon said: He should have been far more clear that he wasn’t talking about links within context

    I said at the beginning of the post and again at the end that this is something you would do only when you really want people to click through… it’s conversion, not SEO or usability or any other field that struggles with basic salesmanship.

    It’s ironic that people complain that “click here” is insulting to a reader’s intelligence, when the comments to my post (and this post) clearly demonstrate that people struggle with reading comprehension.

  4. Joost de Valk writes:

    Though I agree in part with you, I say using click here every once in a while is a GOOD practive, even for SEO’s, because it makes your linkprofile look way more natural. Want to read more of my opinion on this? click here :)

  5. Craig Mische writes:

    I have tried using both in posts. For example, I am a real estate broker and might post about homes available on Lake Carlos and will finish with click here to view the listings.



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