A Quick Guide to…Hyperlinks

Hyperlinks help with reading and navigating online content. They provide users with a next step/further information, support scan-reading and enhance search engine optimisation.

In the latest of our Quick Guide series, here’s a reminder of our best practice for hyperlinks:

Link text

Your link text should be short phrases – don’t link entire sentences.

Link text needs be descriptive of the content you’re linking to so the user has an idea of where they will be taken if they select the link. Phrases such as ‘click here’ or ‘download’ are unhelpful and not accessible – think about someone relying on a screen reader to navigate your content.

Generic phrases hinder search engine optimisation (SEO). Search engines, like users, take notice of link text. It’s therefore important that link text contains keywords and phrases that you want to rank highly for. No one wants to appear at the top of search results for ‘click here’!

Open in the same browser

Hyperlinks should always open in the same browser tab/window. We leave it up to the user to decide whether they want to open a new tab/window.

Links must work

It sounds obvious but hyperlinks must be checked regularly to make sure they work. My colleagues laugh at me as I often quote Kara Pernice (Nielsen Norman Group) that a broken link is like a broken promise. However, I personally feel disappointed and frustrated when I select a link on a website that turns out to be broken, or if takes me to an unexpected place.

Broken links can damage your credibility to users and won’t help search engine optimisation, as search engines respond to well linked sites.

Related posts

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To Link or Not to Link – When and Where to Use Hyperlinks

We’ve recently had a couple of questions from web editors about hyperlinks – particularly about whether to include the same link more than once on a webpage.

This post will focus on when, and when not, to use hyperlinks and where you should try and place them on a page.

Helpful content

When writing web content your aim should be to help your user find the answer to their question or complete a task.

Hyperlinks help with this because they:

  • give active instructions
  • support scan-reading
  • offer further information or a next step

It’s important to only link to relevant content that supports the messages on your page, or helps your user complete their task or answers their questions.

Careful placement

As well as thinking carefully about what you link to, you should also think carefully about where within your content you should link from.

Think about the primary message – what do you need to convey to your audience before they leave your page? If you add hyperlinks too early then you run the risk of your user leaving before they’ve had a chance to read your content.

Hit targets

Mobile has changed the placement of hyperlinks on a page as you now need to think about hit targets. Don’t have too many hyperlinks together as this will make it harder for the user to select them.

You should also try and add hyperlinks at the end of paragraphs and sentences. Again this helps with hit targets and increases the likelihood of your user reading your content before clicking a hyperlink and being taken elsewhere.

Avoid duplicating links on a page

It can be tempting to duplicate links on a page. Hoa Loranger (Nielsen Norman group) points out that people often think that duplicate links provide “alternative ways to access links” and “safety nets”.

However, too many calls to action on the same page can confuse users.

Each additional link places an extra load on users’ working memory because it causes people to have to remember whether they have seen the link before or if is a new link.

Hoa Loranger Nielsen Norman group (NNg)

In addition, duplicate links can be harmful to the user experience:

Extra links waste users time whenever users don’t realise that two links lead to the same place.”

Hoa Loranger Nielsen Norman group (NNg)

Loranger also points out that that “each additional link depletes users’ attention because it competes with all others.”

So rather than providing a safety net you’re potentially reducing the likelihood of the user spotting the link.

Instead of adding duplicate links on a page, Loranger argues that where you place the link is more important.

Making a link more noticeable by placing it prominently in an expected location on the page can yield better results than duplicating it elsewhere on the same page”

Hoa Loranger Nielsen Norman group (NNg)


To link or not to link? As always it depends on your content as to whether you should include a hyperlink on a webpage, and where on the page you should place it.

Think carefully about the purpose of your page to help decide whether to add a hyperlink to relevant content, and how early on you should include one.

However, try not to include more than one link to the same content on any webpage as this can be harmful to usability.

Related posts

References and further reading

Hoa Loranger, The Same Link Twice on the Same Page: Do Duplicates Help or Hurt? Nielsen Norman Group (NNg), 13 March 2016

Kathryn Whitenton, Minimize Cognitive Load to Maximize Usability, Nielsen Norman Group (NNg), 22 December 2013

Jennifer Cardello, Nielsen Norman Group (NNg), Four Dangerous Navigation Approaches that Can Increase Cognitive Strain, 28 September 2013

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Breaking Bad When It Comes to Links

Broken links are the bane of user experience.

There’s nothing worse than finding a 404 error page. And people who tart 404s up with quaint local dialect or jokes to apologise should just stop.

If you remove a page or change a url and leave the old link lingering elsewhere, you’re breaking trust.

You’re damaging the confidence people have that your website is up-to-date. You’re frustrating them with the promise of information you’ve snatched away.

Search engines won’t like you either. You are breaking their trust in sending people to your website.

Identifying broken links

You might say it’s unavoidable to have broken links. It’s not, it just requires care. If you’re killing a page, document or changing a url remember where you’ve placed links and change or remove them. This could be on your website, social media or even in print.

If you can’t remember where website links were, use these services to find them:

Make search engines work for you

What happens if search engines have indexed the page/document you removed?

They make it difficult enough to get up the search rankings without causing this kind of headache.

If you can’t redirect people elsewhere, it’s time to make Google and co work for you.

Do a search for the page/document you’ve just deleted and if you find it in their listings – report it.

Google (if you have an account) will remove dead links from search listings on request. Make them work for you.

Further reading

A Link is a Promise, Kara Pernice, NNg

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Find Content Inconsistencies Quickly and Easily using Siteimprove Policy

Use of consistent language and terminology helps to raise the reputation of your website.

We have content standards and style guides in place for the University.

But, with over 100 websites and many editors, communicating and maintaining standards is a challenge.

We use Siteimprove, a quality assurance software, to help us find and fix broken links and misspellings on our websites.

Use Siteimprove Policy to remove unwanted content

Siteimprove also has a Policy function that we’re using to inform our editors about:

  • terms we don’t want on the website – such as ‘click here’
  • content changes – eg name of an Academic Unit or Service, or highlighting content that has changed its address
  • reinforcing a standard term – eg Newcastle University not University of Newcastle upon Tyne

Siteimprove does the hard work of finding and listing the content that needs fixing. This makes it easy for editors to follow our content standards.

If you’re a University web editor already using Siteimprove you can start using the Policy tab today.

How it works

You can find the Policy tab in the Services drop down menu:

Siteimprove - how to find the Policy  function

Here you’ll find a list of policies created by the web team, and the number of violations on your website:

Policies list in Siteimprove Web Governance Software

Clicking on a policy description reveals:

  •  a policy summary
  • advice on what the editor needs to do
  • list of all pages where a violation occurs

Siteimprove policy summary and location of violations

You know where the errors are, now let’s get those violations down to zero!

Create your own policies

You can create local website policies for terms that are specific to your content. View the Siteimprove Policy video tutorial to get started.

Access to Siteimprove

Request access to Siteimprove (University Login required) to get started on your website content clean up.

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Remove ‘Click Here’ for Better Link Text

How many of you have linked to a webpage or document using the phrase ‘click here’? We’ve got about 830 instances across the University site. We know where they are.

Why is it so bad to use ‘click here’ as a link?

You might argue that it’s a strong call to action. You know exactly what’s expected of you when you see one. See our related blog post: 5 Ways to Improve your Calls to Action.

I think the negatives of using click here outweigh the positives. These are our top reasons for not using click here as link text.

We aren’t all using a mouse

Click here isn’t true anymore. Your user could be tapping, touching, swiping, tabbing or speaking to activate the link.

Also, most people using a mouse know that you have to click to do something: don’t be Captain Obvious.


Users of screen readers will often get a summary list of hyperlinks to select from. This is to help them decide where to jump to within a site.

Imagine how unhelpful it is to hear ‘click here, click here, click here, click here’ as your options.

Unless the user decides to read the whole page – they won’t get the context.

Search engine optimisation

We always get asked about getting to the top of the search results. The hyperlinks you use can help you achieve this.

Let me ask you then, how many times have you searched for pages that say ‘click here’? Google serves up around 2.4 billion search results for it.

You will never be number one for this term. You would never want to be number one for this term. So don’t use it for links within your site.

Instead, make sure you use strong, descriptive terms to link your content. How do you want people to find you? What words will they use?

Bad example: Click here to find out more about our English Language degrees.

Good example: Find out about studying our English Language degrees.

Get rid of click here using Siteimprove

Many of you use Siteimprove to keep on top of broken links and misspellings. But did you know that it also has a policy feature that allows you to target unwanted content?

We have a click here policy set up to show where it’s used in your website. We know that there are 830 instances of click here across the University’s website.

Let’s aim for zero! * 

* Siteimprove have been known to reward sites that achieve zero broken links/misspellings/policy scores with doughnuts.

Read our blog post on the Siteimprove policy feature.

Why not get access to Siteimprove (University Login required) so you can start fixing your content now?

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