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.

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Do you need to worry about Google’s mobile update?

On 21 April Google launched a new search algorithm that includes mobile friendliness as a ranking factor in search results. This week we’ve received a number of queries about the update and what affect it will have on how our sites perform in searches.

What we know about Google’s mobile update

  • It only impacts mobile search results
  • It’s likely to take a week to roll out (and for us to see what the impact is)
  • It’s a live algorithm, so if a page becomes mobile friendly after 21 April it won’t take long for this to be shown in the results, with the mobile-friendly tag
  • Mobile friendliness is just one element of a complex ranking algorithm

We (the team, industry experts, perhaps even Google) don’t yet know exactly what the impact of these changes is going to be. All the sensible, non-scaremongering experts out there are saying – don’t panic. And we’re inclined to agree with them.

“this is just one of over 200 signals we use to evaluate the best results. Non-mobile-friendly sites won’t disappear from mobile Search results—they may still rank high if they hold great content the user wants”

Cody Kwok on Google’s Inside Search blog

As this quote from one of Google’s principle software engineers makes clear – mobile friendliness is not the only thing you’ll be ranked on, sites that already perform well will continue to do so and the key is to provide the content that meets your users’ needs.

Making our site mobile

The good news is a number of key areas of our website are already mobile friendly, eg Clearing, Open Day, Postgraduate and Research Impact. By tracking usage of these we’ve learnt valuable lessons about what works for our users and for Google.

We’ve also prioritised transforming the parts of our site that receive high traffic and are most visible to Google (including the University homepage, Undergraduate and About). These sites are all in the first 20 to go through our Go Mobile programme.

We’ll be monitoring mobile search results for a sample of our site over the next few weeks and will respond to any changes we observe.

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