This article was originally published in 2015 and has been completely updated in 2020.
Recent research by the Nielsen Norman Group found that hyperlinks are a key part of online writing. For site visitors to quickly find what they need, a link should stand out from the body text and accurately describe the page it relates to.
Users scan web pages looking for clues on page content and where to go next. They use signposts such as headings and bolded keywords as shortcuts to information. Hyperlinks also attract users’ attention and need to stand out, both visually and contextually.
Underlined blue text is still the most obvious visual indicator of a link (although red is used in this website). Easy-to-understand links make the page more scannable because they provide both information about what is on the page and an idea of where to go next.
Users usually scan the first couple of paragraphs of a story in an F-pattern, but then tend to look mainly at the links. Good links make it easy for the user to navigate to additional information about a topic, but also act as headings for each paragraph, informing the user what each section is about.
Even when the links visually stand out, they need to be meaningful to be helpful. It really backfires to draw people’s eyes to something irrelevant. Links must clearly explain where they will take users.
Additionally, poor link labels hurt your search-engine ranking. Search engines use the anchor text as an additional cue to what the page or document is about.
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