Better Labels for Website Links: the 4 S’s for Encouraging Clicks

When you’re writing label text for links, remember the four S’s to improve the findability, discoverability, and accessibility of your content. 

First, links should be specific.

A link’s primary purpose is to communicate to users what they’re going to find on the other side of a click or a tap. Vague or repetitive language fails that purpose. “Learn more” is a popular link label, but it fails to be specific. Even a little bit more information could make these links better. For example, Learn about our service plans.” 

Second, links should be sincere. 

A link is a promise. It has to set up accurate expectations and then fulfill them. For example, a participant on a travel site found a tour that she wanted to book. She saw a link with the label, “More Info & Book.” So, she clicked it. But then she was annoyed to find that instead of taking to book the tour, she received a pop-up with a contract form. Not she was expecting. That label could have improved by being just a little more transparent about the next step of the process. For example,Contact Us to Book. 

Third, links must be substantial. 

You know from our eye-tracking research that people tend to pay attention to the notable elements in a UI. Links that are styled differently from static text stand out and draw eyes. As a consequence, link labels need to be able to stand alone. They have to make sense without any additional context. Consider this link from a university’s homepage, “Restoring vision and hope.” What does that mean? Hope for what? A vision to the future? That link actually takes readers to an article about a program that provides eye care to Syrian refugees. It’d be better to be a little less clever, but more straightforward.

Lastly, the link should be succinct.

Get to the point as quickly as possible to increase the likelihood that users will understand the link as they scan and process the page. Notice that this quality of good links is last on the list. Concision is important, but it has to be balanced with the other three priorities in link label-writing. There’s no maximum word count for links. They can be as long as they need to be to achieve those other three priorities. But! No longer than that. Each word included in the link should support those goals.

Keep in mind these four priorities the next time that you write a link label.