Thursday, December 4, 2008

Writing for SEO Value Vs. Writing for the User

Click Here, Link Here, and Other Linking Terms
by Alan Eggleston, writer and editor

I had a discussion over Web copy linking terms with a client recently, and it's shown up again in a LinkedIn discussion. The question is, is it ever okay to use "click here" or "link here" or "go here" calls to action when linking the Internet user to another Web page?

The client discussion involved SEO value, and my client's theory was that Google, now responsible for about 75% of search engine traffic, gets to know how you use terms like "click here" in relation to the content you're sending the user to, and as long as it understands that "click here" is relevant to anything you're linking to, there's SEO value in it. I personally don't buy it, but he likes the idea.

In the LinkedIn discussion, the common argument was that "click here" (and by proxy, similar terms) are outdated and have no SEO value. I would probably say "quaint" and "not well thought out" and, yes, have little SEO value.

First, as a writer, you need to give significant thought to user standards. If a user sees "click here" or "link here" (and so on) often, it becomes a gut reaction to take that link whenever s/he sees it, so it can be a useful call to action in sell copy. The problem comes when it is so overused, when scanning copy users glance over it and miss it, and it has no value whatever. Most writers rightly feel these are overused and trite.

Second, such phrases don't tell the reader anything that motivates him or her to actually take the action. Where does "click here" actually lead? To an ad? To a full article? To a synopsis of the article with still another link to the full article? To a splash page? Subconsciously, you're giving the reader more clues and motivation to take your link if you provide a context to where s/he is going, such as when the link contains the title of the article or keywords or phrases about the article.

Third, even if Google allows some SEO value to such terms because you consistently use them for links, that value doesn't begin to match what you get by using phrases containing relevant keywords. So a link like "link with relevant keywords" is going to be far more valuable to you than "click here." It's also going to motivate the reader far more to take the link that leads to valuable content.

When I construct a page, I prefer to create links with SEO value. However, I sometimes also like to provide links that nudge the reader a little. So for a home page for this same client, where we use short introductory blurbs for fuller articles that then link to the full articles, I usually provide both SEO-rich links and call-to-action links like "Read the full story". It's more than the cryptic "click here." This works for a news index page, but not necessarily for home pages with lots of keyword-rich text.

Feel free to jump in with your thoughts in the Comments section...


Jen / domestika said...

I think you've put your finger on a basic blogger's struggle. We write for readers, yes, but we need the search engines in order to help those readers find us. I experimented with the "click here" versus "linked keyword" thing on a couple of blogs, and the best I've been able to come up with is this: you've got to know your audience. If your audience is a not-too-techy crowd for whom email is the major extent of their internet activity, it seems to help to give the explicit instructions; for others, working the keyword links into the text can, as the saying goes, "serve two masters" quite well.

alan said...

You draw an interesting distinction, Jen. An IT guy I work closely with thinks Google will award SEO points for a site that consistently uses a directive link (such as separated "click here" used for extra information vs. an in-paragraph supportive link) on a site. It depends on how reliably the link directs users and how consistenly it's used on the site.

David Robison said...

I'm not an SEO expert and have learned about "driving traffic" to my blog basically by the seat of my pants.

When I look at my site analysis page I find that my use of linked phrases provides me with more unique visitors and higher google rankings for those phrases.

I try to link text that I think someone would write in a browser if they were searching for that topic.

I'm often surprised by the way some people find my blog and the phrase they searched for to find it.

alan said...

Hi Dave. That's smart thinking and good linking strategy. Searech engines like Google like it when you phrase your linkable text with keywords and assign higher value to them. It's common sense. Really, good SEO strategy is about using common sense. Some SEO firms finagle with Web pages trying to optimize it for search engines, and it probably works in the short term, but in the long term search engines don't like it and will penalize a site for it. You're constantly chasing your tail trying to find the next great fix. The better strategy is to do the common sense thing, like you've done. It can't hurt to make sure your title, description, and page text all contain the same keywords.