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A case for descriptive link text

Clear link text can help thousands more people get to the content they need quickly and easily. The names of programs, apps and tools don’t always work well as descriptive link text for people who don’t already know the name.

Comparing click-through rates

In April 2020, during the COVID-19 crisis, the Digital Transformation Office and Health Canada looked at how different link text worked for people seeking mental health and substance use support on the page.

The initial link text for these resources was “Wellness Together Canada”. This was the name of the site that the link pointed to. It’s generally considered best practice for link text to match the title of the page it’s pointing to. However, we had concerns that this didn’t provide enough ‘scent of information’ for users.

So, for 6 days we monitored how many people clicked through to find the resources. The link had a 0.10%[1] conversion rate (1,792 clicks of 1,733,984 visits).

We then changed the link text to “Mental health and substance use support.” The conversion rate improved to 0.15%[1] (2,011 clicks of 1,302,793 visits). This represents a 49.3% higher conversion rate.

During Mental Health Week, we shortened the link text to just “Mental health support.” This performed even better, with a conversion rate of 0.23%[1].

Our results show that it’s not enough to simply make the link text match the title of the destination page. “Wellness Together Canada” was vague. People had to guess what they would find there, so they were less likely to try it. More descriptive text provided a much clearer scent of information, and led more people to important mental health resources in a time of crisis.

A crucial navigation tool is the source for Canadians to find the answers they need from the Government of Canada. Everyone needs clear paths to information, especially those using screen readers who often navigate from link to link.

Link text is a crucial navigation tool. It’s a promise of what you will find if you follow it. It needs to be crafted thoughtfully, with the user journey in mind. Always ensure that link text is written in plain language, and is meaningful and unique within a page so that people know what they can expect to find before they click.

Refer to the Content Style Guide to learn how to write descriptive links.


Footnote 1

95% confidence, p-value = 0.000

Return to footnote 1 referrer

Connect with the Digital Transformation Office at Treasury Board Secretariat

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