I see way too much of this sort of thing on our site:

For the complete schedule, click here.

This is an extreme (but common) example of something we do all the time: We don’t provide adequate target or context for links, and we baby readers about what to do with them. This example is bad for three reasons:

  • The target — the space you have to click — is tiny. It’s a dexterity test to get your cursor to the precise point of the link.
  • It is too literal about what that underlined blue text means. Our readers know those are links and they’re meant to be clicked. You don’t have to explain to the reader what to do.
  • The anchor text — that’s the text you choose to be the underlined link — ought to describe what is being linked. Not only is this reader-friendly; it has SEO value. When Google has a clue about why you’re linking to another site, it has another clue about where it should index our page.

Here’s one alternative, which is clear about what you’ll get when you click the link.

The complete festival schedule is on Citizen Jane’s website.

You could better integrate the link into another sentence that’s already serving another purpose in your story.

The complete schedule includes 14 films, three shorts programs, four panels or workshops and one work in progress.

Although with that alternative, you might also wish to include the link in the infobox, more easily found by scanning readers.

Here’s another mistake I see in links:

The Kansas City Star reported that the woman would face murder charges.

Did you assume that link would go to The Star’s home page? Or to the story about the woman facing murder charges? It’s ambiguous at best, and I’d argue that choosing “The Kansas City Star” as the anchor text is telling the reader the link is to The Star’s main page.

I’d do this:

The Kansas City Star reported that the woman would face murder charges.

And I think this is defensible too, arguably better:

The Kansas City Star reported that the woman would face murder charges.

(And, no, we have absolutely no problem sending our readers to another publication’s site for a fuller story. In fact, we should never, ever mention another report available online without linking to it.)

Finally, one more plea: Don’t automatically link every proper name in a story to the home page associated with that name. Every time we write about the Columbia Public Schools, we don’t need to make “Columbia Public Schools” a link to the CPS home page. What reader needs to click on that? Is it that hard for the reader to find the CPS website if he needs to? Does the CPS home page add any layer of context to our reporting?

Instead, I’d suggest we make links only to context that provides helpful background to the story. If an organization is likely to be unfamiliar to our readers, or hard to find online, and integral to an understanding of a story, absolutely a link to that organization’s home page might be helpful. Does the reader need a link to www.missouri.edu five times a day every day? No. But we can find the specific page on MU’s site that adds context to this particular story.

Please don’t take this as a suggestion we link too much. We still don’t link enough. But we need to strive to find the links that actually make the story richer and more useful, not links for links’ sake.