Another Reason To Avoid “Click Here” Links: Link Rot

There are many (many!) reasons not to use “click here” as your hyperlink text inside the body of a piece of content. One that you probably haven’t considered is what happens when the link rots.

In a comment on my backgrounder on News Corp and the phone hacking scandal, a reader referenced a 2000 Florida case where the jury (allegedly*) determined that Fox News “acted intentionally and deliberately to falsify or distort the plaintiffs’ news reporting on BGH [bovine growth hormone].”

The ruling was overruled in 2003:

click here example

Why "Click Here" Is Bad Hypertext

That “click here for more details on the latest ruling”? Link rot. (We can talk about the importance of public documents not rotting away another day.)

404 example

The Florida Second District Court of Appeals has either removed the PDF or reorganized its website.

Unfortunately, there isn’t anything immediately obvious in the paragraph text** or the file name (url path) to help us craft a reasonable Google search:

http://www.2dca.org/opinion/February%2014,%202003/2D01-529.pdf

However, 2dca.org happens to be the Florida Second District Court of Appeals (no, I don’t understand why it isn’t a .gov site), and “archived” opinions are on the website if you know how to find them. (This was my search string: opinions february 2003 site:http://www.2dca.org/.)

Because I know how to “read” gobbledygook, I know that the date of the document is February 14, 2003, and there is an archive for that date. I guessed (correctly) that the case I’m looking for is 2D01-529 / New World Communications of Tampa v. Akre (pdf).

[Note: I am not a lawyer, but I found myself nodding my head during my cursory reading of the appeals court decision. It’s not that I like the decision, it’s that I see the logic of the decision. Background on the story, which starts in the mid-90s.]

Tips for selecting text to be used as a hyperlink:

  • Don’t use “click here”
  • Use description words that provide clear clues as to where the hyperlink might lead
  • Tell us if the link is to a PDF or anything other than a web page
  • When linking to primary public documents, like court rulings, consider downloading a copy and republishing it on your own site, providing readers a link to both versions. Do not includes spaces in the file name! (That’s what the %20 is in that URL example above.)
  • As a general rule, a short phrase is a better link than a single word because a multi-word target (the link) is easier to both see and “touch” (with a mouse or finger) than a single-word target.

* I can find no primary document that supports the claim, so I am adding “allegedly” to the assertion.

** A suggested rewrite (more objective, less slanted):

Original: Fox appealed and prevailed February 14, 2003 when an appeals court issued a ruling reversing the jury, accepting a defense argument that had been rejected by three other judges on at least six separate occasions.CLICK HERE for more details on latest ruling.

Rewrite: Fox won on appeal on February 14, 2003 when the Florida Second Court of Appeals determined that there is no federal law or regulation that satisfies the conditions of Florida’s whistleblower statute (official court ruling – pdf; local copy of ruling – pdf). Fox had been unsuccessful with this argument on at least six separate occasions (link here to substantiation – use each date or link to a page on the website where each is detailed).

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One thought on “Another Reason To Avoid “Click Here” Links: Link Rot

  1. Pingback: week 9 – organization and political communication « Digital Communication Technologies

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