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When hyperlinking a noun in a webpage (or in an application), which is a part of a longer text/sentence, should a grammatical article (such as "a" in English) be a part of a link anchor text?

I.e., which of the following is correct from a point of view of native English speaker?

A cat is a mammal.

A cat is a mammal.

I'm not sure if this may vary with a language. In my native language, there are no articles. It may actually be a trivial question for native English speaker.

92

In carefully edited text, the choice to include the article depends on the meaning. Examples:

I saw a newt yesterday, dark with blue spots. Can anybody help identify it?

Article not included: the reader guesses that the linked page is about newts in general.

I saw a newt yesterday, dark with blue spots. Can anybody help identify it?

Article included: the reader guesses that the linked page is about that specific newt.


Sometimes it makes no difference:

A newt is an amphibian.
A newt is an amphibian.

—The meaning of “a newt” and “newt” in this case is the same. Regarding usability, the longer form is a bit easier to click, but also a bit more distracting.

  • 21
    This is an excellent observation! I hadn't realized it, but your first two examples are exactly how I'd interpret the links. And without this answer I wouldn't have known to use that when writing. – JiK Oct 2 at 9:37
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    Wait a minute, your second link is a salamander! – Doug Kavendek Oct 3 at 19:53
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    @DougKavendek it was turned into a newt but got better. – VLAZ Oct 4 at 10:15
  • Good observation! Though I might've linked 'saw a newt' in the second, specific case example. – Pablo H Oct 4 at 12:58
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    @DougKavendek Indeed. The guy asking does need help for identifying the critter. – Philippe-André Lorin Oct 4 at 20:33
19

Usually an article need not be a part of your link.

Except in the cases when it makes a difference in meaning. Usually it will be a definite article, like "The Times", "El Salvador", "Al Jazeera".

Sometimes you can see Portugal city Porto spelled as O Porto. This is because porto means just "port" in Portuguese, so the city is not just Port, but "The Port".

Strictly speaking, Los in Los Angeles is also an article, but you definitely don't want to exclude it.

For indefinite articles, like a in English or un/une in French, you can treat them as a numerical "one":

one mammal.

Rarely it needs to be together with your main word in a link.

(This is my own hack for English articles as I'm also not a native speaker).

  • 2
    For an example with an English-language article, The Hague. – R.. Oct 2 at 4:26
  • If "los" was an article, it would be "los Angeles", not "Los Angeles" - it's part of the name / proper noun. Like your example "The Times" is not "the Times". – freedomn-m Oct 2 at 11:19
  • @freedomn-m I am amused at baseball games that include "The Los Angeles Angels", which one could translate as "The The Angels Angels". If they're playing the Yankees or Mets, from "New York, New York", so much the better. – Monty Harder Oct 2 at 19:59
8

As the search bots don't give importance for this stop words (the, a, an...) you don't need to hyperlink them.

What's Stop Words on Wikipedia:

In computing, stop words are words which are filtered out before processing of natural language data (text). Stop words are generally the most common words in a language; there is no single universal list of stop words used by all natural language processing tools, and indeed not all tools even use such a list. Some tools avoid removing stop words to support phrase search.

Any set of words can be chosen as the stop words for a given purpose. For some search engines, these are some of the most common, short function words, such as the, is, at, which, and on. In this case, stop words can cause problems when searching for phrases that include them, particularly in names such as "The Who", "The The", or "Take That". Other search engines remove some of the most common words—including lexical words, such as "want"—from a query in order to improve performance.

In SEO terminology, stop words are the most common words that most search engines avoid, saving space and time in processing large data during crawling or indexing. This helps search engines to save space in their databases.


I believe that the decision to hyperlink a word never should be related to a grammatic and yes for SEO. Because for a user it doesn't matter if you add on the whole phrase, on click here or on a single word. For them, you must need to be clear that they have a link to another content.

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    Thanks for your answer. It's an interesting point of view. Though I was not asking for SEO reasons. I was rather asking, what is correct from user/grammatical point of view. – Martin Prikryl Oct 1 at 8:37
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    Could you reword this bit: "the decision to hyperlink a word never should be related to agrammatic and yes for SEO"? It's not grammatical. Do you mean "the decision to hyperlink a word should primarily be concerned about SEO, not grammar"? – John Kugelman Oct 1 at 18:03
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    I don't think this answers the question: If search engines don't care about whether you add an article to the link, then SEO does not matter for this question. – JiK Oct 2 at 9:40
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    Further, I believe that websites and hyperlinks should be designed primarily for human readers, not for search engines. – JiK Oct 2 at 9:40
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    And if someone thinks users don't care about what parts of the text are links, I'd ask them to consider the link to the Wikipedia page about the symbol at the end of this sentence. Or the link to the Wikipedia page about the symbol at the end of this sentence. For me, the second one is a lot clearer and easier to click. – JiK Oct 2 at 9:41
5

I would encourage including the article: not for SEO, only partially for grammar, but to increase accessibility .... if it's a mouse-based user-base or mobile app where finger-actions are most important. Larger targets are easier to click.

However, for screen-readers, I would encourage not only not omitting the article, but (when possible) allow links to have different first letters.

Screen Readers such as JAWS (what I am most familiar with) allow the user to press a key-combination that brings up a Links List. (In JAWS it's INSERT+F7). Within this list, they can arrow down to find the link they want, or they can navigate by typing the first letter until the one they want is read. So then "mammal" would be preferable to "a mammal" -- there are fewer ones beginning with M, so it makes navigation faster.


Bonus accessibility tip from a bad experience: Don't start link or form-field names with unicode characters such as ✉ or ☖ . JAWS reads the second one as "White Shogi Piece" (that was before the word "Home" in all links on the screen) -- it was the only instance for that character, but a user can't type that! And every checkbox began with ✉ or 📱 to indicate emails or text-messages being sent -- in tables with almost 100 entries! (Again, screen readers use a Select-a-form-field dialog list, which would have allowed first-letter-navigation, if not for these characters.)

  • 1
    Interesting. Note, however, that whatever characters you use nowadays (like “a” or “7”) are Unicode characters. “Use only your target readers’ keyboard-accessible characters” may be a more usable recommendation. – Philippe-André Lorin Oct 3 at 10:45
  • Or if you use Unicode characters solely as icons, mark them up as such. – Jonas Schäfer Oct 3 at 12:41
  • Good point. Keyboard-accessible is always the key. We just had to figure out what to call them in the documentation, so our team went with "Unicode graphical characters" on first reference, and then "Unicode characters" thereafter. – April Oct 3 at 13:54

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