I thought I knew about the title attribute

Posted on by jordanhaines

I have been building website for years, when I started learning how to build websites I was always told that when you use an anchor link you must include the title attribute and the target attribute.

The reasons I was told to include the title attribute was to improve accessibility, by including the title attribute users when they hover over the link with there mouse get a tooltip pop up which can give the user more detailed information about where the link will send you. The second reason was that it was suggested that the title attribute was good for blind people as screen readers would use the information to tell the user more about the link. The third reason for using the title attribute was it was good for SEO, By including a title attribute with more detailed information and keywords Google would like this more.

So what led me to question this?. I have recently been working on updating the Factor 3 WordPress base theme which we use to start our WordPress projects, While updating it I started to research why WordPress does not include the title attribute on its links in the content area. To my surprised it turns out that I was wrong and you do not need to use it.

Silktide did some research on screen readers and the use of the title attribute. It turns out that screen readers do not use the title tag, they use the anchor link text instead. After some more research it also turns out that there is no SEO benefit from using the title tag, I found this shocking. But Google uses the anchor link text instead just like the screen readers. The only reason to use the title attribute is to get tooltips to pop up when the user hovers there mouse over the link when they are on a desktop.

My research was backed up by Jeffrey Zeldmen and Bruce Lawson who both have said to not use the title attribute.

So what is the solution? Its seems we can drop the title attribute from our links and it is better practise to use more precise and better descriptive anchor text. It would also seem that this has been best practise for a while now and website testing tool like Sitebeam and Nibbler are already testing for “weak text”. This will take some time to get used to but going forward from now on I will not be using the title attribute on our links.

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