HTML <a> Tag

The HTML <a> tag is used for creating an a element (also known as an "anchor" element).

The a element represents a hyperlink. This is usually a link to another document.

You can use the <a> tag to link text or images. You can also link a large block of content (even containing multiple elements) if required - it's not just restricted to hyperlinking single elements. However, there must be no "interactive content" descendant.


The <a> tag is written as <a href=""></a> with the linked URL between the double quotes of the href attribute and the anchor text (i.e. the text that the user sees) between the start and end tags.

Like this:


Basic tag usage

Open the link in a new window (or tab)

Here we use target="_blank" to open the link in a new window.

Reload the new window

Here we open multiple links in a new window, but instead of a new window being opened with each link, a new window is opened with the first link, then the following links load their contents into that window.

We do this simply by giving the target attribute a name that doesn't exist (i.e. we make up our own name for the window/tab).

Linked Image

Here we wrap the <a> around an image to create a linked image.


Here we use rel="nofollow" to create a "nofollow" link. This can be used to tell search engines that you don't endorse the content at the other end of the link. The nofollow attribute value is typically used on paid links and advertising.

Many people refer to this as the "nofollow tag" but it's not actually a tag. It's not even an attribute (the attribute is rel). The nofollow bit is simply a value of the rel attribute.


Attributes can be added to an HTML element to provide more information about how the element should appear or behave.

There are 3 kinds of attributes that you can add to your HTML tags: Element-specific, global, and event handler content attributes.

The <a> element accepts the following attributes.

Element-Specific Attributes

This table shows the attributes that are specific to the <a> tag/element.

hrefSpecifies the URL of a page that the link goes to.
targetSpecifies the target frame to load the page into. Only to be used when the href attribute is present.

Possible values:

  • _blank
  • _self
  • _top
  • _parent
  • Any string with at least one character that does not start with a U+005F LOW LINE character.
downloadIndicates that the link is to be used for downloading a resource (such as a file). The author can specify a default file name by providing a value. This attribute is optional.


[Default file name.] (optional)

relDescribes the relationship between the current document and the destination URI. Only to be used when the href attribute is present. Multiple values can be provided, separated by a space.

Possible values:

alternateGives alternate representations of the current document.
authorGives a link to the current document's author.
bookmarkProvides the permalink for the nearest ancestor section.
helpProvides a link to context-sensitive help.
licenseIndicates that the main content of the current document is covered by the copyright license described by the referenced document.
nextIndicates that the current document is a part of a series, and that the next document in the series is the referenced document.
nofollowIndicates that the current document's original author or publisher does not endorse the referenced document. This attribute is often used to declare paid links to search engines such as Google, who, request that webmasters declare all paid links (eg, advertising) in this manner.
noreferrerRequires that the user agent not send an HTTP Referer (sic) header if the user follows the hyperlink.
prefetchSpecifies that the target resource should be preemptively cached.
prevIndicates that the current document is a part of a series, and that the previous document in the series is the referenced document.
searchGives a link to a resource that can be used to search through the current document and its related pages.
tagGives a tag (identified by the given address) that applies to the current document.
hreflangLanguage code of the destination URL. Only to be used when the href attribute is present.
typeSpecifies the MIME type of the linked resource. Only to be used when the href attribute is present.

Global Attributes

The following attributes are standard across all HTML5 elements. Therefore, you can use these attributes with the <a> tag , as well as with all other HTML tags.

For a full explanation of these attributes, see HTML 5 global attributes.

Event Handler Content Attributes

Event handler content attributes enable you to invoke a script from within your HTML. The script is invoked when a certain "event" occurs. Each event handler content attribute deals with a different event.

Below are the standard HTML5 event handler content attributes.

Again, you can use any of these with the <a> element, as well as any other HTML5 element.

For a full explanation of these attributes, see HTML 5 event handler content attributes.

Differences Between HTML 4 & HTML5

To see more detail on the two versions see HTML5 <a> Tag and HTML4 <a> Tag. Also check out the links to the official specifications below.


Here's a template for the <a> tag with all available attributes for the tag (based on HTML5). These are grouped into attribute types, each type separated by a space. In many cases, you will probably only need one or two (if any) attributes. Simply remove the attributes you don't need.

For more information on attributes for this tag, see HTML5 <a> Tag and HTML4 <a> Tag.

Tag Details

For more details about the <a> tag, see HTML5 <a> Tag and HTML4 <a> Tag.


Here are the official specifications for the <a> element.

What's the Difference?

W3C creates "snapshot" specifications that don't change once defined. So the HTML5 specification won't change once it becomes an official recommendation. WHATWG on the other hand, develops a "living standard" that is updated on a regular basis. In general, you will probably find that the HTML living standard will be more closely aligned to the current W3C draft than to the HTML5 specification.