Header hover anchor links on GitHub Pages using Jekyll

TL;DR: Encourage deep-linking of content by providing anchor links when a user hovers over a heading in your Jekyll posts and pages
2 minute read

If you’ve ever read a Markdown file on GitHub, you may have noticed that hovering over a heading produces a visible, clickable anchor link. This is incredibly useful to link someone to a particular heading or section, rather than the page as a whole, a practice known as “deep linking” of content.

When you send someone one of the resulting anchor URLs, which includes the name of the linked heading, upon clicking the link, the user will automatically scroll to the desired part of the page, and thus be directed to the exact content you want them to see.

As long as you’re using Jekyll and authoring your content in Markdown, you can actually achieve this feature on GitHub Pages much easier than you might expect:

Edit (May 10, 2015): @bryanbraun has created the awesome AnchorJS library. I’d suggest you just use that, instead of creating your own implementation.

Font Awesome and jQuery

First, you’ll want jQuery and Font Awesome included in your site template, if they aren’t already.

jQuery, a JavaScript library, helps you select all the headers programmatically, and Font Awesome, an icon library, provides the link icon that the user sees.

There are a handful of ways to do this, but the easiest is to add the following in your template’s <head> section:

<link href="//netdna.bootstrapcdn.com/font-awesome/4.0.3/css/font-awesome.css" rel="stylesheet">

<script src="//ajax.googleapis.com/ajax/libs/jquery/1.11.0/jquery.min.js"></script>


We need to tell the browser how to position the link icon, and to only display it when the visitor hovers over your heading. You’ll want to add the following to your site’s CSS file:

.header-link {
  position: absolute;
  left: -0.5em;
  opacity: 0;

  \-webkit-transition: opacity 0.2s ease-in-out 0.1s;
  \-moz-transition: opacity 0.2s ease-in-out 0.1s;
  \-ms-transition: opacity 0.2s ease-in-out 0.1s;

h2:hover .header-link,
h3:hover .header-link,
h4:hover .header-link,
h5:hover .header-link,
h6:hover .header-link {
  opacity: 1;

The JavaScript

Last, to tie everything together, you’ll also need a bit of JavaScript magic client-side, by adding the following to your site’s footer:

$(function() {
  return $("h2, h3, h4, h5, h6").each(function(i, el) {
    var $el, icon, id;
    $el = $(el);
    id = $el.attr('id');
    icon = '<i class="fa fa-link"></i>';
    if (id) {
      return $el.prepend($("<a />").addClass("header-link").attr("href", "#" + id).html(icon));

And that’s it! You can see the result on this page if you hover over any heading. Click the link to update your URL bar, and you’ll have a shareable, deep-linked URL.

Happy deep linking!

Originally published March 13, 2014 | View revision history

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Ben Balter is the Director of Engineering Operations and Culture at GitHub, the world’s largest software development platform. Previously, as Chief of Staff for Security, he managed the office of the Chief Security Officer, improving overall business effectiveness of the Security organization through portfolio management, strategy, planning, culture, and values. As a Staff Technical Program manager for Enterprise and Compliance, Ben managed GitHub’s on-premises and SaaS enterprise offerings, and as the Senior Product Manager overseeing the platform’s Trust and Safety efforts, Ben shipped more than 500 features in support of community management, privacy, compliance, content moderation, product security, platform health, and open source workflows to ensure the GitHub community and platform remained safe, secure, and welcoming for all software developers. Before joining GitHub’s Product team, Ben served as GitHub’s Government Evangelist, leading the efforts to encourage more than 2,000 government organizations across 75 countries to adopt open source philosophies for code, data, and policy development. More about the author →

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