The good, the bad, and the ugly sides of linkbaiting

“You’ll Never Believe This Amazing Fact Once You Click On This Link!”

This is linkbaiting at its worst. It should really just say, “You’ll Be Sorely Disappointed For Clicking On This Link To Crappy Content, But Oh Well You Clicked On It, I Win.” But not all linkbait is created equal.

Linkbaiting, also known as clickbaiting, is the specific practice of attracting readers to click and share content on your site. It’s often viewed as negative because it can be sneaky or downright obvious that it will disappoint on the content. However, any content that can inspire clicks is linkbait regardless of who posted it. That article about edamame you shared on your vegan roommate’s wall? The article breaking down your Fantasy Football league’s draft picks? That’s considered linkbait.

Everyone wants to create viral content (or at least content that is widely shared). Whether it’s a video, a nicely crafted infographic, a list, or a blog post, publishers love to see people view their stuff.

No matter what the form, linkbaiting is often accomplished by manipulating headlines for marketing purposes. Here is a general formula for linkbaiting:

[(number between 5-23) + reasons/ways/facts/steps to (a strong action word like avoid or increase) (flowery/informal adjective like spectacular and awesome) (noun that sums up the article)]

Linkbaiting is formulaic in nature, but it is how you choose to market it that can make the difference between killer and overkill. Good linkbait is associated with good original content, which is marketed in a way that relies on how good the content is. If the article is sensational, the marketing can be sensational because it follows through on that promise.

But it’s the bad linkbaiting that gets the bad rap, and for good reason. The grabber “You’ll Never Believe This Amazing Fact Once You Click On This Link!” exemplifies bad linkbaiting, which involves any negative practices where the sharer is sneaky or deliberately misleading to get a click. It’s where the “baiting” part comes from. If a creator promotes their work with negative means, this is linkbaiting. For example, posting controversial content meant to anger the readers that will encourage them to click on a blog. Bad linkbaiting relies on the marketing instead of the content, which is practically sacrilegious on the internet.

It’s important to remember that if it is good content paired with good marketing, the clicks will come. As a publisher and industry leader, content creation and marketing shows expertise and value and it is important to keep a positive, long-term reputation.

We’ve made this list to clarify the best and worst bits of linkbaiting:

 Image credit: betablogga via Flickr

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