Writing for Business

Oct 22 2012   8:50PM GMT

Linkbaiting: The good, the bad, the ugly — and a mystery solved

Ivy Wigmore Ivy Wigmore Profile: Ivy Wigmore

I was writing about linkbaiting today, the practice of trying to entice readers to link to your content. Of course, the best link bait is good content. But high-quality content is no longer sufficient with the mountains of content — some of it good! — available online these days. You need to use tactics to get your content in front of enough readers so that some people will link to it and it will, eventually, perform better in search results.

Catchy titles are in again! A few years ago, snappy titles were all the rage. They were link bait, although they weren’t called that then. The concept was simple: Write a compelling title that represents your content. But then came the dark days of SEO dominance. It seems that search engine bots and readers aren’t attracted by the same types of titles, so “snappy” was out and things like keyword stuffing were in, instead. Although that was frowned upon as a tactic, it worked for a while.

I’m kind of excited to be legitimately trying to attract humans again. Like most things, though, there’s a right way to do it and a wrong way:

Right: Create a title that makes the reader want to read your content. And make sure the content provides what the reader expects from your title.
Wrong: Create a title that makes the reader want to read your content. And then provide some content that may have some slight connection to the title.

So. Getting back to my title, that’s the good and bad. Here’s the ugly part. While I was researching linkbaiting, I came across a linkbait title generator. SEOhosting.com provides an example of searching on “dog training”:

 Here are some of the linkbait ideas that this tool generated:

  • The 7 most controversial videos of all time about dog training
  • 10 ways people have gotten rich exploiting dog training
  • 5 amazing things you probably didn’t know about dog training
  • 6 shockingly evil things about dog training
  • 5 insane but true things about dog training
Their catchy title was: Linkbait generator: A tool every blogger should try. I’m not convinced — and on principle, I’m not linking. I have no issue with the titles themselves but the fact is,  a lot of people are writing generic content about, say, dog training, and then slapping on  titles like “5 insane but true things about dog training” to attract readers. That’s ugly.

I wondered where all those wild titles for poorly written content came from. And that’s a mystery solved.

For more on linkbaiting, see Jonathan Morrow’s Why no one links to your best posts (and what to do about it)

Follow me on Twitter @tao_of_grammar.

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