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Why is “Linkbait” Such a Dirty Word?

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As bloggers, we’re supposed to be building traffic with good, useful content. Though it’s something we all strive for, we’re not supposed to publicly state how much we want to build traffic and back links. We don’t want anyone to know we want our posts to go viral. We would be scandalized if folks knew we secredtly hoped for a massive response from Digg or Stumble Upon. It’s all about the vibe, you know?

Why is this?

Seriously, why?

Hear me out…

As bloggers, we want to build up traffic, right? We want people to visit our blogs and we want to profit from them. Sure, we have good intentions too. We want to share what we know , build relationships and teach some useful skills, but if you think most bloggers aren’t in this for marketing or money making purposes, you’re in need of a reality check.

Bloggers want traffic. Lots of traffic.

So why is “linkbait” such a dirty word? Isn’t it our goal to have folks link to us? Don’t we want to write headlines that will draw in readers? If no one else will say it, I will. Yes, that is our goal. We want readers and we will do what we have to do to bring them to our blogs.

Why, then, do we talk about linkbait as if it’s something dirty as in “Oh, he’s just using obvious linkbait tactics.” Well, so what?

I’ll even go as far as to say often times linkbait posts are more interesting than the regular “evergreen”content.

Granted, linkbait traffic is shortlived, but there’s no denying people will drop by often and stick around if they know there’s a good read coming up. If the purpose of linkbait is to solicit traffic and links, isn’t everything we write a ‘bait?

What do you think? Why aren’t we supposed to admit to using linkbait?

Deb Ng is founder of the Freelance Writing Jobs blog network.


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  • Rick Calvert

    Actually Deb I think the practice of writing good content and a catchy relevant headline is absolutely acceptable. So is including keywords and tags that will help your post get found. So is asking folks to link to you are re-tweet your post.

    I think the issue is the definition of “LinkBait” which I view as a false/ misleading headline, an overly sensational or controversial post just for the sake of being sensational, or flat out unconfirmed sources and bad journalism.

    So New Media’s LinkBait is more akin to Old Media’s “Yellow Journalism” From Wikipedia:

    (Yellow journalism, also known as the “Yellow Press”, is a type of journalism that downplays legitimate news in favor of eye-catching headlines that sell more newspapers. Sometimes it deceives the audience it is intended for. It may feature exaggerations of news events, scandal-mongering, sensationalism, or unprofessional practices by news media organizations or journalists. Campbell (2001) defines Yellow Press newspapers as having daily multi-column front-page headlines covering a variety of topics, such as sports and scandal, using bold layouts (with large illustrations and perhaps color), heavy reliance on unnamed sources, and unabashed self-promotion. )

  • Deb Ng

    When I first began blogging, I felt the same way about Linkbait. Now I’m not so sure. Many blogs are hiring writers solely to write linkbaits, but not in a sensationalist way. I see today’s linkbaits as being Top 10 lists or controversial issues geared towards getting comments and links, but they’re usually on topic. I don’t think today’s bloggers are strictly going for the “yellow” variety of attention. I think they’re going for discussion and reaction but not necessarily in a bad way.

    I think my biggest issue how blogging is supposed to be this giant kumbaya and we’re not supposed to discuss the real reasons behind it. We talk about ways to get traffic but we’re not supposed to say, “Yeah I want to be an A-frickin- number-one listed blogger” or “heck yeah I wrote that posts to get links.”

  • Rick Calvert

    We agree on all points Deb 8). I see nothing wrong with writing compelling content and good headlines. That’s good writing.

    I think its just the term Linkbait we are haggling over and I think most people would find the definition provided similar with their views on what linkbait is.

  • Deb Ng

    Very true, Rick,and like everything else in social media, it probably has different meanings and rules for everyone.

  • Dipankar

    it does all come down to who can do it right and who cannot ! I say this because people portray this as a negative when clearly the system [and it participants] think otherwise. I would gladly click on something that is catchy ! even if i am disappointed 🙂 , if it happens too many times then it becomes an issue of reputation for the party doing that.

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