Are You a Link Troll or a Spam Baiter?

Rand over at SEOmoz started a great discussion today about the two types of link bait.

The first type of link bait is what SEO types and I always talk about—reader focused, compelling content that provides a benefit.

The second type of link bait is what many long-term bloggers mistakenly think we are talking about, which is controversial statements and attacks on others.

As I pointed out awhile back, historically the term bait and its fishing buddy hook have always meant something the reader finds irresistible and satisfying when used in the context of content.

So that’s why I don’t have a big problem with the term link bait.

Over in the comment section of Rand’s post, Thomas Schmitz smartly labeled the second type of link bait as link trolling, borrowing a long-time term that refers to antagonist sorts who hang out in BBS, Listserv, Usenet and web forum communities. Another reader suggested spam bait.

There are plenty of high profile bloggers who rely on trolling to get attention. And it works for them to a certain degree, but these same people also seem to complain that blogging is not all it has been proclaimed to be, faulting the blog evangelists for misleading them.

Meanwhile, those that focus on creating beneficial content are finding many ways to take blogging to the bank.

By all means, engage in link baiting that results in reader-focused, compelling and beneficial content.

An occasional bit of link trolling won’t kill you, but if it’s all you have to offer, you’ll end up disappointed.

Let me know what you think.

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Comments

  1. Cue the “yes, I posted something about this on my blog…”

    Which I would be doing right now, were mine still in commission.

    And I’d written something about this.

    I must remember to write something about this and ruthlessly beg people to read it.

  2. What happened to your blog?

  3. Server. It’ll be back…someday…

    It’s those personal touches that keep up coming back, you know that?

  4. The problem with link trolling vs. link baiting IMHO, is consistency of traffic. If you link bait, and do it well, chances are your content will be consistently bait-worthy. That results in a regular stream of traffic, which may lead to loyal readers and subscribers.

    If you’re link trolling, unless you have something of value to add, you’re going to end up with sharp spikes, followed by big drops.

    I guess what it comes down to is your intended goal – subscribers and return visitors, or just big traffic spikes (which I’m sure has its benefits as well – I just tend to think more big picture/long-term).

    Having said that, if your entire blog-model is link trolling, then you might have something. Seems to me that would be a lot of work. Maybe I’m just not snarky enough ;)

  5. Didn’t Scoble just hire his link troll?

  6. Great article. I’m a copyblogger newbie but I’m totally addicted to your content – it’s really great work. I think the term link troll is perfect – enough said. I can’t see any purchase in link trolling, even if it is for a good cause. To me, it just goes against the grain of being a decent person and at the end of the day, I’d rather try to help people than tear them down.

  7. I’ve found that sitting down and creating the best article you can on a particular topic is all the link bait you really need to launch a successful blog.

    If you really focus on articles that are helpful to a large number of readers, then odds are great that one of your posts will “go platinum,” as Ludacris and I like to say when we sip Hen’ in the club with our bitches.

    Link bait and great content are nearly synonymous, and I would argue that the line separating the two grows thinner by the day.

    With so much crap being published online each minute, the stuff with effort behind it stands out more than ever.

  8. I’m sorry Chris… Copyblogger is a “No Ludicris” zone. :)

  9. Controversy drives traffic… but then you have to deal with the controversy. Answering hundreds of flaming comments and e-mails is not my idea of a pleasant afternoon…

  10. John, bingo. And they don’t convert well, either. :)

  11. I find that giving away the house drives traffic.

    I also find that it makes Brian nervous.

  12. I find link bait just like real life. There are people who do stupid showy things to get short term attention, get their kit off, jump up on tables to sing karaoke, start arguments … then there are people who are genuinely interesting and have charisma. The latter get better results but the former is more common.

  13. Inbound links (linkbaiting etc.) should be a bi-product of generating quality content. If you just focus on linkbaiting I don’t what you are achieving. It’s been proven again and again on the Internet that more traffic doesn’t mean more profit. Now, I’m not saying it shouldn’t be an integral part of your overall Internet marketing effort, but this should certainly not be the sole purpose of writing on your blog or website.

  14. >>a bi-product of generating quality content. If you just focus on linkbaiting…

    It’s the exact same thing Amrit. There is no distinction, and that’s the point.

  15. Brian,
    Thanks for this post. It made me think (the reason I read and write blogs). Think about where my blog is going. I’ve been blogging since September 17th 06 and I’ve had some success generating readership. But I have to admit that the viral traffic spikes are addictive. I’m taking this post as a word of caution not to take a trip to the dark side. You always get me to think for a while, but this post will stick.

    This question just popped into my mind…
    I’m going to ask it before I post anything…
    Whom does this post benefit?
    If the answer is – my ego, than I probably shouldn’t post it

    Thanks,
    Steve

  16. Strong in the force is that one. Strong is ego in the dark side. Careful of emotions regarding link spikes you shall be.

  17. > “An occasional bit of link trolling won’t kill you…”

    It won’t kill your traffic, but it might kill your reputation, with serious long-term consequences.

    We generally do not accept link trolling in the offline world (a.k.a. the “real world”). Ask Michael Richards about that!

  18. Ego is a killer. Everytime we get too big for our britches, life (and our readers) have a way of knocking us back down. As it should be.

    And of course, there are degrees of trolling… Nick Carr hasn’t gone quite as far as Michael Richards yet. :)

  19. I think that link baiting in any form is useful as long as it isn’t attacking anyone; as in the famous bush attack where when you search for “failure” (on Google) you get President Bush’s biography on whitehouse.gov. Granted it is probably one of the funniest of them, but it is a pure example of the harm that can be done by link trolling.

  20. Dustin, I think you’re thinking of Google Bombing.

    http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Google_bomb

    Too many of these things to keep up with. :)

  21. Huh..I’m still don’t know a lot that kind of stuff after read this article..Get new information here ;-)

  22. Regarding traffic spikes vs long term regular traffic…

    The former is the web today – one roller coaster of spikes dependent totally on your latest content.

    The latter is going the way of the dodo. You will always have background, average daily traffic, but as far as engines are concerned, none of them are sending regular traffic to a blog post with the same rankings over time.

    Engines are going dynamic and are trying to stay relevant based on the date information is published along with everything else.

    Watch your typical post hit Google in top 20, go up to 10, drop to 50-100+ and then come back to top 10 and stay for awhile and then realize this is happening to all your posts all the time.

    They are learning that we publishing everything with a freakin date on it and they are using this in our favor and against us at the same time.

    You can’t stop swimming or you’ll die.

    Bloggers are now the sharks of the web.

    The engines and social networks demand NEW from us all the time and forget about us if we take time off.

    Your own log stats will tell the story better than I can.

    All traffic comes in spikes. That you don’t recognize the spikes that last longer than others isn’t a good case against using linkbait to drive a new spike your way.

  23. Yep. Which is also why subscriber acquisition and retention are so crucial as well.

    And I would bet that not every audience will stick around on the list if the author is constantly trolling and attacking people.

    Unless you’re Perez Hilton or Nick Denton of course. :)

  24. I always thought that writing honestly and consistently was the way to go. If you voice your honest opinions, then people will value what you have to say. Sometimes things you write will be met with a link-bait response – especially if you happen to have an opinion that goes against the norm.

    In my experience, if you build up a reputation for considered writing, then people are more likely to take your more unusual opinions seriously, and won’t just assume that you are a troll.