Apathy and resignation.
Last week, I opened up a discussion on whether or not the term “linkbaiting” was the best way to describe what has evolved into a new marketing services sector. At its essence, linkbait is simply great content with an angle that prompts links and social media action.
This isn’t simply an academic discussion. It’s not much of a secret that I’ve been working with clients in this area, despite not advertising it (until today). Social media marketing is the here and now of effective online marketing, as well as its future, and it goes well beyond great search engine rankings (no matter how sweet those can be when they arrive).
If there is any consensus opinion, it seems to be, “Sure, there’s a negative connotation to the term, but everyone knows what it means, and it’s been around too long now to change.” I would argue against “everyone” knowing much of anything about this topic, since most people in the “real world” of business are still fuzzy on what a blog is.
The people who don’t like the term, however, are quite clear in their resolve. They think it’s a terrible brand for the creation of compelling content, and when reaching out to those real world business prospects, I’d have to agree.
It’s worth taking a specific look at the comments of those who are in the industry. There’s not a whole lot of “rah rah” support for the term, even from those who coined it, caused it to spread, and use it to describe their services.
Nick Wilson is set to launch ClickInfluence, a dedicated social media marketing firm. Even though Nick is often credited with coining the term linkbait, he gives it the big thumbs down in two recent responsive posts at Performancing.
Despite being largely credited with inventing that term, I have to agree with Brian and others that it absolutely sucks in terms of image. …
A term invented way back in 2004 to describe really cool, linkable content has become synonymous with “dirty tactics”—bugger that, time to kill this term dead.
Rand Fishkin of uber-SEO blog and consulting firm SEOmoz had this to say:
No—the term sucks. It’s not particularly descriptive. It’s more than a bit negative, too. The only reason we use it is because it’s already entered the popular lexicon in the community—thus, it’s either call it linkbait or explain why you don’t use it and come up with an alternative, all while sounding overly pretentious.
I don’t find it pretentious to optimally brand one’s services. Rand and Danny Sullivan, two leading voices in the search space, simply decided one day to change the poorly-coined “social media optimization” into “social media marketing,” and it stuck due to their influence. Without doubt, coming up with another term for linkbaiting at this point is much tougher, but that doesn’t mean it shouldn’t be done.
Rich McIver had this to say:
The term “linkbaiting” is pejorative because it places emphasis on “baiting,” meaning that people are somehow being tricked into reading/linking to it.
As you rightly pointed out, linkbaiting in its best form is just really good content promoted very, very well. So, if you can pull off calling it “viral copyrighting” I’m all for it.
But in the meantime we’ll all keep hawking our services as “linkbait”.
I think within the competitive webmastering space, linkbaiting is perfectly fine. If you’re talking about providing services to the Fortune 1000 or even the general small to mid-size business market, probably not.
Rich’s business partner Andy Hagans weighs in via instant message:
You just gotta love Hagans.
SEO superhero Andy Beal says:
It’s been used for too long to go back. I think viral copywriting is a component of linkbaiting, but good linkbaiting doesn’t necessarily mean good copy.
Mr. Beal too seems a bit resigned, and makes a good point… linkbait goes well beyond copywriting and includes themes, applications, and widgets. I am personally biased towards good old-fashioned textual content from a risk-reward, traffic-quality, and conversion standpoint, as you might have already guessed.
Michael Gray adds some levity:
I think I’m going to start offering a new service called Premium Magnetic Content Creation, for those who are averse to the “bait” terminology.
Have you been looking at my domain name registrations, Michael?
Finally, Todd Malicoat, one of the guys I enjoy reading the most when it comes to this topic, chimes in via link:
Brian, I thoroughly condone the term link baiting—mainly because it is a different school of thought from those old school “branding wankers.”
No argument from me on the importance of differentiation—it’s critical. And I’m no fan of the “branding wankers” either.
But differentiating just for the sake of it doesn’t always work. While naming a law firm “Shysters R Us” is a great way to grab attention, it’s also not a very good idea, you know?
And make no mistake, the big ad agencies are not as clueless as some like to think. Here’s an excerpt from a recent New York Times article on the latest trends in television advertising:
Marketers are turning to unusual, often little-known personalities who offer the kind of novelty and freshness that young people might blog about, link to and comment on in chats: in other words, make viral on the Internet.
Think they use the word linkbait in those pitch meetings? The Times didn’t mention it if so.
Social media marketing is the future of publicity and advertising in a hype-and-advertising-immune world, and social media remains primarily about links. I see no real reason to break SMM into smaller, link-focused labels, and that’s why I simply offer social media marketing services.