Linkbaiting: Vote Yes or No This Week Only

Coming into the New Year, I resolved not to use the term “linkbait” any longer. Linkbait is simply compelling content that’s remarkable, and in social media the remark is mostly made via the link. Compelling content is simply compelling content, right?

However, not only has the term not gone away, it’s gaining strength. For example, we have this and this and this and this, and also this and this thus far in the first 24 days of 2007.

If you’re still not sure what I’m talking about, read this.

What’s more, there’s an entire service sector that’s come to life in this area, which of course was inevitable. The pioneers are from the search engine optimization field, because web sites without links are basically invisible to search engines. But let’s face it—without links, you’re invisible everywhere else, too.

So, link attraction is crucial. But is “linkbaiting” bad branding for an important skill? I prefer to call what I do viral copywriting, but linkbaiting goes well beyond the written word and can include blog themes, widgets and web applications.

It may be too late to change the tide, but let’s take a vote anyway. Let the people speak.

Leave a comment to this post with either:

  • Yes, I think the term linkbaiting is OK; or
  • No, I think the term linkbaiting is bad.

I’ll leave the comments open until 5:00 pm CST this Friday, January 26, 2007.

At that point we’ll count up the votes and see what we’ve got.

P.S. In all fairness, it can’t be only Copyblogger readers who make this determination. So, I would encourage each of you to link to this post from your own blog, and give all of your readers a chance to chime in. It’s only fair.

P.P.S. That’s right, I have absolutely no shame. 😉

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Reader Comments (88)

  1. says

    Thanks for the mention. Linkbaiting is here to stay Brian.

    You can go ahead and start using it.

    Like I said.

    All linkbaiting is, is creating high quality link receptive content. If that’s bad I dont want to be in the content business.

  2. says

    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”.

  3. Jonathan street says

    Rich summed up my feelings perfectly.

    Linkbait probably is the right term for some types of linkbait/viral copy. Specifically I’m thinking about those items which are so inflammatory people feel compelled to link/comment.

    For informative/amusing/novel copy I would say viral copy would be the better term.

  4. says

    Yes.

    It’s already in the lexicon of the web. Besides, I do think there’s a difference between Compelling Content and Link Bait…

    By analogy, a Wall Street Journal article is Compelling Content whereas a National Enquirer headline is Link Bait.

  5. says

    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.

  6. says

    NO, I don’t think linkbaiting is a suitable term for a professional skill. Viral Copywriting, on the other hand, denotes a degree of ethics and discretion that linkbaiting doesn’t necessarily include.

  7. says

    Linkbaiting is a simple enough term that most people can get a good idea of what it means. While I like the term ‘viral copywriting’, the non-informed is going to look at that and say “huh??”.

    While it may be that the term ‘baiting’ may have a bad connotation, ‘viral’ certainly isn’t going to be any better!

    Linkbait has an almost authoritative sound to it. It is simple, two syllables, to the point and easily grabs one’s attention.

    +1 for linkbait.

  8. says

    FLow Chart Geek… you’ve hit on the essence of the problem. What people like Rand and others are creating for clients is more like WSJ content than tabloid fodder. It has to be good to get links from authority sites.

    Rand, I hope I’m not coming across as overly pretentious by prompting this discussion. :)

  9. says

    While buzzwords can be annoying, I think they actually can be a helpful semantic platform for describing concepts to people not familiar with the industry.

    For example, I was a web developer and have been using a technique called remote scripting since 2001. Then the term “Ajax” was coined, which basically meant the same thing.

    Scores of web developers were endlessly annoyed at the popularity of this buzz term. Everyone seemed to be using the term “Ajax” – and many times, inappropriately too.

    But then I became an engineering manager and began working with product managers, marketers, and designers who were unfamiliar with this technology. And suddenly, “Ajax” became a useful term. I would correct inappropriate uses and wield it as a tool to help them understand how we could build better web products.

    So I think linkbait, while annoying, is a useful buzz word. (But for professionals in the industry, “viral copywriting” is a much better term – just like “remote scripting” is a better term than “Ajax” in the web development industry.)

  10. says

    I don’t especially like the term linkbait. But viral copywriting only refers to content while linkbait can also refer to software, widgets, pictures or basically anything that can attract links.

  11. says

    While I dislike the term, it’s probably “stuck”. The thing that it stands for (great content) – that’s good…

    The term carries a connotation from “bait”: You bait a hook, and you use that baited hook to catch fish. You then reel in that fish…

    I don’t want to suggest that any of the material I’ve published is in any way shape or form “bait” for some unsuspecting target.

    A gift that I’ve made available? Sure – that describes it a whole lot better…

    Now the “link” portion of the word carries a great connotation – everyone wants to be linked. That’s why the word linkbait is touchy;-)

  12. 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.

  13. says

    NO. it is an awful term. it sounds like you’re trying to sell someone a trap.

    plus, IMO, the popularity of the term is unimportant, as it’s only popular amongst internet marketers. if you’re selling internet marketing services, they’re probably not familiar with the term linkbaiting anyway.

    on a more positive note, two BIG thumbs up for your intelligent shamelessness. 😀

  14. says

    The term linkbaiting is neither good nor bad by itself. The distinction comes in the context of the user. Some folks are going to see it as a good thing and others will think it sucks. It’s probably the same as the debate about ads on blogs or pay-per-post. It is what you make of it.

  15. says

    good linkbaiting doesn’t necessarily mean good copy

    Andy, absolutely. Themes, widgets, web applications and lots of other stuff works too, although they are a bit harder to develop. When I use the term copywriting in the linkbait sense, it’s the *angle* you come up with for the content, plus other things that catch attention like headlines, openings, etc.

  16. says

    Hey Brian,

    Just had an idea for a follow-up post. Why don’t you hold a copywriting competiton to rename linkbait?

  17. says

    I think the term “linkbaiting” is here to stay – though when I came onto the blogging scene (‘late ’04) it was seen as more of a negative tactic to get a “rise” out of someone.

    “viral” sounds so 1999ish :-)

    So I vote “linkbaiting” but with the hope that the buzzyiness of that buzz word goes out of it … quickly. :)

  18. says

    It’s fine, it’s fine, tho it does have a slightly negative sensibility. Viral copywriting seems neutral. We need something that connotes good, wholesome and terrific.

    Perhaps “link-conga” … and you’ll have folks humming to themselves. :=)

  19. says

    “No, I think the term linkbaiting is bad.”

    It’s such a negative term. I’d also prefer to use a more positive – or at least neutral – term.

  20. says

    I don’t think it matters either way what it’s called. We all know what it means and the term will probably change over time.

    Just like used cars to “pre-owned” and SEO has taken on many different terms in the last couple years.

    As long as the content is good and honest call it what you want.

  21. says

    As a life and business coach I believe that words have tremendous power in our lives. So, for me “linkbaiting” isn’t very inspiring because I’m not attempting to catch anything. Same thing with “viral copywriting” since viruses don’t particularly jazz me. I love the Law of Attraction so I’m endeavoring to become a “magnet for magnificent links.” 😀

  22. says

    Yes, to linkbaiting.

    Is it not just a digital way of saying “Hi, I know you’re there, and I acknowledge you”?

    I think a tertiary saying should come out of this post – “vote baiting” (and I mean this in a positive way). It appears that people are jumping on this topic with a bit more zeal and participation than usual. The concept of the vote – the chance to make a difference – instigates an increased response.

    I’m no copy expert, but I’m assuming if every story we write instigates (out in the open or subliminally) this vote-baiting trigger, we’ll be more successful. Just my two cents.

    Regards
    Shane

  23. says

    Yes, I think linkbaiting is OK. You can call it another name but it still fulfills it’s primary function of attracting inward links. What would renaming it achieve?

  24. says

    The word itself “linkbait” often comes to mind when someone writes something ONLY to get others to link to them – it’s not all that good, interesting or unique. It is a ploy – thus the “bait” BUT some extraordinary sites can only be described as linkbait because you feel compelled to link to them.

    Other words with come and go – linkbait fits for now because it covers the good, bad and the ugly online that we want to link to.

  25. says

    Linkbaiting is as good a term as any, although it had developed a negative connotation. So maybe we go white hat/black hat?
    I’m still working on killing off blogosphere. If weblog is now blog should not blogosphere be blogos?

  26. says

    I don’t think it’s inherently good or evil. Just as with adding a link to a Wikipedia article, sometimes the links an SEO adds provide additional value, sometimes they don’t.

  27. says

    The term linkbait carries to much negative connotation with it. I think it was an unfortunate choice, but I also think it’s likely here to stay.

    ‘Bait’ calls to mind things like ‘bait and switch’ and sends out the signal you think of your readers as fish to be hooked.

    What’s also unfortunate is that some practice linkbait by offering something sensationalized instead of something that provides value. And this just helps to reinforce all the negative connotations of the term.

    Bad term for a good practice that’s too ingrained in the community to change in the foreseable future.

  28. says

    You’re linkbaiting with a post about the relevance of the term linkbait.

    I’m not sure if I should despise or admire you :-)

    On a serious note, I have a negative impression of the term linkbaiting and don’t associate it with compelling content. I associate linkbaiting with sensationalism and hype – gimmicks to draw traffic.

    In my mind, interesting people with insight and ideas offer compelling content. Con men offer linkbait.

  29. says

    Jim, if anyone actually links to this post, I’ll be more surprised than anyone. That part was only a joke.

    If anything, this post is “comment bait” — I just want to know what people think. Funny how even that can be cast in a negative light with certain words. 😉

  30. says

    Brian, your request to link to your blog sort of killed the authenticity of your post to me.

    I have written about link bait vs quality content before and yes, we’d rather focus on the people than on links.

    I don’t so much care how you name link baiting, as I care about the readers who spend their time visiting and reading websites. I suspect this will be more obvious in the near (1 year?) future.

  31. says

    Yuri, maybe it’s a cultural thing, but as I said in the comment just above yours… it was a joke to ask for links.

    Humor. Irony.

    Hence the smiley face.

    Sheesh.

  32. says

    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 …

  33. says

    I think there’s a difference between linkbaiting and viral copywriting, so you should just make it two separate fields. The more dubious methods can keep linkbaiting, and what you do gets the new moniker. Bueno?

  34. says

    One of my college music professors once asked what the difference is between a “violin” and a “fiddle”. Since nobody could answer, he told us. “A violin is stored in a velvet lined case, while a fiddle is stored in a burlap bag.”

    The term “linkbaiting” is sort of like the fiddle. It sounds cheap and ragged, but it’s really the same thing as “viral-copywriting”

    I don’t really care what you call it, as long as I know what you’re talking about.

  35. says

    I don’t like the term ‘linkbaiting’ for many reasons already mentioned above– especially randfish’s– but language takes on a life of its own and I don’t think we’ll be able to change it.

  36. says

    One of interesting effects of the still missing social news and bookmarking services on a Digg, Slashdot or del.icio.us level in the german-speaking blogosphere is the almost non-existent term for Linkbaiting.
    Some of us try using “Linktausch” (Link-Exchange) for this purposes, but it’s not the right one, IMO. “Linktausch” is mostly used by directories and catalogues and not in the “baiting” meaning as we are talking about.
    So we go the most usual way, we just accept and adopt the english term and everyone is happy… Anyway, “bait” in german means “Köder / Lockvogel / Verlockung” or “ködern / verlocken” as a verb and all this terms have that someway negative spirit in it …
    So we are not even trying to change this and find a german term, ’cause Linkbaiting sound so much better in my ears …
    So, let’s keep linkbaiting. It’s a good one.

  37. says

    Linkbait reminds me of fishing which reminds me of Pfishing. Not good.

    I like viral content. This says what it is and I don’t have to think twice.

    Thanks for asking, Brian, it’s cool to see what people think.

  38. says

    Being somewhat new in the blogosphere, it took me a bit of time to understand whether linkbaiting was a good or bad thing. From how the term was used, it seemed like something that added an advantage to your blog. At the same time, the very nature of the word made me think of spam – bad.

    So I’d say, drop the term. It seems confusing – a solid marketing strategy with a badly coined term.

  39. says

    I’ve ever used the ‘linkbait’ term but being respectful with the fact we should get only authoritative links, I think the process of linkbaiting doesn’t affect bloggers as far as it is being practices honestly.

  40. says

    What is with people saying “linkbait” is negative? How is “viral” less negative?

    Linkbait won’t go away because the word is fun to say. Try it yourself. Fifty times really fast. It’s just fun.

    Viral marketing is not as much fun. Plus it is three syllables longer.

  41. says

    Linkbait is a great slang term and a very catchy one at that. I don’t think we want to take it away from the SEOs having a few beers at Pubcon or SMX. Everyone in the biz knows what each other is talking about.

    But that’s about where it ends. I can’t help but think of a hollow promise when I hear someone refer to a new piece of linkbait. It does not sell itself very well in my opinion. To many clients linkbait is going to be a tough sell.

    Also, everybody outside of SEO and internet marketing is not going to understand the linkbait term. For something new although quite boring, Attractive content is one that will pass the “mom test” where even she will understand.

  42. says

    I would have to say no, linkbait is not a good term. It has a negative connotation.

    In fact, the first time I heard the term I immediately associated it with blackhat SEO tactics.

    I would prefer a more positive term like linklure or link enticement

    The problem with changing “linkbait” is that the term is hopelessly ingrained into the SEO and blogging community.

  43. says

    My 2 cents – I don’t think “link bait” sounds any worse than the term “viral”.

    After all…what is so sexy about the term “viral”?

    All I think of is viruses which is to me is a far worse term than “bait” which I associate with fishing! I prefer the fishing analogy to passing diseases around analogy.

    Until someone thinks of a short & sweet 1 or 2 syllable word that rolls of the tongue the way linkbait does…and doesn’t sound like a disease…it’s here to stay!

  44. says

    Whenever I hear the term linkbait, I always think of it as being a piece of viral marketing/copy that has no real-world value or worth but is designed to tickle the fancy of the curious, something like http://www.msfirefox.com did.

    Unfortunately I think the term is so far spread that there is indeed no way to re-brand.

  45. says

    I’ve never cared for “linkbait”, as I too feel it implies trickery or sleight-of-hand… and who wants to feel like they’ve been tricked into coming?

    Unfortunately, I think the term is here for a while (nothing online ever “stays”, fortunately.) I’m not going to use it, but I know what it means when I see it.

  46. says

    Linkbait works well — as a pejorative term.

    In my books linkbait refers to a gimmick to create low-quality, high-quantity traffic.

    Linkbait can create a temporary traffic spike, but it doesn’t promote a conversation between you (or your client) and a high-quality, qualified, target audience — the people you(/they) need to talk with.

    By all means keep using it — as a derogatory term.

  47. says

    Not sure that’s the goal, Shaula. :)

    About 80% of what I’ve done with this blog over the last year could be considered linkbait, at least the way some of us think about it.

    Done well, there’s nothing “temporary” about the traffic and subscribers a site can gain. That’s why we’re having the discussion.

  48. says

    I’d have to say I hate the term. I don’t want to write a quality article to linkbait anyone. I want to be published for good reason, because the article is written well.

    I believe in change, so we can come up with a new term and I’m positive that will happen soon. Just look at the way things have changed to include both genders, not to say that isn’t a mess too, but we are trying every day to be PC.

    Maybe it has to get messy to be cleaned up and refined? Who knows, this might be the start of the revolution of the term “linkbaiting”.

  49. says

    Yes, I think the term linkbaiting is OK.

    Actually, I don’t. It has negative connotations. “Bait” implies putting something out there in order to catch something that you’re not necessarily going to be nice to. (Think of baiting a hook, baiting a trap, undercover officers baiting a criminal, con artists baiting a mark, etc.)

    But I think that once a concept has a label and that label becomes commonly used, it should keep the label. So I guess I think the term is okay.

    I do agree that good content is what attracts links. I’m just coming off a high of my blog’s biggest day ever — a single post that has gotten more than 500 hits in less than 12 hours and at least 6 incoming links (counted as pingbacks). This may not be a big deal for you and most of your readers, but it’s a VERY big deal for my little blog. How did I do it? By writing an original article that people actually found useful and interesting. (At least that’s what they said in the comments.)

    Let’s just hope I can do it again. :-)

  50. says

    Within a circle, it doesn’t really matter how a service is referenced.

    The challenge arises when you try and sell to someone outside that circle.

    If the person you are selling to perceives a negative, or a lack of credibility, then you have a problem.

    Does the term “link bait” sound inherently negative?

    If it does, then aren’t you dead before you even start?

  51. says

    Brian, don’t get me wrong:

    I’m a regular reader (/RSS subscriber) and a I have a great respect for what you write.

    I just wouldn’t call what you advocate linkbait myself — because it is legit.

    I also recognize that the term has a life of its own, and the majority of people who use it don’t seem to view any negative connotations to it.

  52. says

    No, I think the term linkbaiting is bad.

    If you use maybe a couple at most it might be alright, but if you are going to bombard an article with it, I won’t even look at it!

  53. says

    I’d prefer a term more like ‘link magnet’. When I think of ‘bait’ in marketing terms, ‘bait and switch’ is first on my mind, and that’s no good. Or, if I was to ‘bait’ someone, to me it would mean being provocative, to try to get them to lose their temper.

  54. says

    Yes, I think the term linkbaiting is OK

    It’s just like ajax, who cares if the word is accurate. If everybody understands the technology you are referring to, the word works fine.

  55. says

    Thanks to everyone who participated. I’m closing comments now, and I’ll try to make some sense of everything in a post next week.


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