Link Bait Sucks, Users Are Not Fish

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OK, link bait sucks predominantly as a term but not completely as a tactic. Nonetheless there are certain aspects of link bait (or linkbait in one word) that really make this SEO 2.0 method obnoxious in some cases. No wonder then, that people on social media sites like Digg often hate link bait although they fall for it again and again.

Therefor I will introduce new terms for the concept of link baiting, without treating users like fish. Let me explain first what the problem with link bait is.

The concept of link bait is, if you don’t like it:

“manipulating people to link to you against their will”.

If you like the concept you probably will explain it along the line

“creating killer content so people link to you”.

Of course the truth lies inbetween. It’s more or less 50/50. So if you create killer content link bait people will link to you but if you refer to it as link bait you might get buried on Digg or even blacklisted.

People do not like being treated as fish you want to eat for lunch.

Respect your audience and create killer content! In order not to fool users to link to you you have to change your frame of mind. Drop the bait concept and replace it with one of the following:

  • link incentive
  • link stimulus
  • link incitement

The last two might sound strange at first in English, nevertheless there are shades of grey that differentiate those three.

A link incentive is easily explained: It’s anything you do right away and directly to get links, for instance “win an iPod“, “the first 5 bloggers who trackback me will get a free ebook” or the John Chow way “those who link to me, get reviewed in my blog”.

Link stimulus sounds very frivolous and indeed it is, link stimulus might be for example a headline like “female SEO consultants naked”, “How I earned 1 million with adsense in two weeks” or “be forever young with this new revolutionary method”. Link stimuli stir positive emotions, they make you crave something.

Link incitement is the next logical step, something that makes others disagree, is controversial or so innovative people feel as if they fall behind you. As you might suspect “SEO 2.0 will kill SEO as you know it” is such a link incitement, but even my former headlines “The Only 5 SEO 2.0 Blogs You Need“, “10 Reasons Not to Use Digg“, “10 Reasons Why You Don’t Need to Read Matt Cutts’ Blog” stir incitement because they voice new opinions, debunk myths or are contrary to the main stream. Do not mistake link incitement with flaming or pure provocation though. Moreover, it’s not provocation for provocations or the links sake. It’s about being yourself and voicing your own opinions.

Link incitement means always at least 50% agreeing with the status quo and changing it from within. In my case I agree that link bait is the most important white hat SEO tactic to get links nowadays. I agree that link bait works in many if not most cases. So I want to optimize the concept of link bait and diversify it with new and better terms.

You might argue that out of my link incitements none have worked out, as for instance “10 Reasons Not to Use Digg” gathered “only” 21 diggs. The thing is, I did not try very hard and my goal was not to make the Digg front page, hell, I’m on shared hosting with this blog! I was just exercising and filling my empty new blog. I want to get noticed, the real stuff follows.
Nevertheless, what the three new terms and concepts have in common is: You do not manipulate anybody and you do not treat humans like fish.

Link incentives are so direct that people of course notice what you are up to and they decide consciously whether they support you or not.

With link stimuli you meet people’s demand for things they really want. So they are thankful that they get them.
Link incitement is all about being yourself and not just following the leaders. Nobody likes people that just parrot the elite without adding any new thoughts or value. By being yourself with everything that annoys you, you will reach people. Many of them will dislike you for not agreeing with them and their idols. Many other people though will like and support you realizing that you are yourself and thus authentic.

Now you might argue: This article just rephrases what link bait is about anyways replacing the term with three new ones.
No, that’s not really true. My concept does not fool anybody into linking to me. Either the people receive a present (link incentive), or I fulfill their dreams (link stimulus) or I just say what I want to say without flattering people just for the sake of being friend with everybody.

So the main difference may be the ethics, link bait is grey hat SEO while link incentive, link stimulus and link incitement are about respect for the users.