What is link bait, really? It’s a well-crafted headline or teaser text designed to get you to read an article or blog post. That’s it. There’s nothing evil or nefarious about that, is there? The real issue is why and how you choose to utilize link bait.
Why use link bait?
On the surface, the answer is simple. You want people to read what you have taken the time to write or you want people to visit your site and buy what you are selling. Link bait is really not new. Newspapers have been writing sensational headlines since the beginning of time. TV news promos often include catchy names for the story of the moment. In Wisconsin, we’ve had some political turmoil and one of the local TV stations has taken to lumping all those stories under the moniker “Capital Chaos.”
The why we use link bait comes down to catching your attention or drawing you in to take a closer look at what the content creator has to say. The purpose of doing that is to increase the size of your audience. Some would tell you that size doesn’t matter; but when it comes to audience, size does matter. Bigger is better. The audience of this blog has increased 742% since 2009. That’s almost 18,000 more people stopping by to read this blog. If this was a TV station selling advertising, that would matter. If you’re a blogger who occasionally offers products you believe in via affiliate marketing, those numbers matter. If you’re a public speaker looking for more speaking opportunities, those eyeballs and the people behind them matter.
How to create link bait
Let’s start with an example. When I share this post via Twitter, I’ll send a message that looks something like this:
Let’s talk about link bait [link to article goes here] – Size does matter and bigger is better.
My knowledge of human nature suggests this title and teaser text will draw in a nice audience for this post. The question is if you will read the post and be pleased I drew you in or will you think to yourself, “This is just another gratuitous use of link bait.” If you’re thinking the latter, then I have failed miserably. Link bait that draws you in to content you don’t find useful will be considered offensive. If it happens often enough, you will begin to view all link bait as offensive and that’s our fault as a writing community.
Link bait – like cliches – should be used with care. I’d venture to guess I use a cliche in almost every post I write. However, I’m lucky to have an editor who informs me when I’ve gone a little overboard and used five or six cliches in a single post (even twice in once sentence). Not every headline you write needs to be sensational. Not all your teaser text has to be provocative. If it is, that becomes your brand. Then when you have something really amazing to share, how will you differentiate it?
Tools for link bait success
When you are ready to try out link bait, I suggest some very useful tools. First, the tabloid magazines at your local grocery store. Go read the headlines and model your sensationalism after them as a starting point. Second, visit Google.com/trends to see what words and phrases people are searching for today. Combine those two tools and you’ll get people to visit your content. Remember to make sure you’ve written something worth reading or they won’t be back; no matter how good your link bait is.