What You Can Learn From Link bate Headlines
A while back I saw a headline that too me back a bit. It stood out clearly on the social media page and demanded my attention. Honestly the title made me feel a bit angry just reading it but I knew the blogger so I knew there must be more to it than what I was reading.
I opened up the post and started to read and quickly realise that it completely changed the flow and the title didn’t reflect the persons views at all. In fact, the person at the end made it very clear that they believed the exact opposite of the title and didn’t really think what they stated at all.
I felt even more angry! The whole point wasn’t a serious attempt at educating, informing or teaching people, it was just a cheap publicity stunt.
I started to look down at their top post and noticed that this was not a one off. This blogger had clearly decided that trying to push people’s buttons and wind them up was the best way to get people to view his site, and the comments showed they were reading the posts.
I unfollowed my friend as he was “link bating” badly.
You might have heard of linkbating and heard mixed reports but I though we should look at the good and bad of link bating and when it can go wrong. After all you don’t want to get unfollowed for making the wrong type of headline.
What is Link Bating?
Link bating is where you create something with the primary purpose of getting people to link to it. It’s like you are going fishing for new links to your site and the bate is your content. The obvious benefit of this is that you will gain more links and hopefully go up the ranks of Google because of that. However, when it is done badly you mislead and deceive readers plus thanks to Google’s Panda update, it will view your site worse.
Link Bating can be from the actual content but more importantly for our current series the headline plays an important role here. A link bating headline is one that is designed to get people to link and share it. On the plus side this might be a good headline and lead to a great post being shared. On the negative side we see examples like that above, where the headline is either a down right lie or massive exaggeration. Neither is good.
What are The Side Effects of Bad Link Bating?
It Ruins your Brand
You want people to come away from your site, with your logo and name, feeling glad they did. In fact I’ve set my self the aim of “delighting my readers,” I’m not saying I achieve it but I try. However, when someone clicks on a link bate title they are either angry or if they notice that it isn’t how it seems they will feel deceived or duped. The feelings about you that they will walk away with is that you are either an idiot or not to be trusted (and this won’t be limited to just one post).
In the long run you are going to slowly alienate your readers and it is so much harder to win back a lost Even if Christians are more forgiving you can’t guarantee it.
It is Deception
By using a misleading headline you are deceiving people and baring false witness. There might be “good reasons” for doing this but the ends doesn’t justify the means. In 2 Corinthians 4: 3 we see Paul say
We do not use deception, nor do distort the word of God
Let’s set that same standard for our blogging. Not using deception to gain readers.
It Doesn’t Build Long Term Readership
If you are alienating people who come to your site via deception then you aren’t going to build relationships that really impact yourself and others. The only benefit you are going to get is more page views, until your bad reputation spreads.
It isn’t Going to be Great for SEO
SEO is a complicated beast but generally if the content doesn’t reflect the title it’s a very bad thing. Google may not identify this brilliantly yet but you can guarantee they will in the future. Further more if you are going for just page views, no one will link to it (as it isn’t what it appears to be). So you may get an immediate boost but that will be it.
It Values Page Views Above All Else
If the only thing you care about is getting page views for your blog then sure, go head, use these negative cheap tricks to get people to read your site and ignore any anger that comes along. If you want long term benefits and to actually make something that matters then don’t do it.
It Lowers the Quality of the Internet
The internet has some great tools and resources…it also has some terrible low quality junk. (Much like life really). However, by writing link bating headlines you are helping to drive the quality of the blogosphere and in particular the Christian blogospher down. Let’s keep the quality high and our reputations in tact.
It Hides Good Content
If someone writes a better and more relevant post than me on this topic then I want you to find it not this. I don’t want to try to game the system by using cheap tricks. I want to make sure that my site has been set up to help people who do want to find it, find it and use good headlines that serve the posts but not cheap tricks. I hope you feel the same.
So What is the Right Type of Link Bating?
There are a few tricks that you can learn from link baters and something’s that are okay to do. You really need to exercise caution but it can really help you.
Great Headlines for Great Content
This is really the key point here. If your content is bad but you have a good headline, your basically doing bad link bating. Although, we’re focusing on headlines this month it doesn’t matter if you have great headlines if your content sucks it’s not going to lead to long term benefits.
By good content I mean:
I do not mean low brow education, deliberately overtly controversial, or down right dishonest. If the content is good, then people won’t feel cheated and they will be glad they clicked on your link.
Use Taboo and Provocative Words
One of the tricks of link baters is to use provocative words that demand a reaction. If you remember my simple headline formula from last week I mentioned interesting adjectives and provocative words fall into this. Instead of saying attractive think about using the word “seductive” or
As I say, use caution. Doing things like swearing in your titles will grab peoples attention but will also probably lower their opinion of you.
Create Intriguing Headlines
Some of The best link bate titles create a sense of suspense that you just have to know the answer to. Now if it is misleading (for example “Does this video prove Obama is destroying Christianity?” And the video doesn’t) then it’s Bad link bating. If it does show that then it’s good as it creates intrigue which it fulfils.
This reflects the criticism above. If it isn’t an accurate description and if it is either confusing or misleading then you are doing bad link bating. Don’t make people feel mislead.
Write Things that Have to be Shared.
There are many reason why people share things on the internet but perhaps the best one is because it is so good. That’s a great aim for us all to have, to make things so incredibly good that we have to share them.
The main point is your reader should finish and feel good about having read it. Even if it’s bad news they should feel better knowing they know this bad news. If they feel cheated, lied too or mislead then you are going wrong. The way to counter this is to make sure that you are sharing great blog posts too and keep your quality high.
About Chris Wilson
I'm a 27 English as a foreign language Teacher based in Badajoz in Spain. I also run the Christian Bloggers community and enjoy writing in my free time.